Philanthropists and their advisors need to ask the nonprofits they support to explain exactly what they need during the coronavirus pandemic, says Kris Putnam-Walkerly, founder of Putnam Consulting Group in Cleveland.

The author and consultant to philanthropists says nonprofits may have different needs now. If donors want their money to make the most difference, they should zero in on those needs and act accordingly, she says.

“Do not assume you know what they need right now,” says Putnam-Walkerly, who counsels philanthropists on how to make their donations have the most impact. She notes that both the nonprofit and the donor probably still have the same goals in mind as they did before Covid-19 struck, but the means of reaching the goal may be different.

“For instance, someone who wants to help with early childhood education may want to find out how to help the children learn at home while they cannot go to pre-school programs,” she says. “Or some nonprofits may need help applying for the federal loans that are now available.

“This is a time to build and strengthen the trusted relationships that donors and advisors have with the nonprofits they support,” she adds. “Donors need to have a clear strategy for what they want to accomplish that can help guide them through this time.”

Putnam-Walkerly advised donors to remove restrictions from gifts to allow the nonprofit to use the funds for whatever is needed during this time and to keep in touch with the recipients.

“It is impossible to over-communicate,” she says. “Stick with the nonprofits you support during this time. There is a fear among nonprofits now that they will not be receiving as much money as they have in the past. The market is down and some donors may be diverting their funds elsewhere.”

Crisis-response funds are being established in many communities. The National Center for Family Philanthropy has a list of those communities and has other available resources. Philanthropists have shown they can be responsive and flexible in the face of adversity on a massive scale, Putnam-Walkerly says.

Putnam-Walkerly works with a range of philanthropists, including families, private donors, foundations and Fortune 500 companies. She is the author of “Delusional Altruism: Why Philanthropists Fail To Achieve Change and What They Can Do To Transform Giving.”


 

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