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A Survival Kit for Fundraising in Challenging Times (Updated May 25, 2011)

A tumultuous economy or unexpected challenge at your organization can present unique opportunities to adapt and grow in your nonprofit fundraising. AFP has compiled a toolkit of resources to advise and guide fundraisers in challenging times. 

Recent AFP articles and research:

**View the latest white papers from the AFP Information Exchange with valuable advice and tips on fundraising!**

"Creating a Healthy Prospect Pipeline"
By Nicole Nakoneshny
AFP eWire
April 12, 2011
Ask any good fundraiser why it's important for an organization to maintain a healthy pipeline of prospects, and they will basically give you the same answer.  While the words may be different, the key theme is that as a fundraising operation, your pipeline is your lifeblood.  It, along with your case for support, is the foundation upon which the success of your fundraising is built.

"What Psychology Can Teach Us About Major Donor Fundraising"
AFP eWire
April 5, 2011
Before they will even consider making a gift, donors often have specific expectations that have to be met. Do you have sound financial reserves? Do you have a track record of past success? According to psychologists, no matter how good you are at making the ask, you will hear a quick "no" unless you address these concerns.

"The Power of the Volunteer"
AFP eWire
Jan. 25, 2011
With the right support, volunteers can do more than any number of staff can do--it's just a matter of harnessing their potential.

"Hosting a Gala Event? Find Out What Works"
AFP eWire
Nov. 16, 2010
Thanks to new research, there are concrete steps which event planners can take when planning their next event. With a few fresh perspectives, your next event could be the best of the season and help you reach your fundraising goals.

"Study Shows Direct Mail is a More Important Driver to Online Giving than Online Communications"
AFP eWire
Oct. 19, 2010
More than twice as many online donors say they were prompted to give an online gift in response to a direct mail appeal compared to when they received an e-appeal, according to a national study.

"The Top 10 Mistakes in Fundraising Campaigns"
AFP eWire
Sept. 28, 2010
Is your fundraising campaign fizzling? Whether you are stalled or just moving slower than you would like, there are some common mistakes that you can diagnose now before your campaign sputters to a stop.

"Top 10 Ways to Boost Online Giving at Year-End"
AFP eWire
Dec. 1, 2009
Author and fundraising consultant Gail Perry offers advice to fundraisers on how to ramp up online giving in the final months of the year.

"Tricks of the Trade: Integrate the "4 Ps" of Traditional Marketing into Your Plan"
AFP eWire
Nov. 24, 2009
Any traditional marketing 101 course will tell you about the magical quartet that composes the music of the marketing mix: price, product, placement and promotion (or, the "Four Ps"). Find out how to incorporate for-profit strategies into your marketing.

"Tips on Cost Effective Media Relations"
AFP eWire Skill Builder
Nov. 17, 2009
Having a media relations program at your organization is essential for growth and success. If you don't have a thriving media program yet, the good news is that you don't have to spend a fortune. You do, however, need to invest your time and some good old fashioned TLC.

Fundraising in a Difficult Economy
AFP White Paper
AFP has developed a document that contains tips and advice for charities trying to raise funds in the current economic environment.

Preparing an Airtight Script for the Major-Gift Ask
AFP eWire Skill Builder
June 2, 2009
Laura Fredricks, author of The Ask, describes the elements of an effective script for a major gift ask—to be used by a fundraiser, board member or volunteer. Learn why writing a good script is essential.

Funder Perspective: Ways to Build Stronger Ties With Foundations
AFP eWire Skill Builder

May 5, 2009
Sometimes for a foundation, making a grant to an organization is a lot like sending a child to college. What are they really doing with the large investment you’ve made? This week eWire spoke with two seasoned foundation leaders about what they are looking for in a grantmaker-grantee relationship.

Leadership Skills Demanded By Today’s Economy
AFP eWire Skill Builder
April 6, 2009
By Derrick Feldmann
Achieve LLC
Today’s nonprofit leaders face tough decisions regarding programs, staffing and budgets, all while ensuring they are meeting the needs of their community. Read what qualities are needed in this new landscape.   

Nonprofit Leaders Containing Costs, Retaining Staff
AFP eWire Skill Builder
April 6, 2009
Despite the tough economic times, many nonprofit organizations are taking steps to shore up their bottom line without sacrificing their missions—and their leaders are treating layoffs as a last resort, a survey shows.   

