Throughout this recession we have been preaching to our clients, past clients, future clients, workshop attendees, and any audience that would listen to be proactive and get out there and ask for money.
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say “now is a bad time, our Board does not think we should be soliciting people now.” But I can tell you that there has never been a more wrong and potentially destructive strategy in the nonprofit sector since someone hijacked the Field of Dreams line – “if you build it they will come” and applied it to capital campaigns as “if we build it they will give” (another topic for another day).
There is a lot of fear in the world right now and nothing clouds judgment more than fear (ok, maybe love, but it’s a close call). Many people are projecting their own fear, or even their own real financial losses and struggles, onto everyone and using that as the basis to slow or stop fund raising. Well, everyone is not treated equally in the good times or the bad times and while stories of suffering are easy to find, there are also people out there who are holding there own and even thriving in these tough times. Don’t make the mistake of using your own fears as the basis for making decisions for your donors. Yes, there may be people who can’t afford to give you as much this year or maybe can’t afford to give at all – but shouldn’t that be their decision to make, rather than yours.
The single most important thing to be doing right now is talking with your donors, communicating your needs and seeking their assistance. A recent national survey of individuals indicated that more than 50% were planning NO REDUCTION in their charitable giving for 2009. Some (and hopefully most) of your donors fall into that category and if you are not talking with them and seeking their continued support, you can be assured that someone else is seeking those dollars.
There are bright spots in the world of philanthropy if you just look for them. In just the last week we saw the news reported that a “mystery donor” had made gifts to at least nine universities totaling more than $45 million, and the schools had to promise not to try to find out the giver’s identity. I don’t know who the donor is, but I do know that had these universities stopped fund raising and telling the story of their needs, they would not have been selected for these grants.
Don’t stop telling your story and communicating your needs. You never know when your donors – or mystery donor – might be listening.