on 09-07-2011 4:04 PM, EDT - last edited on 09-08-2011 11:35 AM, EDT
7 Things to do When Donors Cut Back
By: Katya Andresen, Katya's Nonprofit Marketing Blog
A new survey highlighted in the Chronicle of Philanthropy has some bad news: Two-thirds of donors said they will cut back on giving this fall due to economic woes. A pathetic 17 percent of donors believed the economy is recovering, while 43 percent said it’s going to slide further down. Only one in five donors said they’d consider giving to groups they’ve never before supported.
In an odd piece of happier, outlier data, 90% of online donors said they’ll keep giving and reported a more positive economic outlook. I’m not sure what to make of that discrepancy, other than online donors are faring better in this economy.
So what does this gloomy news mean to us?
Don’t count your donors for granted. You never should, but this year, you really can’t afford to treat them poorly. This goes for companies too: Now’s the time to really care for your existing customers.
Nonprofit marketing folks: Are you doing a fabulous job thanking your existing donors? Have you told them wonderful stories about the difference they are making? Are they feeling a warm fuzzy about your cause? If not, remedy that quickly!
Remember these tips on doing that well:
1. Give your donors happiness. Donors want to feel good, especially right now. They want a helper’s high. They want to have an impact, make a difference and attain an emotional ROI. You don’t give that to them with a desperate, doom and gloom message about your dire need. Even if you’re feeling negative, there is no need to share that emotion unless there is a happy windup to your appeal. Who can the donor save? What can they make possible? How can they be a superhuman life-changer for a small sum? Tell them that. It’s good stuff. It’s motivating stuff. It works. DO NOT LOSE SIGHT OF THIS. Times are tough and if you can make people feel good about themselves and what they’ve done, that’s worth a lot to them.
2. Show value. People are pinching pennies and seeking value this year, whether in the aisles of Wal-Mart or when giving money. You need to show you’re going to be a very trustworthy, efficient and effective steward of their money, and there’s no better way to do that than to be very concrete. Where will the money go? What dollars buy what change? What good is going to result from a gift? Answer these questions many times: when a donor gives, after they give, and next time you contact them for help. Make it clear you’re tightening your belt and stretching every dollar - so donor dollars go further than ever.
3. Be flexible. Not everyone can give as they have in more prosperous times. So recognize that fact and give them flexibility in how they support you. How can they volunteer their times or talents? How can they assist you in spreading the word? How about monthly giving – modest amounts deducted from their credit cards? Make it easy for people to help, no matter how hard the times.
4. Be personal. Do everything you can to personalize your messages. Donors are going to be hit up for money left and right by desperate parties this year. If you show you see them as a person and not a walking wallet, you stand a better chance of standing out. Ask them about their interests so you can cater to them.
5. Do a great job with your online outreach - it seems perhaps donors there are in better shape. And integrate that outreach with your offline efforts and messaging.
6. Be grateful. Thank your donors for anything they can do to help - and do it often, sincerely and compellingly. Tell them what they mean to your organization.
7. Learn. If these things aren’t working at all, that tells you something. One explanation is hard times, but that’s not the whole story. If you can’t prove your relevance to donors or supporters, you have more than the anemic economy to blame. You need to call up a few folks and find out why you’re failing to connect. Or ask yourself if you are targeting the wrong audience. Or question if you need to join forces with an organization better positioned for outreach. Keep looking till you know why you’re failing – and then have the courage to fix the underlying problem. The more you think instead of panic, the better off you will be.