Editor’s Note: The Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and The Patterson Foundation are partnering on “The Future of the Philanthropic Sector,” a special topics course for the school’s students during the spring 2020 semester. The course has connected students to The Patterson Foundation’s innovative approach to philanthropy and nonprofits in the Sarasota area engaged in the Foundation’s initiatives through interactive online experiences.

Less than one week before our small but mighty team was scheduled to land in Sarasota, Florida, we learned that our trip was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. After several weeks of preparation to travel and work alongside The Patterson Foundation and their partners, we quickly pivoted and prepared to do our work remotely. In some ways, this was disappointing. We wouldn’t get to meet local nonprofit leaders and tour facilities in person. In other ways, it was a great way to learn how, as philanthropists, we must be willing to embrace and adapt to change.

When we received our assignments, I was thrilled to learn that I would be working with the Giving Challenge. The Giving Challenge is a 24-hour fundraising event that allows donors to support over 700 nonprofits in Charlotte, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota counties. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County hosts this event, and it takes place completely online! Not only is this a great way for a participating organization to connect with their existing donor base, but it’s also a great way to expand the awareness of its mission throughout their community.

Our group’s objective was to serve as “consultants” for two local nonprofits and develop a strategy that could enhance their success in this year’s Giving Challenge. One of the organizations we had the pleasure of working with was Manatee County Habitat for Humanity. During our virtual site visit with Executive Director Diana Shoemaker and Director of Marketing KC Quaretti, we learned that building homes is only part of what they do. In addition to their construction program, Manatee County Habitat for Humanity combines other efforts like their critical home repairs program and their community-building efforts to create a holistic approach to neighborhood revitalization.

Diana and KC shared the two goals for this year: 1) To raise $30,000 that would be used to support their veteran’s program, and 2) To identify 10 “Fundraising Champions” who will utilize the peer-to-peer fundraising platform GiveGab to engage 100 new donors. Since their focus will be on veterans this year, they were also interested in hearing our ideas on how to make this message resonate within the community, especially with younger generations.

While under normal circumstances, a consultant would have had more time to formulate a fundraising plan, we only had 24 hours. But we’re philanthropy students who were born for this moment. I’ll admit this was challenging, not only because of the time constraint but also because we needed to develop ideas that an established organization such as Habitat Manatee hasn’t already used. As a result, some of our recommendations included small adjustments to things they already do, like using volunteers to send personalized texts rather than using a mass texting service. We also suggested some new ideas, such as using Facebook Live and speaking with veterans and their families who can speak to the importance of this cause.

I’m proud of our group. Despite unfortunate circumstances, we pressed on. As a result, we built upon the concepts we’ve learned in class, helped a nonprofit from over a thousand miles away, and witnessed first-hand how another community fosters a culture of philanthropy. I am very grateful for the partnership between The Patterson Foundation and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy for creating this impactful experience!


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