It seems like just yesterday that Philanthropy Daily was rolling out its “Fundraising During Uncertain Times” webinar series. The world was suddenly shutting down in response to the uncertainty of a novel coronavirus spreading globally, and we were all wondering what that meant for fundraising and the nonprofit sector.
Of course, that wasn’t yesterday. It was two and a half years ago now. Americans proved themselves as impressive as ever, stepping up to meet the unexpected needs of their compatriots. The past several years have not been without their suffering—but donors, nonprofits, and communities helped us weather this storm.
OUR NEXT TRIAL
Unfortunately, here we are again. However we want to define “recession,” the fact of the matter is that we’ve just seen two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth. Call it what you want, but that’s not good news.
The nonprofit sector is resilient, though. When we were worrying about a shrinking economy in the early days of the pandemic, our publisher, Jeremy Beer, crunched the numbers. It turns out that the nonprofit sector tends to float right around 2% of the overall GDP (+/- 0.1%). There’s a smaller pool of money available for nonprofits when the economy contracts, but—historically at least—it’s not that big of a decline for nonprofits overall.
That’s the good news: We may be watching the economy contract (and who knows how long this shrinking will last), but we’ve weathered these dips in the past. And I’m sure we’ll do it again.
But we’ve weathered those dips through the hard work and smart thinking of many nonprofit professionals. The nonprofit sector may only shrink by a small amount, but the money moves around a lot. When Americans sense that other people are having a harder time than them, generosity abounds, and we see the human services sector in particular grow
Needless to say, it’s still not every group that grows: some will thrive more than others. You want to make sure that you’re one of the thriving groups in this current downturn.
And so, as we stare down another recession—or whatever euphemism you want to use for this thing that looks like a recession—we want to help you navigate fundraising in this economy.
In two weeks, we are kicking off our new “Fundraising When Times Are Bad” series (and to get things off to a strong start, we have a book offer at the end of this article).
PREPARATION AND STRATEGY ARE STILL IMPORTANT
Here’s why thinking about this stuff matters.
Nonprofits exist to advance a mission, to realize some important vision for the future of their community or their nation or the world. When it feels like the money might start drying up a bit, there’s a natural tendency to cut back on “overhead” expenses like fundraising to avoid cutting back on important mission work they do.
That’s a sensible reaction, but it’s the wrong approach upon further examination. Whether times are good or times are bad, it costs money to make money. If you want to spend money on your programs, you need to spend money on fundraising to bring that revenue in.
A NEW SERIES
And if things are tight, every dollar spent and every decision made needs to be smart.
So we’ll look piece-by-piece at every aspect of a full development operation and provide some useful insights and advice on how to navigate fundraising right now. We’ll do our best to help you make smart decisions through a shifting landscape.
Whether we’re in a bull or bear economy, the fundamentals of fundraising don’t change. That’s as true as ever right now. But applying those fundamentals in a changing situation—that’s the hard part, and that’s what we want to help with.
As we’ve said before, it’s important to us—it’s central to our mission—that your nonprofit thrives. Philanthropy Daily exists to help nonprofits thrive so that they can foster a flourishing civil society. We’ll bring the expertise of American Philanthropic’s friends and consultants to bear on the questions you’re facing today to help you thrive and continue hitting your goals—even as the going gets tough.
Stay tuned through the next several months for a steady stream of articles—and a culminating webinar—on everything from direct response and major gifts to events and strategic planning. Our goal is to cover it all, but if there is something specific on your mind, shoot me an email and let me know what you’re wondering. You’re probably not the only one with that question, so send it my way and we’ll be sure to cover it.
To kick things off, we want to offer you a free download of an e-book by Jeremy Beer, founding partner of American Philanthropic. Head over to get your free copy of Fundraising When Times Are Bad.
Drop a comment below to share your thoughts on the book and any other concerns you have about fundraising in a recession—I mean, in a shrinking economy.