Many religious and nonprofit organizations continue to experience the lingering effects of the recent U.S. economic recession. Professional fundraisers agree that the best strategies for successful fundraising during unpredictable economic times involve foundational elements of philanthropic fundraising. The following strategies can help organizations manage the challenges successfully.
- Appealing Mission Statement—a dynamic and unique mission appeals to people’s interest in the value of the organization and the causes it supports.
Individuals need to know their contributions to the organizations and programs they support, make a difference because these entities are making a difference in the wider world. Leaders must be prepared–individually and collectively–to articulate the organization’s mission, purposes and vision in appealing and compelling ways that elicit high levels of interest, giving, and support.
- Acknowledge the impact of the economy on the organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.
Nurturing relational bonds between your networks, with congregations, the wider faith organization, and potential funding partner organizations is essential. It is important for contributors to know the organization is in alignment with the values and activities that matter to them. Careful tracking of giving activity is necessary. Leaders can watch for warning signs or trends that suggest unpredicted shortfalls or financial distress.
- Avoid dramatic shifts in fundraising methods and changes in staffing.
Most small organizations rely on their professional and support staff to maintain week-to-week functions, particularly record-keeping and finance. At times of heightened anxiety and needs can increase and feel more urgent.. Staff and lay leaders must work together to develop and model effective fundraising methods and stewardship practices to sustain them for the long term.
- Keep public relations and marketing strong.
Work to increase your visibility through a well designed website, public witness, media coverage, and partnering with other organizations with common values. Website development resources for congregations can be found online at http://www.uua.org/communications/
- Keep the organization “recession-proof” by spreading the enthusiasm about what the organization is doing.
As leaders, it is essential to talk in positive ways about your organization: what you are excited about, how the organization is supported financially, and what you are doing to make good things happen. Those in staff and leadership roles interact with many people—in local communities, congregations, districts, and nationally—as representatives of both your congregation and your faith. Your enthusiasm will catch peoples’ interest and attract those seeking affiliation with organizations making a positive difference in the world.
- Practice openness and accountability.
Share information about how contributions are used to fulfill the organization’s mission and purpose. Educate donors and volunteers about the importance supporting the causes you stand for over time. This information should be readily available upon request or in general ways on your website.
- Meet regularly with donors, if possible, informing them of the organization’s needs. Invite questions.
A relational approach to fundraising is essential to sustain the highest levels of generosity and giving to the organization. Regular personal contacts throughout the year via phone, email, and postal mail are critical to promoting strong relational ties to the organization, the wider faith, and partner organizations. Individual volunteers and donors need to know they are valued and important to the organization beyond any financial contributions they make. Saying “Thank You” in as many ways possible is a priority.
Remember that fundraising requires a highly relational approach that demonstrates the organization’s commitment to its mission and to those who care about and are impacted by its mission.
STEPS TO CREATING A FUNDRAISING PLAN FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION
Identify six fundraising priorities, with three action steps for each priority area—
Put your fundraising plan in writing, using the following format and information:
- Estimate the costs of your fundraising program—
- Develop a timeline for your plan—
- Identify your funding sources—
- Evaluate your plan at regular intervals—
- Adjust plan as needed—
- Celebrate successes–
Compiled by Laurel Amabile and inspired by an Advancing Philanthropy article by Mary Ellen Collins, Enjoy the Ride: How to effectively raise funds in a roller-coaster economy (2009)
Resources to help with your congregation’s stewardship and fundraising efforts:
UUA Congregational Stewardship Services and Forward Through The Ages Year-round Stewardship Programs: http://www.uua.org/directory/staff/congregationallife/congregationalstewardship/index.php
Resources for Nurturing Generosity: http://www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/generosity/index.shtml