Bracing for Hard Times: Fundraising Tips

The current economic “free fall” is causing a significant decline in donor confidence. Individuals have made it clear that they won’t be able to give to charities on the level they gave last year. Foundation investment portfolios have been reduced by 30 percent and corporations will be drastically cutting down their philanthropy dollars in favor of maintaining their sponsorship and marketing resources.

Even though many non-profit organizations were able to maintain their giving throughout the holiday season it seems clear that the year ahead will be very challenging. The overwhelming majority of non-profit organizations need to brace for hard times and get smarter and more strategic at raising new dollars.

This week let’s look at some ways we can steer our fundraising ships through these rocky waters.

  1. Be frightfully frank with your donors and supporters. Don’t try to “slip and slide” your way through honest communication with your donors. In times of anxiety it is important to have regular meetings with your donors and stakeholders and tell them how you actually are doing rather than what you think they want to hear.
  2. Develop contingency plans and pare down expenses. Regardless of how good you might feel now about your financial situation the fact remains that during the next 18-24 months the economy is likely to spiral downward even more than it already has. Prepare yourself and develop contingency plans of 15-30 percent or more. Look at all of your costs and see if there are ways you can reduce them (i.e., ask your landlord to lower your rent, save on office expenses, reduce travel costs, etc.).
  3. Re-engage former donors. Go back and rejuvenate donors that gave you money in the past but have lapsed for the past few years.
  4. Seek matching grants whenever possible. When raising money from individual donors or private foundations try to raise matching dollars as an incentive and motivation to raise new dollars.
  5. Host breakfast meetings once a month at your offices for new prospects. Teach them about your organization and programs.
  6. Concentrate on statistics and numbers when you are talking to stakeholders and potential supporters. Make sure you know the facts about the people you serve and the impact that your organization is making.
  7. Keep the media informed as much as possible and create a “buzz” around the impact your organization is making. It is not a bad idea to write an op-ed piece or if you have a human interest story relating to the economy try to give it some visibility in the news.
  8. Make it as easy as possible for donors to give to your organization by setting up an online donation tool, allowing them to spread out payments throughout the year, payroll deductions, credit card monthly withdrawals, etc.
  9. Cultivate small donors with the same passion as major gifts because when the economy turns around, the donors will give more to you.
  10. Personalize the relationship with donors by having your board members call them and thank them for their support, HAND writing postcards and thank-you notes, sending monthly emails, and remembering them on their birthdays and anniversaries.

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