Fundraising in a downturn – 5 fundraising tips to help you keep going!

Here are five top tips from a fundraising professional!

It’s a challenging time out there for many of our supporters. The perfect storm of rising costs across just about all their regular outgoings (mortgages, energy, travel, food) has required many people to make economies. But don’t despair! Here are five tips to help you keep bringing in the crucial resources for your mission.  

1.  Keep asking 

As fundraisers, we need to hold our nerve at times like this. We need to remember that the people our charities exist to serve are nearly always in a more difficult position than those who are kind enough to lend them a hand by supporting our services. As ever, but crucially now, show the link between their donations and the work that they enable. Remember it feels wonderful to give and to make someone’s life better, and never more so in the toughest of times. 

2. Don’t assume everyone is in the same position  

Increased costs are impacting everyone, but the extent of the impact is very different across the spectrum of supporters. I wouldn’t recommend referencing the cost of living crisis for supporters in fundraising copy. Don’t put barriers in the way of people helping. However, for many charities, the impact this is having on the lives of the people they work with is enormous, so explain that clearly, and ask for help. Supporters know whether or not they can afford to make a gift, and for many people they will be grateful that a bit of belt-tightening is all that’s required for their households and contrast this with others in their communities who really do need help. 

3. Anecdote is not data 

Some people will need to cancel direct debits, and responses to appeals may be down on previous years. However, be wary of changing everything on the basis of one or two pieces of feedback received on the ‘phone and by email. The impulse to help each other is hard-wired in us as humans. We need to keep giving people the opportunity to help others, and we need to remember that this crisis won’t last forever. 

4. Be grateful 

That said, this is the time to be intentional about how we thank supporters. Those who are making gifts at this difficult time need to know how much we appreciate having them in our corner. Review thank you letters to ensure that they express this powerfully. One of my clients has just completed a thank you calling campaign – people were delighted to hear from us, and we even had an unprompted upgrade. We’ll see how these donors perform in future against a control cell in terms of longevity and yield; most similar tests have shown very strong results in the past. 

5. Be creative and be agile 

While I don’t think you should make wholesale changes to the planned activity, it’s sensible to consider whether some activity is going to be more challenging than usual in the current climate.  

  • Can you pause efforts to convert cash donors to regular givers until the economic picture improves?  
  • Can you offer payment holidays or reduced gifts to regular supporters who call to cancel?  
  • Can you let donors know about the most incredible way they can help in the future, which will cost them nothing now, and ask them to consider a legacy?  
  • Is there more you can do to boost supporters’ fundraising efforts with more contact to offset a possible reduction in the number of event places you are filling?  
  • Can you explain to donors who are not feeling the pinch (particularly the very wealthy and businesses in sectors which are thriving) that they can safeguard specific key services and activities in this challenging time, and the impact this will have on people’s lives?  
  • If you have charity shops, are they well-staffed and looking their best for this busy time? 

Joel Voysey will be speaking at our upcoming Fundraising Now conference, learn more and register here.