Extend Strategic Planning Beyond Times of Crisis
As fundraisers find themselves emerging from two challenging years and preparing for the possible recession in the year ahead, Bill Stanczykiewicz — senior assistant dean for external relations, clinical associate professor, director of The Fund Raising School and Rosso Fellow at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy — is focusing on trends impacting giving specifically in times of economic downturn.
On the final day of the NonProfit POWER conference, Stanczykiewicz opened the final day of the event with his keynote, “Current Trends in Fundraising.” His takeaways were surprising.
Charitable Giving During Recessions
Fundraisers can rest assured knowing that recessions and economic downturns are normal and that a proper planning strategy can be implemented to handle these events. Despite common misconceptions about charitable giving in times of economic recessions, statistics from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy depict that the average increase in charitable giving goes up 3.3% after inflation. The average decrease in charitable giving in recession years only goes down 0.5%.
Stanczykiewicz presented this trend with the silver lining that while giving is, of course, impacted by inflation, it never goes away completely and often bounces back positively.
“Just as there is a desire to get back to spending, there is a desire to get back to typical charitable giving behavior once we’ve weathered the recession,” he said.
Fundraising Strategies in Economic Downturns
For fundraisers tasked with carving out the path for giving during economic downturns, Stanczykiewicz recommended turning to crisis leadership. Crisis leadership calls for scenario planning, making decisions that are not irreversible, analyzing events and trends in a manner that is not black and white, and inviting expertise from various sources. In other words, fundraisers should do the best they can with the information that they have.
However, strategic planning should exist beyond the window of recessions, so that organizations can be prepared beforehand. Strategies may include annual budgeting that builds an operating reserve, identifying new donors before a recession starts, empathy for donors regarding financial challenges, including the negative effects of a recession in your fundraising case for support, and continued stewardship of current donors.
It’s important to remember that while every gift matters, current donors will be more willing to give if stewardship is valued and practiced within your nonprofit.
“Fundraising happens at the speed of trust,” Stanczykiewicz said. “Donors love stability, and if they have to choose and limit, they’re going to choose the nonprofit with which they have the closest relationship.”
As the year ahead remains unpredictable, it’s up to fundraisers to seek out every possible opportunity to meet donors where they are and maintain stewardship. While dips in charitable giving may occur in correlation to difficult economic times, strategic planning will ensure that nonprofit organizations will be able to weather the storm when giving most definitely rebounds.
The Importance of Community
Following the keynote session, Logan Echard, the director of analytics and strategy at Four Diamonds, and Katrina VanHuss, founder and CEO of Turnkey took the stage to talk about the identities of those who support a nonprofit’s cause, and the community that can form from those supporters.
VanHuss urged the audience to move away from the notion of the email list, and instead give donors and volunteers a way to communicate with one another to form a sense of community.
“We describe our community often in nonprofit as our constituents, and by that, we mean the people on our email list, but our email list is not a community,” VanHuss said. “We have not provided them a way to talk to each other; we've provided a way for us to talk to them. We've sometimes provided a way for them to talk to us. We've provided them to talk to the outside world peer to peer. But what we haven't built is a way for them to talk to each other.”
In order to build a community, VanHuss and Echard used THON – which Echard works very closely with – as an example.
“You volunteer to be part of our nation, but you don't register, that language isn’t even used, you’re joining a community, that's what you're becoming part of,” VanHuss said.
For more information from the event, check out our coverage from Day 1 here and Day 2 here.
Save the Date for NonProfit POWER 2023
Next year's NonProfit POWER will take place at the Hilton Inner Harbor in Baltimore from Dec. 4-6, 2023. Stay informed on when more details are available for the next NonProfit POWER by subscribing to NonProfit PRO's e-newsletter or checking the NonProfit POWER event site.
Jessie Farrigan is the online and production editor for the Printing & Packaging Group at NAPCO Media.