The economic news is not good. Across the globe, we continue to struggle with a recession that won't let up. Consumer spending is down. Retailers are nervous. No one knows what's to come of the 2011 giving season or 2012.
This is a tough time for nonprofits too. According to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, "changes in giving are linked to changes in the overall economy. During good economic times, giving tends to grow robustly. However, when the economy grows at a moderate or slow rate, philanthropy continues, although at a slower rate of growth. In general, during economic downturns, giving tends to decline, after adjusting for inflation."
We've all heard the tragic stories of families and individuals rocked by job loss, protracted unemployment and upside-down mortgages. Maybe this is your story too.
You can't change the economy, but you can do your best to keep your fundraising on track. Here are five steps for fundraising in a recession and making the most of the year-end.
1. Keep asking
While your instinct may be to stop asking your donors for cash in a downturn, this is the worst thing you can do. Need doesn't go away in a recession; in fact it often goes up, and your donors know this. Give them the opportunity to say yes or no to your appeals. It is your responsibility to continue to tell your story, ignite passion for your cause and ask for support.
2. Think like a retailer
If you want to make more money at year-end or any time of the year, provide gift-giving opportunities in addition to opportunities for charitable donations. You don't need to create a four-color catalog today. You simply need to:
- Provide specific detail on what a $20, $50 or $100 gift will do.
- Provide a mechanism for generating gift receipts. This enables you to "double-dip," i.e., gain access to the holiday gift-giving and charitable-giving sides of your donor's wallet.
3. Focus on retention
In addition to bringing new donors into the fold on Dec. 30 and 31, make a huge effort to retain the donors you already have. Send multichannel appeals to lapsed donors. Call your current donors. Invite existing donors to respond to a matching gift. In short, do all that you can to keep existing customers in the fold.
4. Get their friends involved
You should have a peer-to-peer giving strategy year-round but particularly at year-end. One way to mitigate the financial burden of giving is to provide your donors with an opportunity to give together. For example, instead of asking one donor to contribute $100, ask each donor to rally five friends for the cause. Five $20 gifts enables you to meet your fundraising goals and provide new prospects for next year. Peer-to-peer fundraising also makes giving more fun.
5. Say thank you
According to Penelope Burk, author of "Donor-Centered Fundraising," "46 percent of donors decide to stop giving for reasons that are tied to lack of meaningful information or to a feeling that their giving is not appreciated." Saying thank you in a fast, friendly and fun way might be the single most important tool you have in your fundraising toolbox. Create a thank-you video from your clients and staff. Send handwritten cards. Write a thank-you song and link to it from a thank-you e-mail. There is no shortage of ways to show gratitude to your donors.
Fundraising in a recession is no joke. Donors are stressed, and chances are that your nonprofit is stressed too. We're all hoping for the bad times to end.
The good news is we have the tools to succeed. It's our job to use our ingenuity and resources to create a sound strategy to keep fundraising results up in a down economy.