30 Jun CoronaVirus and Fundraising: July
30 June 2020
By David Allen, Development for Conservation
Vitaliy Katsenelson is a philosopher-investor who writes an interesting blog on life, classical music, and the fundamentals of investing. He recently offered a metaphor for what’s going on that is based on the game of chess. (The Fischer Random Chess Stock Market)
In chess, there is an “opening,” a middle-game, and an end-game. Players at the top levels will have studied tens of thousands opening sequences “to the point that the early part of the game requires very little thinking; it is quite mechanical……..As the game leaves its opening phase and goes into middle- and then end-game stages, raw thinking becomes more and more important.”
Bobby Fischer proposed an alternative to mechanized openings by randomizing the placement of the pieces behind the line of pawns. Players whose kings and queens and rooks and bishops are in unfamiliar places are forced immediately into the middle-game – the classic openings are no longer relevant.
Katsenelson draws a parallel with what the investment world now looks like. The board looks the same at first glance, and the pieces are all familiar, but someone has randomly repositioned all the starting points. Those investors who recognize that the board has changed, return to fundamentals, and exercise raw thinking at very high levels will survive and may even do very well. Those who rely on mechanical processes with very little critical thinking may fall behind.
I would argue that the same is true for nonprofit fundraising. The combination of the Coronavirus pandemic, racial unrest, and economic recession/uncertainty – all fueled by an increasingly impatient youth movement – has rearranged the America’s chess pieces. Those who recognize that everything has changed, return to fundamentals, and exercise raw thinking at very high levels will survive and may even do very well. Those who rely on mechanical processes with very little critical thinking may fall behind.
As you begin to evaluate how the CoronaVirus has rearranged your chessboard, here are some things to keep in mind.
- People who cared about you in 2019 still care about you today – you can still trust that. They want to help. Help them see the need and the problems they can help solve.
- As important as institutional communications are, communicating in very personal ways matters. Dedicate several hours each week to communicating to a smaller number of people in ways that are overtly personal. (Hint: I’m not talking about just personalizing the salutation of your email.)
- Video calls are the new personal meetings. You can still meet people in person, especially outside, but it’s not advisable and especially if they are elderly (or you are). What would have seemed like heresy last year is now completely normal – asking people to contribute in person using ZOOM or similar.
One land trust I can point to is Summit Land Conservancy in Park City, Utah. For their biennial “Conservation Breakfast,” scheduled for early April, they saw that their chess pieces were scrambled. In three weeks, they completely changed the event from in-person to virtual.
More importantly, they wrote about their experience.
You can find out about WHY they did it and HOW they did it here: https://www.wesaveland.org/happenings
You can also watch the virtual event from the same site – highly recommended.
So how are your chess pieces randomized? And how are you rethinking your fundraising game?
As always, your comments, reflections, and stories are welcomed here.
Cheers, and have a great week!
Photo by Jeff Hollett courtesy Stocksnap.io