Those of us who make a living by inspiring generosity see mixed signals for the future. The stock market remains robust; but giving was down by 1.7% in 2018, the Fed just lowered interest rates, and we continue to see turbulence in our trade relationships.
What we do know is that the economy is cyclical. There will be another downturn, and it will impact the donors who support our institutions, which is why advancement teams should fundraise now as though we were in a recession.
We need only look back to the 2008 Recession to know what that fundraising advice looks like.
- Make donor retention a priority. Show your donors how their gifts impact the issue they care about, and how grateful your institution is for their support.
- Showcase flexible giving opportunities. These include monthly donations, quarterly pledge payments, etc.
- Ask for planned gifts. Estate giving can be a much more comfortable option for many donors who are concerned about current income.
- Show donors what they can do, not what you “need.” People don’t give because you need them to; they give because they care deeply about a cause and believe that they can accomplish something with their generosity. Show them this is true.
- Offer matching campaigns. When people are more reluctant than usual to part with their money, offer an opportunity for their dollars to be matched and their impact to be doubled in order to inspire action.
Some of us will read this list and be relieved to be checking all of these boxes already. We’ll be confident that we’re building programs and donor relationships that are sustainable despite outside circumstances.
But many of us won’t be able to say we’re consistently implementing each of these strategies. When we’re asked to meet larger and larger fundraising goals, it’s easy to lose sight of the long-term while just trying to make it through each day.
Short-sighted fundraising always compromises the long term. It sets our programs up for failure regardless of the economy’s turns. Let’s all take the gathering economic clouds as an opportunity. Let’s reevaluate whether we’re creating philanthropic programs that will both sustain through challenging times and allow us to achieve our incredible missions when we are at our most ambitious.