The biggest challenge was hitting revenue plans generally driven by smaller average gifts and a lack of large/midsize gifts. A second major challenge was new-donor acquisition — there was a stark decline in new-donor acquisition rates/dollars.
Most charities faced the situation by cutting costs. A few chose to invest strategically in areas like online marketing to help grow out of the recession, and to respond to changing donor preferences/channels. Those investments encompassed technology, key people and investment in new-donor acquisition, e.g., online list development.
Nonprofits will not see a rapid recovery in giving to previous levels and will continue to need to work harder to acquire new donors and retain those they have. My first piece of advice is to focus on excelling at the basics. A lot of organizations are attracted to the cool, new thing, e.g., social media, before they've done the basics correctly, like optimizing their Web site for conversion, sending e-mails that people want and crafting compelling, multistep appeals.
Those with more resources certainly can deploy more advanced strategies and tactics, but let's all get the basics right first!
Chris Ragusapresident and CEO, Estee Marketing Group
2009 was a challenging year for many nonprofits, yet quite a few did as well or better than the year before — not everyone was talking gloom and doom. Soft response rates seemed to be the biggest challenge to those with affected acquisition programs. Most nonprofits addressed this by tightening up mail plans, negotiating better list prices, and shifting mail volume to more successful packages and more welcoming times of the year (seasonality). 2010 looks positive so far, with most of our mailers looking at the year as a time for growth.
Tony Elischer, managing director, Think Consulting Solutions
The official news in the United Kingdom is that voluntary fundraising is down 11 percent in the last year, but most charities are seeing static voluntary income overall and donor acquisition pretty much drying up. Legacies are a key income in the United Kingdom, and their value has dropped, dramatically affecting overall income figures.