Nonprofits are in big trouble. Or are they?

Nonprofits are in big trouble.


At least according to the most recent poll conducted by the research firm Campbell Rinker and sponsored by Dunham & Company, a Texas-based consultancy focused on nonprofits.


The interviews conclude that 63% of donors are planning on a more cautious approach when it comes to giving. And that type of pessimism can be a fundraiser-buzz kill.


If you’re looking for headlines regarding the current pulse of donors – I’d avoid the Google machine for a while. In fact, combing through national polls and economic trends, you’d assume half of all organizations are doomed to failure.


Thankfully, our industry is a lot more resilient than we’re given credit for.


Nearly 2 years ago to the day, I wrote about a poll that indicated American’s giving to nonprofits reached an all time low. And with what was going on globally creating unease in the public, it is not hard to understand why.


Funny how this chaos-sewing headline writing attitude just never ends to gain clicks and eyeballs on content now-a-days.


Yes. I am very aware that I you clicking into this article uses this sensationalized verbiage as well. HA!


But I digress.


This is part of a larger trend, happening for the past decade, of lower and middle income families reducing or eliminating their charitable giving altogether. We’ve talked endlessly about nonprofits relying more on a handful of big donors or grants, rather than a robust annual giving program, and the dangers of being financially handcuffed to a few major gifts to function as an organization.


There is also an increasing amount of pressure on smaller and medium sized nonprofits, as they spend too much time “competing” over donor dollars from larger organizations with huge marketing and staffing advantages.


But read further into either of these studies and you’ll see why my cup of optimism is still near full.


These polls, which point to Americans giving nearly 10% lower than last year, and volunteerism at an all time low, buries what should be the lead in each article: more individuals plan to increase than decrease charitable donations when the economic outlook is better.


That’s right. Even with economic hardship, the American spirit of optimism remains. That is an incredible advantage for nonprofits who can position themselves as a conduit of good for those individuals who still intend on donating!


So how can you get on this continued generosity train?


1. Maintain Donor Communication


Make sure you are reaching out to your stakeholders and keeping top of mind for those who support and love your organization. The most dangerous path you can take right now is going totally silent and stopping the conversations. Pick up the phone.


Don’t know what to say? Start with “thank you.”


The rest will come easy!


2. Document Steady Impact


Now is the time to unleash your inner statistician. Show the world what a donation does to make the community a better place. When donors inch back into the philanthropy market, they are going to look try and make up for lost ground, and they will seek out who is doing the best good. Regardless of the size of your nonprofit – what amazing things are you doing. Time to show off your awesomeness.


Don’t know what to track? Start with what goals you have accomplished…or still have left to accomplish!


3. Unbridled Audacity


This pandemic is going to reward those who take risks. Have fun in creating new ways to interact with your potential supporters by throwing a virtual event or webinar, creatively communicate or try that idea which was “too out there” when life wasn’t in complete chaos. The grace (and joy!) you’ll receive from those you involve – donors and employees alike! – will embolden you to think differently about how you build and maintain relationships going forward. How freeing is that!?


No amount of bad news, or bummer headlines are going to stop you from doing good. So let’s look past the lead, and dig our heels in the impact we make, and get ready to embrace the slew of individuals ready to give.


Our resiliency is about to pay off.


You’ve freaking got this!


-Patrick