Five Good Ideas ®
Five Good Ideas about fundraising in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic
Published on 30/06/2020
In this period of uncertainty created by the Covid-19 pandemic, many non-profit organizations have revised budgets and modified revenue projections to reflect the new reality. While it’s essential that we exercise caution in our outlook, we must also seek every opportunity to set priorities and plans that strengthen our fundraising potential in 2020 and 2021. Lindsay Groves, Vice President, Global Partnerships, and Susan Vardon, Canadian National Director, both of Right To Play International, presented Five Good Ideas on how to re-think your case for giving, innovate your approaches to communications and stewardship to maintain relationships with government partners and individual and corporate donors, as well as recover revenue from lost special events.
Five Good Ideas
- Evolve your case for giving
- Stay close to “family”
- Get creative with your grant portfolio
- Re-frame your special events
- Leverage technology to advance relationships
- Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP): Coronavirus/ COVID-19 resource guide
- Oxford Group: Insights
- Global Giving: Eight tips for compassionate fundraising during COVID-19
- Philanthropy Daily: How to recover revenue from canceled fundraising events
- KCI: COVID 19’s impact on Canadian fundraising
Full session transcript
[Lindsay]: The last few months have been a very challenging period for Right To Play like for many, with massive disruption to our programming and to our fundraising. And to be honest, we are still very much in the thick of it.
Right To Play is a bit unique in the Canadian context, because we are one of the few international humanitarian organizations that are headquartered in Canada. We deliver programming in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, but we also deliver programming for Indigenous communities across Canada. This creates an interesting partner mix for us.
Susan and I are here today representing two different sides of Right To Play’s funding model. Susan leads the team raising funds with the private sector, such as individuals, corporations, and through special events. I lead a global brand portfolio, including partnerships with governments and primarily institutional donors and focus more on our global work.
Both types of funding have really necessitated new models and new approaches in light of COVID-19. Some of these have commonalities and some don’t, and we’ll talk a little bit about those with you today. So with that, I’ll hand it over to Susan to get us started on our idea number one.
Idea #1: Evolve your case for giving
[Susan]: Thanks, Lindsay, and good afternoon to everyone. Our first good idea is that we all need to evolve our cases for giving. The world has changed and, as a result, how we present the relevance of our organizations to our donors must also change.
Now, I’m imagining that everybody on the call has already been adjusting their case for giving since COVID-19 arrived in our world and made such a massive disruption in the middle of March. Some of the organizations on this webinar may be frontline organizations, and it was really obvious what you were going to do given COVID-19, because you needed money to purchase ventilators or you were accessing food to provide to those on the front line.
But many of us had to look at our missions and how we deliver programs and think about how COVID-19 is going to impact how we execute against our mission. This is a really, really critical first step because that’s actually what our donors want to know. They want to know – how are you making a difference during this difficult time?
As Lindsay made reference to, Right To Play made a really important program pivot as we tried to figure out how are were going to execute [our programming] with all the schools all around the world shut.
I don’t know about others, but I ended up receiving a few solicitations from organizations at the end of March who said they desperately needed my money because of COVID-19, but there wasn’t really any clarity as to what they were going to do with it. And I found that a little frustrating.
When you’re thinking about revising your case for giving, as is always the case, you’ll want to be honest and clear about your role. I think now that we are moving out of the intense first phase of COVID-19, now is the time for understanding and making the case for relevance for your organization in the new world order, and how social distancing is going to impact your program in the long term.
These are big questions that need to be carefully thought through by the leadership of your organization, and shouldn’t be delegated to your marketing person to figure out. As always, your case of support needs to say three things: who you are and what you do, why you’re unique and exceptional at what you do, and any evidence you have that says this is the case. Lastly, explain why it is urgent that your donors stay with you on this journey. I am imagining for many of us, we could feel the urgency in terms of why we needed donors to stay with us and we had to be able to communicate that in a compelling way.
Know that when you’re revising your case, you’re always going to have lots of different types of people that are reading your case whom you’re trying to engage. Some like data where they’ve got hard evidence that what you’re saying is actually true. Other people like stories of lives that have been changed as a result of your work. I think, during this pandemic, trying to conceive of the impact of COVID-19-19 on people and how your services are really making a difference has been something that’s been really important to donors.
