impact stories blog

Howard University Seeks Justice

We are so proud to work with Howard University as they lead the charge for real change. Howard has deep-seated roots as a leader in the fight for social and racial justice. As our nation begins deeper conversations about racism, Howard’s faculty, staff and students are playing critical roles in the movement for racial justice.

In early June, DC residents’ First Amendment rights were threatened. Law enforcement attacked and injured dozens of protesters using tear-gas, pepper spray, and rubber bullets.

Three days later, Howard University School of Law’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center filed a lawsuit requesting a temporary injunction to lift DC’s curfew to allow protesters to exercise their freedom of speech. Shortly after, the start time of the curfew was delayed to 11 PM and it was eventually eliminated altogether.

Faculty, staff, students and the entire Howard community are playing an active role in discussing the passage of laws and policies that eliminate discrimination. Howard recently hosted a panel discussion on police injustice to discuss dangerous “stand your ground” laws, “no knock” warrants, and other urgently needed changes to protect Black lives.

Just like Howard, we all must continue to educate, engage, donate, demand, march, protest, sue, and vote.


-By Jamie Sargent







Five Tips to Make the Most of Online Conferences

With the upcoming Bridge Conference (July 16) and many other fundraising/nonprofit events moving online, the team at Impact Communications has learned a few tricks to make the most of these events while attending from home.



  • Minimize distractions. Yes, it’s true that you might check your email at an in-person conference, but the temptation is far greater with conferences you attend inside your computer. Close out of all other calendars, email accounts, and programs to really immerse yourself in the conference. Close the door, put your cell phone out of reach. If possible, try moving your work station to a different area than your usual work-from-home desk to get you out of your regular routines.
  • Get the lay of the land. Just as you might walk through the space on the first day of an in-person conference, make sure — before the conference actually begins! – that you’re familiar and comfortable with the platform you’re using, any auxiliary software, and the schedule. It doesn’t hurt to check your WiFi, too.
  • Network. At the risk of sounding obvious, networking at conferences is as much a reason for attending as the sessions themselves. See what resources the conference host provides to allow you to better get to know your colleagues — then use conference tools, Zoom chat, or social media to connect.
  • Be an active participant. The difference between attending in real time and watching the recording on your own is the opportunity to engage with the people around you. Asking questions, facilitating dialogue in the chat/comments thread in tandem with the presentation, and
  • Take breaks when you need to. Conference Fatigue isn’t exclusive to in-person events, and we all know by now that staring at a screen continuously can get exhausting. Treat yourself to a walk, a coffee break, or your best approximation of stale conference danish if you’re feeling overloaded with information.


*Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook (@Impactstories) and Twitter (@Impactdc).





The Capital Area Food Bank Provides Food and Hope

Impact is honored and humbled to work with the Capital Area Food Bank. For 40 years, the food bank has provided meals to residents across the DC region who are experiencing food insecurity. During the pandemic, the Capital Area Food Bank has become an essential lifeline to even more community members facing crisis.

Last year, almost half a million people in the DC region struggled with food insecurity. Today, that number is rapidly increasing due to the economic effects of COVID-19. While half of the food bank’s partners are temporarily closed, those that remain open have reported anywhere between 30% and 400% increases in the number of people in need of food.

On top of this significantly increased need, the food bank is receiving limited donations. Last year, the food bank received about $2 million worth of food from grocery stores each month. But now, as shelves are bare, grocery stores are only donating one-fourth as much food.

In order to replace these missing donations, the food bank must buy necessary food. At first, they ordered an extra 34,000 pounds of products. But when they saw how fast the food was running out, they ordered more than 3 million pounds.

Here are additional ways that the Capital Area Food Bank is supporting residents in need:

  • Providing emergency meals for children under 19 years, free of charge
  • Creating pop-up pantries for people who ordinarily turn to a food pantry that is now closed
  • Delivering supplemental bagged shelf stable groceries to seniors

On top of their incredible work in feeding residents of the DMV, the Capital Area Food Bank also recognizes that food alone will not solve hunger. They continue to address the root causes of hunger through educational programs and innovative partnerships.

