uesday, October 14, 2008, at 12 noon, U.S. Eastern time
Many charities are entering the most crucial months of the fund-raising year at the same time that many donors are dealing with the most uncertain economic circumstances of their lifetimes.
What should fund raisers do to encourage donors to support their causes? What approaches turn people off? What kind of results are realistic to expect?
Bruce Flessner is a Minneapolis fund-raising consultant who works with many of the country's largest charities.
A transcript of the chat follows.
Peter Panepento (Moderator):
Welcome to today's live discussion about annual giving. This is an anxious time for many Americans -- and, indeed, for many charities. The recent economic crisis has many folks worried about their finances, their retirement accounts, and their job security. Charities, in turn, are worried that their donors will scale back giving during the key year-end fund-raising season. What should you be doing to keep your operations running at full speed during these challenging times? How should you best approach potential donors? Are there strategies that will help your organization attract new sources of funding?
Peter Panepento (Moderator):
These are some of the questions we'll be addressing today. We're fortunate to have fund-raising expert Bruce Flessner here for the next hour to take your questions on year-end giving. To ask Bruce your question, simply click on the "ask a question" link on this page and type your query. We also invite you to share your advice with others by adding your own perspective to questions and answers that are posted during the discussion. You can do so using the same tool.
Peter Panepento (Moderator):
Without further ado, let's get started ...
Question from Carol -- via Philanthropy Today:
We do annual giving letters every year with marginal results. This year we are planning to do a photo collage mailer showing our museum programs in action. We are facing gave challenges financially ... How can we not seem desperate, yet show how important the museum is to the community and region?
You have asked an important question. Being desperate might work for one year, but you can't build a program by crying crisis every year for a decade.
This year it will be more understandable to donors that you have financial challenges-- in this market everyone has problems. The tone I would set would be that we (the entire community) are trustees of this precious and important collection. Every year-- in good years and tough years-- we need to preserve the collection and open our doors to the world for enjoyment, study and inspiration. The annual fund is not about grand plans for expansion, it is about solid plans for today. Keep the message focused on the importance of your mission and the importance of year to year support. Don't get too grand, but don't sound like crisis.
Question from Elizabeth Vincent, Feed The Children:
Is there a aggregate percentage we should expect to be off vs this time last year, based upon the giving trends in the first two quarters of 2008 and the financial debacle in recent weeks?
What was your trend line before September/October? I heard a great phrase in New York of the cub and mother bear. The bear market is now over a year old, but for 10 months it was a little bear (the cub) and now is a mother bear (more difficult). What were your trend lines during the cub?
Also, don't forget that while last week was our worse stock market, right now we are facing our great climb back. Year end may not be ideal, but it is more encouraging than the past 6 weeks.
Question from Meghan Donaghue, National Student Partnerships:
Funding experts have recently advised that despite the economic downturn that is currently plaguing us, organizations should continue to ask, expecting to hear "No" more, and to create more individualized donor strategies to make up for the potential funding disparities. Above all else, we have been told NOT to pull back on the appeal effort this year. What are your thoughts on this advice?
That is what we are telling our clients. A recent client advisory was reprinted in the Chronicle of Philanthropy if you want to read our entire outline. During tough times I remind everyone to be impatient in process and patient in results. You must keep focused on every day doing the right things and know that the results may be slower. However, if you don't do anything, the results will be far worse.
Peter Panepento (Moderator):
For those who are interested in reading more about how to manage and fund raise during this situation, we've collected all of our stories and discussions about this topic in one place.
You can find it here: http://philanthropy.com/financial_crisis/
Question from Liz, small nonprofit:
Should charities mention the economy and/or the financial crisis in their annual appeal letters or should they stick to the issues? We're debating what to do before we send out our November appeal.
You don't have to make them mutually exclusive. You can point out your important mission and programs--plus point out that you have made some shifts in the recent economy to tighten your belt so that every donor knows that every dollar will be well spent in a difficult economy. Showing that you are fiscally responsible improves the argument.
We all want to support organizations that appeal to heart and head. Don't forget the heart part-- your case needs to be compelling. Just add a bit more head part about cost controls and well-managed.
Question from Ann, AVP, development, community college:
We have decided to spread our annual fund appeal throughtout the fiscal year September 1-August 31, 2009, rather than doing a year-end solicitation to entire data base - 118,000 graduates. Is this a wise move, given the current economic climate, or should we re-think this strategy and do the full mailing before year-end?
