Webinar Recording | Nonprofit Capacity Building in a Time of Covid

Tereza Litsa
Digital Engagement Manager
07 Jul 2020

We hosted a fantastic webinar last week including great guests to talk about nonprofit digital capacity building and how it is rapidly evolving during COVID-19.

Akruti Desai, Senior Programme Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation joined Alix Guerrier, CEO at GlobalGiving and Lightful’s CEO & Co-Founder, Vinay Nair to share valuable insights. Beth Kanter, master trainer, nonprofit expert and Lightful’s Senior Advisor, was moderating the session.

The online event turned out to be the most popular webinar we’ve ever hosted and we were happy to hear that all attendees enjoyed it. In case you missed it, you can now watch the recording and access the slides.

Here are some of the takeaways from the webinar

Gates Foundation – funder strategy on capacity building

The Gates Foundation have committed more than $250 million to COVID-19 response across four different areas. We invited Akruti Desai, Senior Programme Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to talk about her team’s work to increase generosity.

The Gates Foundation and their Philanthropic Partnerships team are interested in increasing the quality and quantity of giving by all people, from the wealthiest billionaires to the everyday giver. It’s more important than ever for nonprofits to find new or expanded ways to raise money online.

According to Akruti, reaching the everyday donor might not be feasible as a direct approach so their strategy focuses on working through various online intermediaries who can run experiments and test concepts to better understand what helps everyday donors give more and give better.

The idea is to help scale promising products and tools and features through these intermediaries to reach more donors.

Akruti also shared more details about the partnership with Lightful and the BRIDGE programme and the reasons they are supporting the evidence-based programme during a time when digital fundraising is more critical than ever.

In a follow-up question, Beth asked Akruti how they measure success in capacity building programmes beyond fundraising. As Akruti mentioned, success goes beyond the money raised. There are several intermediate steps for donors until they are ready to donate so it’s important to focus on the engagement. In fact, there are many engagement metrics that paint the broader picture of what generosity means.

Learnings from GlobalGiving

Alix Guerrier, CEO at GlobalGiving, talked about their organisation’s learnings during COVID-19 and how they adapted their approach in all areas.

There are four pillars for GlobalGiving that give them different perspectives on how they can respond to the current trends. They are wearing four organisational ‘hats’ as an organisation:

  • Nonprofit themselves
  • Funder (providing grants for their nonprofit partners)
  • Fundraiser (looking at the current economic uncertainty as every other fundraiser)
  • Partner (delivering capacity building programmes to connect communities of peer learners)

All four pillars are focused on flexibility, focusing on grantees’ needs, radical empathy and data-driven decisions.

Lastly, Alix reminded us that if we want to keep talking about the ‘unprecedented times’ then we need to prepare to do things that we’ve never done. Thus, our response to the current situation has to be creative and innovative.

Learnings from Lightful

Vinay Nair, our CEO & Co-Founder, shared his insights on Lightful’s learnings during COVID-19.

We always believe those doing the greatest good, deserve the best technology and at this time, that is something that we anchor ourselves to quite a lot. There is an even bigger need to bring together philanthropic organisations, nonprofits, technology firms to respond to the current challenges.

For Lightful, creative partnerships are more important than ever. For example, we launched the COVID-19 response BRIDGE programme with GlobalGiving and the support of the Gates Foundation, to align resources, skills, and solutions to match nonprofits’ needs. We are always open to new partnerships that aim to support the sector and their needs.

Vinay added how data is driving all our decisions as an organisation. We leveraged an existing framework for disaster response to adapt the BRIDGE programme and its content based on the stages of Response, Recovery, and Resilience. We added the stages of Response and Recovery to our existing 12-month digital capacity building programme after following the current situation and what nonprofits need the most.

Another use of data is in the idea of combining the application process and the baseline survey for the BRIDGE programme to gather valuable insights from more than 500 applicants. What’s also important of us is to share the learnings. That’s why we used the learnings from 555 data points to share a series of blogs and insights along with an infographic that is coming up.

Lastly, Vinay mentioned the importance of blending technology with a human touch. Investing on the tech side, such as having a Lightful Learning platform and adding content, is important but human touch and building confidence are also vital. We know that it can be lonely for nonprofits trying to navigate the challenges they are currently facing. That’s why confidence is a metric of success for us and was also part of our baseline survey to ensure that we provide the right tools but also the skills and the support to help nonprofits as much as possible.

Watch the recording

You can watch the full recording here

Access the slides

You can have a look at the slides here


Here are the resources that our speakers mentioned during their sessions

  • Recent results from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project based on a sample of nearly 2,500 nonprofits in the US and Canada found that individual giving overall dropped 6% in the first quarter of 2020 but donations under $250 increased 6%.
  • According to the most recent Blackbaud report, in 2019, only 8.7% of giving was conducted online.
  • A recent Give.org survey conducted after COVID-19 hit found 56.7% of respondents are looking to find new or expanded ways to raise funds online.
  • While we don’t know what the prolonged presence of COVID-19 will do to philanthropy, we do know from historical data that giving levels are strongly correlated to the economy so a looming recession could reduce revenue for nonprofits at a time when they need it most.
  • Participants in the BRIDGE program were able to increase their fundraising 44% over those who did not participate
  • Further details on the support and resources that GlobalGiving has available, including specific resources to support the impact of COVID.
  • Announcing Lightful’s partnership with GlobalGiving and Gates Foundation to bridge the digital hap and help charities in response, recovery, and resilience
  • Vinay Nair – Helping the charity sector to build resilience through digital during this extremely challenging time
  • Free coronavirus resources for charities
  • Top tips to get better at online meetings with Beth Kanter

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