Recession, sequester, government shutdown, debt ceiling. The economy has taken a beating over the last few years. The recovery has been sluggish, and Congress still isn’t through hashing out a long-term budget.

In an uncertain economy, nonprofit organizations receive more requests for services, while some donors may feel the need to cut back on their giving.

Stock MarketHere are a few things you can do to help keep your fundraising on track:

Good donor relations is crucial

Let’s say there is a donor who currently gives to five nonprofit organizations a year including yours, but is feeling a financial pinch, and is going to cut back to three.

Will she choose an organization that?

  • Sends a lame thank you letter, or no thank you letter.
  • Only communicates when they are asking for money.
  • Sends out a newsletter that’s long, boring, and focused on the organization.

Or will she choose one that?

  • Thanks their donors by calling them or sending handwritten notes.
  • Communicates often with success stories and updates.
  • Sends newsletters and updates that are focused on how much they appreciate their donors and how they are making a difference with the donors ‘ support.

You can’t control your donors’ financial situation, but you can control your relationship with them. In an uncertain economy, you need a strong donor relations program more than ever.

Focus on renewal

Renewal rates continue to plunge, even though keeping the donors you have is usually easier and more cost effective than trying to find new donors. You want your donors to donate again and to give at a higher level. That’s less likely to happen if you ignore them or treat them poorly.

Again, it comes back to donor relations, which needs to be part of your fundraising plan, along with raising revenue.

How do you keep your donors from fleeing?

  • Thank your donors within 48 hours.
  • Spend as much time on your thank you letters as you do on your appeal letters.
  • Call your donors to thank them or send a handwritten note.
  • Create a thank you plan
  • Make all your communications donor focused. Let your donors know how their support is helping you make a difference. 
  • Keep your donors engaged and make them feel appreciated throughout the year.
  • Be personal when you communicate. Write in the second person and don’t use jargon.

Find new donors who are likely to support you

Of course, you will need to find new donors and many of them are closer than you think. Do you have email subscribers and social media followers who aren’t donors? What about event attendees or volunteers? These are perfect candidate to become donors since they have already expressed interest in your work.

Return the favor by showing gratitude and sharing success stories (see above). You could also hold an open house for potential donors. If you have successfully engaged these individuals, you may be rewarded when you ask for a gift.

Fundraising in an uncertain economy is challenging, but you will have more success if you focus on donor relations, do everything you can to keep your current donors, and reach out to potential donors who are likely to support you.

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Ann Green
Ann Green is a Communications Consultant and is available to work with nonprofit organizations on all types of communications needs - Writing, Editing, Messaging, Planning and Strategy. She has worked for a variety of nonprofit organizations including the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network (MNN), Adoption & Foster Care Mentoring, Promise The Children, and Boston University.
Ann Green

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