Dear Kim:

What do we KNOW about how this economic downturn is going to affect year-end fundraising?  I read all kinds of studies and opinions and they contradict each other.  Some people (like you, I believe) think this downturn is not going to have a huge effect on individual giving, but other people seem to say that giving is going to go way down.  I know foundations are cutting way back and there is a lot more competition. How do I take all this into account?  I don’t know how to plan and am finding it hard to set appropriate goals.

~Living in the Land of Not Knowing

Dear Not Knowing:

You are probably more informed than I am about what everyone is saying about this economy, so I won’t do a literature review here.

There is also what we KNOW and what be believe will be true in the future, and those are not the same things.

This is what I know:

1)    Organizations need money to operate

2)    Seven out of ten Americans give away money

3)    Not everyone who is asked gives, but way more people give when they are asked than when they are not.

Remember that the economy, although very important, is only one variable in determining how well or badly an organization will do with fundraising.   If the economy were the only—or even the most important—variable every organization would be having a hard time.  But many organizations are having a good year this year and some are even having a banner year and raising more than ever. Others are finding fundraising a little more difficult, but still do-able, while some are finding that fundraising is really hard this year.   If you want your organization to do well, you need to convey a lot of excitement about your work and how important it is, and that you need to be in touch with donors other than when you want money from them.  You need to have a lot of ways for people to give, and you need to show appreciation for every gift.

To make year-end plans, look at how your year has gone so far.  How did your other appeals do compared to last year?  How successful are you in acquiring new donors?  Have you been able to build more and more personal relationships with your most loyal donors?  Your year-end fundraising should do at least as well and probably better than the fundraising you have done all year.

Every year there are “reasons” why an organization is not going to be able to raise the money it needs.  In the last few years, they have included: a presidential election, a series of horrendous weather events like Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami and a huge earthquake, the war on terror, the stock market crash (’87, ’02, ’08).   Certainly these are not insignificant, but organizations that soldier on, doing their work, asking for money, are able to survive in good times and bad.

Good luck!

~Kim Klein