Lets be frank, daily doom and gloom reports about the economy are scary. Nonprofits are facing challenging times with leaner resources.
“The year-end fund-raising results last month confirm what we already suspected: for most people giving is not a luxury but a natural extension of who they are,” said Mark Rovner, Founder of Sea Change Strategies. “Many groups received significant numbers of gifts this past December, but the average size gift amount dropped, especially at the higher end.”
The big question on every fundraiser’s mind these days is this: How can an organization sustain and even increase their online donations in a recession? While there is no magic formula, the best practices for online fundraisers right now lie in a solid communication strategy and philanthropy fundamentals. Two of the biggest takeaways from Obama’s incredibly successful fundraising campaign were to: 1) embrace low dollar donors; and 2) make the case that donors are part of a movement.
The Obama team quickly recognized that many people just couldn’t afford to donate $50, yet still wanted to support and contribute to the campaign. Nonprofits can easily use a similar strategy by setting donation limits at $5 or $10 -- or not even having a limit. This tactic makes low dollar donors feel valued and part of an organization, even if they don’t have a lot of money to contribute. It also builds good relationships. As these donors earn more money, they will increase their donation amounts.
It’s also important to give donors a sense of mission and purpose. Given the bad economy, make the case that if they donate money to your organization, you will do something concretely to improve their lives. Give them the sense that they will get more back than they are giving.
Below are some of Mark's ideas for nonprofits to consider.
Mark Rovner’s Best Tips To Boost Your Online Fundraising Program in 2009
- Don’t stop asking. The people who really care about what you do will continue to give, but they may continue to give less. Go easy on the “poor-mouthing,” and continue to talk about things that are most important to your cause.
- Focus most of your energy on the folks who already love you. Don’t stint on cultivation. Let your donors know how you are coping, the choices you are making, and what you are getting done.
- Re-project online income now. We are seeing organizations whose income projections are the product of happier times. Don’t panic by dramatically ramping up the number of hard ask e-mails -- to the exclusion of almost everything else. Not only is that unlikely to work, it is likely to antagonize people who are sympathetic to your situation. You need to buy yourself a little bit of breathing room.
- Focus. You don’t have money to mess around with right now. Use this moment to review your core messages, your founding story, and your best words to describe the very essence of what you do.
- Be ready with “evergreen” fund-raising tactics – emergencies, donor match drives, etc. What works in normal times will probably work now, just with more modest results. Experiment with a closed-ended sustainer drive asking those who can to make a one year monthly commitment.
- Plan for success. As things get better – and they will – how will you communicate these changes to your donors, how will you recognize and thank them for helping you through these tough times? Perhaps you can empower them to serve as ambassadors for your cause when economic times are better.
Do you have some great tips to share that have proven successful for your organization’s online fundraising program over the last few months? Comment below!
PS: Be sure and check out the OneWorld webinar Nonprofit Survival 101, Planning for Tough Economic Times on January 29th at 3:30 PM EST with Marty Kearns, Executive Director of Green Media Toolshed, Jennifer Pryce, DC Director of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, Jono Smith, Director of Nonprofit Marketing at Network for Good, Heather Mansfield of DIOSA Communications and Robert Enholm, Vice President of Citizens for Global Solutions.
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