Successful Fundraising in Tough Times

Persistence is key especially when budgets are tight.” – N.C. Congressman Bob Etheridge, upon giving my client Wake Health Services a check for over a million dollars.

Let’s face it. With the global economy tanking, philanthropy is taking a back seat in many people’s minds. Whether donors are experiencing a cash crunch or not, the real problem is that many people are simply not feeling like giving right now. It’s their attitude that has changed as much as anything.

Here is what smart fundraisers need to do now.

Focus on your core supporters.

This is not the best time to seek new friends and donors for your organization. One of my great mottos is: “When you need funding, always go to your current donors first.”

Why? Current donors are already “pre-sold” on your mission and your great work. They are already on your bandwagon because they have already invested in your organization.

Above all, don’t let them drift away during this economic turmoil. Donor attrition is a terrible problem in our industry – we are losing our donors because we never spend enough time on them.

Love your current supporters a lot.

Most donors are not particularly satisfied with their experience as donors. This is why they tend to make one or two gifts and then drop off.

Did you know that only 13 percent of all donors say their experience as a donor exceeded their expectations (Great American Donor Survey, Campbell Rinker Research)?

We need to pay more attention to our donors than ever. Make them feel special by inviting them to events, tours, programs, activities – just for donors. Send them update letters to let them know what you have accomplished with their investments.

Treat your donors like real people rather than as wallets.

Ask their advice. Listen to them. Be sure they know that you want more out of them than money. Work to get them involved more than ever in your cause.

We all know that the ultimate secret of great fundraising is this: Get your donors as passionate about your cause as you are. Then fundraising is a snap. So in these tough months – we need to be in front of our donors with our passionate message more than ever.

Focus on your impact.

We need to explain clearly, in no uncertain terms, the results we are creating in our communities and the world. We need to be able to say “Your gifts are making it possible for this to happen, and this, and this” – in the plainest and strongest wording possible.

Now is the time to clean up your messaging and get rid of all the jargon. Don’t show up as ponderous rather than cogent; make your messages crisp and snappy.

Remind donors just how much they are needed now.

When times are tight, nonprofits all feel the squeeze. As funds decline, services and programs may be cut. Let donors know how and why their gifts are urgently needed more than ever.

Believe in abundance.

After 22 years in fundraising, I could not get out of bed every day if I didn’t think there was plenty of money for my cause. You must keep the faith that everything is there for you. If you believe in scarcity, then your expectation just might create that reality.

Remember that on average, giving declines only 1 percent in recession years (Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University).

Optimism has a certain energy about it that attracts people – and funding. Be sure that your mindset is clear and that your attitude is “up.” Then you can ride the waves of the economic storm until the weather clears and the markets settle.

  • Megan Famadico

    Thank you for your wonderful key points about ideas in order to raise funds especially on this current economy.

  • Waifghana

    Thanks for share these important information with us. they are really the vitamins to the health of NGOs in the world – ReubenYH

  • Anonymous

    Thanks! I love the idea of “vitamins!”