The Double Dip Recession and Philanthropy: Knowing When to Step on the Gas

11 08 2011

As my rental car sat on the front edge of the ferry boat (see picture), I thought “this would be a horrible time to step on the gas by accident”. This seems to be a good analogy for fundraising in this economy. Donors and prospects are understandably nervous about the economy and watching cautiously, but we should reflect on lessons learned from the first dip. Certain prospects, we don’t want to step on the gas just now!

So like my ride on the ferry where I had to wait for the right time to step on the gas — there will be a right time to step on the gas. There were a few fundraising related secrets in the last recession – some people made a lot of money. The economy did not affect everyone the same and some people utilized low prices to accumulate market share, their business sold at just the right time, or their personal situations changed. The trick? You have to know when and when not to step on the gas.

 What I did do was stay in the car and was ready to go at the right time. Frontline fundraisers need to stay in the driver’s seat with their prospects so that they know who is ready to go and who is not. It is likely that this possible dip will be met with less narcissism than the last dip. Some individuals have diversified their portfolios and are more comfortable that it will come back.

• Stay in front of your donors – possibly more aggressively than ever.

• Focus on your mission. Don’t dwell on the economy with your development staff or volunteers – or – don’t give people permission to not contact prospects.

• Have thoughtful conversations with your prospects.

• Adjust your cultivation and solicitation strategies based on the information available.

So stay behind the wheel ready to go, just don’t step on the gas at the wrong time. Oh, and just to be safe… better buckle up! 

Good luck! – Mark Marshall




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