Direct Mail

Fundraising in Tough Economic Times

By Alan Rosenspan, Alan Rosenspan & Associates
Many nonprofits are cutting back their marketing these days because of the ever-rising price of gasoline, food and other basics. They figure that people just don’t have as much disposable income as before, which may be true.
However, I think they are making a mistake. Back in the 1980’s – Sam Walton was asked what Wal-Mart would do in the recession.
His answer was classic – “We don’t plan to participate.”
Fundraising in this environment does present its challenges, however there are some very good reasons to continue your program, or even enlarge it. These include:
1. You’ll have less competition. As a frequent donor, I have sometimes received a dozen appeals from different causes in a single day. I can’t respond to all of them, so I have to pick and choose. 
However, if other nonprofits are cutting back, I and other donors will receive less direct mail from them. What a terrific opportunity for your direct mail to stand out.
2. The need is greater – and more people may identify with it.
The typical donor isn’t wealthy. They understand the value of a dollar, and they appreciate that life can be difficult at times.
The fact that your donors may be going through hard times may help underscore the point others have it much worse. It may create added empathy and actually increase donations. 
So if you do decide to promote your nonprofit, there are a few techniques you might want to consider.
A. Increase your use of e-mail and the Web. This is an area that has been growing strongly in the past few years, and will continue to grow.
If you’ve never tested this channel, this is a perfect time to do so. If you already use it, you may want to devote more of your budget towards it.
B. Emphasize matching donations, impossible. This is always one of the strongest appeals in fundraising, and may be even more powerful in down economic times.
The fact that every dollar you give will be matched by another dollar – in effect, doubling its value – is very compelling. 

C. Ask for lower amounts of money. Or at least, give people a lower option to choose. Yes, this may affect the overall ROI of your campaign, but it also may attract more new donors. It also keeps your existing donors in the habit of giving. 
As a wise person once said, “Tough times never last, tough people do.” As a nonprofit, you’re doing important work that’s helping people – so don’t get discouraged, get busy.
–Source: Alan Rosenspan, president of Alan Rosenspan and Associates. Email him at

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