10 Tips to Help Nonprofits Survive an Economic Recession

(ref: How to Prepare Your Nonprofit for an Economic Recession by Richard Male, Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training)

Here are 10 tips from Grassrootsfundraising.org – a really good resource for socially conscious nonprofit organizations looking for ideas and advice for raising more money (and who isn’t these days?)

  1. Make it personal and stay in touch with your donors. Call them by
    phone to thank and update them, invite them to tour your building, or have breakfast briefings a few times during the next six months.
  2. Don’t rely as much on direct mail either for acquiring new donors or for getting relatively new donors to renew their support. Studies show that direct mail donations have been flat or decreasing.
  3. Expect foundation funding to decrease as foundations’ investment portfolios take a hit. Foundations will be tending to focus more on their existing grantees rather than on new organizations.
  4. Stay in touch with all your donors more regularly. Create a monthly e-newsletter for all of your donors, friends, and stakeholders that will keep them in touch with what is happening in your organization. Collect as many e-mail addresses as you can.
  5. Redefine your major donors downward so you have a larger base of “high touch donors.” If you define your major donors now as those who give $500 or more, try to lower the threshold amount to $250 so you will have a larger pool of donors.
  6. Focus more on a “few major donors” and increase the personal time you spend with them. They may be your lifesavers during tougher economic times.
  7. Rely less on corporate philanthropy and more on corporate sponsorship and marketing dollars. Corporate philanthropy (small even in good times) will probably decrease. What is likely to increase is sponsorship and underwriting dollars for special events.
  8. Increase your fundraising capabilities. Invest time and money in your database, attending a workshop or training session. Increase your development staff. Realize your costs may increase a bit during these times.
  9. Increase opportunities for your donor prospects and your donors to become involved. Donors are looking for increased involvement and less checkbook philanthropy. Look for ways they can be active in volunteering.
  10. Develop contingency plans that answer all of the “what if” questions in terms of reduced revenue. Can you use volunteers where staff were functioning in good times? Are there opportunities for board members to play more technical roles?


The Grassroots Institute for Fundraising Training (GIFT) is a multiracial organization that promotes the connection between fundraising, social justice and movement-building. GIFT believes that how groups are funded is as important to achieving their goals as how the money is spent, and that building community support is central to long-term social change.

Richard Male is a national and international consultant and trainer with nonprofit organizations in the field of capacity building and coaching. Visit him at http://www.richardmale.com