That gap in your 2009 budget
If your organization’s communications and/or development budget got cut at the end of 2008, you’re not alone. Most of the nonprofits we’ve spoken with recently have reported organization-wide budget cuts to the tune of 10–25 percent.
In a recession, reminding donors why they support you, inspiring their ongoing commitment, saying thank you, and demonstrating your value to new and old supporters is more critical than ever. Here are a few realistic ways any member of your staff can help your development team address that gap in your budget.
- Weave one big, overarching idea or theme into all of your communications. Ideally, this theme speaks your audiences’ language — not your own organizational jargon. It’s passionate, creative, compelling, and demonstrates the best of your organization. Independent Sector’smembership brochure, created by Big Duck in 2008, uses “Together, We Can” to tell several stories of what happens when nonprofits work together to change the sector and the world. If your leadership or communications team develops a concept and then shows each department how to use it, you’ll find it’s much easier to get everyone singing from the same songbook. Another powerful example is United Way’s new campaign, Live United, which helps national and local chapters speak with one voice and motivates Americans to give, advocate, and volunteer in their community.
- Segment and cultivate online. It’s expensive and time-consuming to truly personalize your communications with lapsed donors, mid-level sustainers, or newer, smaller donors. On the other hand, one-size-fits-all communications, while often more affordable, miss a critical opportunity to help donors feel you understand their point of view. If you’ve got an email list and a strong story to tell, social media (Facebook, blogs, podcasts, your own social networking site, etc.) make it easier to start a real dialogue with donors and engage them on their own terms. Take a look at how Big Duck developed ‘parent projects’ — special fundraising initiatives sponsored by parents — to encourage targeted year-end gifts online for these useful guidelines for optimizing your online donations (thanks, Guidestar and DonorDigital!) for a few useful tips.
- Lastly, if you aren’t doing so already, start capturing email addresses and mobile phone numbers. Ask for both on business reply envelopes (BREs), online forms, intake paperwork, and wherever else you capture information. You may not be ready to leverage them now, but you’ll want to have a list in place when the time is right.