My Apple Tree

my apple tree
~ Martin Luther

I wanted you to know that in this current situation, which is unprecedented in most of our lives and experiences, you all are very much on our minds and in our hearts, and we all at PlannedGiving.Com hope you and your families are faring well.

Inaction Has Consequences.

We now have a new pandemic to deal with: The Pandemic of Fear. In these tenuous times we are often paralyzed by inaction, waiting to see what’s next before we make a move. But we don’t want our “what’s next” to be determined by doubt or complacency. What actions can we take while we’re perhaps in temporary isolation and away from the world and society, not knowing what the days to come will bring?

Instead of succumbing to fear and inaction (and I sometimes catch myself at this), change your outlook and take the future into your own hands. Take action, because attitude determines altitude.*** This can include two things: Use your time to expand your knowledge base, which will ultimately strengthen not only your career but your nonprofit’s financial future, and secondly, realize that your donors are thinking very much about their own future and the legacy they will leave behind (myself included).

Remember, fear is overcome by action, and studies show it. 

We’re Here to Help.

A plethora of resources are available at and are all designed to help you and your organization prosper, both in the stormy present and into the brighter future. We’re open for business, here for whatever you might need, and hope to hear from all of you.

Expect a few emails from us on a number of upcoming webinars that will get you started.

Stay tuned and stay well.

***one of my favorite Jim Rohn quotes

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.

Coronovirus: Making Calls in Tough Times


The Planed Giving Bible: It's the definitive guide to gift planning. It covers the "why's of giving" that helps you better understand the upside and downside of different giving options for both you and your donors.

1 comment

These are the questions we asked our friends:

How has your work routine changed during this time of social distancing?

How has this experience helped or hampered your fundraising efforts?

How do you stay positive? Are you struggling with fear?

What is your biggest professional challenge in these times?

How is your organization faring? (Please provide examples/stories.)

How do you think your organization will do as a result of this experience?

Mark Seeley, Senior Director of Gift Planning, University of South Carolina

At this point in time, I anticipate bringing closure on a couple gifts by the end of April, but it will be done via phone and electronic communication. After that, I anticipate a reduction in productivity.
My fundraising efforts have definitely been hampered. I usually send pre-call/pre-approach letters to donor prospects in the hopes of securing a visit in person. I follow-up those with a phone call to secure a qualification visit. Not doing that now. Not doing visits.
Romans 12:12 – “Be joyful in hope, patient in tribulation, faithful in prayer.” I would be dishonest if I told you I didn’t struggle with fear – fear is very human; no one is exempt from it. But I also believe and rest in Providence; I can be patient when things are against me and thankful when things go well.
My biggest professional challenge is utilizing technology to my best advantage.
I don’t know how my organization is faring. Don’t have a clue. I think it is too early to tell.


Cynthia Pritchard, President and CEO, Philanthropy Delaware

My routine has changed in that more time is spent having strategic versus social conversations. It is also more time consuming communicating in writing than in person. Utilization of Zoom and Microsoft Teams has expanded.

My productivity has increased in some ways, but not sure if it is the need to do so much more in a tight timeline than normal. More minute-by-minute response versus planning for the long term.

As my organization is not impacted by fundraising for operations it has not impacted my organization. That being said, we have had to move our attention to create and encourage collaborative funding among funders to both a strategic response and rapid response funding to support those most affected and organizations that serve them. Our organization is working to provide information about resources for the nonprofits to adjust their fundraising to virtual.

I stay positive by focusing on the work that is needed to be done to provide the resources to those most impacted by COVID-19. I fear we will miss something or someone in all the efforts happening.

My biggest professional challenge is knowing and responding to the constant changing needs of the funders, nonprofits, and individuals in a time like our country has never seen in my lifetime. As a professional challenge, how do I take a lifetime of experience and pivot it to the current climate?

My organization is faring well, but there are many that are feeling much differently.

Our organization will survive, but may expand and change how we do our work in the future.


Scott Janney, Executive Director of Leadership and Planned Giving, Muhlenberg College

I’m encouraging the leadership gifts officer who report to me to contact as many of their constituents as possible over the phone. Some people are lonely and others are distraught. Major gift fundraising has always been about building relationships and listening to people, so I see this as a great opportunity to do both.

Initially I had started my contact calls by offering to tell people about the response our college is making to the coronavirus situation. They were interested, and the calls went well. However, when we all began conversations by asking how they are faring in this time, the calls immediately became deeper, more meaningful, and also longer.

We aren’t trying to ask for money, but we have all had several giving and estate-related conversations when our constituents raised the subjects.

Debbie Shupp, Director of Development, The Parkesburg Point

My work routine hasn’t changed but the location of my work has changed from the office to my home. My productivity has seemed to increase because of the lack of in person communication with my colleagues and donors.

Our spring fundraiser, where we raise 10% of our budget has been postponed, so the next month will be challenging. We have noticed an increase in on-line donations from people wanting to help in any way they can.

Being a faith based organization, we do not struggle with fear but remain positive and take each day as it comes.
My biggest challenge is not seeing our donors on an in person meeting but that has changed with emails, Facebook, and zoom rooms.

Since our organization serves at-risk students ages 8 – 18 years of age most falling below the poverty level, we are working with the school districts as well as the county food cupboard as a drop off point for packed breakfasts and lunches. Through the food bank we provide emergency boxes of food as well as weekend backpacks for over 700 students in our programs. We will also begin zoom room bible studies where the students can still see the staff and ask questions. Now more than ever our crisis funds are being available to parents who cannot afford rent or utilities. Although our physical location is closed, we continue to provide the services needed to keep our students engaged, feed and sheltered.