Weathering the Storm Together: How to Build Stronger Ties With Donors in Tough Economic Times
AFP eWire Skill Builder
Jan. 26, 2009
By Derrick Feldmann
Achieve LLC
During tough economic times, organizations often take two approaches. Some hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. Others step up efforts and bring donors in.

“Direct Response: Ways to Cut Costs, Not Returns”
AFP eWire Skill Builder
Jan. 12, 2009
Looking to tune up your direct-mail campaign and trim down expenses? Before you start loosening screws and removing parts, read this advice from a veteran direct-response expert.

"Face the Economy With Sharpened Focus, Solid Strategy"
AFP eWire
Dec. 15, 2008
As they face tough financial decisions, donors want to give to organizations that have a clear, mission-driven strategy. Are you making a strong enough case? Are you taking a critical look at your programs for ways to best reach donors?

"Strategies for Overcoming the Global Financial Crisis"
AFP eWire
Oct. 27, 2008
Nearly 100 leading fundraisers from around the world have provided new strategies and tactics for charities to survive and prosper in the current global financial crisis.

"Fundraising Tips: Do’s and Don’ts in a Troubled Economy"
AFP eWire
Sept. 22, 2008
Greeted every morning with news of falling stocks and debates on whether the U.S. economy is in recession, charitable spending right now is likely not on the top of many donors’ priorities—a daunting thought for fundraisers looking for strong fourth quarter income.

"Resilient Philanthropy"
By Bradford W. Voigt, CFRE
Advancing Philanthropy
September/October 2008
How various economic scenarios affect giving in the United States

“Charitable Giving and Inflation"
By Jackie Boice
Advancing Philanthropy
September/October 2008
Research by the Giving USA Foundation examines how charitable giving stacks up against the rate of inflation during tough economic times.

“The Shifting Bottom Line: How the economy affects giving”
By Paul Lagasse
Advancing Philanthropy
January/February 2008
According to Paul G. Schervish, John J. Havens and Albert Keith Whitaker at the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy at Boston College, “A sense of financial security has a strong positive relation to charitable giving. Why? At the least, [because of] a growing ability and desire among people who have settled the economic question for themselves and their heirs to discern their discretionary resources and to invest that surplus in socially and spiritually purposive ways. For this reason, a growing and vibrant economy that fills the desires for family well-being is an indispensable ally of philanthropy.” So what happens when philanthropy’s “indispensable ally”—that “growing and vibrant economy”—appears to defect?

“Enjoy the Ride! How to effectively raise funds in a roller-coaster economy”
By Mary Ellen Collins
Advancing Philanthropy
January/February 2008
The price of oil has been skyrocketing, the housing market continues to flounder and the stock market is more than jittery. How do such economic realities affect your donors, who may be prompted to think twice—or three times—before writing a check to a favorite charity? When development professionals work to raise funds in an economic roller coaster, is there a foolproof fundraising plan that will keep supporters on board for the entire ride? While you may think that highly specific, special skills are needed, experienced professionals agree that the best strategies for achieving success in an unpredictable economic environment can be found in the basics of Fundraising 101.

Articles from various sources collected by the AFP Fundraising Resource Center:

“Finance and Budgeting Tips for Young Nonprofit Workers”
By Regina Mahone, PhilanTopic Blog
Notes from the March 22, 2010, Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) event "How to Live on a Nonprofit Salary: The Ins and Outs of Personal Finance for the Nonprofit Professional," led by Dana Skallman, financial adviser and board chair of YNPN-NYC.

“Raising Money During Challenging Times”
By Lawrence Henze, managing director of Target Analytics, a Blackbaud Company
“While I cannot offer a ‘quick fix’ to the economy, I can discuss the effects the recession may have on the nonprofit community, and, most importantly, suggest strategies for continuing fundraising success in these times,” writes Henze in this white paper.

“Communication Key to Recession Fundraising”
By Todd Cohen
Philanthropy Journal
Jan. 15, 2009
AFP Chair Robbe Healey recently spoke with online news publication Philanthropy Journal to explain the importance of donor cultivation and stewardship in a recession. 

Fundraising in a Tough Economy
January 2009
A white paper and action plan template from Achieve in Indianapolis, Ind.

Tough Times Essentials
Charity Village
A compendium of articles guiding nonprofits through a tough economy from Canadian online news source

“And Now for Something Different About Nonprofits and the Economy”
By Jan Masaoka
Blue Avocado blog
Jan. 1, 2009
Some new and different advice to nonprofits for coping with the bad economy.

