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Tips and Perspective for Charities and Fundraisers

The last two years have been an extremely difficult and challenging time for charities. While it’s easy to let panic and uncertainty set in, many people in the community are looking to charities for leadership and assurance.

AFP offers some tips and perspective below as charities and fundraisers continue to inspire donors to give back and support their communities.

  • Yes, we can!  As the leaders of development efforts around the world, fundraisers must ensure that they keep their cool and do not panic. But perhaps even more important is ensuring that others associated with the organization—staff, board members, volunteers and key supporters instrumental to your fundraising efforts—do the same. You can still raise money, you can still meet your mission and you can still identify new donors. But many people may still be a bit shocked about the economic situation and unsure about how to proceed. The fundraiser must lead by example through words and action.
  • Be candid. Ensure your colleagues and volunteers maintain their perspective by being “realistically optimistic.” Nearly everyone is affected in some way by the current economic situation. Talk frankly, but optimistically, about what is happening to your organization and what lies ahead. Volunteers and staff need to know the challenges—and opportunities—that your organization faces, especially from a fundraising perspective. Ignorance is NOT bliss. Board members and senior staff especially need to know how your organization’s fundraising is faring so their expectations are not inflated. They also need to know the resources you need to be successful so they don’t make panic cuts and eliminate important programs.
  • Stay positive. Your organization may well face an “emergency” or “crisis” during these difficult times, but what is more important is to show that you have a plan and are taking steps to address that emergency or crisis. Philanthropists will respond to community need, but they will be hesitant to invest if the message you are sending them is that the organization might not be around tomorrow.
  • Focus on the long-term. In tough times, for-profit companies accept short-term reduced growth, focus on their strengths and plan for longer-term overall growth. In a similar fashion, charities should take the long-term approach. Continue to market and conduct bequest and legacy programs, even if it’s likely you won’t get much benefit this year. Also important is stewarding previous donors who are not able to give now, but may be able to give in the future when the economy improves. 
  • YOU have control! Remember that you are not at the mercy of the economy and blind luck. The decisions made by charities have more influence on their future success than anything the economy might do. You have a significant amount of control over your charity’s fundraising fortunes. Good strategic and tactical decisions, made through due diligence and consultation with colleagues, volunteers and supporters, will most often result in positive numbers over the long term. 

For more ideas and guidance, click here to see some of AFP’s Fundraising in a Difficult Economy Toolkit.

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