Survey findings are troubling but nonprofits can still overcome

The Denver Business Journal recently published key findings from a survey released by the Colorado Nonprofit Association and the Community Resource Center (CRC). The survey, which is titled “Weathering the Storm,” asked Colorado nonprofits about how the current economy has affected their organizations.

According to the article, 56 percent of respondents reported an interval over the last 12 months when total expenses exceeded total revenue. Sixty-five percent said a major donor reduced or eliminated support due to the economic downturn. Overall, 64 percent said the economy had a negative impact on obtaining funding from foundations, government agencies and corporations. The article also reported that 32 percent of nonprofits responded to the funding gap by ramping up face-to-face solicitations, 42 percent requested more foundation grants and 27 percent asked board members to contribute more money.

These findings may be troubling for nonprofit leaders, but do not be discouraged. Despite the many challenges posed by our current and recent past economy, there are ways for nonprofits to overcome. To start, don’t forget about your steadfast individual donors. Although major donors and foundations may be giving less, individuals still tend to give during an economic downturn. It’s your organization’s responsibility to connect with those donors and remind them that you appreciate their contribution. It could be as simple as a thank-you note or a phone call. Individual donors give to many charities, but they come back to the ones that show their appreciation.

Another idea—call lapsed donors from the last two to three years and ask them why they stopped giving. The answer may be as simple as “the economy.” If that’s the case, ask them if they’d mind if you called six months down the road to see if their situation has improved and if they’re ready to give again.

If not the economy, lapsed donors may tell you that they had a negative experience with your organization. Although that’s painful to hear, it certainly opens up a great opportunity for constructive feedback and may help you find ways of winning them back again.

Support from small businesses also may hold promise for your organization. Familiarize yourself with business owners in your area and work to strengthen your relationships with them. The current economic downturn hit nonprofits soon after it hit the business sector; the recovery will likely play out in the same way. By forming relationships with business owners now, your organization will be in line for partnerships when the economy turns around.

On February 17 and 18, JVA Consulting will offer its Development Director Intensive (DDI), a hands-on workshop for those who lead or hope to someday lead a nonprofit organization’s fundraising and resource development efforts. This two-day session will cover basic resource development concepts and strategies as well as tackle critical details needed to help both you and your organization raise more money. Click here for more information.

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