Are you doing just one mailing per prospect per year? I always hate to lose the chance to appeal to everyone every tax year.
Question from Christy, Co-op America:
How do you promote stock gifts at this time? Our wording about the benefits of donating highly-appreciated stock does not make sense in this current environment.
Investors have been paying lots of attention to their portfolios. Use that as the hook.
"As you have looked at your portfolio and perhaps shifted your holdings, you may have looked at some long held and highly appreciated securities that don't make sense for your investing future. This might be the ideal time to gift those stocks as you create a new investment profile for 2009 and beyond."
Lots of people may have been stocks dropped, but still be appreciated with tax consequences. Almost everyone I talk with is changing their portfolio and, therefore, some of that long time buy and hold might be less true this year. That opens possibilities.
Having said all that, you are correct that we expect to see far fewer stock gifts this November and December.
Question from Justin D. Norris, Seton Hill University:
How do you expect Corporate Philanthropy and Giving will respond in light of the recent economic turmoil? Are there any strategies that you would recommend in dealing with corporations and businesses in soliciting them at a time like this?
After 9/11 corporate giving rose and that masked what has been the norm during recessions--companies give less. Three ideas: A. Stay with the companies even if they give less. Once you get dropped from their giving list it is very difficult to get back on the list. B. Stay every closer to your advocates--those alumni and friends you have inside the company. It is always harder to say to fellow employees with passion than to an unknown institution or fundraiser. C. Focus on more immediate needs and put off the big multi-year asks until later.
Question from Martha, Readiness Center:
What is your opinion on postponing a planned capital campaign? I am in favor of continuing with the silent phase, cultivating our major donors while postponing the public phase until the market calms down does this seem reasonable?
We are being asked about this by all our clients. Without a lot of details it is hard to be precise, but in general we try to avoid the two extremes.
The first group says GO. The economy doesn't matter. We wonder if those people have actually sat down with major donors.
The other group says DON'T GO. They believe nobody will ever give again.
In general we believe you should proceed, just more slowly. Don't stop; it is hard to get going again. However, don't forget it might take longer to get those lead gifts and the size will depend on whether the market is up or down and whether the economy is strong or weak.
Question from Scott Riccio, Accelerate Progress:
Thank you in advance for your insights. We're a fledgling non-profit that has been largely focused on building out a premier Scientific Advisory Board to guide our policy work and research efforts against cancer and other life-threatening diseases. While we've had good responses in educational meetings with a great many staffers on the Hill and across the country, we don't have much concrete 'history' to point to in terms of accomplishments.
How do we best position ourselves against those 'bigger' and more established non-profits with a long history when we look for larger donors to step in and fund our efforts with the message that doing so enhances the possibility of their other efforts bearing fruit? It seems so easy to get lost among the 'big names.' We have 'big names' on the Scientific Advisory Board, but not in other contacts as yet.
You have some advantages over big organizations--namely that the donor will count more for you. For many of our big-name clients, gifts of $1-million are common. That creates a challenge for them to make those donors feel appreciated. Your niche can be those who want to know that they are leaders in fulfilling your mission and not just one of dozens of big donors that quarter.
Question from Colleen, independent high school:
We are in the middle of a capital and endowment campaign. The construction of our new athletic center already has started and the bills are coming in. What approach do you take with prospective donors? Should we take a break? we are planning to go public at the end of the month. Do we rethink request amounts? We are asking for people to consider a 5-year pledge. Your advice is appreciated.
If you are still planning and organizing the campaign, you can adjust your timelines. One of the big challenges everyone should understand about bricks and mortar projects is that once they begin they are difficult to alter. I suspect as much as you might wish to move ahead more slowly with your campaign after this September and October financial melt-down, the new athletic center prevents that option.
It sounds like you must continue. Many institutions have gone public with campaign kick offs. None that I have talked with suggest this is ideal, but the planning and organizational momentum made it the logical next step.
Keep asking. I would start out asking for the five year pledge and as a fall back position ask people to make that one-fifth gift amount know and then consider a four year pledge next year. People are scared that it could get worse, while history suggests that bear markets don't last years. I am working with several donors now who are reluctant to make 5 year pledges, but will consider doing the first gift now.
Question from Bryan Abramson:
Should a focus of a solicitation be that its the end of the year and the potential tax incentives for giving before 12/31?
