Maximizing Fundraising in a Difficult Economy

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While U.S. economic growth proved to be higher than most expectations in 2023, fears of a recession persist in 2024. Nonprofit organizations are understandably concerned with their ability to raise money in potentially turbulent times. Fortunately, Convergent Nonprofit Solutions knows how to raise money amidst economic uncertainty, proving it during the Great Recession and the COVID-19 pandemic.

General approaches like prospect diversification, relationship-building or delivering messages of gratitude should be prioritized in 2024, along with specific techniques like an EOY Fundraising Review. But every nonprofit organization should add several other factors to plan for success this year. 

Prioritize top investors

Every fundraiser is familiar with the 80/20 Rule in Fundraising, where the top 20% of investors contribute 80% of the total funds raised. At Convergent Nonprofit Solutions, we refer to all individuals making financial contributions as investors versus donors we believe they are making investments in outcomes. Keeping those individuals or organizations top-of-mind becomes ultra-critical, and being intentional about them is more important than ever when faced with fundraising challenges. It is essential to never lose sight of the fact that just because an investor can give doesn’t lead to the willingness to do so. Therefore, cultivating relationships is imperative to ensuring higher contributions continue.  Getting these investors involved as community ambassadors is a good way to expand your reach. They will invest their time and energy to champion your cause, expanding fundraising sources. 

Communicate outcomes

Most nonprofit organizations effectively communicate the needs their mission supports. Youth organizations stress the need to provide children an oasis for positive relationships; social service providers need assistance to address crises like homelessness; local community colleges can quickly resolve area workforce supply concerns with adequate support. However, securing investment from potential investors requires illustrating the results that come from their contributions. Often referred to as outcome-based sustainability planning, communicating outcomes and how they will benefit investors directly will maximize success. 

“Communicating outputs is a good start and can be done regularly, but for fundraising purposes, investors want to see outcomes,” said Tom Ralser, Convergent Nonprofit Solutions Principal. “Ultimately, communicating outcomes helps nonprofits to raise more money because it personalizes what the organization is doing.” 

Turn to Tech

The debate about whether or not technology can help nonprofit operations is past. It is here to stay; those who do not learn to embrace it will be left behind. Technology tools can offer competitive advantages, from maximizing your team’s efficiency to opening new avenues to potential investors. The most frequently addressed technology topic is the application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions. The primary opportunities for AI in nonprofit fundraising are to deliver a more in-depth understanding of the supporter base, allowing for more efficient capital campaigns and providing a path to optimal potential donor engagement.

“AI is useful to buttress one’s research for building a case for support,” said Jay Werth, Convergent Principal.  “In our experience at Convergent, we have utilized AI to discover useful statistics addressing a societal problem our client addresses. At a minimum, AI can help develop an outline for a project, article or other communication tool.”

Technology use should go beyond AI tools to empower your team operations. Communication diversification is critical in today’s world to reach an ever-expanding prospect pool. The Gen-Z audience may respond more to social media platforms. Better engagement with Baby Boomers may come from phone calls or face-to-face meetings, supplemented by email newsletters. They and everyone can benefit from a microsite within your website to help with crowdfunding and peer-to-peer opportunities.

Remember what worked

If the thought of fundraising in a problematic 2024 environment brings trepidation to your organizational leaders, perhaps the most vital point to remember is that difficult economic circumstances are not new. Indeed, the COVID-19 Pandemic and the financial downturn of 2008-09 brought severe challenges. Techniques and practices used then should be reexamined to recall what worked. Total giving dropped by 7% in 2008 and 6.2% in 2009 during the Great Recession. But nonprofits that found opportunities to modify their fundraising to match immediate needs were still successful. Those addressing poverty-related issues performed better than they had before those years, according to The Russell Sage Foundation and The Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. Never lose sight of the fact that the people or entities your organization seeks to support need help more than ever when faced with extreme difficulty. 

Turn to the experts

Fundraising in 2024 is expected to prove challenging for nonprofits nationwide. Those who recognize the upcoming difficulties and assess their internal strengths and weaknesses will best position their causes for success. Turning to experts to support these weaknesses should be incorporated into your daily mission. 

Whether you need help improving your resource development strategy, running a feasibility study, or executing a successful capital campaign, the experts at Convergent Nonprofit Solutions are here for you. Our industry leaders have helped countless organizations like yours navigate and succeed in their fundraising endeavors.

We invite you to contact our nonprofit consulting experts or take our quick quiz – The Fundraising Reality Check – to start today!

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