Ask the expert: Where should nonprofits look for donations in downturn?

  • Updated: February 8, 2009 - 10:26 PM

Q As a lot of nonprofits know, generating donations in an economic downturn is difficult. When seeking donations, is it better to solicit small donors or larger corporations? Or would a strategy of both work best?

KRISTIN CALLIGURI

AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY

A Start by identifying the ways in which your donors currently know and support you and how you engage them in the work of your organization. You usually can count on your stakeholders during economic stress. Keep them connected to the status of your mission, the quality of your work and the results that directly affect your clients.

After identifying relationship strengths:

• Consider pairing donations from corporations with individual gifts. Start with your midsize to major donors. Research shows that corporate matches tied to individual gifts result in higher returns on investments.

• Create a deadline for the giving campaign. "Within the next four weeks we need to raise 'X' dollars in order to fulfill a specific objective." If you need general operating funds, be forthright and specific about how these expenses are tied to serving the client.

• Include a dollar goal for the campaign. The donors need to know there is an endpoint and a tangible goal.

Don't be apologetic when asking for support and clearly articulate why your organization needs more dollars. Is it tied to increased need for your services, reduction in government grants or year-end gifts? Will it be used as an investment in an earned-income strategy? (Donors often increase giving if they think their dollars can be maximized, as in matching funds or, in the case of earned income, used as an investment to launch a more stable revenue source.)

Suggest payments rather than a one-time gift, or encourage a gift of depreciated stocks and securities. Donors can claim the charitable deductions as well as the losses incurred from the original price of the stocks or securities.

If you face your circumstances through strengthened relationships and mutual support, you may even come out the other side with better ways to solve issues.

ANN JOHNSON, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR NONPROFIT MANAGEMENT, UNIVERSITY OF ST. THOMAS OPUS COLLEGE OF BUSINESS

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