I don't believe people give for tax reasons, but I do believe that they give NOW for tax reasons. I make my gift to the Parents Fund at U. of Rochester, where my son is in school, every December. Why do I give? Because he is getting a good education, Why do I give in December? Because they remind me it's the end of the tax year.
Question from Maren, Big Sister Association of Greater Boston:
Hi Bruce...what are your thoughts on the effectiveness of e-soliciations, particularly in the current economic climate
Maren, Every year e-solicitations grow and I don't see it slowing down because of the economy. However, they remain a very small percentage of gifts for most organizations.
We have learned how to use the new tools to get people to respond to a disaster (and politicians have learned how to get people to give on-line). In the years ahead we will continue to learn how to use e-solicitations more effectively for more causes. Bruce
Question from June, dance company:
We are about to send out our annual direct mail appeal -- Do you have an opinion on timing -- this week versus let's say - after the election?
When do you normally send out the solicitations? I know I hear a lot of talk about after the election, but don't forget that 48 or 49% of the people will be unhappy after any election. Go when ready. If you are ready now, that is great, then you can ask again in early December.
Question from Laila Goldberg, The Food Trust:
Do we need to mention/acknowledge the financial crisis in upcoming appeal letters, or can we focus on our mission and organization as usual? Will not mentioning it help or hurt us?
For a big general list of nondonors, 3% is great. Expect less.
Question from Adrienne Titus, Preston Memorial Hospital Foundation:
What is the best way to go about writing an end of year appeal letter and asking for a minimum donation?
Ask for the amount. Would you consider a gift of $100 or more? Set the gift boxes at the right level on the pledge card __$100, __ $250, __$500,__ $1,000, ___other:________.
Peter Panepento (Moderator):
We're about halfway through what has been a very active discussion. Because of the volume of questions, I encourage those who haven't yet posted questions to do so soon. For those who have submitted questions and haven't yet gotten an answer, please stay tuned. We'll try to get to as many as we can. Thanks.
Question from Erin, small nonprofit:
I am new to fundraising for a non-profit organization and am currently writing a direct mail appeal letter. I have read that a short 1 page letter works best but I have also read that a 2-4 page letter is best. What would you reccomend?
Oh the ongoing challenge. Normally we all push for shorter letters and then somebody drops a four pager that works and everyone rushes to try that format. Your cause and your audience are the deciding factors, but in general shorter is the more successful approach.
Question from Molly Hinchman, very small mental health nonprofit:
My conservative and traditional Board is reluctant to refer to the economic hard times in our Appeal letter. This seems crazy to me. Although I understand that we do not want to sound desperate so that potential donors think they are throwing good money after bad, the truth is we are desperate...unlike many of our sister organizations...and these are times that take a toll on mental health in particular. How can I convince my Board that it will be a good move to be honest? Or is it a good move to be honest?
Oh the challenges of boards. I suspect there is some middle ground between the two positions. You might stress your management of resources and belt tightening underway to show that you understand the economic challenges while placing that sentence within the big story of your mission and programs.
Try to walk the line between being out of touch with economic realities on one hand or crying disaster on the other hand.
Question from Lisa Connor, small nonprofit:
We are just coming off of a successful campaign where we raised more than our goal. We asked people to make stretch gifts to help support the campaign, how do we change our message for this year?
First, segment the lists so you know who stretched and who just gave. For those who stretched, acknowledge it. Thank them. Then start reminding them that you haven't finished your important work. Your programs go on and require support. People who invested know that you are doing important work and will not be surprised to be asked to give again. They can't make once in a life time gifts every year, but they can give.
Question from Hsien Hong Lin, Taiwanese, Kent State University:
I have two questions: How to ask your donors who are in a bad financial position? And how to find which companies or industries are growing well and have a good profit in bad economic time?
If you are talking about one on one asks, then you need to acknowledge the donors distress, but not shy away from asking what you need to do to keep them giving. If you are talking about mass appeals, you have a different challenge in that you don't know about people's situation. Therefore, just go ahead and make your case and show how you are doing even more with every dollar during this difficult economic time.
We are working with a great Children's hospital and the appeal is both that the kids need help every year (you don't turn your back on a child with cancer just because the Dow is 9,000 instead of 14,000). Yet we also urged our client to show that they are being fiscally responsible and every gift will be put to good work.