I think it’s always been true, but now more than ever, people are looking for a connection to one another and our organizations provide that connection. Your case for support needs to tell that story. There was a time when people and organizations felt that they should get a beautiful glossy case for support and they could use it for five years. I don’t think that’s the case anymore, and I think for now you need to be able to revive your relevance case, and your case for giving as things change, and involve your donors and your volunteers as you’re evolving your case.
These are people who care deeply about your organizations, they give to your organization, test [your case for giving] with them. If it feels tough, just know that it is tough for all of us because it requires creativity and your leadership to be thoughtful about how the work’s going to proceed moving forward.
I’m proud of how hard working the teams in the field at Right To Play have been in terms of pivoting our responses. I think it took some time to figure out what that was going to look like, and sometimes the fundraising team just wants to get out there and fundraise. Taking the time to figure out what the work of the organization is going to be, and then building the case from there is critical.
I think that, as I mentioned earlier, many of us may be realizing that the case for giving in the new world order is looking at extended social distancing, and also some recommendations and discussions that are happening in relation to race. These are tough and important conversations for all of our organizations that will result in interesting and ever-evolving cases for giving.
Idea #2: Stay close to “family”
Our next good idea is about staying close to family. When I say “family,” I mean your board members, your top ten or 20 individual or corporate donors, or your top institutional donors.
No matter the size of your organization, there are probably ten or 20 people or organizations that really make sure your organization ticks. Everyone on this webinar knows the importance of engagement at any time. Whether with donors, or with prospects who you want to be donors, engaging them is tough. Generally for organizations, figuring out ways to engage volunteers and donors in your mandate can be tough. Then along came COVID-19. All of us are trying to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other and how to raise some money. I would challenge you to be engaged in conversations with those who are closest to you, and use them as sounding boards for your ever-evolving case for giving.
I know at Right To Play, the Canadian Advisory Board really dug in and they wanted to talk every week about our case for giving, they wanted to talk every week about what our fundraising pivot was going to be. That was both challenging and exciting for me, because it gave me an opportunity for deeper engagement.
Don’t wait until you’ve got it all planned, engage them while you’re evolving, because those conversations and that engagement is actually just very good stewardship. It’s also an interesting time to talk to those closest to you, not only about their own giving, but maybe there are people that they know who are being moved by COVID-19, and are seeing the work that your organization does as being relevant. It can be an opportunity to be talking about prospecting with people, and help you understand who those people are who you can go to for special tasks.
It is a tough time for fundraisers to be prospecting because people seem to be “trenching in.” I would recommend taking your time, and making sure you’ve got it in your weekly calendar to spend time talking to your donors and closest friends.
I spoke to someone who leads an interesting arts organization in the city and she was saying that her board fundraising committee had not been very active for some time, and she was finding it challenging. Yet, when she engaged them in conversations about scenarios for the organization to be relevant moving forward, they really opened up. They were given the opportunity to be forthright and passionate about what it is that excites them about the organization. She felt that this was allowing her relationship and the volunteers to really feel that they were in the middle of things. The challenge will be keeping that level of engagement going, but I’m hopeful we’re all up to it.
[Lindsay] On the grant side of our business, there was a quite similar idea of keeping family close. For us, there was only a handful of partners who had the capacity and the commitment to us to make any sort of special operating grant, which is the kind of revenue that we needed.
Grant funding is traditionally very programmatic, and at this time we were really needing support for our operations. So we went to our most trusted partners and we opened up very honestly about the impacts of COVID-19 on the Right To Play’s financial health. At the same time, we also tried to demonstrate prudent financial planning and stability.
It’s a difficult balance to strike, and one that we struggled with a little bit at first, but I think we ended up finding our groove. On one hand, we needed to express the urgency of the crisis and its profound financial impacts. In some cases, this may be like existential crises to organizations.
So you need to express that need, but, at the same time, you need to give partners the confidence in your viability.
This was the conversation we began, and I think our key factor for success here was that we really only approached a small group, a family who really believe in our work and care deeply about the longevity of the organization. By engaging them in a very honest discussion about the challenges we were facing, we were able to steward these partners, which is important in and of itself. We were also able to actually raise new funds to support our work, which was of most critical importance.
