Yes, we agree that "desperate times require desperate measures," but we also like the saying, "don't let them see you sweat."
- spend less on fundraising
- become pessimistic
- apologize when you're asking
In that spirit we offer these suggestions:
1. Don't become or sound desperate.
Instead, emphasize to your donors that every year, good or bad, your needs continue. Don't talk about grand plans for expansion, but do talk about solid plans for today. Don't lose your enthusiasm and optimism about your cause. Donors will notice and pull back if they think that you, the fundraiser, has doubts.
If your organization is in human services and the need for those services increases during a recession, let the public know. Emphasize that your organization's survival is crucial because of the clients you serve. Tell your client's stories but not in a desperate way that demeans them. Show their strength in the face of diversity and invite your supporters to help them.
2. Prove that you are responsible.
Let your donors know that you are doing your part by being fiscally responsible. Cut costs where you can, make sure you have good controls in place, and that you are examining marginal programs for possible deletion. Keep your money safe by making sure it is in FDIC insured banks. Avoid non-insured investments.
Gifts may decrease, but keep your corporate contacts strong. It is very hard to get back on the corporate charitable list if you are dropped. Avoid this by staying visible, and keep cultivating your contacts within the company. Likewise, don't give up on cause-related marketing. Companies are finding that these activities pay off for them with consumer loyalty.
Remember too that just because a company's stock price has been depressed doesn't mean that it is not a strong company. Look at the balance sheet to identify companies that are in a good position, and that will likely come back strong from the economic meltdown.
Avoid depending on one or two major donors or foundations. Most charitable giving is made up of small donations. If you are not doing direct mail to a large base of supporters, start working toward doing so.
5. Put your fundraising programs under the microscope.
Determine which fundraising programs work best and are the most efficient in terms of resources. Then cut the least efficient ones and shift those resources to the ones that are doing the most good.
Maybe that big special event eats up precious time and resources for very little return. Or the product sale you started last year just doesn't seem worth the time and effort. But, don't let the money and volunteer time you use in those efforts just dissipate. Put them to use by expanding the annual campaign or making more major donor calls or doing another planned giving seminar.
6. Don't pull the plug on major campaigns, but do slow down.
If you were starting a capital campaign (or endowment campaign) when the economic crisis hit, don't stop. But do slow down. Recognize that getting those lead gifts in the size you want will take longer and be dependent on how the economy is doing.
If you ask for a multi-year gift, and the donor resists, fall back to asking for part of that gift now, and plan to go back later for the rest. Donors are understandably shy about making long-term commitments in this economic environment.