As for companies, public information from financial analysts is readily available on line. Keep monitoring sectors and individual companies. A number of very good companies with continued strong profits got killed in this recent market melt down. Don't let the stock price fall of October be your guide. Do the research.
Question from Jo, Non-Profit DC:
Would you recomend holding a Gala event this year in March? How do you think it will look in these tough economic times?
Nobody knows what the economy or the stock market will look like in March. Therefore, proceed with more contingencies than normal. I just met this with a client this morning and they were showing everyone how they had reduced costs and the break even point for a gala for next spring. While in previous years the idea of extras to attract a bigger crowd was their primary focus, this year it will be to make some money with a similar number of patrons and no increase in the base ticket costs.
Peter Panepento (Moderator):
If you've enjoyed today's discussion, please keep in mind that we hold these sessions weekly.
And we have a great schedule of upcoming live discussions on the agenda.
* On Oct. 21, Shelly Cryer of American Humanics will offer career advice for young nonprofit professionals. * Nov. 4 features Paul Brest talking about his important new book. * Nov. 11 will feature a discussion on what the election results mean to the charity world.
We'll post info on all of these events (as well as free transcripts of all of our previous discussions) at http://philanthropy.com/live.
Ok, back to the chat.
Question from Christina, rural non-profit:
Most of the non-profits in our rural county are United Way Agencies (which is great!). However, that means that on November 15th, when the 'fundraising blackout period' ends, potnetial donors are absolutely swamped with donation opportunities and event invitations from EVERYONE. Our non-profit is specific to our county (we provide mentors to at-risk students), so seeking funding from outside sources is both challenging and somewhat inappropriate. We recognize that the donors in our county are being approached to give at the end of the blackout period by EVERYONE, but we also know that we need to get back into fundraising as soon as the blackout period ends. Do you have suggestions (beyond the usual and generic: "make your campaign unique," "truly show how your agency benefits your investors," etc.) for how to let our voice be heard among the multitude asking at this time?
It may be too late for this year to do more than 'make your campaign unique." However, this is an annual challenge so I would take the spring and summer to tell your story so that after the fall United Way drive your appeal is the one they pick out. People give more to causes they know and respect than causes they don't fully understand. Make this a 12 month strategy for 2009 and not just a few weeks before the black out ends discussion. Also, execute well. In a competitive environment, doing the basics well is critical. I bet a couple of those national agencies with operations in your county are going to fail to execute the basics well. In the end, those that do the work will be rewarded.
Question from Sarah, small nonprofit:
With the economy the way it is, when would you time your year-end "ask" to your large donors? We usually try to do it in early September to avoid the end of year empty pockets, but I am nervous to ask right now with such a volatile market. or is it better to jump in and ask now as it may get tighter in the next 2 months?
Don't ignore your top donors. Take your top 20 donors and contact them immediately. Thank them for past suppport and ask them when you should approach each one. Some will say now, others will say after the election or in mid-December or some other time. Let the top donors decide.
Tough times often lead to less contact with donors. We should do the opposite.
Question from Helen, education non-profit in Los Angeles:
Is it wise to combine an end of the year "ask" letter with an additional ask for support to offset moving expenses? Or would it be better to make use of both topics as separate opportunities? I guess this is about frequency versus irritation versus getting lost in the year-end pile of donation requests.
The best approach would have been to include the moving expenses in your budget so that one appeal for support covered everything. Since this is now an extra, how about finding 5 to 10 top donors and asking them to cover those costs while you work with everyone on the traditional annual year end appeal. The top affluent folks--even in this market--should be able to handle both an annual appeal and a special request, but if you start asking lots of people for multiple items you risk confusing donors.
Question from Ms. Ali, fairly large social service agency:
In this time of financial crisis, do you think using a fact based appeal or more heartwarming story would be more effective?
both. Show the need (heart) and your good management of your programs to solve the need (head). People give to important causes and ideas (heart), but want their gifts to be well used (head).
Question from Kim Siegel, Autism Delaware:
We are fortunate in that we have raised significant amounts of money through special events, and are putting our surpluses into our new service model for adults with autism and several smaller projects. But we have begun hearing protests from families about having so much money that appears unspent. I'm concerned that we will be hurt by this perception in our annual appeal. How can we succinctly address this in our appeal letter?
You need to assure people that you are still an agency or charity and not a bank. You are using the money well--both those dollars you spend now and those you invest in new programs for the future. I being successful was an insurmountable problem the biggest and most successful heatlhcare institutions wouldn't be able to raise another dime. They raise money be showing they know how to invest in the future.
