In tough economic times, what’s a fundraiser to do?

Back in April, I addressed the question of what boards of faith-based nonprofits should be doing in these tough economic times. My answer: What they should have been doing all along. Now here comes Nancy Schwartz over at the Getting Attention blog with similar advice to fundraisers.

Unless you’re a complete masochist, you’ll want to fast forward through the gloomy stuff with which Nancy begins her article. You know the drill. The economy has tanked. People are feeling anxious. Giving is flat. Yada yada yada.

So what’s a fundraiser to do? According to Nancy, it all comes down to four words: get personal to get relevant.

It’s really very simple, and something that you probably do on a personal level all the time: Getting to know and understand others with whom you want to build a friendship, learning what’s important to them and how their days go, then connecting with them by focusing on what’s important or interesting to both of you—via a platform (cell phone, text or visit), at a time that of mutual convenience. Once you get started, you factor in the way your relationship evolves to figure out the next step.


Within organizations where growing givers’ hearts is a priority, it’s all the more important that donors have opportunities to touch and see the work they are supporting. Care must be taken to create a context in which the spark of passion shown by a first-time gift or an e-mail inquiry can grow. Where this is happening, the fundraising team is intentional about relating to donors and others in ways that allow space and time for God’s work in each heart.

Fundraisers who understand their work as ministry don’t just talk about the organization and its needs. They create opportunities for people to actively participate and to experience what the ministry does. They seek to move constituents from the stance of mere donors to that of enthusiastic evangelists for the cause.

Sounds obvious, I know.  After all, the Christian faith is all about relationship — beginning with the one central, eternal relationship between God and God’s human children and sustained by many relationships. It should follow then that donor relations would be a top priority for faith-based organizations. Yet many donors, including within nonprofits with a ministry focus, describe themselves as ignored, disrespected, and hungry for follow-up information.

The good news, as Nancy notes in her blog post, is that “since getting it right is rare, doing so is valued all the more.” You can count on it, regardless the economic times.

What's your take on this topic?

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