Idea #3: Get creative with your grant portfolio
– Our third good idea is to get creative with your grant portfolio. Right To Play’s funding model includes restricted government and institutional foundation grants. For many of these partners, securing grants can take a lot of time. The process of responding to an RFP, developing the proposal and the budget, and negotiating a contract, for us often takes upwards of twelve months.
Right To Play needed to immediately manage the effects of COVID-19, so a strategy for us was to actually look at our grant portfolio and leverage our current suite of grants. We sought to renegotiate, essentially raising funds from within the current grant portfolio.
We went grant by grant and asked ourselves three questions.
One, are there any grants that we could make more flexible? Can we make requests to un-restrict or loosen restrictions in order to improve how the organization can use the grant? Perhaps helping support operational costs, for example, and for those donors, we built a case.
We then looked at, secondly, were there any grants that come at a cost to the organization, again, where we can renegotiate? So for instance, Right To Play has a handful of our grants which have a matching requirement. So in other words, we only secure that grant when supporting or complimentary funds are raised. We realized, if we could negotiate down those contractual match requirements, we could instead redirect our fundraising efforts. So again, we built a case for this request. I would say, surprisingly, of the four requests made all of them were approved. After spending the last twelve years working with a lot of rigid, very structured partners, I was really surprised and very happy with the flexibility.
Third and lastly, we looked at negotiating our admin or our indirect cost rate. The administrative fees that some donors pay are critically important to the overall viability of an organization, as it supports all of our core operating or running costs. When Right To Play started to revise our revenue projections for 2020, we actually noticed a very significant concern that we only receive our administrative fee from our grants as funds were spent.
Suddenly, many of our programs were halted and so spending had stopped. Our ability to recognize that admin that’s so important to operational viability has also stopped. We needed to get creative and make a case and actually engage our donors in a discussion around flexibility.
Instead of paying our admin or indirect costs as a percentage of our spending, would they consider switching to a flat fee? So collectively, all these negotiations had as much of an impact as bringing in new donor dollars. Even our most strict donors were actually easing restrictions. Leveraging these relationships, leveraging these partnerships to ensure maximum flexibility of your grant portfolio, can be a key strategy to consider.
Idea #4: Re-frame your special events
[Susan] So everyone could have guessed this idea about reframing your special events program. I’m guessing there are a number of people on this webinar who are looking at substantial revenue holes in their 2020 projections because of your inability to host large events. I will tell you that Right To Play is in the exact same sinking boat, so I feel your pain.
Replacing in-person events with virtual events is happening. I think there are some that have been really successful. I think some have been less successful. The jury is out as to whether we will be able to raise sufficient dollars with our virtual events.
We’re doing a variety of different virtual events, hoping for increased engagement. Using these new virtual events as alternate sponsorship properties for those who have been long-time sponsors of your more traditional events is a good step forward, and we are seeing some decent results from doing that.
There are lots of creative ideas out there. One of the ones that really caught my eye was in early June. It was a Virtual Bali Fit Class organized by the UN High Commission for Refugees. They were raising awareness for the recent World Refugee Day while also having a fun, unique, fitness class where they talked about conditions in a region of the world where they program.
Someone else I know looks after the fundraising program at ALS Canada. They’ve got a series of walks that happen in different communities across the country. Thirty-three walks happen between May and September, and they raise about 30% of their annual revenue, or $2 million.
ALS Canada decided about three months ago that they would make all of those walks happen on the same day. That was going to be June 21, which coincided with ALS Global Awareness Day. They had a virtual start line at nine o’clock in the morning that was pre-recorded and then they had a closing ceremony at eleven.
They had three months to organize it, and they engaged all of their community champions and top fundraisers from the different communities. There was a razor-sharp focus from their team on making sure their fundraising, marketing, and data support teams were all focused on the single deliverable. They were surprised and delighted to have raised $1.2 million from that single day. I was pretty impressed and thought that idea was worth sharing.
Another reality that we’re all facing is that people are getting a little burnt out from being on Zoom calls all day long. So I would caution about putting too many resources into exclusively organizing virtual events. One of the things that we have heard from our volunteers is that the big events are going to be about the last thing to come back.
