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Why a Recession Is No Time to Cut Back

by Lisa J. Lehr

Fundraising is just like advertising: a recession is no time to cut back.

Actually, fundraising is advertising. But instead of selling a product or service for your own profit, you're selling the satisfaction of helping a good cause - warm fuzzies, if you will. Warm fuzzies are relatively easy to sell in a strong economy, as Americans tend to be generous and like to share our good fortune. In a weak economy, however, warm fuzzies are a harder sell.

2008 may be shaping up to be a difficult year for fundraisers. The economic slowdown is a good reason to be concerned about giving; when people are having to stretch their discretionary dollars, charitable giving is one thing that's easy to "just say no" to. In addition to recession fears, with 2008 being a presidential election year, people's charitable giving may be redirected to political campaigns.

If you're a nonprofit, however, don't make the mistake of thinking that this is the time to cut back on your fundraising efforts. What these gloomy indicators mean is that nonprofits need to increase - not decrease - their fundraising efforts. You need to stay in front of your donor base so that when they're ready to give, they'll think of you first.

Here are some ways to do just that:

  1. Build an e-mail list and start a newsletter or autoresponder series.

  2. Start a blog and invite your list to participate.

  3. Push emotional hot buttons - people understand that as they suffer, others suffer more.

According to the January 21, 2008 edition of DM News, "[Direct marketing] use [is] up at nonprofits. As the economy flags, nonprofits are seeking direct tactic and seeing success, according to the latest study from the Direct Marketing Association on its nonprofit members." The article reports the following numbers:

  • $14.47--average ROI yield on $1 spent on direct by nonprofits in 2007

  • 6.8%--growth annually expected on direct marketing expenditures from the nonprofit community

  • $485.9M--expected expenditures in catalog advertising from nonprofits by 2012.

This is encouraging news for fundraisers in a time of economic hardship!

The key to fundraising success in tough times is to increase mailing efforts - not decrease them. Of course, your pieces - letter, newsletter, autoresponder series - need to be crafted in a way that will generate maximum response; this is a job for a professional marketing writer, because fundraising is essentially marketing a deeply personal investment in a good cause. Fundraising, done right, can be done successfully in 2008.

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About the Author:

Lisa J. Lehr is a freelance copywriter specializing in direct response and marketing collateral, with a special interest in the health, pets, specialty foods, and inspirational/motivational/self-help niches. She has a degree in biology, has worked in a variety of fields including pharmaceuticals and teaching, and has volunteered for many causes including special-needs kids and literacy. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading, art, music, outdoor exercise, and all things Celtic and Renaissance.

Have you signed up for her free e-mail series on marketing strategies?

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