What are some ways to generate donations in an economic downturn?

  • Updated: September 21, 2008 - 5:23 PM

Q What are some ways to generate donations in an economic downturn?

KRISTIN CALLIGURI

AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY

A Economic downturns are not new, and nonprofits not only weather the storms, but they can thrive. Keep in mind that in 2007, U.S. foundations increased their giving by nearly 10 percent, which was achieved in a period of economic slowdown. In the past 20 years, the number of U.S. nonprofits tripled during changing economic turns, and 43 percent of community foundations anticipate increasing their funding in the next year. Revenue growth may slow or become static, but it is unlikely to drop.

Individual giving is still the lifeblood of most nonprofits, and donors generally will stay with you during a downturn if you acknowledge gifts quickly and personally. Personal contact is best, so make phone calls and use e-mails and mailings. Remember that most loyal donors want to help you and know that you may need them now even more. This seems obvious, but donors cite lack of acknowledgement as the No. 1 reason for not giving again.

When speaking with donors, inform them about the effect of the downturn on your work and how their gifts will work for the clients. Don't wait for another gift to update them. The more your donors know about your activities, the more loyal they will be.

Ask for foundation grant increases to extend over the next 12 to 24 months. Funders want you to be successful -- remember to communicate often and honestly so that they are aware of your challenges.

Actively consider future earned-income opportunities. You may have played with the notion before, but now may be the time to seriously consider what services and products you provide that have a unique and valuable role in the community. You do have them, or you wouldn't exist. If you do not have time, solicit volunteers from your board or community to begin the conversation in earnest.

And remember to pay attention to what works: Keep track of the strategies that make a positive difference.

ANN JOHNSON, DIRECTOR

CENTER FOR NONPROFIT MANAGEMENT

AUDREY KINTZI, ADJUNCT FACULTY MEMBER

UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS

OPUS COLLEGE OF BUSINESS

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