3 Key Pieces of Advice: Fundraising in Recessionary Times

In the first part of 2010, Guidestar reported that  4 in 10 charities reported a decline in giving from January 1 to May 31, 2010.  Three in 10 had cut back on budgets, and more than half reported they had saved money by cutting back on programs.  Half of all nonprofits had frozen staff salaries.  In light of this gloomy news, how should the nonprofit respond?

1. Seek a Development Partner. Whether formally or informally, all nonprofits should be seeking to align with those individuals, consultants, board members or organizations who can give them ongoing consistent feedback on their development efforts.  That may mean seeking out training on grantwriting, or general development processes.  But it clearly means that the conversation about development and fundraising must be ongoing.  In the Christian world, one of the best opportunities is working with one of the local Christian community foundations.

2. Seek strategic partnerships and collaborations. It may seem contrary to the norm, but the more you seek alignment with strategic partners, the more likely you can find ways to extend your own ministry while at the same time cutting costs.  At a more a basic level, you provide yourself the opportunity for fellowship and idea sharing.  Equally important, you present a better case to donors by showing that you are seeking to use your own resources better.  Donors hate duplication of effort.  Make a list of potential partners and seek them out.  Define what you’ll do and what they’ll do.

3. Seek to crystallize your vision and mission and ruthlessly eliminate anything inconsistent with those. Let’s face it.  In times of plenty, we all tend to have scope creep.  Have you every had a donor say to you, “I’ve wondered what you do?”  Or, “I’ve wondered how that all fits?”  (It wouldn’t be surprising if your own staff says that…)  It is equally powerful to stand in front of a donor audience and tell them what you don’t do.  It places the emphasis on what you are actually seeking to get done.  By crystallizing vision and mission, we are much more likely to get done what we said we would do.  There is no more compelling fundraising pitch than a ministry which does what it promises.

Start today.  You won’t be disappointed.

William F. High is the President/General Counsel of the Servant Foundation (www.servantchristian.com).  Servant’s mission is to inspire, teach and facilitate revolutionary biblical generosity.  He may be reached at whigh@servantchristian.com.

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