Oil glut, Brexit, chinese market crashes… it’s been a tough year for the economy and a tough year for nonprofits alike. Fundraising is never an easy job but it gets especially difficult when people have less to begin with. But don’t panic! With some extra persistence, creativity, and these 7 tips, you can can continue raising the funds your organization needs to see through any downturn.
- Strengthen your case for giving. It’s quite possible that your nonprofit is actually more relevant during a recession than ever before. Don’t talk about how desperately your organization needs the money, instead talk about how desperately the community needs your services. Donors want to see the tangible impact their money is having so stay focused on the mission, donors will appreciate that.
- Ask smartly, but keep asking. Don’t ignore the elephant room in the room, everyone knows it’s a recession, they feel it, they hear about it, so do address it. But instead of asking for straight cash (which can feel harsh), why not try something more indirect such as selling tickets to an event, or an auction? In whatever form you’re asking for money, just don’t stop asking. Cutting donor acquisition programs may seem like an easy to way to cut costs in the short run, but it’ll put you in a terrible position in the long run. Never stop asking because you never know who might just say yes.
- Cut costs, but cautiously. Take this opportunity to streamline operations and advertising for sure. It may be possible to get deals with media outlets since they are also feeling the pressure, plus as others drop their advertisement (because they didn’t read this article), your advertising will stand out even more. But don’t skimp on stewardship because donor retention is critical for long term success. Undeniably, nonprofits need to spend money to raise money, but always spend wisely using all the data available.
- Organize and segmentize. Ask yourself, “does everything we do directly relate to our core mission?” and if not, it needs to be reworked. In a world where it’s easy to research the effectiveness of any charity, make sure yours is top. Also, always be looking at your data and making sure you’re targeting the right people. Disorganized general marketing campaigns result in overlapping, lackluster messages that are simply annoying. Do your due diligence so that you can target meaningfully and personally.
- Get creative with the big fish. The Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule, states that around 80% of donations come from only 20% of donors so it’s important to treat big donors well. The big donors are probably hounded in this market for donations so it’s important to stand out. Host creative events, or ask them to match the donations of others thereby doubling the power of their dollar. Once again, make sure you research them thoroughly and stay connected.
- Expand non-monetary ways of giving. People who may not have the money to donate right now may be able to give back in non-monetary ways such as time and expertise. Maybe they have unwanted stuff that can be donated and sold? Maybe they have connections, expertise in a skill, or time they are willing to volunteer? Keeping people involved by asking for their opinion and help whenever possibly will result in a smoother transition back to active giving once the economy picks up.
- Build up reserves. Economy’s will always cycle up and down so your nonprofit can’t be on the brink of collapse every time it goes down. A reserve fund or endowment is essential as a buffer against economic downturns. Dip into your reserves when times are tough and then put money into the fund when times are good. Even if you’ve had to put some plans on hold, make sure the plans are ready to be executed when times turn around.
Don’t forget to stay optimistic and keep pushing your mission forward. Maximize donations in the short term and preserve the capacity to grow once economic conditions improve. Remember why you do what you do, think of all the people you are helping, and keep transmitting that to the world — because ultimately, what donors care about most is a standout organization.
Mary Gao | Marketing