Rethinking fundraising in a recession

No matter where we turn today, fundraising department directors are being asked to do more with less. This is not a new request for most nonprofits in day-to-day environments, much less than in previous periods of economic downturns. The question now is: Do we cut the budget further and double down on large, historically generous donors and tightened geographic market segments, or should we toss out the history and focus on volume and lower costs of communication?

Of course, not everything from the past is outmoded, we still have to question the value proposition of appeals and fine tune list segments, but these steps are not enough. To weather this recession, it will be necessary to identify who and where your generous donors are and to prioritize the solicitation vehicles for reaching them in very new ways.

National nonprofits need to remember unemployment rates from state to state and at different times. The housing sector is contracting everywhere, but the level of mortgage default is quite varied state to state. For example, California, Florida, Nevada, and Michigan have been hit hard, while Oklahoma has seem very little contraction in home value.

Clearly the nest egg and retirement prospects for baby boomers have been dramatically reduced by the sharp drop in equity and housing values. Thus recent economic shifts have resulted in the need to turn databases into micromarkets, each with different time horizons for increased generosity.