Giving is down. That could have been the headline in any number of papers over the past month, year, even two years. The 2009 numbers that were issued by Giving USA state that while individual donations remained level last year, bequests and foundation giving was down. The estimates are that total giving was down by 3.2%. Those of us in philanthropy know that all too often the difference between foundations and individuals is only from where the check is written.
The question is does this knowledge change the way you ask for donations this year? If you say, “Yes, I will work harder to touch more donors more times with more information,” then you are on the right track. If, when you read about the decrease in total giving and immediately think that you should send all kinds of appeals stating your desperate state in the face of the downward turn in philanthropy – then you are going down the wrong path.
The fact is, that worrying donors means that donors are worried about the state of your organization. And worried donors who have seen this story from you more than once will translate the second and third cry for help as proof that you do not have a solid long-term strategy in place.
“Hmm,” donors will think, “maybe I should give to an organization who knows how to use my money wisely.”
On the other hand, talking about achievements helps donors see your strengths. Your impact. Your enthusiasm. Even in tough times.
Talk about the increased need of the members of your organization or the clients of your agency, not the needs of the executive director and the staff.
Focus on the new film and lecture series that you offered this year and explain how continuing it requires stable funding for it and all the other programs that the community values.
Or even, explain how the economic times had forced the reduction of 2 programs that you would like to bring back with the help of donors like them.
It is not that you do not have a need, you just have to say it with a smile.
Because, scaring donors only makes donors scarce.