Things are looking up slightly for the economy, but many nonprofits remain in danger. They’ve already implemented cost cutting wherever possible. Competition for funding is still at a peak. At this stage of the recovery, nonprofits must jump into creative problem solving mode to stay ahead of the financial instability that still threatens them.
Media reporting on the nonprofit scene say this year looks better than last year. Giving is up slightly, and more foundations report an increase in available grants. Sounds like good news, but the improvement is quite small.
Since nonprofits traditionally lag 5–6 years behind a recovering economy, our sector will face lean times for several more years. Some weaker nonprofits won’t make it that long. Those with no financial cushion, those with inexperienced albeit passionate leaders who may make costly missteps, nonprofits that duplicate existing services, and those out of touch with sector trends are all at risk.
A Georgia Center for Nonprofits report released earlier in the financial crisis reported on Georgia nonprofits’ response to the situation. Some nonprofits were able to craft highly creative responses to the challenge and actually improve their processes and operations.
That need for creative problem solving still exists. Business plans can be retooled; missions can be sharpened or refocused. And most nonprofits can be both more inventive and more methodical about fundraising.
Fundraising questions I often hear are, “How do we move our donors up the giving ladder?” “How can we keep our donors engaged when we only have three people on staff?” “How can I get local philanthropists excited about my mission when I’m one of a long line of nonprofits asking them for money?” “How can I beat the grant seeking odds to get a grant for our new program?” And, “Why can’t I get my board to go out and raise the kind of money my nonprofit needs?”
There are great answers and new ideas for all those issues. No matter your nonprofit’s size, someone else has already tried what you need to do, and many are willing to share their story with you.
Here are some ideas I’ve encountered this year – all proven results–getters:
• Do a matching gift program with your trustees. (If your trustees aren’t willing to commit to this, it may be time to re–examine their alignment with your nonprofit’s goals).
• Get to work on Facebook and Twitter accounts. These have become successful tools for fundraising, and great examples abound.
• Improve your nonprofit’s financial transparency by putting your annual report and your most recent Form 990 online. You’ll increase community trust in your nonprofit, and your donations will rise – especially if you add an online donation button and some warmly personal accounts of clients who have been helped.
• Collaborate in a significant way with another local nonprofit that also targets your client population; provide credible and detailed tracking for community impact, and see your successful grant applications rise. The latter idea isn’t new, but it bears repeating since many funders seek collaborations that will increase community impact.
Here in Savannah, key funders in Georgia and highly experienced, nonprofit fundraisers will come together Friday, July 15 to share their answers to many nonprofit fundraising challenges. The Raising Change conference will be held at Memorial University Medical Center from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Speakers will discuss engaging your board in successful fundraising, expanding your donor relationships, emerging fundraising trends, social networking and fundraising, and much more.
You’ll get ideas to use immediately to build some financial protection for your nonprofit. You’ll also get re–energized and uplifted – and in today’s tough times, that’s important too. cs
For more on the Raising Change conference, call 912–234–9688 or go to www.gcn.org/RaisingChange2011.aspx. Thanks to sponsors Georgia Center for Nonprofits, Goodwill Industries of the Coastal Empire and Memorial University Medical Center, Office of Medical Education.
Sarah Todd is regional manager for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, a nonprofit association that serves nonprofits throughout the state. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.