If you are able, please consider donating food to others who are in need. To learn more, visit Capital Area Food Bank’s website.

-By Jamie Sargent




The Black Grassroots Are Strong

Washington, DC has been at the center of so many battles to achieve our nation’s highest aspiration: liberty and justice for all. Over the past few days, we have watched and learned from the courageous Black activists here in our city who are literally fighting for their lives and those of their families.

To our Black friends and colleagues: We see you. We refuse to ignore your pain. We are listening.

This is a time for us to listen to Black voices. To read and educate ourselves about dismantling racism. And to ask what we can each do to address the inequity and injustice in our country and right here in our own city.

Today, the Impact team wants to amplify the essential justice-seeking work being done in D.C. by three local grassroots organizations. We encourage all of our friends looking to learn more about the work being done in our community to check them out and consider supporting them in whatever way you can.

ONE DC is building political power for disenfranchised District residents and creating equity through grassroots organizing.

Stop Police Terror Project-DC was created in the wake of Michael Brown’s brutal murder in Missouri, and works to upend systemic racism in our Metropolitan Police Department.

Empower DC conducts community organizing around many issues facing low-income D.C. neighborhoods, including preventing the displacement of Black residents whose homes are threatened by gentrification.

These are just a few organizations bringing people together to fight for racial and economic justice here at home, and we look to our community to lift up others. Please tell us about other racial justice organizations doing the work on the ground here in D.C.—or share how you are doing your part to help the movement for Black lives.

-Kathy Swayze





“The only thing worse than starting something and failing … is not starting something.”

– Seth Godin










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Will Foundations and DAF Donors Dig Deeper?

More than $120 billion is currently sitting in donor-advised funds in this country. And that total has been growing rapidly over the past few years. With more donors concerned about the stability of their personal finances due to the COVID-19 crisis, will DAF donors step up and give more from those dollars they have already designated for charity?

Here’s some good news: many donors HAVE been giving more from their DAFs since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. Fidelity Charitable, one of the largest DAFs in the nation, saw the number of grants made from January 1st through May 5th grow by 31% compared to the prior year. And when Fidelity Charitable challenged their donors to contribute $200 million to COVID-19 relief on #GivingTuesdayNow (May 5), they exceeded their goal by millions.

Some individuals are also encouraging their fellow donors to do more. David and Jennifer Risher have offered to match up to $1 million in DAF grants—but only if the donors pledge to give away at least half the funds in their DAFs by September 30th. The Rishers’ #HalfMyDAF campaign aims to get more dollars to work, faster. And for the nonprofits serving on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis, or facing severe financial shortfalls, those dollars can’t come soon enough.

Of course, the financial clout of DAFs still pales in comparison to that of foundations. The total assets of US foundations hit $1 TRILLION for the first time in recent years—and yet they are only required to pay out 5% of those assets each year. A movement to increase those payouts is growing—and being accelerated by the growing need.

Nine organizations in the philanthropy space are encouraging foundations to dramatically increase their grantmakingduring the current crisis. And, nearly 300 donors and foundations signed a letter pressuring Congress to increase the payout requirement from 5% to 10% for three years and institute a temporary 10% payout requirement for DAFs as well.

The human need in this country and around the globe has increased astronomically over the past few months. Imagine the impact even a small portion of those DAF and foundation assets could have if it were instead put to work in hard-hit communities. There is simply no excuse for letting those dollars languish in a bank.

-By Julie Price






“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

-Barrack Obama








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Lessons Learned from the Great Recession

“This is one of those all-hands-on-deck moments where we absolutely need to engage everyone, whether they are able to give 50 cents or $50 million.” – David Saltzman, 2009, Former Executive Director, The Robin Hood Foundation

We don’t know the extent to which our economy will be impacted by the global pandemic, but we can learn from past experiences that charitable giving will continue even during difficult periods of time.

During a recent weekly staff meeting, Impact’s President and Creative Director, Kathy Swayze, recalled a New York Times article from November 11, 2009 that proves to be relevant again today: “New Fame for the Everyday Donor.”

