Coronavirus and Fundraising – Testing Our Sustainability

Coronavirus and Fundraising – Testing Our Sustainability


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


First off, I hope that you, your family, and your extended family is well and stays that way. Hunker down, wash your hands, stay six feet away from others. Stay well.

Me? I’m doing fine and my family is safe for now. Thank you for asking. But the barbershop is closed, and my hair is getting really long.

We’ll get through this.


Today, I want to talk about what “getting through this” actually looks like. I’m not a pessimist. My rose-colored glasses are normally at least half full.

But it’s time – now – to look at what’s real, and make plans accordingly.

And what’s real is that 2020 is probably toast.


What’s real is that I’m probably going to have to learn to cut my own hair.


A question I get asked a lot is about postponing things.

We have an Annual Meeting in June. Would you recommend that we postpone it? ‘Til September?

We postponed our May Gala. When do you think we should try to host it?


Answer: 2021


We WILL come out the other side of COVID. People WILL travel again, gather again, and go back to work.

But not until we have these three things:

  1. Widespread, cheap, effective testing with fairly immediate results. We need to be able to self-administer a test as easily as a pregnancy test. Oops! Positive. That counts me out for the Annual Meeting. Time to buy chicken soup and saltines. Alert the clinic – I might need help these next two weeks.
  2. A reliable vaccine. And not something rushed to market, either. We need to be able to line up for COVID shots and have a reasonable assurance that they will work. That we can fight off any future exposure to the virus using just our immune systems.
  3. Lack of fear when going out that everything we touch is going to kill us.


The tests may be available in the next several months. The vaccine may take 9-12 months to develop and 4-6 months after that to produce and distribute – minimally summer of 2021 – before it is widely available.

Personal interactions without fear may take even longer.

Look at it this way: the scientists are telling us that social distancing will lower the curve. But it won’t make the virus less transferrable. Lowering the curve is great, but we also need to talk about cutting off the curve’s tail, and that won’t happen without a vaccine.


That’s the reality. Time to figure other stuff out. Time for plan B.

We can’t wait for all this to blow over. We can’t sit at home waiting for the All Clear. We must get back to work in any and every way we can. We MUST assume that it will be 12-18 months before we can reschedule that which we have “postponed.”

  • Time to stop thinking about your Annual Meeting and Gala events as “postponed.” Time to cancel them altogether or figure out how to get them done virtually. (I’m about to test doing a campaign Feasibility Study without meeting any donors in person. – Wish me luck!)
  • Time to pull the plug on Rally – not going to happen this year.
  • Time to get really good at Board and committee meetings using Zoom or Skype or GoToMeeting. (Time to think about purchasing Chromebooks for your older Board members – and being patient while they learn to use them.)
  • Time to develop a Strategic Plan to help you get through 2020 and possibly 2021 without being able to gather or travel.
  • Time to buy shears.
  • Time to assume that we are not returning to “normal” anytime soon. We’re going to need creativity and can-do spirit. We’re going to need resilience.
  • Time to test your organizational sustainability.


I’d love to be wrong – I hope like hell I’m wrong. There won’t be record pandemic deaths in the next three weeks. I won’t get sick. My family won’t get sick. And none of you and yours will get sick either. Wide-spread testing will be available by next Friday with a reliable vaccine widely available by August – confidence in traveling and gathering fully returned by September. Fall events – postponed from this Spring – will raise record amounts of money. And we’ll have record attendance at Rally in Portland in October.

But I don’t believe that. You don’t either.

We should know a lot more in 4-6 weeks. But let’s agree not to wait for that. Let’s assume that “back to normal” is at least a year away. Use the time NOW to make plans to hit the (virtual) ground running in May.


What’s your Plan B?


Cheers, and be well!




PS: I live in Wisconsin, so today is Election Day (insanely). And I am a pollworker. If I don’t get to your comments right away this morning, that’s the reason. Please DO leave your thoughts. Let me (all of us) know how you’re doing. I’ll approve them as soon as I can this afternoon.

