Survival Guide for Nonprofit Organizations

How do you keep your nonprofit financially stable when the economy has taken a dip and donors have cold feet? Weathering a bad economy sharpen your focus and improve your efficiencies.

Here are several suggestions to consider for the economic bad times.

1. Don’t pull back on fundraising during a “Recession?”

Just as companies need to keep advertising during a downturn to keep their names before the public, nonprofits will gain nothing by retreating. Not only should you not retreat, you should become even more focused in your efforts. Look at your lists again, sharpen your case, get more personal, and cultivate your donors within an inch of your life.

2. Let your donors know that those you help are in more need than ever.

No matter how a donor may be hurt by an economic downturn, the disadvantaged are damaged far more and have less opportunity to recover.

3. Find the stories that will touch the hearts of your donors.

Now, more than ever, search out the personal testimonies of your clients and let them speak to your donors in their own words. Don’t sink into begging, but show the shared humanity between donors and those served.

4. Stay in touch with people who have stopped giving.

It is much better to keep in touch with lapsed donors. Keeping up communications will help those donors to resume giving when they can, once again, afford it. They will feel close to those nonprofits with which they have an unbroken relationship.

5. Find new donors in industries that are still thriving.

Recessions don’t affect everyone. Some businesses are fairly recession-proof. Look for money where other organizations are not. Keep up with the business press in order to spot those companies that are still doing well.

6. Take the opportunity to lower fundraising costs.

For instance, eschew an expensive fundraising event and go directly to your donors for their help. Wrap a simple, low-cost mailing around the fact that you are lowering overhead by skipping the event, and ask for a direct gift that will put more services and money into your clients’ lives. Do the same with your publications. Ask donors to help you devote more of their donor dollars to direct service.

7. Cut costs

In tough times, it can be just as important to cut costs as to raise revenue. But don’t cut costs in a way that will impair your organization’s long-term health or ability to achieve its core mission. Take a look at what is working well and what isn’t; what is essential to the mission and what isn’t. Cut the extraneous, the unfocused, and the inefficient.

8. Take a new look at projects you intended to raise money for.

If the project is not “essential,” perhaps it should be postponed. A new building project, while desirable, might not be the best project right now.

Think, rather, about services that go on despite a recession or even intensify. Perhaps scholarships would be an easier thing for donors to support. Books for children in underserved areas and playgrounds in the inner city seem more worthwhile than an endowment fund in uncertain economic times.

Don’t worry about changing course. Let your donors know, and explain why. If your reasoning is good and heartfelt, your donors will come along with you. You will not only do more good, but keep donors engaged until better times come along.


Karmen A. Booker is an Attorney, Business Consultant and Owner of Compu-Perfect Professional Services, a business consulting firm specializing in Business Entity Formation (Corporations, Limited Liability Companies, and Nonprofit Corporations), Completing 501(c)(3) Federal Tax Exemption Applications, Grant Research and Writing services, and more.

Attorney Karmen A. Booker has developed the  “Nonprofit Sample Templates” e-book that provides templates for the following:

  • Sample Mission Statements
  • Sample Business Plans
  • Sample Donor Solicitation Letter
  • Sample Thank You Donor Letter
  • Sample Press Release
  • Sample Letter of Inquiry
  • Sample Corporate Donation Letter
  • Sample Board Member Application
  • Sample Board Member Agreement
  • Sample Volunteer Application
  • Sample Volunteer Agreement

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