The coronavirus pandemic has altered our social fabric in unprecedented ways, and it most assuredly has impacted fundraising and philanthropy. We see the effects every day in our work with clients—particularly in healthcare, and more broadly across the nonprofit spectrum.

Despite obvious challenges, we advise all our clients to continue moving forward. This is a time to be cautious, but not timid.

Nonprofit organizations contemplating capital and comprehensive campaigns question whether it’s possible to conduct a planning study during the pandemic. This critical first step helps to gauge variables such as how people will react to the case for support and target fundraising goals, and what they think of the organization and its plans. A planning study also seeks to garner their recommendations on prospects and candidates for campaign leadership, to explore how much they will consider giving to the campaign, and to determine if they would be interested in serving as a campaign volunteer. Absent a thorough and rigorous planning study, launching a campaign is at best an educated guess and at worst a fool’s errand.

Given today’s rules of social distancing and the reluctance of people to engage in face-to-face meetings, especially with strangers, conducting a planning study with some 50+ interviews might seem impossible. Does this mean the campaign must remain on hold until the pandemic passes?

Not necessarily. At GSI, we’ve found that people are indeed willing to participate virtually. Since the pandemic set in, we’ve conducted a number virtual planning studies and interviewed hundreds of people through video platforms.

“In-person meetings are always optimal, but these virtual conversations are more than an adequate substitute,” said Dan Sorrenti, GSI’s founding partner and president. “We find we can achieve the same outcomes while saving time and reducing travel costs and related expenses. For our clients, it’s a win-win.”

Halfway through our planning study with Hudson Valley Hospice Foundation in Poughkeepsie, NY, the COVID outbreak hit. Rather than push the pause button, we transitioned quickly from in-person to virtual interviews.

“GSI adapted extremely well to the situation and pivoted seamlessly to video conversations. The study continued without interruption,” said Lisa Wilson, Executive Director of the Foundation. “Everyone interviewed was very satisfied with the process, and we were able to move forward with our campaign planning uninterrupted thanks to GSI’s counsel.”

Technology continues to reshape social interaction, including the philanthropic landscape. As a result, organizations don’t have to put off launching campaigns and addressing critical needs through major gift fundraising. Virtual communication allows us all to move forward and persevere through difficult times.

The nonprofits we serve do critically important work. Many are on the front lines of battling the pandemic and saving lives. Now is not the time to tread water and wait for the pandemic to pass. Now is the time to redouble efforts and meet this challenge head-on.

Virtual planning studies are one solution we’ve employed to address COVID-19 concerns. We’ll discuss several others on GSInsights in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, if you want to learn more about how a virtual planning study might work for you, click the “Contact Us” box above and drop us a line. We’ll be happy to help.