In looking back over 2012, it seems to have been a difficult year for many of our friends leading nonprofit organizations.  The decline in giving tied to the recessive economy compounded by the threat of eliminating the charitable tax deduction caused many to rethink their methods of operation and fundraising.  Millions of dollars that could have gone to aid, research, education, and other needed programs were diverted to lobby Congress to save the deduction.  Make no mistake, many small, independent not-for-profit organizations definitely benefitted from the lobby efforts of the major national charities in December, however, the deduction option will more than likely become a target again when our elected officials attempt to reach agreement on the debt ceiling and reducing our country’s national debt.

While we have yet to get our arms around exactly how much influence the charitable deduction actually has on our personal giving, we do know that there is a definite percentage of individuals that give strictly for the impact on the amount of income tax they have to pay each year.  Many theorize that individuals matching the amount of their charitable deductible to increased tax rates should actually increase giving.  Others, like myself, are simply motivated to give to charity because of the good it does, or it represents a cause that has had a positive personal impact on their lives.  Either way, the good news for non-profits is that checks from these givers will continue.

But what about growing donations from those that aren’t motivated by tax breaks or helping make the world a better place?

Savvy organizations understand that people are being much more selective and careful before donating.  Impulse giving is not something you can write a strategic development plan around.  There are several immediate actions, including thinking like a “for profit” venture, that can be taken to maintain and more importantly, INCREASE their funding.

Organizations that have a clear, concise and compelling message for their impact have the upper-hand on attracting engagement and support from the giving public.  Having the clear, clean message also makes for a more streamlined and simplified social media strategy.  How many times have you passed on reading a long, cumbersome post in your Facebook newsfeed?  Organizations that feel compelled to try to be everything to everyone will not realize their development potential, even though in difficult financial times, the natural inclination is to try to open up as many revenue streams as possible.  Knowing your core competencies and focusing on being the best at those sets the stage for garnering measureable results from all your marketing efforts – whether that is something as incremental as growing online donations through a custom tab on your Facebook or as large as exploring the ability to launch a social enterprise.  Either way, the success is rooted in playing to your organization expertise and strengths.

Another key attribute of charitable organizations that will succeed in spite of economic hardships are those that make it easy for the public to do business with them.  By enabling their digital footprint with Pay-Pal or online credit card donation options, organizations are best positioned to capture a positive result when they introduce their call-to-action.   It’s amazing how monthly giving through automatic withdrawl quickly becomes a part of the donor’s budget.  Don’t be afraid to take a tip from the for-profit businesses and feature an instant gratification button when you have their attention.  And for sure don’t forget to solicit corporate matching gifts with every transaction.   The GSA Foundation features a fairly comprehensive list of the corporate matching gift programs in the U.S.

Sustainable non-profits also recognize the importance of offering strong return on investment opportunities for their corporate partners and sponsors.  Big companies are under continuous scrutiny at all levels.  Solid partnerships with the right charitable partner can go a long way in enhancing their brand and mitigating any potential public relations issues that could arise in the future.  All of the non-profit organizations that Sunshine Avenue works with are encouraging to dedicate a resource to continually keep apprised of corporate partner news and actions, researching new company positions related to their cause, and nuturing these relationships.  With the many free resources available at a keystroke, at a minimum all nonprofit development professionals should have Google Alerts set for all of their corporate donors to be intimately familiar with their partner’s business priorities.

It is in our nature to give.  It is incumbent on nonprofit organizations to earn the trust and thus the hard earned dollars of the American public.  In accomplishing this feat, congressional action removing or capping the charitable tax deduction will have much less impact on the organizations that have learned to effectively convey their message and reward their partners.

 

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