We had volunteers say that they can’t imagine having their corporate employees going into a room of over 1,000 people until there’s a vaccine. So, that’s a really big shift for the sector. Hopefully, we’re all able to take advantage of it.
I spoke to someone who runs a pretty big fundraising program in the city and she felt that the pandemic was giving her an opportunity to refocus her fundraising staff, who had traditionally been very events-focused, and refocus on relationships and conversations with engaging donors. She was hoping that was going to be an opportunity to shift their program in a direction that she knows is the right one long term.
I guess most importantly, as is always the case in fundraising, we want to get out there and ask. If you’ve got people who have been buying tickets to your events year over year, and coming to your organization’s events, they probably love your organization and they’re just used to engaging with you by buying a table or buying a ticket to your event. You want to make sure that if you’re having that event, you get creative about how you’re going to renew their support and, at the very minimum, a nice solicitation. Doing it right and making them feel like they can continue to be part of your family is really important.
Idea #5: Leverage technology to advance relationships
The next and final good idea is the importance of leveraging technology to advance relationships. I am guessing every single one of you has been using some type of virtual conference call to bring your donors together, whether that’s for webinars or updates, meeting experts from the field, meeting recipients of service, or sharing information about your programming and your impact.
I would also highly recommend using Zoom for one-on-one stewardship, even one-on-one solicitations. I don’t know about you, but I have found it’s been interesting because you can have a more intimate kind of relaxed conversation in some way when you’re in your home office, they’re in their home office, and you’re just talking, versus when there’s a boardroom table between you, that can sometimes serve to be a little intimidating. We’ve also found ourselves outreaching to people that have not been wanting to see us face-to-face, but all of a sudden, they’re open to having a Zoom call, which is great.
[Lindsay] As an example, last month Right To Play co-hosted a policy dialogue as part of our role as co-chair of the Canadian International Education Group. The dialogue was initially planned in person of course, but was moved online. Because of the new structure, we were actually able to include participation from the Minister of International Development and leadership from two of the largest global education donors for the entire two-hour session.
I think had it actually been planned and executed in person, their attendance would probably not have happened, or if it had, it may have been limited. So using the online platform had a huge advantage in order to push this policy dialogue forward and not only that, after the dialogue, we were able to continue engagement, set up follow-up meetings with key education donors. We found them incredibly responsive, immediately responding, willing to set up Zoom calls with our CEO. So now is the time to reach out to those people who you might thought were not reachable, and may in fact be more so than you may have previously considered.
[Susan] Great, thanks. Someone I spoke to was commenting about how it’s actually fun to be able to experiment with new approaches in terms of engaging donors using these virtual tools because it doesn’t cost us anything. So pre-social distancing, you could try an event that had an interesting kind of food and an interesting speaker, but it might cost you $5,000 to put on that event. Well, we can’t do that anymore.
So I would say – try new things, different things, and be creative. I would also say that one thing about the digital engagement is that it does flatten the world. At Right To Play, we’re putting together what we thought was a pretty great webinar panel for our donors, and it was really originally only going to be for our top donors. Once we had the thing organized, we realized it was silly, we have our top donors because we had the thing organized, we might as well invite all our monthly donors as well, (which we did and lots came out).
Taking advantage of digital tools to access as many [donors] as you can is a really important piece. The only other thing I want to add as it relates to technology, is that technology is always supposed to be our ally with donor segmentation. I’m hopeful that all of you have got your donors in different segments. I think most organizations, when they look at their mass market donors, have got digital tools as being really the primary way that they’re engaging, cultivating, and stewarding those mass market donors.
Now that you’ve got digital [technology] available for your mid-level and your major gift donors, how do you build on those? How do you make sure that technology is allowing you to get more customized and intimate with your major gift donors? I think technology can help you get even more precise with your segmentation, depending on how well you know your major gift donors.
I heard about one organization that is further segmenting its major donors into different groups as it relates to the financial impact that the donor is experiencing as a result of COVID-19. So, there would be one group where actually, although COVID-19 has them working at home, their income hasn’t really changed and their family net worth hasn’t really changed.
