Four critical steps your organization can take now to fare better during change


It’s the word of the moment—recession. Recessions are a normal part of the economy, and while we can’t predict whether a recession will hit in one year or five years, it’s best to prepare. Nonprofits tend to lose donor revenue when economic times get tough, and people cut back spending.

Given that a recession will eventually come our way, we at Carl Bloom Associates (CBA) reached out to Carol Rhine, Principal Fundraising Analyst at Target Analytics, to see what nonprofits could do to prepare. Rhine has decades of experience working for and with nonprofits and has seen them weather good and bad economic environments.

The overall message from Rhine is not to be fearful of change but to be prepared. Looking ahead to the future is what every nonprofit should be doing right now. While it’s not possible to be completely recession-proof, through proper planning, you can improve your chances of faring better in times of economic uncertainty. No one knows the size and scope of the changes we’re facing, but, as Rhine says, “plan now—and plan better.”

Here are Rhine’s top tips:

1. Accept and Plan: Accept that a recession may be on the way by planning now to minimize the negative impact. Don’t wait to improve specific programs and initiatives. Have a weekly meeting with your development or membership team to discuss ways to enhance donor relationships and communications. Even short internal meetings can yield plans that will make an impact.

2. Cultivation and Stewardship: Rhine explains that during a recession, donors cut back on the number of nonprofits to which they give. If you engage them personally now, they may be more likely to make yours one of the nonprofits they give to continuously. Cultivate and steward them today, so they stay on your file tomorrow.

3. Sustainers, Sustainers, Sustainers: During a recession, sustainers are the group you most want in your corner because they are donors you don’t have to fight for. Sustainers are loyal and more likely to stay with you through ups and downs. But consider planning strategies to minimize sustainer fall-off. Devote resources to acquire sustainers through every possible channel. And make this group a priority by treating them well.

4. Prepare to downgrade Sustainers: In a recession, people look for a way to cut back on expenses—and your sustainers may look to cut back as well. Prepare your staff with options for sustainers to downgrade their gift instead of canceling. Perhaps you can talk a $10 sustainer to $5. Figure out what downgrade amounts will work for your organization now and during more challenging times.

So with these tips, you now know that cultivating donors and sustainers are the best way to fair well in the face of recession. CBA can help you effectively speak to donors to keep them giving. Contact us today to learn about our Multi-Month Sustainer Conversion and Rapid Appreciation & Cultivation Path plans. With these programs in place, your nonprofit will be set up for success when a recession does hit.


Have any questions about fundraising during challenging times?