Top take-aways from the March 25 “Canadian Advancement Leaders share strategies & thoughts on COVID-19” Webinar

March 25, 2020

Featuring: Derek Cassoff, McGill University, Mike den Haan, Simon Fraser University, Brent Johnston, The Country Day School, John Kearsey, University of Manitoba, Gillian Morrison, University of Toronto, Nuvyn Peters, University of Calgary, Mark Savenkoff, Algonquin College, and Erin Sargeant Greenwood, Saint Mary’s University

Event cancellations at your institution – cancellation window and impact:
Event closure window is rapidly moving from end of April to end of June and even into July. Decisions pending at most schools on remote and / or postponed Convocation ceremonies.

Call Centre closures
Call centres have closed; current callers will be priority re-hires. When reopened, call centres will primarily be used for information and engagement purposes. 

Progress of fundraising, solicitations, annual fund, campaign, etc.
Fundraising only for student emergency funds and COVID-19 research. Spending time on end of fiscal year and documentation.

“We have established the COVID-19 Action Fund: a $5 million rapid-disbursal fund for research directly related to the COVID-19 virus, and are seeking matching funds. So far there has been a positive and quick response despite hard financial impact on alumni and donors.” Gillian Morrison, University of Toronto

How are institutions and staff handling systems, processing and receipting from remote locations?
Those who already adopted cloud and / or remote work are ahead of this curve, but for all, adaptation is ongoing.

“Ontario’s definition of essential (or not) functions is driving our processes, and having a working relationship with IT staff is crucial.” Mark Savenkoff, Algonquin College

Sustaining productivity during remote work
Place trust in your staff and support them. Check in, collaborate, help ease anxiety, and allow for accommodations.

“Now is the time to trust your staff, and listen to their needs. Provide big goals but don’t pressure or micro-manage.” John Kearsey, University of Manitoba

Re-orientating communications
Authentic relationships and messages are now the necessity. Institutions should be sources of trusted, high-value information. Communications are also essential to donors and there is a need to completely changed the tone and content of communications, because past strategies and planning are no longer relevant.

“We aim to build goodwill so we will be seen as a place of information and value, after this is all through.” Derek Cassoff, McGill University

“Having Communications under the Advancement umbrella has streamlined our messaging, but not our sleep. We need to identify where we want to be when we resume “normal” operations, from messaging to the fundraising portfolio.” Erin Sargeant Greenwood, Saint Mary’s University

Emergency funds for students
The setup of student emergency relief funds is crucial at this time. For the short term, identify and source potential existing funds that can be redirected to student emergency relief funds. In the long-term institutions need to think about how to invite their community to support student emergency funds.

“We have online volunteer needs assessment ongoing now to determine campus community needs, such as tech support, mental health, shopping.” Nuvyn Peters, University of Calgary

Financial fallout
Endowment modeling and projections need to be reset. International-student recruitment and enrolment are in jeopardy, greatly affecting budgets.

“Our institutions are going to need Advancement more than ever. We have the expertise to generate support. Authentic, deep, genuine conversations will carry us through.” John Kearsey, University of Manitoba

“The endowment piece is a real concern, we need to look at our long-term modeling. International-student enrolment is crucial to our finances and could take a real hit.” Mike den Haan, Simon Fraser University

A look into the future . . .
The economic impact of COVID-19 is reminiscent of the 2008 recession but will likely be much worse depending on how long this goes. The emotional impact feels similar to 9 / 11. However, the work supported by philanthropy to our institutions is vital, it is time to stay positive and optimistic. Working together the impact of our institutions through collaboration and innovation will benefit all of Canada.

“Community, connections, relationships are central to everyone’s well-being and recovery. It’s time to focus on human part of the relationship and not the dollars.” Brent Johnston, The Country Day School


Related Resources:

March 25, 2020
Watch: Canadian Advancement Leaders share strategies & thoughts on COVID-19


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