Raising Money in Hard Times

The Chronicle of Philanthropy offers these 10 Fund-Raising Approaches for Thriving in the Recession (paid subscription required):

Don’t treat giving as a financial transaction

Many arts organizations, public-broadcasting stations, sports booster clubs, and other nonprofit groups offer special perks to donors, such as season tickets or DVD sets. Others send invoice-like reminders to people who have made multi-year pledges to ambitious campaigns. Especially in a bad economy, experts warn, any approach that seems more like a…

Keep close ties to donors

Don’t see every contact with a donor as an opportunity to ask for money. Show donors what was accomplished with their money and how much it means to a charity.

Offer matching grants

Many charities are now offering to match donations to give people an extra incentive to make a gift. The matching money is usually provided by an individual or foundation. Some charities offer to match the gifts of individuals who have never contributed before or to donors who increase their contribution by a certain percentage.

Ask donors to give monthly

Some charities are trying to persuade donors who tend to give once or twice a year to make monthly donations. They urge donors to let the organization automatically bill their credit card for a specific amount or authorize a bank withdrawal every month.

Look for ways to save money on fund raising

Charities are reducing fund-raising expenses by cutting back on travel, training, filling open positions, and other staff costs. They are also canceling or slashing expenses of special events and replacing direct mail and other marketing efforts with online appeals and Web efforts.

Seek alternatives to soliciting private donations

In recent months, many charities have been experimenting with new ways to get beyond solicitations from private and government sources. Some are developing products related to their missions that can be sold to individuals or businesses. Others are charging for services such as renting or leasing space in their building or on their property.

Collaborate to raise money

By working with one or more other charities on fund-raising events and other efforts, a nonprofit group can attract more contributions and produce more publicity and public awareness than it could manage on its own. And by sharing fund-raising costs, the charities can all save money.

Scale back ambitious campaigns, but don’t give up on them

A growing number of charities are delaying capital campaigns that had been in the planning stages. But fund-raising experts say that most big campaigns, which often last five to seven years, will go on for longer than any economic downturn is likely to last. Instead of postponing a campaign indefinitely, they say, charities can consider…

Avoid emergency solicitations

Emergency appeals that ask for donations to keep a charity or a program afloat financially can backfire by giving donors the impression that the organization is not well managed and likely to fail, experts say. The same is true of frequent urgent appeals.

Shore up relations with grant makers

Many foundations and government agencies say they will give the same amount this year as they did last year, but they plan to reduce grants and contracts in 2010 because of falling endowments and tax revenue. Some charities are acting now to reach out to such grant makers in the hopes of influencing their choices about who gets money next year.