Advancing an Organization During Challenging Economic Times
As nonprofit organizations tally results for 2008, many nonprofit leaders are concerned about how to focus their efforts to survive whatever this year may bring.
While we all recognize that these are challenging times for all sectors — nonprofits and for-profits alike — there are important lessons we’ve learned from experiences during past economic downturns that will help us all this year and in the years ahead.
What are we seeing?
First, let’s take a look at the current landscape. What are some of the significant trends reported by nonprofit organizations now?
Event Fundraising — Not surprisingly, many corporate sponsorships are diminishing, and it's taking twice as much work to try and match previous years’ results.
Direct Mail — Rates of participation are slipping, and the average gift amount is declining.
Campaigns/Major Gifts — Decisions are taking longer on requests that are made, intermediate benchmarks are being revisited and campaign timelines are being extended.
What are we hearing?
Major corporate, foundation and individual donors are reacting to the current crisis in several significant ways:
- Individual donors are placing greater focus on their own core charities and showing a willingness to ride out the storm with those organizations on whose boards they sit or where they are very involved.
- Corporations are telling us that their charitable giving is among the first budget items being cut, and they're making drastic reductions in corporate giving, event sponsorships and other opportunities.
- Select foundations are rising to the occasion. National foundations and large regional foundations are stepping up their grant awards to help organizations weather the storm.
Preparing during the downturn — being ready at the upturn
While times now are critical, one need only look back to the beginning of this decade for another (albeit not quite as acute) challenging economic environment that came about post Sept. 11 and the dot-com bust — and the subsequent 30 percent drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Index. Many shrewd organizations with strong messages and strong leadership used the downturn to their advantage. Here are two examples: