Raising Money for Nonprofits in Terrible Times
Feb. 12, 2009, Forbes — Julie Lucas, the head of fund-raising for Fordham Law School, is trying to raise $100 million at a time when few people are giving money and universities are still seen as having lots of it.
How does she do it? First of all, she goes to where the money is now. The career fundraiser put together a list of tips for her staff about how to raise money in tough times, and No. 3 was "Follow the market."
That led her to approach a firm of bankruptcy lawyers, since they're doing better than just about any other lawyers these days. After lengthy meetings and much explanation about where the donations would be spent, she got $1 million for the school from lawyers at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. And that was in December, one of the worst months of all 2008.
"I've always said to my staff that 75% of your job is pounding the pavement," Lucas says. She started her $100 million fund drive four years ago and is up to $79 million now, with three years left to go. "In tough times you have to go back to the fundamentals. It's all about relationships."
Nonprofits are in trouble just like profit-making businesses. According to the Bridgespan Group, a consulting firm, 75% of them have been hurt by the economic downturn, and 52% say they have less money now--half of those losing 10% to 20% in revenue and a quarter losing more than 20%.
Most are battling not only declining revenue but also rising demand for their services. As a result, their fundraisers are having to come up with novel ways of bringing in cash. Some are working with former donors, now laid off, to see if they can give amounts that won't break their wallets. Others are going after non-traditional groups. Or they're turning to social-networking sites and other modern technology.