Saturday, August 8, 2009

Hard Times & Fundraising Challenges

Guidestar has just reported that over half of charitable organizations in a recent survey experienced a drop in donations between March and May of this year, and 36% have cut their budgets. And the president of the Foundation Center is predicting that foundation grants will drop at least 9% in 2009, while individual giving declines as well.

The message for all nonprofits: assume that the current downturn in charitable giving is going to continue for some time, and act accordingly
. Remember what it felt like back in the 1970's and 1980's, when agencies struggled to make ends meet from month to month? It's time to get used to financial uncertainty once again.
It's also time to be strategic and creative about your strategies. Here are five tips for you as the fall fundraising season approaches:
  1. Set lower, more manageable goals. Break your big dollar goals into smaller parts. This makes it easier to grasp, both for your donors and for those who will be soliciting funds. It also makes people feel that smaller donations can really make a difference. And consider setting a goal to simply increase the number of donors.
  2. Use matching challenges. Raise money first from your Board of Directors and/or loyal donors, then challenge people to match it. Folks feel good when they know every dollar they contribute will be doubled.
  3. Get full and active participation from your board. It is absolutely essential that every member of your board make a significant (based on their means) annual contribution! And it also essential that your board actively solicits donations from friends, family, and acquaintances.
  4. Make it easy for people to donate. Offer easy options for monthly and/or quarterly donations. Make sure the Donate button is prominent on your website and email notices. Have membership/donation materials available at every event. Include remit envelopes in every snail mail newsletter.
  5. Use your staff and volunteer time efficiently. In this time of staff layoffs and budget cutbacks, don't waste your time on more labor-intensive fundraising events or on writing speculative grants. Focus on making personalized asks to your most loyal supporters, clients, and volunteers. Remember: the quickest, most cost-effective way to raise funds is to personally ask someone you know who cares about your organization.
Above all, stay in touch with your donors - and keep asking for their support. Ask in a way that acknowledges the economic downturn, and at the same time stresses how important donor contributions are right now to further your mission and goals.

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