4 Ways Nonprofit Leaders Can Make An Impact During a Recession

Nonprofit leaders helping members of the community at a food drive

There are more opportunities for nonprofit leaders to make an impact during an economic downturn, given that more people often need services from nonprofits during these times. We are already seeing an increase in people needing support from food banks, as an example, and we are only dealing with inflation right now. This need is likely to increase and be felt across most, if not all, nonprofit sectors. The question is whether your nonprofit is ready to meet the needs of your local community.

4 Ways Nonprofit Leaders Can Make An Impact During a Recession

It is possible to serve your community in a greater way during a recession. Convergent Nonprofit Solutions has been through two: the Great Recession and the smaller pandemic recession. During both we were able to improve development efforts and successfully complete capital campaigns for our clients, helping them to increase their services, stay afloat, complete building/renovation projects, and make an even greater impact on their community. These four tips will help you to do the same.

# 1 Solidify Your Messaging

Fundraising competition is always fierce – even more so during times of economic uncertainty. This makes solidifying your messaging critical to fundraising success. Be clear in what makes you different, what you are offering the community and what you will accomplish. A capital campaign is an excellent opportunity to clarify your message because you must communicate with clarity to inspire confidence among potential investors. By inspiring confidence, nonprofit leaders can make an impact during a recession that will yield positive results for years to come.

Here are some specific messaging tips:

  • Address the recession upfront and be clear about your plans to sustain operations regardless
  • Solicit investments from donors using a variety of methods including planned giving and endowment opportunities
  • Turn this into an opportunity that’s unique

I’d like to share a few examples of how we incorporated unique funding opportunities into a capital campaign. Pellissippi State Community College raised over $9,000,000 in their capital campaign and earmarked a portion of the money for a “Student Opportunity Fund,” helping allay ancillary costs such as books and childcare that may hamper a student’s ability to attend and succeed in school. The Chamber, Lawrence, Kansas amended its campaign program of work to include a housing initiative in response to specific needs and priorities of their investors and their community that we uncovered in their feasibility study. Roxboro Charter School involved their entire community in their capital campaign by positioning their new gym as a multi-purpose community facility. This broadened base of support led to success in their $1,600,000 campaign.

#2 Stop Asking for Donations

We’re serious. Stop asking for donations. Instead, ask for an investment. Convergent has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for nonprofits by turning donors into investors. Whereas a donor may give once and write a check for a small amount, an investor is looking for results or outcomes to justify ongoing, large-scale giving. An investor cares about what the results of supporting your organization will be on the community or their business. When speaking with investors it’s not enough to share information on the number of people you serve. Instead, you need to demonstrate what the impact or outcome was because of your services. Nonprofit leaders can make an impact during a recession by tying the organization’s activities to investable outcomes. 

#3 Go Virtual (at least partially)

Nonprofit leaders can make an outsized impact during a recession by daring to do things differently. If large galas and events have been successful fundraising tools in the past, they may not be during a recession, and we all saw these revenue sources dwindle during the pandemic. You may need to be creative in how you reach potential investors in this post-pandemic world. Raising money virtually should be part of that strategy. 

In a capital campaign we ran for The Chamber of Greater Springfield, Convergent facilitated over a dozen, well-attended, group meetings through a video platform. Holding these informational sessions proved extremely beneficial and significantly increased investment size and the number of new investors in the campaign.

#4 Just Keep Swimming

It might be that I have a four-year-old daughter at home, but I can’t help thinking of Dory’s famous saying in the movie, Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming!”. What’s most important of all, perhaps, is that you continue outreach and development efforts for your nonprofit even in an economic downturn. If you don’t have development expertise on your team, it may be more cost-effective for you to hire a consultant for the short term than spend the time and money on a full-time position. If your team does have the manpower and fundraising skills, make sure they are all focused on the same priorities in development. And finally, be sure to diversify your revenue sources so if any one area takes a turn for the worse (i.e. events during the pandemic), the entire organization’s sustainability won’t suffer.

Invest In Your Organization’s Future by Preparing for a Recession

Nonprofit leaders can make an impact during a recession by taking steps to prepare today. Now is the time to prepare for an economic downturn and that includes creating a fundraising strategy. Remember that money is still out there. According to Giving USA, consumer savings increased during the pandemic to $13 trillion–creating opportunities for nonprofits to continue asking for investment. The key is knowing how to make the ask and having the Asking Rights™ to do it. This is where Convergent comes in. We can help you to prepare for a fundraising campaign by conducting a feasibility study and then help you to raise investment when the time is right. Contact us today to discover what Convergent can do for you. You can find additional recession-focused insight for nonprofit leaders in our newest whitepaper—A Guide To Nonprofit Fundraising During Economic Uncertainty

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