Then there would be a segment of major donors where there’s a significant impact on their family income as a result of COVID-19. If you own a restaurant chain, or you are in commercial real estate, and that’s one of your big prospects, you might just wait a little bit before making a big ask.
So those are the five good ideas that we wanted to present to you today, you might deem them five average ideas. Maybe you have five great ideas, we’d love to hear what they are. I will say for sure, we do not have it all figured out. We’re trying our best and trying to be creative. I think what we all know now is that to be successful, we have to be creative. We have to be open to new ways. And fundamentally, we have to support one another as we make our way through this period of time. And hopefully all of our organizations can remain financially viable so that we can continue to do good work in our community. So that’s it from us, over to you Elizabeth.
Questions and answers
[Elizabeth] I thought that was terrific. Thank you both so much. Already in the Q&A line, these have been deemed to be great ideas. So you’ve surpassed the bar, thank you. I want to pick up, you finished with discussing major donors, and a lot of the implication was individual donors. One of the questions that came near the end was, what are the corporate sponsor benefits that you’re seeing emerge in this new world order, particularly as it relates to events? So a lot of times at events that’s a big revenue source, how do you reposition that? What are they asking for that might be different? Or is that just something that you no longer look at it, you look at other ways of engaging the corporate as sponsorship?
[Susan] Good question, hard answer. I would say we have, we’re just closing up actually our virtual engagement event called Play It Forward. The corporates were really excited about that, because they’re dying for things to engage their employees on that it’s not just work. I think employee engagements always been important. If you’ve got an event where you can go to your corporate partners and corporate sponsors with something that’s meaningful for their employees to engage, fantastic.
We’re also going to be having a play quiz, which is sort of a sports quiz virtual night, later on in October. There will be six people on virtual teams, and we had a bunch of corporates that were excited because they said, we used to be able to take our clients to sports games and be in our sky box, or whatever they’re now called. They can’t do that anymore, so they thought it would be a fun way to engage with their clients. We’re also trying to put together some Facebook Live segments with some of our ambassador athletes where there will be some digital content that’s available for the sponsors to be able to use in their intranet, so that they can be talking to their employees about the impact they’re having in the community.
We try to come up with a few ideas and the jury’s out in terms of how it’s all going to go. I would say employee engagement, client engagement, ability to tell the story about their investments in the community, those are the things corporates were saying to all of us a year ago, and now how we deliver on that is just a little bit different.
[Elizabeth] Have you tried anything that didn’t work? Is there a bad idea? Note that you don’t have to tell all. We always learn more from people’s mistakes. Is there anything that you would sort of reach into and say try that, don’t do that?
[Lindsay] I actually talked a little bit about this, and Susan and I were both saying prospecting new business development is actually something that has not been working well for us. I can say again, on the grant side, there were a few partners that were in our pipeline, that sort of medium/higher probability of partners we’ve been looking at. When we did the outreach, what we heard a lot of is – “no, we’re not taking on any new partners right now.” Or “we’re redirecting funds towards COVID-19 response”, or “we’re not sure if we’re going to redirect, so we’re pausing and we’re going to revisit these applications later in the year.”
So for us, what it has meant actually re-emphasizes one of the good ideas – stay close to family. This is going to be the time when prospecting isn’t the best use of time, like outreach for brand new partners may be challenging. Putting your effort and energy more towards stewardship and more towards engaging your core group of donors might be time better spent.
[Susan] I would echo Lindsay entirely on the private sector side. I have heard of some organizations that are really trying to make a big push on prospecting right now, and I tip my hat to them and say, “we’ll be interested to see how it goes.” I think it’s hard enough right now to retain our existing donors, let alone go prospecting. I say that now (and what are we, three months into this?), and we can’t stop prospecting. So we’re pausing on it, but we will be back working with our volunteers to try to engage new people just because we’ll have to. But I wouldn’t say leading with prospecting is a good idea right now.
[Elizabeth] Work with your current relationships. One of the early questions, and I think it was Susan while you were doing your first good idea, was a question about revising message. This person was asking, how do you revise your message when you plan to expand services, had built a reserve fund, but now COVID-19 has hit? So you’ve got more money than you want to have and asking in this moment, from a financial perspective, you may not look like you’re in dire need compared to other charities, is that an issue? Or how do you manage that in terms of what you’re putting out to prospective funders or current funders?
