A Focus on Recession-Era Fundraising

“Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”

Nonprofit administrators are forced to consider what fundraising in an unforeseen induced economic recession will look like. They’ve already changed their event plans to accommodate the sudden shift to virtual fundraisers. When news of possible longer economic downturns is ahead of us, it’s always a good reminder to review strategies that can help prepare for a poor economic outlook that could last for months.

As you begin reviewing your yearly plan, it’s suggested that you consider the financial, social, and mental challenges you’ll be facing as you work towards your financial goals. Remember that economic cycles will always fluctuate, a solid plan can help prepare for the times that aren’t as abundant.

Focus on Financial Needs

1. Prioritize your efforts – Because you may have to cut back on your staff and expenditures, it’s best to get a sense of what areas are the most vital to your nonprofit’s operation. Categorize them into three different levels of importance, research other ways to get to your goals, and update your budget to fund the most important projects facing you over the next year.

2. Reevaluate your current situation – Take a good look at where projects currently stand and try to finish off important projects early before financial resources become too strained. Consider alternative ways to achieve goals or try setting big goals through a series of smaller, more attainable, goals.

3. Invest wisely – Before making significant purchases make sure to do your due diligence in finding the best product for the best price. Likewise, charges for needed services may be negotiable, so think about the relationships you have with vendors and explore whether or not they may be willing to negotiate.

4. Stretch your operating budget – Budget stretching can make a big difference to your nonprofit’s financial situation. Bring your team together to discuss their most pressing needs and tactics to accommodate them without breaking the bank, then decide where the money saved is most needed.

5. Increase and diversify your fundraising efforts – Staying in front of donors regularly is key, no matter what state the economy is in. Creating an integrated plan that rotates the use of email, direct mail, social media, text, video, ads, and a banner on your homepage will make sure your message gets out to the masses.

6. Promote subscription gifts – Secure funding by ramping up your efforts to attract subscription gifts. People have become much more accustomed to purchasing subscription packages for entertainment, food, clothing, and many other items, making it much easier to approach them about becoming a subscription donor.

Focus on Your Community

1. Know your donors – It’s always important to know who your donors are but, in a time when people are dealing with changes to their employment status, it’s imperative. Your message will be most effective when your donor community isn’t faced with uncertainty. So, before you target a specific demographic do some research to find out what is happening in their area of business, locality, and other determining factors.

 Interested in finding out more about the future of fundraising? Check out our recent webinar “Benefit Auctions in 2020. The Return to Normal or the NEW Normal?” with Mark Schroeder CAI, BAS, CES of Auction Brio, LLC.

2. Approach communities outside your normal channels – When times get tough previously unseen communities will often come together to support shared goals. Cross-community support can come from organizations that approach issues differently or tackle related problems, or it can come from individuals who are interested in contributing to causes that support their goals.

3. Create change without cash – There’s more than one way to affect change. During times when money isn’t readily available, keeping a donor community together can happen through a call to action that requires participation, rather than funding.

4. Invest in social enterprise – Partnering with other nonprofits to raise funds is an excellent way to cut costs while fundraising, as well as spreading your message to a broader audience.

5. Get social – People are spending more time on social media, and so should your nonprofit. Increase posting activity on social media to at least once a day. Tell your stories and share the impact of your work through various types of content; images, written, graphs, etc. Ask staff and volunteers to get involved by sharing, “Liking,” and commenting on the posts. Ask questions, post surveys, and interact with your commenters.

6. Block time for fundraising every day – Dedicate time every day to fundraise. Segment donors into major gifts, mid-level, and occasional donor categories. Make it a regular activity to keep from losing momentum.

7. Continue to fundraise – Whichever fundraising strategy you choose during a recession, the most important thing is to not give up. Your donors may not be able to contribute the same amount as they once did, but the desire to won’t go away.

Focus on Your Nonprofit’s Mental Health

1. Spread positivity – We all need a big dose of positivity right now. Spread it around on your social media networks, your newsletters, emails, and with your team to help your entire community share in a moment of good news and positive feelings.

2. Stay in touch with your team – Typically, supportive friendships and emotional releases can happen naturally when you spend time together at work. It breeds a collaborative spirit and trust in co-workers and is essential to maintaining a productive organization. Don’t let that advantage slip away during social distancing.

3. Anticipate needs – Staying two steps ahead of the economic and social changes that occur during a recession gives you a leg up as you adjust your planning. Follow the news that affects your organization and investigate how other nonprofits are handling the changes.

4. Overestimate the loss, underestimate the gain – Give yourself some wiggle room in your budget, projects, and communication with your community. Setting reasonable expectations will better prepare you for surprises and give you some protection from catastrophe.

5. Use downtime to get ahead – Now that we’re not commuting to our jobs, you may find a few extra moments that are perfect for research and strategizing. Take advantage of that time to get the most out of it.

6. Update your database – Cleaning up your database every time you have the opportunity will keep your communications at their most effective level. Make sure all the cross-referencing information is connected for more flexibility to reach targeted audiences.

7. Moments of gratitude – It’s easy to get caught in a state of malaise when you are facing economic uncertainty. Protect your mental state by taking a moment to think about the positive areas of your life. You can share your thoughts with your team to encourage their own feelings of gratitude.

Facing an economic recession can be frightening but the more prepared you are, financially, socially, and mentally, the better able you are to weather the storm. Don’t let headlines scare you. Just commit to taking preparatory actions so you can be at your best to handle whatever challenges come your way.

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