We thought it would be helpful to analyze charitable giving trends during and after The Great Recession (December 2007-June 2009), and offer a few recommendations. We hope these ideas help you approach fundraising in a new light during these times.

Show Gratitude to Loyal Donors. During the Great Recession, data shows that donors were generally retained. “The declines in new donors were cancelled out by increased giving from loyal donors.” (The Agitator)

Try to remain calm and show your current and most loyal donors added gratitude. Consider mailing them handwritten thank you cards or small branded swag items. Everyone loves receiving mail and unexpected gifts. 

Make Giving Easy. “The leap from a Netflix membership to a monthly donation is not that far. You could even consider marketing a monthly gift by comparing it to these costs. If someone can afford a $10 Spotify subscription, show them what impact a monthly donation of the same amount would make.” (Classy)

Due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing rules, many donors are not spending money on their daily commute or monthly gym membership. Consider crafting a soft ask with this in mind. You may be surprised how many existing donors want to put these funds toward helping the causes they care about during this uncertain time.

Take a Step Back. Which communications campaigns and events proved to be successful for your organization during 2018 and 2019? Which strategies were not working as well? Now is a great opportunity to revisit the purpose of your initiatives and events. If you cannot identify the original purpose or goal, consider revising your fundraising strategy. If you don’t take a step back, you may be at an even greater disadvantage when things begin to return to normal.

-By Jamie Sargent




“I’ve learned that no matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.”

Maya Angelou









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Connecting with Peers in a Crisis

Many nonprofits are already seeing the effects of the pandemic on their fundraising efforts. Whether or not your organization is serving on the frontlines of the crisis, these are uncharted waters for everyone. As the situation evolves, it’s becoming increasingly important to stay in touch with your industry peers and learn from others as we navigate this challenging time.

Last week, Impact invited our midlevel clients to a virtual happy hour to facilitate some of that conversation. Our participants represented a wide range of missions: delivering nourishing meals to those in need, protecting voting rights (including during social distancing orders), providing accurate and reliable news coverage, and preserving important natural wonders and historic sites.

It was a pleasure to witness folks from these diverse organizations learn from one another and make new connections. They shared some of the challenges they’ve had since the pandemic began and discussed how they’re continuing to engage their midlevel donors throughout the crisis.

Here are just a few of the hot topics that came up…

  • Donor-advised Funds (DAFs): Donors may be feeling nervous about money, but many have funds in a DAF already reserved for charity. Organizations are being more deliberate in marketing DAF gifts to their donors by highlighting the option on reply forms, pointing donors to their digital DAF widget, or including a buckslip in appeals. Creating a special appeal targeting donors who have given through a DAF in the past was also discussed.
  • Direct Mail Returns: While one organization on the frontlines is seeing an increase in contributions, others have not been able to access the mail at their office or are seeing delays in gift processing and tracking as fulfillment centers have less staff working. It’s a challenge many organizations are facing but sharing the trends you are seeing with peers helps everyone to better forecast your ultimate results. Generally, our clients shared that mail volume is decreasing compared to this time last year, but the average gift and revenue has increased for many organizations.
  • Budgeting and Reforecasting: Not having a full picture of direct mail returns makes it difficult to reforecast revenue for the year or accurately budget for next year. Some of our clients shared that they are reforecasting based on a worst-case scenario and are not projecting any growth for the coming year. Tempering expectations among organizational leadership and board members is important both to ensure realistic budgeting and encourage an all-hands-on-deck approach to fundraising.
  • Telemarketing: Several clients are still seeing great results from telemarketing efforts, even those outsourcing to telemarketing firms. With social distancing orders still in place across a majority of the country, donors are picking up the phone more and having valuable conversations. However, clients who are outsourcing calls have found that some call centers are currently closed and need to branch out to find new vendors. Connecting with your industry peers is a great first step to finding a new and qualified partner.

If you work with midlevel donors, please take a moment to share your biggest challenges and your biggest wins in the past couple of months. Or, share a question that’s on your mind. Let’s continue to learn from one another!


-By Hannah Summers