[Susan] Well, that’s such a good question. And I’m hoping your board is answering that question. But I’ll try. I think what I heard the question saying is that you’re hoping to expand your programming. If you can continue to expand your programming and have impact and you’ve got the money to do it, great. I always think that a really big reserve fund, many donors don’t see it or don’t do their homework and look, and they’ll keep giving you money.
I as a donor myself, if an organization was going to approach me for a significant amount of money, I think this is a time that a reserve fund is for, to some extent, but I think what your board decides to do, what the leadership team decides is the right thing to do, this could be the time for you to spend down your reserve fund a little bit, if your organization is delivering in a niche space that is super critical, given the circumstances we’re living in.
[Lindsay] Just to add to that, we approached one of our close partners to ask for a special operating grant, and when we made that ask, we were also clear and we spoke about the reserves that we have as an organization. We spoke about how we don’t want to drain them because we don’t know what 2021 looks like and we don’t know what 2022 looks like.
So educate your donors around why it’s important to have a reserve, and why that actually might make you more nimble and more sustainable in the long run. Having a reserve is a good thing, and I think sometimes you might just have to really engage your partners in why that is. That could actually help lend some credibility to your ask because your partner knows that they’re then investing and supporting an organization that might be around in the long run.
[Elizabeth] So you touched on another question, which I think is a good high-level question, which is, we don’t know what’s going to happen in 2021. As you’re thinking forward, so you’re getting through, we’re in the middle of a crisis right now. We’re not on the other side of it yet. What are your expectations for 2021? And how are you planning and preparing for the year ahead, going forward?
[Susan] That’s another good question. I think that none of us have that crystal ball. But it is likely that we are going to be living in continued social distancing. So I think we are making a decision to focus on individual giving, 85% I think it is, of all philanthropy comes from individuals. Relationships are everything in fundraising. I would focus more on individual giving than corporate giving myself just because I think if, and I’m sure we all do read the business section every day, the future is uncertain as it relates to the corporate planet.
Focusing on individual giving makes a lot of sense. I wouldn’t spend tons of time organizing really big events, at least for the first half of 2021. Really focusing on individuals makes lots of sense given where we’re at. Even having said that, we know it is likely that economic uncertainty will continue. So I would be hopeful that we could all be, perhaps, more modest and conservative with our 2021 goals, than we might have all had when we started out 2020.
[Lindsay] I think on the grant side for us, looking at 2021, what’s most important is looking at program models, how those are being delivered, and what donors are going to expect to see. We’ve already started to get questions from some of our partners, things that we had in the pipeline, let’s say to start 2021.
Donors are saying “You need to make sure that you have a very clear distance learning strategy now. You need to ensure that you have very clear approach for your teacher training, that you’re using technology, and program direction that we might not have gone with otherwise.”
What this has meant, on the grant side, is that our donors are going to be looking more at risk, and making sure that our programs are responsive, that we can move from a lockdown to an opening up stage, and that how our programs can respond to that environment becomes really critical.
Susan, you talked a little bit about this in the first good idea, your program and your fundraising team needs to be more in lockstep than ever before, because of how quickly everything is changing. Your fundraising team needs to be working on the program side in order to be able to continue to evolve your fundraising strategy as your program strategy is evolving.
[Elizabeth] Both of you are seasoned professionals in your space. Susan, you’ve been fundraising for years, we talked about you joining Right To Play just recently, but you’ve been doing this for many, many years. And Lindsay, you’ve also been working on the program side for many, many years. Has anything happened in the last three months that surprised you? That really challenged you to sort of reach in deeper to sort of apply everything you’ve learned, to sort of reconfigure these topic? I think some of the stuff around special events is probably the biggest curve ball, that we’ve gone into a virtual world and you really have to innovate around that. But is there anything in the relationships or what have you that took you by surprise, or that you sort of have really kind of innovated your own practice on?
[Lindsay] I think you sort of pointed it out, the events, some of the curve balls came more on event fundraising and around the individual giving, especially mass-market type of fundraising.