“Nonprofit Organization Survival Tips: Surviving and Thriving in Tough Economic Times”
By Seth Bloom
Bloom Consulting Inc.
Advice for nonprofits in several areas, including fundraising, for overcoming the challenges of a bad economy.

"Fundraising in Tough Times: A No-Nonsense Guide to Surviving in a Challenging Economy"
By Dan Doyle and Mal Warwick
Mal Warwick Associates
December 2008
An “unorthodox” analysis of fundraising in a bad economy with practical advice. Link includes a reading list and a PDF download of the report.

Strategic Responses to the Crisis (McKinsey Quarterly
In a series of articles by its consultants and outside contributors, international consulting firm McKinsey & Company explores the managerial implications of the global financial crisis, including articles on addressing uncertainty and structural shocks, rethinking marketing, and how global executives surveyed by the Quarterly are coping. Free registration required for all articles.

“More Fundraising Strategies to Tackle a Recession”
From Graham-Pelton Consulting
How can your organization respond in a positive way to current economic challenges? This white paper offers 12 strategies to help you keep both your short-term and long-term fundraising goals on track.

"The Nonprofit’s Guide to Surviving a Downturn"
By Robin Pogrebin
The New York Times
Nov. 10, 2008
In its special section, Giving, the Times discusses need in a shrinking economy and new approaches by charities to help communities.

“Recession-Proof Your Fundraising”
The Resource Alliance
By Kevin Kibble
In past economic downturns nonprofits have fared much better than other sectors and the last recession proved to be a buoyant time for those who were prepared to have the courage of their convictions and make the most of the opportunities to fundraise. So how should charities, and fundraisers in particular, react to the changing financial landscape to protect their income?

“Succeed at Fundraising Despite a Recession”
By Marc A. Pitman, CFCC
How will this economic climate affect your favorite nonprofit? Will you fulfill your mission or will you fold? That depends on whether you make these deadly mistakes: spend less on fundraising, become pessimistic, apologize when you’re asking.

“Three Suggestions for Raising Money in Tough Economic Times”
By Jim Berigan
Asking people to donate money is never an easy task. In tough economic times, it’s even more difficult. If people are struggling to pay their mortgage and utilities, how can they find any extra for your organization? I, like many of you in the non-profit sector, have had to exist in this challenging reality for a number of years now. Here are a few ideas that have helped me make ends meet when our donor base is struggling.

“Eight Ways Your Organization Can Cope With the Recession”
By Mal Warwick
It’s time to consider how your organization can continue to thrive despite the fast-weakening economy. So let’s focus on the simple steps you can take as a chief executive, a trustee or a development officer.

Resource Toolkits Compiled By Other Organizations:

Focus on the Economy
From the Foundation Center
A list of additional web resources on the economy and philanthropy offered by various organizations in the philanthropic sector.

Books available in the AFP Bookstore:

Donor-Centered Planned Gift Marketing (AFP Fund Development Series) by Michael J. Rosen, CFRE (Wiley 2011) paperback, 347 pages

Effective Donor Relations (AFP Fund Development Series) by Janet L. Hedrick (Wiley 2008) paperback, 246 pages

Building Donor Loyalty: The Fundraiser’s Guide to Increasing Lifetime Value by Adrian Sargeant and Elaine Jay (Jossey-Bass, 2004), hardcover, 224 pages

Donor Centered Fundraising by Penelope Burk (Cygnus Applied Research Inc., 2003), paperback,227 pages

Donor-Focused Strategies for Annual Giving by Karla A. Williams, ACFRE (Jones & Bartlett Publishers, 2004), paperback, 287 pages

The 11 Questions Every Donor Asks and the Answers All Donors Crave by Harvey McKinnon (Emerson & Church, 2008), paperback, 112 pages

Fundraising in Times of Crisis by Kim Klein (Jossey-Bass, 2003), paperback, 192 pages

Keep Your Donors: The Guide to Better Communications and Stronger Relationships (AFP Fund Development Series) by Tom Ahern and Simone Joyauax (Wiley, 2007), hardcover, 480 pages

People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 Charities by Ted Hart, James Greenfield and Sheeraz D. Haji (Wiley, 2007), hardcover, 262 pages

Winning Gifts: Make Your Donors Feel Like Winners (AFP Fund Development Series) by Thomas D. Wilson (Wiley, 2008), hardcover, 336 pages

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