PS: Why did the need to cut my own hair have to coincide with the advent of video conferencing?


Photo by Travel Photographer from



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  • Kimberly Gleffe
    Posted at 15:33h, 08 April

    OH, and I’m busting out my collection of vintage hats to cover up my mop of hair!!!

  • Kimberly
    Posted at 15:31h, 08 April

    Thanks, David… always appreciate a little humor amid the gloom and doom! 😉
    I’m thankful we had our 25th anniversary gala last fall – I gotta say!
    Anyway, great suggestions for planning for the worst case scenario and making it a positive if challenging opportunity to build organizational resilience. If we can make it through, along with the rest of the community, we’ll be that much further ahead in 2021.
    Dammit on Rally – my family lives in Portland and OR Coast so I was totally planning on going. Big bummer..
    be well everyone!

  • Heidi Habeger
    Posted at 13:39h, 07 April

    As always, you’re making us think ahead — thanks David! And thanks for voting. And ditto on plan B — my friend works at the GHC clinic on West Wash Ave doing covid tests all day. I’m doing all I can to show her the love.

  • Cindy Brown
    Posted at 12:54h, 07 April

    Thanks, David….appreciate the reality check. Trying times, indeed

  • Peter McKeever
    Posted at 11:56h, 07 April

    And thank you for working the polls!

  • Peter McKeever
    Posted at 11:29h, 07 April

    David, break the mold and grow a ponytail! Otherwise, good and wise advice, a reality check.

  • Jill Boullion
    Posted at 10:05h, 07 April

    (deep breath) Thanks for putting into words what I already knew in my heart. We all need to practice a lot of self-care right now. I’m thankful for our state association and for Land Trust Alliance because anyone leading a land trust right now is going to need emotional and strategic support so that we can be effective leaders for our organizations and in our communities.

  • Rick Newton
    Posted at 09:37h, 07 April

    It may be a good time to really think or re-think about mergers. Connecticut has over 130 land trusts and conservation organizations… that’s way too many for a state of our size. We compete for donors, volunteers and staff all in the same basic goal of preserving land. Each land trust spends donor dollars on staying legal (registrations), audit and accounting fees, insurance, postal permits etc. Economies of scale from merging would be tremendous and we would build a stronger land trust community.

    Also, land trusts with staff should be applying for relief under the PPP.

    • David Allen
      Posted at 14:48h, 07 April


      There is also money available (at least in CT) to help land trusts who are considering merging. There is money for the consideration, and there is money to help with the actual merging process. You can contact me for more information or go directly to CLCC.

      Thank you for the comment!


  • Anita O'Gara
    Posted at 06:34h, 07 April

    These may be important parts of Plan B:

    * phoning some of our older and most loyal donors. Caring, with gratitude. It is surprisingly emotional and heartening.

    * listening to our younger and newer coworkers – The ones who have never been “taught our trade” and don’t know “we’ve always done it that way.” Resilience and fresh approaches may come from searching together.

    * being gentle with ourselves. We will need personal quiet time to think, plan, and also process all this within ourselves. Nurturing our personal resilience is also a work related activity.

    Best wishes to all my colleagues.

  • Renee Carey
    Posted at 06:07h, 07 April

    When I agreed to postpone a fundraiser from the end of March to the end of May I did so knowing we’re not going to have it in May. May will hopefully have fewer hospitalizations and more PPE, but not enough “normal “ to hold an event. I said “okay” because I sensed the restaurant owner needed to believe we’d be back to “normal” the end of May and their restaurant would once again be filled on a Friday evening. In a few weeks we’ll cancel the event. It’s finding the balance between being responsible and still letting people have hope.

    Until normal, I’ll wear my mask, wash my hands, and hike on rainy days (so I have the trails to myself).

    • David Allen
      Posted at 14:51h, 07 April

      Thank you for writing, Renee. I appreciate your sensitivity!


  • David Allen
    Posted at 05:53h, 07 April

    Plan B, Step 1 – Thank a healthcare worker today. Every day.