Non-Profits Report Continued Donation Troubles

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  • Author Joe Didonato
  • Published February 22, 2011
  • Word count 568

Fundraising troubles continue to plague the non-profit sector as many organizations report widespread declines in their contributions and other funding sources. Compounding the effect is that most of these same non-profits are experiencing increased demand for their services.

A November 2010 study on fundraising prepared by GuideStar and their partners at The Non-Profit Research Collaborative, stated that decreases in charitable contributions proved to be the norm for charities in the Health, Public-Society Benefit, and Religion sectors. The study went on to say that these affected organizations were coping with the situation by implementing cut-backs in program services, operating hours, salaries, and personnel.

These types of cut-backs are typical for most non-profits. The initial reaction for most boards of directors is to curtail programs or replace staff with volunteers. But that mindset assumes a limited number of venues to raise money for an organization, and usually sets into motion a downward spiral of further cut-backs.

With a little work, you will find that there are many ways to compensate for declining contributions. Watching the out-pour of dollars for some of the recent earthquake victims should tell you that there is no finite amount of donations that everyone must compete for. By implementing a few changes to your current fundraising events and funding strategies, you'll usually find that there were more contribution dollars available to you in your community. So how does an organization proceed?

One of the best ways is to brainstorm and compile a comprehensive list of fundraising ideas, including alternative funding strategies such as Planned Giving venues, or Cause-Related Marketing campaigns. You'll want to do that before your next fundraising committee meeting, as well as let your committee review the list beforehand.

If you're thinking that Planned Giving or Cause Marketing strategies are only for large organizations, you'll be pleased to find out that many can be implemented pretty easily. One of the simplest planned giving programs is to ask your board members to consider making your organization a 1-2% benefactor in one of their existing life insurance policies. That's a five-minute exercise - with little resistance - for most board members, but in the long haul, it will pay off big and get you through future bad economic times.

Once your fundraising idea list is together, you will also want to do a brief summary of each of those ideas so that committee members clearly understand each event or funding mechanism. Arrange to get your group together for a weekend retreat, and make sure that none of the usual disruptions are present, such as cell phones and email. Assign someone to facilitate the process, or hire a professional facilitator. This approach will generally produce a dozen or more ideas that will help your organization raise the funding necessary to avoid cutting back on services or personnel.

Don't underestimate the power of showing video examples of successful events being run by other organizations. YouTube can be a source for many examples, once your list is put together. Examples of how to do these event summaries, along with videos can be seen at Three of the video examples on the website are a Bowl-A-Thon that raised over $90,000; a Golf Ball Drop fundraiser from a helicopter; and one mom's efforts to raise money for her daughter's Autism treatments by getting 99 women to help her put together a naked 'cheesecake' calendar.

Link to GuideStar Report: November 2010 Fundraising Report.

Joe DiDonato is a senior executive whose background spans both the for-profit and non-profit worlds and whose experience ranges from staff and management functions to CEO and Board positions. Joe spends most of his time today writing and consulting, with a special interest in facilitating "Fundraising Retreats" for non-profits, school and religious organizations.

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