Fundraising Headlines, April 13, 2009

While there have been some bright spots in economic discussions over the past several days, the economy is still sputtering and nonprofits are continuing to see their budgets stretched.

At the same time, this is a great time to reassess what is working, identify what isn’t working and readjust your strategies appropriately (but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater). Identify who your natural constituencies are and be creative about low-cost ways to reach them. In an organization I worked at several years ago, the Executive Director made a point of writing a personal thank you message (just a simple written PS at the bottom of the page) for donors over a certain amount. It was appreciated by the donors, didn’t cost anything (except the time) and helped donors to personally know someone at the organization.

If you have questions about fundraising please let me know. I’d love to address one or two in next week’s installment.

Here are this week’s headlines. Happy reading!


In Defense Of Creative (April 8, 2009, The Agitator Blog) As would-be donors retrench during tough economic times, I’m presuming they ignore a much greater percentage than normal of the marketing, including fundraising, messages sent their way. And I mean “ignore” in the sense of never even bothering to open the envelope or the email. Certainly familiarity with the message sender gives the strongest boost to the incoming letter or email. But after that, wouldn’t you think that standout creative has a huge impact? And now I’m talking specifically about two things — the carrier in direct mail and, to some degree, the subject line in email fundraising. Mess up either of those introductions, or simply approach the donor with something boring and “same old,” and I submit you’re dead in the water … your brilliant strategy and compelling offer rendered irrelevant.

Survival of the Fittest? Charities, foundations struggle over restructuring in sour economy (April 9, 2009, The Chronicle of Philanthropy) For years, many foundation leaders and nonprofit experts have argued that the nonprofit world is bloated and in bad need of consolidation. The deep recession seems likely to fulfill that vision — even though few people are taking any joy from what will surely be a painful process. The big question is whether the shrinking of the nonprofit world will happen in a rational way, with the best and most-needed organizations beating out other charities for money in what may turn into a Darwinian struggle for survival. Paul C. Light, a professor of public service at New York University who predicts that more than 100,000 charities will fail in the next two years, says he fears that survival of the fittest is skewed to the wrong kind of fitness. Some foundation officials believe that most charities have not fully come to terms with the severity of this recession. “It’s really important that organizations understand what programs are generating revenue for the organization and what programs are costing them money,” says Mr. Moyers of the Meyer foundation, in Washington. Many executive directors “are not taking steps to shore up their finances. They’re hoping that things will somehow turn around and they won’t have to. But if you put off difficult decisions for too long, you put the whole organization at risk.”


Free Webinar: Beginner’s Guide to Social Media — April 15 Want to use social media but don’t know where to begin? Don’t miss TechSoup’s free webinar on social media tools for nonprofits and libraries, April 15 at 9 a.m. Pacific time.


Silos Culture Inside the Walls of Nonprofits Prevent Effective Social Media Use (April 10, 2009, Beth’s Blog) One of my favorite things about writing a blog, are the conversations in the comments and sidebars (private email conversation). I learn so much from those who have share their stories and advice. This week I had an amazing private email thread with someone who works as a development professional at a well-established nonprofit institution. I’ll call him “Sam” (not his real name). Sam shared a story that illustrates the barriers that many nonprofit organizations face in adopting social media and harnessing its power leading to successful outcomes. Sam’s story illustrates the pressing need for culture change within nonprofits or as colleague, Allison Fine, puts it “organizational silos prevent people from empowering their edge.”


Planned Giving … Growing your garden with EFT programs (April 7, 2009, NonProfit Times) Monthly giving programs are like sprinkler systems. Your lawn might look fine if you roll out your hose a few times a week. But to really thrive and not just survive, an irrigation system needs to be just that – systematic. Like a sprinkler system, a monthly giving program systematically feeds your nonprofit’s mission, said Greg Gorman of St. Mary’s Catholic Center at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas. Gorman presented a session at the recent 46th annual Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) international fundraising conference in New Orleans.

Sponsor Focus & Creativity the Keys to Corporate Sponsorship Success (April 2009, Step-by-Step Fundraising) Corporate sponsorships are an integral part of charity fundraisers such as athletic events, , but also for many other special events. Galas, auctions, outdoor festivals, and many other fundraisers rely on such partnerships. There were two big ideas that were shared in the linked article: (1) Sponsor Focus: “A sponsor-centric event drives promotion, publicity, revenue and participants.” (2) Creativity: Think about what assets your organization has and how you can leverage them to offer the greatest benefits to sponsors.

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