Fundraising during an economic downturn: Eleven ways to keep a charity afloat when times are tough

2020 has already been one of the most unsettled years for charities across Australia, and indeed, the globe. While life is slowly starting to return to its new version of normal, the rest of this year and the short-term future remains uncertain for the economic climate.

2020 has already been one of the most unsettled years for charities across Australia, and indeed, the globe.

While life is slowly starting to return to its new version of normal, the rest of this year and the short-term future remains uncertain for the economic climate.

When donors face a potential downturn in the economy, charitable giving is often one of the first luxury expenses to get crossed off the list. This knowledge has understandably left many charities concerned.

Remain consistent with key messaging and choose a powerful case study as you always would. Of course, certainly acknowledge the current economic climate and the way it may have impacted donors, but steer clear of building the whole appeal around it.

The reality is that donors aren’t interested in your financial situation, they’re interested in how those you help have been impacted. Keep this at the core of messaging.

2. Build the monthly giving program

If you’re aware the economy is going to downturn, now is the time to build monthly giving. A donor is less likely to cancel an automatic gift than they are to say ‘yes’ to an extra expense during times of uncertainty. Automatic giving is as close to guaranteed income that you can get t help charities budget into the future.

3. Get discerning about your fundraising programs

If you have to make budget cuts or if capacity is decreased, it might be worth excluding some of the less lucrative fundraising programs for the financial year. Analyse reports from the past two to five years and assess whether the financial output is relative to monetary gain for each program or initiative. This isn’t necessarily a permanent move but will help identify where to focus attention to achieve the highest financial gain.

4. Stick to what you know!

Successful fundraising is part science and part art but now might be the time to reign in the creative ideas. Use this time to stick to things that you know work without testing new ideas or taking unnecessary risks. That doesn’t mean you have to move away from new ideas completely, but decide which of those can be revisited at another time.

5. Utilise social media

Social media platforms are accessible by everyone. Not only do they give the potential to spread important messaging far and wide, but most importantly, they’re free. Design a social media strategy and share messaging about your cause posting frequently and consistently. Your audience is present on social media and that won’t change regardless of the economy. Utilising social media is also an excellent opportunity to build a following for when the market takes a turn for the better.

6 Say thank you

If supporters can’t currently offer financial support, you can be sure there’s no one sorrier than they are. Continue showing gratitude at every opportunity and never make a donor feel bad if they can’t help you. Once finances are in a better position, donors will remember those they wanted to support but couldn’t, and your charity needs to be top of that list.

7. Highlight other ways to help

While financial support may be your priority, there are still other ways people can support when funds are low. Empower donors to support through volunteering, holding events or even simply sharing social media posts. This period is an ideal opportunity to strengthen relationships and engage with supporters on other levels.

8. Connect

Just because financial support may no longer be the main outcome, you should still regularly contact donors to check in with them. The economic downturn will be a source of stress for many of your supporters and they need to know you genuinely care. SupporterHub provides an automated email marketing tool which allows you to design, implement and analyse communication campaigns to assist with creating content the audience will respond to.

9. Don’t make long-term decisions based on a short-term situation

Of course, no one can accurately predict how long an economic downturn will last, but don’t make financial decisions out of panic. You may well have to scale back in some areas but it’s still important you have staff and resources available to work on prospecting and stewarding donors. These are the essential elements that need to be in play once the market strengthens. If you need to reduce hours or wind back budgets, make decisions based on what is least likely to impact long-term strategies when things pick up.

10. Focus on higher-end donors

It makes sense that during this time you focus on the top of the giving period where fewer donors can make a bigger impact. Major donors, grants, mid-level donors and corporate sponsors should remain a priority. Even if they can’t give at that time, building genuine engagement will mean that as soon as they’re able, the gift will be yours. If you’re carrying out costly direct mail appeals, assess the ROI per donor and consider whether to remove the lower level donors completely.

11. Focus on improving systems

Having to get selective about the programs you run is an excellent opportunity to decide which systems can be improved and identify those which no longer serve you. SupporterHub is an integrated software as a service platform that will help streamline systems, increase efficiencies, build donor-charity relationships and improve fundraising outcomes.

Your mission is just as important through an economic downturn as ever so it’s important to remain focussed and flexible to achieve realistic targets.

Due to the unpredictability of the current economy, we have extended our FREE trial period to help charities get ahead from a technology perspective during these current uncertain times. To find out more

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