Advancing Philanthropy October 2020 - 63

Fundraising Through Crisis
As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have swept through our
communities, nonprofit organizations have had to continuously change
course. At SSM Health Foundation-St. Louis, which was founded in 2018 to
unify philanthropic efforts and elevate community impact, it was clear that
we had to not only match the rapidly evolving needs of those we serve, but
also find effective ways to engage our donors.

W

hile initial worries that the pandemic would
negatively impact the ability to give, time has
now shown that over half of nonprofit donors are
maintaining their giving levels during COVID-19. Even
more encouraging is that 25% have been motivated to
increase their donations. As it has in so many aspects
of life, the pandemic has revealed something important
that connects us as organizations, as communities and as
individuals: a desire to help others.
There's no doubt the pandemic has caused health
care nonprofits to implement a multitude of immediate
changes, yet many of these techniques will stick around
long after the pandemic ends. Here are some of the
most important lessons we've learned at SSM Health
Foundation-St. Louis.
Innovation is key. The pandemic has challenged
and pushed us to do the things we've always done in
new and different ways. Just as the needs of those we
serve have changed and increased, we've been forced
to find new avenues to make a compelling impact on
the stakeholders whose buy-in we depend on to do
our work. Through it all, one thing has remained key to
keeping current and future donors engaged: innovation.
Think about something as familiar and ubiquitous
as the Salvation Army's Red Kettle Campaign. With
social distancing guidelines, even this tried-and-true
fundraising concept will have to be reinvented. For
SSM Health Foundation-St. Louis, these new safety
measures forced us to reconsider our annual gala and
other in-person gatherings. While the Gala's fundraising
focus-Oncology-was more urgent and important than
ever, its planned in-person format became untenable.
This meant that our whole team-including our board
and other stakeholders-had to be ready and willing to
pivot to an entirely new format for our organization: a
virtual experience.
Focus on mission. When we have the luxury of the
status quo, it's easy for nonprofit organizations to drift
from the main mission. But when catastrophe strikes,
it's imperative that we re-focus on the mission that
October 2020 / www.afpglobal.org	

serves as our "true north." This meant immediately
revisiting the funding priorities for our organization
to make sure they were still in line with what our
communities needed from us. One of our first missioncentric priorities included the activation of our board
to assemble and deliver care packages to the frontline
caregivers. By allowing our Board of Trustees to show
support of our mission, they became engaged and
motivated to maintain the foundation's mission. By
helping our stakeholders understand exactly how our
fundraising efforts were addressing the immediate
needs of the people we serve amid the COVID-19
crisis, we were able to keep our message from being
lost in the chaos-and, more importantly, we were able
to respond swiftly to the people who needed us most.
As we navigate the new landscape of philanthropy,
returning the focus of your efforts to your primary
mission can help you communicate it in a way that
shows prospective and current donors the benefit and
importance of contributing.
Communication and flexibility are more important
than ever. Communication is the lifeblood of the
nonprofit world, and the way we do it has changed
significantly this year. What hasn't changed is that you
must communicate consistently and transparently with
your board, staff, community and other stakeholders.
In fact, this has been of primary importance throughout
the SSM Health System as we continue to navigate
this pandemic. Dr. Alex Garza, chief medical officer
of SSM Health and incident commander for the St.
Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, created an
Incident Command Center Model when the pandemic
hit. "It was and is vitally important for physicians and
providers throughout the SSM Health System and
the other large health care systems in our region to
convene and regularly collaborate to compare data,
best practices and discuss concerns or needs," he
said. "Flexibility, communication and collaboration
are paramount during an international health crisis."
Internally, at the SSM Health Foundation-St. Louis-a
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Advancing Philanthropy October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Advancing Philanthropy October 2020

Advancing Philanthropy October 2020 - Cover1
Advancing Philanthropy October 2020 - Cover2
Advancing Philanthropy October 2020 - 1
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