Sales guru Zig Ziglar said, “If you have enough push, you don’t have to worry about the pull.” No matter what you believe about the current economic outlook, if you are a not-for-profit, cutbacks on the part of grantmakers and donors will likely affect your ability to raise funds requiring you to push that much harder to maintain financial stability.

Here are some strategies for pushing harder to raise funds during a recession.recession

Diversify income streams: Many nonprofit organizations are able to weather tough times by diversifying their income streams; and given the current times, every nonprofit organization, even those that have historically raised money from just one source, should consider expanding the ways it generates revenue. A fundraising plan with a broad reach typically targets contributed income from individual donors, corporations and foundations, and earned income from special events and the sale of products and services.

Honor your volunteers: Even when a fundraising plan identifies diverse income streams, tough times require subtle changes in the tone of the “ask” and the tone of the relationship between donor and recipient. An often overlooked source of support for nonprofits, the volunteer, can be a key barometer for how successful a fundraising plan might be.

Volunteers drive the non-profit community, serving at all levels, from board membership to clerical tasks. In good times, volunteers may be plentiful and enthusiastic. But because they also feel the effects of an economic downturn, they may be scarce, choosing to give their time and effort to personal and/or professional commitments. In response, consider demonstrating to volunteers just how and why their altruism is worth it. Think of ways to make the contribution of their time pleasurable and beneficial, and minimize obstacles associated with serving. For instance, use and promote the organization’s events, friendraisers or fundraising initiatives as opportunities for volunteers to network with potential business contacts. And be respectful of their time by starting and ending meetings and events. Demonstrating appreciation for volunteers goes a long way in fostering loyalty.

Keep in touch: Another important, no-cost strategy for retaining funding levels is to retain funder interest. Now is a great time to keep in touch with your supporters. Their investment shows that they care about the work your organization does; show that you care by keeping them informed of your initiatives, even during the hard times. During your calls, share success stories that can re-energize their commitment. Use anecdotes and case studies to reveal how their time, money and talent are making a transformative difference in your organization.

According to a recent article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, donors gave more to a charity when they read or hear the story of how one specific individual is impacted by their contribution, as opposed to a report on many anonymous persons. If your nonprofit organization is large, it will be common knowledge that many people are being served—don’t overwhelm them with the stats! Keep collecting statistical data; but remember that donors are as emotion-driven as anyone else and the relationship between donor and recipient is based and built on people helping people.

Be a part of your own solution: Nonprofits should also openly confront the issue of how an uncertain economy could affect your stability and viability. Donors know that no matter where the economy is headed, raising money is never easy. So they will have concerns about how an organization they support will prevent, mitigate or recover from the loss of funding; especially if that organization depended on just one source of revenue. Many nonprofits operate under the constant threat of financial uncertainty. Therefore, they must be creative, proactive and enterprising, constantly seeking opportunities, without forsaking their mission, to ensure sustainability.

A good example is the Girl Scouts. Noted for being enterprising, the Girl Scouts netted over 700 million dollars from annual cookie sales last year. Baking cookies isn’t the answer for most nonprofits, but it helps to have an earned income plan. For example: an organization that provides specialized training or has a talented management team may provide fee-based consulting services to emerging organizations in the same field. There’s an earned income option for just about every nonprofit seeking to supplement fluctuating donations. Coming up with the right fit may just be a matter of brainstorming.

Finally, the best way to ensure that an organization loses revenue and goodwill is to stop asking for money and support. In good times and bad, nonprofit organizations must stay positive, creative and keep pushing hard to ensure survival and to fulfill their promise to serve our communities.

This article is part of the Fundraising in Challenging Economic Times series.

Here’s a list of each of the articles in this series:

  1. Recession Proof Fundraising by Anisha Robinson Keeys
  2. 3 Suggestions for Raising Money in Tough Economic Times by Jim Berigan
  3. When Foundations Say “No” by Aaron Atwood
  4. Succeed at Fundraising Despite a Recession by Marc Pitman

Posted on 12 June 2008

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