We might not see a double dip recession, but the way ahead is cloudy at best for nonprofits. The Chronicle of Philanthropy just reported on the health of the 400 top nonprofits, that are pretty much the canaries in the coal mine for the nonprofit sector, and the trends are not good.
It may be time to revisit the recession tips that nonprofit experts have been plugging for the past few years. Mal Warwick, a veteran of many ups and downs in the nonprofit world, gave these tips in his book, Fundraising When Money Is Tight: A strategic and Practical Guide to Surviving Tough Times and Thriving in the Future, published in the spring of 2009. They seem just as relevant today:
- Reassess the whole ball of wax: fundraising, marketing, communications.
- Strengthen your case for giving.
- Be content with one in the hand -- forget the two that may be in the bush...translation - don't forsake what has worked in the past for dubious, seemingly flashier techniques.
- Cut costs with a scalpel, not an ax.
- Fish where the big fish are...simply said, focus more on generous and responsive donors and less on those that are less productive.
- Stay close to your donors...connection means everything to a donor.
- Get personal with your donors. Learn everything you can about them and then tailor your communications accordingly.
- Step up your efforts online. Online fundraising is one of the few bright spots in philanthropy in recent years.
- Break down the silos. Get your departmental acts together.
A more academic and analytic approach to surviving economic hard times was provided by Susan U. Raymond, in her book, Nonprofit Finance for Hard Times, published in 2010. Here is a review of it, which echoes many of Warwick's principles.
As Raymond says, we really shouldn't be surprised by economic downturns. They are a part of the business cycle, and our strategic planning should prepare for them. Preparation, diversification, and a knowledge of what makes for a winning organization despite economic turmoil are all key to nonprofit survival.
More Recession-Related Advice: