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A Recap - Hometown Talks: Navigating COVID-19 In Your Shop

Friday, April 17, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Melissa Neeley
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First and foremost, we hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy. We are grateful for you tuning in to our first COVID-19 related webinar to learn more about how we can navigate this “new normal.” We are inspired by Houston’s fundraisers and nonprofits every day, and we know we will get through this.


Special thanks to our moderator and wonderful panelists:



Rebecca Lamb, CFRE

Senior Director of Development, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast


Kevin J. Foyle, MBA, CFRE

Vice President for Development and Public Affairs and Chief Development Officer, UTHealth


Angela Lane, CFRE

Chief Development Officer, Houston Ballet


Melissa Simon, MSW, CFRE

Senior Director of Development, Casa de Esperanza de los Ninos


As promised, we put together a blog recapping the webinar. Here are some of the key takeaways from the panelists (and webinar attendees):


On Donor Relations

  • We need to be empathetic to our donors and their personal situations. Your first call should not include an ask, but: “How are you and your family doing?”
  • Donors are finding themselves with more time to talk, so phone calls and virtual meetings are nice. You may find these touchpoints lasting longer than before COVID-19, because people are looking to connect with one another. 
  •  A unique twist on a phone call or virtual meeting could be to ask a client to call the donor. For example, if the donor gives to a scholarship program, ask the student to give the donor a call.
  • This is the time to listen to our donors and create deeper relationships. In listening, you may learn more about the donor, their passions, and how to better engage them in the future.
  • This can also serve as a good time to talk with donors about gift planning, because many are taking the time to think about this right now.
  • Donors with donor advised funds are less impacted, because they have already given. Most donors are saying COVID-19 has not shifted their approach or strategy. If you are going to approach any donors you have strong relationships with, this may be a good place to start.
  • As far as panelists know, foundation portfolios have been negatively impacted, but they will still find a way to support the causes they have prioritized and supported previously.
  • This is not the time for “cold asks,” but to strengthen relationships with existing donors.

Donor Stewardship Resources

  • is a way for organizations to send virtual greeting cards.
  • Kudoboard allows organizations to set up an online site where staff can contribute notes of thanks, pictures, and more.

On Economic Uncertainty

  • Luckily, Houston has diversified its economy over the past 10 years. Our community will be hit hard by the decline in oil and gas, but not as hard as when we were solely an oil and gas driven community.
  • According to panelists, our economic uncertainty could last at least 18 months.
  • In the meantime, your organization should look at healthy belt-tightening: Focus on your organization’s vision and programs core to your mission. Your organization may need to temporarily stop programming less core to the overall mission.
  • If your organization is in the midst of a strategic plan, especially one focused on growth and expansion, it is reasonable to elongate the process and ask, “How can we currently deliver on our core programs?”

Special Event Fundraising

  • We received a couple of questions from webinar attendees on special events. We wish we had all the answers right now! We realize this could be an entire webinar in itself, so we are excited to report that we are working on putting together a panel to talk about how local fundraisers have converted their upcoming events into virtual ones and what their plan is in moving forward. 

Hope For The Future

  • These are moments where we can innovate, rethink what we’re doing, and focus on what we can do better.
  • We can continue to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned in the fundraising space and personally and take those forward.
  • Panelists encourage you to look inside yourself and be the leader and colleague you need to be right now.
  • Houston is strong. We will get through this. Luckily, we have each other to lean on.

Once again, thank you to our moderator and panelists - and for all those who tuned in. If you have feedback on this session or ideas for future COVID-19 related content, please do not hesitate to reach out to Melissa Neeley at


Members Only

Members can access the recording here. You must be logged into the site to view this page and the recording. For nonmembers who paid to attend the webinar, you will be sent a wrap-up email in early May with access to all of April's recorded webinars.

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Members Only - Virtual Affinity Group: Donor Relations

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