Ideas that work: Raising money in challenging times

[Editor’s note: This article was provided by Blackbaud, a maker of fundraising software. Blackbaud is a PJ business partner.]

Lawrence Henze
Lawrence Henze

Lawrence Henze

In the nonprofit world, it’s “survival of the fittest” during times of economic recession.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the largest, best-funded organization to survive.

More importantly, it’s how you react to the economic environment that makes all the difference.

You need strong management with a solid plan, along with a lot of good old-fashioned hard work.

You can prepare by examining areas of operation that are less efficient than they should be and by applying time-tested and proven strategies for keeping afloat.

While I cannot offer a “quick fix” to the economy, I can discuss the effects the recession may have on the nonprofit community and, most importantly, suggest strategies for continuing fundraising success in these times.

Donor relations

Chart the average number of communications your constituents receive from your organization each month, then identify areas where these communications overlap and consolidate.

Ask your donors, through surveys via email, direct mail or the telephone, which communications they value.

Annual giving

Determine how your organization is perceived by giving constituents.

Ask yourself: “Do we over-solicit?” If your most frequent method of contact is in the form of a solicitation, it is highly likely that you are doing just that.

Make a concerted effort to reduce the number of solicitations with loyal donors and cut your fundraising overhead.

Major giving

Detail recession-preparedness, including an explanation of how you will continue to meet mission goals.

Major giving is all about cultivation or, more specifically, the building of a relationship with your prospects and donors.

Even if a donor’s ability to give is limited or thwarted by the economy, the relationship should continue.

Planned giving

Remember that tough economic circumstances breed conservative financial behavior, which goes hand-in-hand with certain types of planned gifts, including bequests and charitable gift annuities.

Bequests require no current cash outlays, and annuities provide income stream to donors worried about their long-term financial viability.

In a recession, there are many positive actions you may take to better position your organization to raise money and trim costs — actions that will continue to work through economic recovery.

Don’t sit back and let a recession act upon your efforts; rather, be a leader and proactively seek strategies that make your organization smarter, more effective, and more efficient.

For information and fundraising resources visit

Lawrence Henze, managing director of Blackbaud Analytics, has extensive experience in fundraising, market research, and the application of predictive modeling services to the nonprofit marketplace.

The founder of Core Data Services, which Blackbaud acquired in 2001, Henze has also served as vice president of predictive modeling services at USA Group Noel Levitz and president of The Philanthropic Division of Econometrics, Inc.

Henze has 15 years of experience in development, raising more than $125 million, primarily for higher education institutions.

He holds a BA in Political Science from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin; an MA in public policy and administration; and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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