We have never encountered anything quite like this before, but I believe our continued donors will provide support and possibly the community will see how we continue our goal of every child deserves hope, and support us as well.


Marlo Schalesky, Executive Director, Wonder Wood Ranch, Salinas, CA

We have had to discontinue all in-person services to our clients. Most meetings have been cancelled. The few remaining meetings have been done as conference calls. Instead of in person sessions, which used to take up most of our work day, we are now working on facility upgrades and exploring grant opportunities. While our work with clients has ceased completely, our productivity in other areas remains the same.

This experience has hindered our fundraising that occurs around services and events. We will most likely lose 1-2 months of income while our expenses will remain the same. Since we are a non-profit Ranch, our major expenses revolve around animal care which must continue as usual despite the Ranch suspending services.

I focus on what we can do and consider this time an opportunity to focus on those aspects of our business that are not dependent on in-person services. I find that accomplishing specific tasks (perhaps a grant application, or even sweeping cobwebs from the barn) that will better prepare us for when our “shelter at home” order ends, keeps my spirits up and my mind looking forward to what we might accomplish in the future, despite this financial and service setback.

My biggest personal challenge is covering expenses while income has diminished (vanished),and doing the work that had previously been done by volunteers.

I believe our community will make sure that important nonprofits such as ours will recover and continue to serve despite challenges. We will experience a financial setback, but I expect to eventually recover losses and continue to grow our services to our community.


Gary Bukowski, Vice President for Advancement, Sarah A. Reed Children’s Center, Erie, PA

There is no doubt that things have changed during this most restrictive time to meet and see folks face-to-face. I am now in my third day of working remotely from home, as I drive my wife crazy. While it has been productive, the remote touch is not as personal as my love of Face to Face. People are learning to use Zoom…I started 4 years ago, and it has been an advantage in my case.

I am practicing “blitzkrieg fundraising,” lighting fundraising because things are happening and changing so fast you have to adjust and keep moving…..and we need to do everything we can to help our kids and Sarah Reed and its kids. As of this morning, I asked a foundation to review our proposal before their April 3rd timeline, based on the “urgency of our request.” The proposal is a window into what the smaller shop has to do under this Pandemic…

I am definitely staying positive and keep forging forward, after living through an Anthrax Scare, the 9/11 Attack with 35 people in Ireland, a devastating tornado when I was on County Council Chairman as my father was dying and a host of other challenges. These have prepared me for this time, more than I realized when I listen to other folks and how they are responding to this Covid -19 challenge.

Keep positive and keep moving forward, that is the only way…”These are the times that try one’s soul.”

What kinds of conversations are you having with donors?

Seetha Aiyar
Senior Director of Philanthropic Partnerships at the Hindu American Foundation, Washington, D.C.

I have been checking in with donors to see how they are doing and specifically asking them to share what’s happening in the community relevant to our mission.

I am also taking the opportunity to clean up bounced emails or inadvertent opt outs. Since we have valuable webinars in lieu of in-person events and galas, we’d like to make sure our donors are aware of them.

Jane Danek
Deputy Director of Gift Planning, Princeton University

I am reaching out both on the phone and via email, with a self-imposed minimum of 5 contacts a day. The conversations always make me smile. My donors appreciate my checking in. It is very personal touch. The responses that I receive make me feel like I’m part of the family. For instance, this morning I got this note: “Thanks for keeping in touch. Virtual contact is still social, if not physical–and it eases isolation. For which thanks. His prior email was lamenting the arts – symphony – all being furloughed. Reaching out without asking them other than “how are you? is tremendous stewardship at this time. “How thoughtful of you to write,” “You’ve made my day,” “Sorry to miss you in NC. Let’s please try again when circumstances permit” etc etc etc. When I reached out to a gentleman to see how he was doing (who happened to be ready to fund a CRUT) , he immediately told me that he was going to go forward with the CRUT. I didn’t ask. I feel so honored to be a part of the Princeton community.

Marlo Schalesky, Executive Director, Wonder Wood Ranch, Salinas, CA

As much of our non-profit work is suspended now, I encourage my colleagues to not lose hope and to keep sight of the vision for the future! Now is a time to think deeply about future expansion, think creatively about new ways to reach those in need, think boldly about what could be if we stay the course and don’t lose hope. Many people are now at home also thinking deeply, creatively, and boldly about the things that really matter in life – the important things, like what nonprofits do to keep communities strong. I suspect that when we ask for help from donors after this crisis, they will be happy and eager to support community work that is greater than themselves. Hang in there, fellow-workers!


Thom Skinner; Thom Skinner Consulting, Inc., Harleysville, PA

In Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book No Ordinary Time, she quotes historian Stephen Ambrose’s description of D-Day, June 6, 1944: “The impulse to pray was overwhelming” as the Allied Forces attacked the beaches of Normandy, France. This assault led, ultimately, to the defeat of Hitler and Nazism.

We are now in the midst of “no ordinary time,” and for many, the “impulse to pray [is] overwhelming.

I counsel my faith-based clients to communicate clearly and often with their lead donors and board members, reminding them this is “no ordinary time,” and invite them to pray with and for them (via phone calls and Zoom), and those they serve. Even if you serve in a secular capacity, though, keep them informed about how this crisis is impacting your organization, and invite them to consider stepping up their support, especially during a time when the markets have dropped.

I think it is a mistake to go silent at this time. Let those who support you know how your ministry or organization is weathering this critical season.

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