March 18, 2022 | Categories DonorPerfect Fundraising Software, Featured, Nonprofit News

How Nonprofits are Navigating the Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine


Only 1 percent of all grantmaking is executed for the peace and security sector of philanthropy. As nonprofits across the world work together to navigate the current humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, Alexandra Toma, a leader in peace and security funding, says philanthropy “must increase its investment in peace and security broadly, and diversify who receives that funding.”

On an organized level, Toma suggests that those who can respond rapidly should connect with philanthropy colleagues who are in direct touch with Ukrainian grantee partners and who can most effectively channel funds to meet immediate needs. On an individual level, philanthropy can also play an important role in “pushing back on the warmongering, misinformation-driven narrative woven into the conflict itself and the debate surrounding it.”

To begin the hard discussion of how to move forward – in this sector and in the world – we can turn to ground reports to stay informed, and examine the response of organizations and individuals since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Consider how restrictions impact nearby civilians

DonorPerfect partner Pavol Gurbal – located in Košice, Slovakia near the Ukraine border – has been part of a group effort to help civilians with supplies, transportation, and other necessities. He explained that his company is exchanging relief requests and helpful information, and his church has volunteered to deliver aid and transport refugees.

Ukraine humanitarian crisis - Razom

In the coming months, Gurbal says his church is campaigning to repurpose its summer camp venue as longer-term accommodations for Ukrainians in need. Individuals in surrounding areas are striving to provide food and shelter as well. For example, a young man relocated to his parent’s house to offer his flat to refugees.

However, Gurbal cautions that it may be best for supporters who are not nearby to donate money directly to organized relief efforts rather than gathering material supplies, and those gathering supplies at a central location may want to purchase special needs items at the preferred time instead of in advance. He explains that in Slovakia, there has been a shortage of blankets and sleeping bags because of how many people have purchased them for Ukrainians who are in freezing temperatures. Moreover, an excess of clothing could “pile up” on the border, occupying space for other supplies that are deemed more necessary at that time.

Access to the border has been restricted in some places due to traffic. According to Maria Genkin, board member at Razom for Ukraine, the usual delivery trucks and other shipping methods have either been halted or made more dangerous by the invasion, so supporters are building their own system. “It’s a system of volunteers essentially crowdsourcing delivery,” she said. “There will be a lot of private cars bringing supplies.”

Be on the lookout for innovative ways to get involved

The global environment for philanthropy has improved since 2018, according to a recent report released by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. However, researchers noted that the invasion of Ukraine has the potential to “sharply” change this outlook in the years ahead, especially throughout Europe.

Amir Pasic, dean of the Lilly School, said one of the biggest opportunities to improve the climate for global philanthropy is to chip away at restrictions that some countries have placed on the cross-border flow of money to nonprofits. “Ease in sending money across borders is key,” Pasic said. “Those regulations are important.”

That said, he’s been impressed by the innovation in philanthropic activity to get around government restrictions, a trend that he expects to continue. “The humanitarian need will be there, and people will continue to innovate,” Pasic said. For example, people are booking Airbnb rentals in Ukraine as a way of getting money into the country and giving refugees a place to stay. And for now, Airbnb is waiving all host and guest fees in Ukraine.

Continue to build trust and relationships with your supporters

Scammers will inevitably attempt to profit from a crisis, and this is no different. Elliptic, a European company specializing in block-chain analytics and crypto compliance, has identified crypto fundraising scams that have solicited aid for Ukraine.

“This is the first time that we’re seeing sort of a public concerted effort to raise funds to finance an ongoing conflict through cryptocurrency,” said Chris DePow, a regulation and compliance expert at Elliptic. “If the funds are being raised directly by the government through a publicly announced appeal, or if the funds are being raised through a third-party reputable organization that’s known to be active in this space, that’s probably a safer bet,” DePow said.

