Fundraising With the "R" Word

Here's a hot tip for you: Don't look at your 401k today.

Oh, and your crypto wallet? I might avoid that too.

Considering the uncertainty and giant gong show that stocks have been involved in for the past week, it might seem tempting, but for the love of all that is holy, don't do it.

With inflation at a 40 year high, and dire news coming from Eastern Europe every hour, things are approaching that horrifying word we’re not even supposed to whisper: Recession.

Earlier this week, Deutsche Bank declared a global recession is due to hit in 2024 – threatening unemployment, food chain issues and a whole host of other economic maladies, with uncertainty being the main driver.

So what does that mean for your fundraising?

It means you have a VERY specific timeline to get your crap together.

And by “crap” I mean a plan to insulate yourself from whatever comes your way.

Here are 3 ways you can begin to prepare – and save yourself and your organization from scrambling when the “R” word shows up en-masse.

1. Diversify your fundraising strategies.

No longer can you be a one-trick pony as a nonprofit. If you rely on only a single way to raise revenue for your organization, it’s time to rethink that strategy.

I understand very well that being able to get revenue from a multitude of avenues is a privilege that a lot of nonprofits don’t have. However, in order to weather the impending storm, we're going to have to figure out how to do just that.

If you're a non-profit that solely relies on grant money to function and that grant money runs out, how do you sustain the programming that makes you the kick-ass organization that you are?

If you're an organization that heavily relies on special events to raise money for those you serve and the amount of disposable income your guests have decreases, do you have a plan to recoup those dollars?

If you’re reliant on a small amount of big donors or big businesses to prop up your services via sponsorship or underwriting – what is your strategy to replace those donations if they are unable to continue funding at their current level?

It is critical that you build a roadmap to find new sources of revenue and add different ways donors and supporters can give. That single-legged stool will be difficult to balance on when the winds of financial change start gusting a little harder.

2. Build a boatload of relationships.

The initial forecast of the dreaded “R” word gives us about 24 to 30 months before we see the worst of our economic situation.

Of course, a million things could happen in order to prevent this, but as the old proverb goes; “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.”

The good news - we have a goal and time to insulate our organizations fiscally. But that requires us to build a plan and tell our story to as many people as possible in order to recruit new champions.

Your nonprofit and supporters need to speak about your impact in front of groups, schedule yourself on podcasts, write for local and regional publications…anything you can do to engage with more individuals who might be interested in learning more about the impact you make.

Sure it takes time to cultivate great relationships – but since we have a timeline in front of us – we can begin to strategically look at what kind of donors we need to help us for the long term.

Use your current network to help you open doors and begin critical conversations that will convert into fiscal supporters. And start doing this NOW.

3. Clear over clever.

Now more than ever, we must make our solicitations as clear as possible. We no longer have the luxury of nuance in hope that those who like what we do as nonprofits can guess to what we need to make the impact that we want to make.

The impending recession requires us to be more direct without losing the personable and relatable mission that connected us to our supporters in the first place.

What does that look like? For starters – use very specific asks.

“Your gift of $100 will do X, Y & Z.”

“Would you consider a gift of $100 to help us accomplish [enter impact goal.]”

“We need to raise $10,000 in order to provide [enter specific] services.”

Don’t leave room for interpretation, but give space for inspiration. Let your donors and potential supporters know exactly what their gifts are going to achieve and ask for that amount – or at the very least, invite them to join others in helping you do more good.

With the looming economic uncertainty, donors who are still hell-bent on giving will look for stability in messaging, solicitation and impact.

Yeah, this is going to get a little bumpy.

But folks still want to help. And it’s your job as nonprofit leaders to assist in setting yourself up for fundraising success…and to make working in a recession a heck of a lot easier.


You freaking got this!

-Patrick