The phone’s been ringing day and night as clients and colleagues attempt to figure out what do in a world that’s falling apart.  You already know the litany of economic and financial disasters, so no need for background.   The bottom-line question is: What’s the best course of action in this final, and generally most important quarter of the fundraising year. 

Here are The Agitator’s 7 Survival Tips for 2008.

Tip #1.  Don’t Whine.  The situation is what it is.  You can cry all you want about the greed and malfeasance of Wall Street and the stupidity of bankers and politicians.  But, hey, you’re not being paid as a pundit.  You’re a fundraiser.  Get a grip.  Remain calm.  Set out a pro-active plan and execute it  — NOW.

Tip #2. Re-Project and Take it Upstairs.  Denial got Wall Street in trouble and it’ll do the same to your organization.  So face reality and let management know you’re probably not going to make the numbers for 2008.  The reality is that giving drops like a rock in economic slumps like we’re in now.  So, don’t go whistling past the graveyard.  Re-project.  Get real.

Tip #3.  Advance the time-table for your year-end campaigns .  Don’t assume that all this bad news will blow over by the time you’re slated to launch your year-end appeals in November.  It won’t.  But most organizations will follow their business-as-usual patterns and do the same thing they’ve been doing for years.  This is where you can benefit from quick moves and flexibility.  Go to your donors now – tell them why the need is so great especially now in light of the economic meltdown.   If you’re an advocacy organization explain why it’s important to get ready –right now—for the new Congress and new Administration.  If you’re a human needs charity explain how many more needs you have in this climate.

And don’t forget to also tell them you know they’re feeling the pinch as well.  Tell them why –together – your organization and they can make a huge difference right now.

Tip #4.  Resist Your Natural Instincts.  In tough times the natural instinct is to pull back, conserve and not take chances.  Wrong.  Your job now, more than in normal times, is to weigh risk and weigh it carefully.  What is the longer-term risk of not going forward with that acquisition campaign?  What is the longer-term risk of eliminating a testing program?  You may save immediate money that can make 2008’s bottom line better, but you’re probably digging a hole for 2009, 2010 and 2011.   See Tip #2 above and discuss the implications of all this with management.

Tip #5.  Engage your core donors as you never have before.   Your best donors are your best hope for sustaining your income in the months ahead.  They will understand your predicament, and historically have increased their giving during rough times.  Now’s a great time to get on the phone with them or send them a letter explaining why you need them more than ever.  Believe me, they’ll respond.

Tip #6.  Do not lose the courage of your convictions.  In times like these the most successful fundraisers are those who activate their core donors, do not stray from emphasizing their organization’s fundamental purpose, and position their programs for the better times that will surely come.  Now, if ever, is the time to form a bond in this crucible of hard times between your donors and your organization.  Get rid of the old formulaic year-end appeals.  Be clear with your donors about what will happen if money isn’t raised. Be specific about alternative ways your donors can help – if not in a single amount then in installments, if not with a gift of securities, then perhaps with a paid up life insurance policy.  Now, if ever, is the time to challenge your donors to come up with answers that will help advance your mutual mission in tough times.

Tip #7.  Don’t expect that the “good old days” will ever return.  They won’t.  In fact the ‘good old days’ have been going downhill for sometime.  The current meltdown will only accelerate the decline.   So, seize the opportunity inherent in all this turmoil and re-think, re-design and re-invigorate your fundraising efforts and programs. 

Opportunity knocks. 






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