What to do when your nonprofit is in the news

It can be overwhelming for your cause to be in the news, even if the spotlight presents an opportunity for your organization to step in and call for support. Your response is both necessary and expected, and your constituents need it as soon as possible. Many organizations don’t know how to mobilize their fundraising efforts in a matter of days or weeks. Fortunately, online giving and digital fundraising features have revolutionized the way nonprofits can react to current events.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine – and the subsequent humanitarian crisis – has made people feel angry and powerless, leading them to take action. An online donation page is an outlet for those who want to help but don’t know where to start. By sharing impactful research on your nonprofit website or donation page, and explaining what a donation will do, you can show supporters that their contribution is much more than a drop in the ocean.

  • To make sure your donation pages are seen, you can develop small bites of social media content using the statistics, resources, and links that you already have.
  • To spread your message, you can encourage donors to create their own crowdfunding pages to raise funds on your behalf. Family, friends, and friends of friends will be able to advocate for and amplify your cause.
  • Build a nonprofit website that outlines specific actions supporters can take, like contacting their elected representatives to voice support or opposition, donating goods that will benefit those in need, or volunteering to help your organization.
Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis - Heroes International

An example from Heroes International

When the attacks in Ukraine started, Heroes International director Gregg Montella went to Moldova and started helping refugees crossing the border. Knowing that it’s one thing to cross, and another to figure out what to do once you are on the other side, Gregg reached out to his colleague Ron Hall wondering if they could use their website to raise funds for supplies, gas, and resources for refugees.

From there, Heroes International created a Ukraine Refugee Aid webpage for donations and a volunteer worker aid program using their DonorPerfect subscription and Givecloud integration. “Because of their swift actions and decision-making, I believe lives were saved,” Hall says.

“We raised an initial sum of money to get the relief aid covered, and to get most of the frontline workers covered for three months at $600 each worker each month. The average wage of a Moldovan worker is $300, so we wanted to pay $400 + a $200 hazard bonus because it’s not safe. DonorPerfect and Givecloud were solid across all of this in understanding the messaging we were trying to convey with each ask. Both teams seemed to get a solid grasp of the ticking clock.”

An example from Humanitarian Aid Response Teams (HART)

In the weeks following the Russian invasion, HART has been able to respond quickly with humanitarian aid and support for their 80+ caseworkers and 100 partner church/community centers in Ukraine.

A clean database helps you manage an influx of new donors

“Our generous donors have outdone themselves with donations for refugee aid in Ukraine. The 20-day total is close to past years when it has taken 180 days (6 months) and several large fundraising events to reach this amount. We could not have done this without DonorPerfect and its capacity for online donations from Canada and USA,” says Donna Unterschultz, Administrator at HART.

“Our three full-time and one part-time Canadian staff have been busy with phone calls, emails, and entry into DonorPerfect. We have between 10 and 20 new donors each day and are also able to quickly identify duplicate donors and merge for a cleaner database.”

Continued communication gives staff a sense of order, even in crisis

“The remote work features of DonorPerfect allow our Ukrainian staff to access constituent information daily. They continue to forward translated letters between caseworkers, children, and constituents. In Lviv, Ukraine our staff are often pulled away from DonorPerfect as they respond to air raid sirens that signal a move to bomb shelters or basements. Continued communication through DonorPerfect gives them a sense of normal in a time that has unimaginable challenges,” says Donna.

Reliable reporting helps you keep donors engaged & informed

“Several donor matches of $50,000 and $100,000 have encouraged others to give. Having accurate information and quick reporting capacity allows us to acknowledge our donors and, each week, wire transfer thousands of dollars to our partners in Ukraine. Email updates to donors provide humanitarian aid success stories on how funds are being used.”

“We are happy to measure the engagement of our donors (LOVE) through their monetary response and they are both growing by the day. We forward the words of encouragement to our team, and they find comfort that an army of LOVE is surrounding them.”

Meet the author: Ally Orlando

I’m Ally, a lifelong Pennsylvanian now living south of the Mason-Dixon Line. My main thrills are eating and sleeping, but I also enjoy music, art, film, politics, and animals. I love to learn new skills, and I’m not afraid to be a “master of none.”

As a writer, my ambition has...

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