5 Tips for Raising More Money in a Difficult News Environment

Nonprofit organizations already face many challenges when it comes to raising money. So, it’s unfortunate that numerous charities must now deal with a fresh, difficult situation.

In a recent article in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, reporter Rebecca Koenig explains:

Charities always find it difficult to capture attention, but some nonprofits fear that their donors are distracted by President Trump’s policies. ‘Backlash philanthropy,’ the trend of donating money to express frustration with the new administration, has benefited select organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union but not necessarily nonprofits as a whole.”

If Trump Administration policies directly affect your organization’s mission, fundraising can be relatively easy. Indeed, some charities have benefitted microphone-by-yat-fai-ooi-via-flickerfrom record philanthropy since Election Day. However, what can you do if your organization’s mission has little or nothing to do with the debates capturing media attention?

Koenig’s report provides great tips, insights from nonprofit professionals, and helpful detail. If you’re a Chronicle subscriber, you can find the article by clicking here. I thank Koenig for interviewing me for her article. If you’re not a subscriber, fear not. I’m about to share some highlights with you.

As I told the Chronicle:

The most important advice I could give an organization not directly impacted by the current political environment is to embrace fundamental practice and keep moving forward.”

So, in that spirit, here are five tips to help guide you along with my comments, in quotations, from the article:

Tip 1: Avoid obvious attempts to connect your organization to causes that don’t relate to your mission.

“If it’s a stretch, then the recipient of the appeal is going to see through it and see it as a gimmick, It’s not going to be particularly effective.” Instead, think of what has been motivating your donors all along, and continue to tap into those feelings.

Tip 2: Maintain good relationships with current donors.

Steadily declining donor-retention rates over the past several years suggest that the nonprofit sector has been doing a terrible job of building relationships with donors. Now, perhaps more than ever, it’s essential for charities to do a better job in this area. This is particularly true for organizations over-shadowed by news events. You can search this site for donor relations to find posts with helpful advice. However, here’s one useful idea: Report to donors how their contributions have been and will be used.

“The more specific an organization can be with a donor, the more that donor will feel like they’re making a difference, If a donor feels he or she is bringing about change, this will help drive further philanthropy to that organization.”

You also want to ensure that your prospects and donors understand that the challenges you’re working on are not going away even if the media spotlight may not be on your cause.

Tip 3: Keep asking for money, even if your cause isn’t currently in the spotlight.

“The worst thing an organization can do is say, ‘Oh my, everybody’s distracted by what’s going on in the political environment. All our donors are going to give to environmental groups, Planned Parenthood, and ACLU. Nobody is going to want to give money to us.’”

To fundraising professional tempted to sit on their hands, I have some tough-love advice: “Stop making excuses, and do the hard work required to raise money.”

Keep asking for money. Just remember that your prospects and donors hold varying political beliefs, so be careful not to inadvertently alienate any of them.

Tip 4: Prepare for the day when your work will get more attention.

A popular cause today will not necessarily be a popular cause tomorrow. History shows us the media spotlight shifts; you might even be able to influence that for your organization. If you work for a local organization, let the big national charities enjoy the big-media attention while you attract the focus of your local media with compelling stories.

One day, by design or happenstance, your cause will get more attention. Prepare now to seize that opportunity when it arises. Make sure you have a firm grasp on fundraising fundamentals. In addition, ensure that you’re stewardship program is effective.

Tip 5: Look at the big picture to build relationships with other groups and find new donors.

Collaboration has been a buzzword in the nonprofit sector for decades. This is the moment your organization might be well served by embracing it. For example, a charity that brings justice and healing to the victims of child sexual abuse worked with a local theatre company that produced a play about sex abuse. The insights the child charity was able to bring to the theatre audience enriched their experience while allowing the child charity to introduce itself to a new audience of potential supporters.

It’s not always easy, but you can create your own opportunities.

What are some of the things you are doing to compete successfully with the Backlash Philanthropy impulse that so many donors are feeling?

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?

3 Responses to “5 Tips for Raising More Money in a Difficult News Environment”

  1. Great set of tips here, Michael. Crises are big, urgent, and powerfully motivating. With that said, crises can sometimes change a person’s perspective, but overall, one’s values tend to remain what they are despite calamitous circumstances. As fundraisers for societal good, we each must honor our own sphere of mission work and continue to devote the large effort necessary to effectively communicate the value of that mission to the donor. In times of crisis, we each much “double down” on our own organization’s mission and not be swayed by the false allure of an easy play for tapping into people’s fears, especially if those fears have little to do with the mission we serve. At the end of the day, your authenticity is all you’ve got, and you should not sacrifice it.


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