As someone who has worked for three decades in a wide variety of nonprofit organizations both large and small in Seattle, and before that in New York City, I’ve seen firsthand how economic changes impact the nonprofit sector.
When there is confidence in a strong, stable economy, it is often easier to secure large donations from individuals, corporations, government funders, and foundations—but not always.
All About Timing
Sometimes, when the going gets economically tough like it is now, all types of funders step up in big ways. Why? Because the needs are much greater and more urgent. Those who have the ability to give, will give—if they are asked at the right time, in the right way, and by the right person. Many will make exceptional gifts when they understand your organization’s needs.
Elements of Success in a Soft Economy
My fundraising advice for Executive Directors and board members in a soft economy has been tailored from what I consider best practices in a strong economy.
There are three key elements to success:
- Uniqueness of your nonprofit
- Communication of mission impact
- Urgency and importance of financial support
Uniqueness of Nonprofit
Be able to simply articulate the unique focus of your nonprofit, why it matters to you and to those you serve, and what makes it unique. How is your organization’s mission accomplished? What is your personal connection and story? How are things different during the pandemic? What would the world be like if your nonprofit ceased to exist?
Communication of Mission Impact
Timely communication about mission impact and organizational health is always important, especially now. If your board, stakeholders, donors, friends, and even staff are not kept well-informed, they may find other organizations to support. Also, I know you have great stories to tell about your organization’s accomplishments during these challenging times. Tell them!
Urgency of Financial Support
Many nonprofits need financial support to simply survive the soft economy and various impacts of the pandemic. This is a time when donors are examining and showing up for what truly matters to them. Make sure you are articulating this clearly for them and asking for their support.
[Related: Fundraising Auctions and Events]
Make Regular Contact With Donors
You know who the major donors to your nonprofit are. Hopefully, you also have a personal list of donors with whom you have a professional or personal relationship. They may already be donors to your nonprofit, or they may be on your cultivation list. Maintaining regular contact with those individuals is crucial to help them connect or stay connected with your nonprofit’s mission.
Be Empathetic and Reach Out
Given the uncertainty of this time, we should also “tread lightly.” Since so many individuals have experienced losses of many kinds, it is important to check in on your donors and ask if everything is going okay in their life. If they are open to communicating at this time, in what way (phone, Zoom call, email, etc.) and when (time of day/time of week) they prefer to communicate. Obviously in pre-COVID-19 times, a primary method of contact was the in-person visit, but that may have to wait. Many organizations are making their mission more visible on social media, with short mission-focused videos and special Zoom events.
Now is the time to step up and do everything we can to help one another and the nonprofit organizations that we care most about. Thank you for your service and contributions to the nonprofit sector!