By Ted R. Grossnickle, CFRE, Senior Consultant and Founder, Johnson, Grossnickle and Associates and Chair of The Giving Institute


The pandemic has caused us to rapidly change how we do things. In doing so, we have proven that we can change—even if imperfectly.

The racial injustice and equity protests quickly roused and sensitized people across our nation. A real change has been occurring in our thoughts, hearts, and actions. As that revolution has happened, many seemingly new things have become possible that were unimaginable mere months ago.

In our work with our clients, we have also been reminded of something we’ve known all along: donors, volunteers, and stakeholders are not monolithic. They have enormously diverse thoughts and preferences about how to engage with and support the issues they care about. Everyone is experiencing the pandemic and recession differently. Donors to some organizations have been deeply affected by the recession and are unable to give or volunteer. Yet, other donors have been making generous gifts, meeting online, and helping in new ways.

It is more important than ever to ask prospective donors for permission. Will they permit and be receptive to having a conversation about how they can help?

In these conversations, we must ground ourselves in a human-centric mindset, thinking less about what our organization needs and more about what the donor can do to affect their impulse to help through the organization. This requires empathy.

The pandemic and calls for equity and justice are an acute reminder that we can and will change. As we do so we should embrace the lessons we’re learning and grow increasingly confident that we can meet the challenges before us.