Sunday, September 19, 2021

About 20 years ago I underwent shoulder surgery. As everyone is prone to do, I asked around: “Where can I find the BEST shoulder surgeon?” After ample research I found the surgeon who virtually wrote the textbook on shoulder surgery. After getting second opinion(s), I utilized this surgeon.

He informed me that during the surgery I would be half-awake because he needed my help and flexibility in moving my upper torso. In fact, I would likely be awake for most of the procedure. Well, I wasn’t crazy about this idea, but I thought, “He’s the expert; he must know.” So I went through the surgery and even recall sitting up and being maneuvered around in order to “help him” get through my procedure. It was disconcerting.

A few years back, my wife also needed shoulder surgery. We did our due diligence and found a different surgeon, one local to where we lived. He also had an excellent reputation. But, to be safe, we visited my surgeon for a second opinion, and he was most helpful. I reminisced with him how he kept me half-awake during my surgery to manipulate my upper body. He turned to me, laughed and exclaimed in a booming voice: “Oh no. I don’t do that anymore. I had to adjust with the times.” What?!!!

Fundraising today is in much the same quandary. It needs to adjust with the times. With COVID-19 impacting major fundraising events as never before, nonprofits’ creative flexibility now is in greater demand. So what does this adjustment look like? What’s trending?

Ironically, a large part of today’s fundraising successes is attributable to the pandemic. And creative nonprofits are learning to “adjust with the times.” A recent story in the Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Florida Jewish Journal indicated that “Jewish philanthropists have increased their giving during (the) pandemic.” In some instances, Jewish donors also are more flexible in their grant giving because they are keenly aware of immediate social service needs due to job layoffs, housing hardships, food assistance needs and growing mental health problems. As such, philanthropists have loosened previous giving restrictions because of urgent and existential conditions. In fact, Jewish foundations and Jewish federations are donating “on top of” existing grants when nonprofits can show that the funds will be used to ameliorate the lives of folks unemployed by the pandemic, or those facing emergency circumstances.

Born out of the birth pangs of COVID-19 are new and robust charitable giving opportunities where the government is unable or unwilling to help. Private entrepreneur Dave Portnoy, who founded the popular online digital media company Barstool Sports, decided he needed to do something. He has raised more than $35 million to help small businesses adversely impacted by the pandemic. The pervasive nature of this virus causing massive business lockdowns in the country brought this charity into being. Portnoy adjusted with the times.

You will recall before COVID-19 we often saw pictures of Asians wearing face masks here and overseas. Then along came the CDC guideline about everyone wearing masks. President Biden also indicated that he wants all Americans to wear masks during the first 100 days of his presidency to help reduce the number of infections, especially among the unvaccinated. Clearly, all of us have adjusted with the times; and wearing a mask, even as we approach bank tellers (once unheard of), is routine now and into the foreseeable future.

Nonprofits adjusted to “virtual fundraisers”; some outdoor-oriented events where masks and social distancing are possible are making a slow but steady comeback. Online games of chance, matching gift campaigns, virtual galas or concerts, social media fundraising and Zoom parlor meetings seem to be everywhere. Direct mail solicitations are another sure way to reach an audience, while engaging major donors on the phone or in person is again making an impact. As the editor of the Florida Jewish Journal recently said, “Many who never gave of themselves before are volunteering and contributing to society for the first time in their lives.” Tikkun Olam is adjusting with the times.

Without appearing crass or mercenary, it seems that Jewish donors are giving additional money to help those most in need because of the pandemic. So I ask your nonprofit: Has it adjusted with the times?

Norman B. Gildin has fundraised for nonprofits for more than three decades and raised upwards of $93 million in the process. Formerly a Teaneck resident for 34 years, he is the president of Strategic Fundraising Group, whose singular mission is to assist nonprofits raise critical funds. He can be reached at [email protected]

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