On the grant side for us, I would say, I think our time will likely come next year, 2021. I think a lot of our funding on grants, you secure them in advance, you’ve got your portfolio. I think we’ve seen it somewhat stable this year and I think, alluding to what we talked about a little bit earlier, 2021 for us is going to be a time where we might see more new revenue going into vaccine development, the Canadian government, rightfully so, just made a big investment in vaccine development and healthcare system strengthening. If your program’s not aligned to those priorities, it could be a challenge.
Some of the grant funding you might typically see and the renewals you might typically see might change. And so for us, I think what’s probably most surprising is now really thinking about and building out new ways and new partners that we can look at come 2021 when that environment gets a little bit more tight.
[Susan] I think there’s been so much to it that has been a curve ball. I’m used to being someone who’s involved in fundraising, who brings people together to get them excited and mobilize around a cause. Where you’ve got leaders inviting other leaders, and everyone gets really excited and motivated to be part of giving to a cause and right to please, work is so fantastic. The impact that we’re having both in Indigenous communities, with our partners there, as well as around the world, it really is very transformational.
I would say, I find it challenging when we can’t bring people together. We can, and we are virtually, and I’ve tried to speak to the benefits of it in one of those good ideas, but factually, it’s also different and hard. Gathering people in the backyard or in someone’s boardroom is kind of off limits right now. Trying to figure out ways to rally people is going to continue to be interesting.
I think now that summer’s here, and the weather is great, people will probably be doing fewer Zoom calls. If we have another lockdown in the fall and we’re back inside, are we going think that Zoom is our only lifeline, or will we feel that we can’t do it anymore? I don’t know. But I do think convening people and their friends, getting people excited about doing amazing things with their money, is what gifts to philanthropy really are. I find that challenging and that’s kind of, I wouldn’t say, all that I know, but it’s how I’m used to leading.
[Elizabeth] Is that good for a final comment from both of you or is there anything else you’d like to add?
[Susan] I think just stay calm, carry on, put your best foot forward, be good to one another. Remember that it’s so much more about the people whose lives we’re trying to impact. It’s not about us, it’s about them. We really do have a responsibility to the community to be really good at what we do. So try not to get disheartened. And good luck.
[Lindsay] That’s great. I completely agree. I think one of the wonderful things to see come out of this crisis has been how the charitable sectors really came together and supported each other. I think there’s a lot we can all learn from each other. We’re not always so intentional about doing that. So this forum, others, Susan talked a lot of great examples about what other organizations are doing. There’s so much we can learn from each other. So the more you can learn from what others are doing well, and from the mistakes are we’re all making, the better we’re going to be for it. So thank you.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.
Lindsay Groves is the Vice President for Global Partnerships at Right To Play. Right To Play is a global organization that protects, educates and empowers children to rise above adversity using the power of play. Established in 2000, Right To Play has pioneered a unique play-based approach to learning and development which focuses on quality education, life skills, health, gender equality, child protection and building peaceful communities. With programming in 15 countries, Right To Play transforms the lives of more than 2.3 million children each week, both inside and outside of the classroom.
Lindsay joined Right To Play’s Global Office in 2008. As the Vice-President for Global Partnerships, Lindsay builds impactful partnerships and programs that empower children to rise above the challenges they face. Lindsay has a Bachelor of Arts from Queens University, a post-graduate degree in International Project Management from Humber College and a Masters of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto.
Susan Vardon is the National Director at Right To Play Canada and has been in that role since September of 2019. She leads a team that fundraises from Canadians for both global programs and partnerships with Indigenous communities in Canada that support children through the power of play.
Prior to joining Right To Play, Susan was the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Community Food Centres Canada (CFCC) for 3.5 years. Before CFCC, Susan spent over 20 years at United Way Greater Toronto in a variety of different roles. Susan has also worked as a fundraiser at Queen’s University, The Wellesley Hospital and Upper Canada College.
Susan graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce from Queen’s University in 1988 and has a CFRE, Certified Fundraising Executive, designation. When not working, Susan likes to hang out with her family at their cabin in the woods, eat good food, read fiction, run recreationally and paddle a canoe.