Focus On: The Economy: Determining the Ask
But Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, president and CEO of the fundraising consulting firm Capital Venture, says that instead of using formulas, it’s essential to assess donor potential on an individual basis.
“I don’t use strict fundraising formulas because you can base a formula on a person’s net income or assets, but then you have to account for his or her [individual] circumstances,” she says. “A person might have a high income, but he or she might also have four kids in college, aging parents they’re caring for and high medical bills, so it’s very difficult to base things on a formula.
“You really need to go through a rating-and-evaluation process,” she continues, “in which you look at each individual and try to find out what this person realistically is able to give.”
Matt Schatzle, development director of The Ocean Conservancy in Washington, D.C., agrees, adding: “Fundraising is all about relationships, and there’s also the science behind trying to figure out what a person is capable of giving. With the general donors that we deal with on a year-in, year-out basis, we know, based on their past giving, what they’re capable of; we know what their potential is. And we balance that with their interests and the needs of the organization. [We] usually determine the amount we’re asking for on a case-by-case basis.”
It’s logical to assume that a difficult economic climate forces nonprofits to lower the ask amount. But that might not necessarily be true.
“I haven’t found that it’s changing the amount,” Lysakowski explains, “but I think nonprofits are trying to look at more options, like giving people extended periods to pay their pledges or stressing things like matching gifts or gifts of appreciated stock that has been in families for a long time.”
More directly, the economy might be affecting the way non-profits make approaches.