Peter Panepento (Moderator):
We are out of time. Thank you for joining us today.
Because of the volume of questions and our limited time, we weren't able to get to every question during our hour. We will, however, try to get answers to all of your questions. Check out our fund-raising blog, Prospecting, for more questions. We'll use that space for our online community to offer their thoughts on your questions.
Prospecting can be found at: http://philanthropy.com/news/prospecting/
The following questions were answered off-line
Because of the volume of questions we received during the live discussion, Mr. Flessner was unable to get to every query.
To accommodate those who did not have their questions answered during the live portion of the discussion, we directed their questions to other fund-raising experts.
The following questions were answered by Samantha Cohen, a fund raising consultant with Blackbaud Inc., the nation's largest provider of fund-raising software to charities.
Question from Cindy, HHFI:
My small community nonprofit has never conducted an annual appeal campaign but we have plans in motion to initiate our first campaign in the next few weeks. As a first timer in the current economic situation, is there anything we should do differently to address all of the above?
Even in difficult economic times, donors will still contribute to worthwhile organizations that present a well thought out mission that is timely and relevant. The key to a good annual appeal is to present authentic and exciting information that entices a prospective donor with what his/her dollars can help achieve. In tough times, letting donors know that all contributions no matter how large or small really does make a difference.
Question from Lindsay Hyde, Strong Women, Strong Girls:
For organizations that were pursuing aggressive growth objectives in their strategic plans, would you recommend stopping those completely or just scaling them back? In the current climate, are donors more interested in funding sustainability efforts or are they still interested in seeing modest growth?
Donors want to invest in success. I would suggest communicating with your constituents about why you are pursuing growth objectives discussing your needs and mission. Using language that reflects an expectation of reduced donations will only be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The emphasis should focus on how you will continue to thrive and grow because your donors continue to invest in you. Having said all of that, I do think response rates will decline somewhat. Speak to your donors about success; budget based on declining numbers.
The following question was answered by Temple Elliott, a client partner with Blackbaud
Question from Bryce Snyder, Historical Society:
We rely heavily on our membership population for funding, in fact that is where most of it comes from. Do you think that now would be a good time to branch out into cultivating other donors such as major donors and corporate sponsors amid this years financial crisis? This is something we have not done much of in the past and would be interested in knowing if it would be feasible in a time like this.
As a rule, we do not see our clients holding off on cultivation/solicitation plans because of the economic turmoil, unless there is specific indication from specific donors that the timing is wrong. While consumers are concerned about volatile market conditions, your supporters can understand that your funding needs don't change, and that continuing support during hard times is very important. You might consider expanding your efforts strategically, and incrementally to specific major and corporate supporters who can appreciate your needs. You might also consider asking these donors to help you connect with new donors.
The following questions were answered by Mal Warwick, a consultant who heads Mal Warwick Associates, a direct-marketing consulting firm in Berkeley, Calif.
Question from Cheryl, small nonprofit arts organization in southern California:
We are preparing our first-ever year-end appeal letter to a small and not yet committed group of donors and potential donors. Money for printing and mailing is scanty at best. Yes, quite a challenge! What are the most important strategies and techniques for us to keep in mind?
Above all, try to understand why a donor would give you money. What are the benefits? What can your organization deliver as a return on a donor's investment? Donors give, first and foremost, because of your vision and mission. Make sure that you focus on explaining how the funds you raised will help fulfill your mission and move toward realizing the dream that is your vision. Do NOT feel as though you have to describe all your programs and projects in detail. Focus instead on benefits.
Second, as an arts organization, you may be tempted to spend a fair amount of money on making your appeal pretty. Don't succumb to that temptation. There are only four necessary components of a successful fundraising appeal: a letter, a response device, and two envelopes, one to return the response device with a gift and one to contain all the rest of the contents. Do NOT enclose a brochure. You don't necessarily have to use any graphics at all.
Third, don't listen to anyone who tells you that they never read any letters longer than one page. That may be what people say, but it's not necessarily how they behave. If you need two, three, or even four pages to make the case for giving (by dramatizing all the benefits to donors), then don't be bamboozled by people who insist a letter that long won't work. It can, and probably will.
Question from Kirsten, small nonprofit:
How can our piece stand out in the overwhelming pile of 'asks' that donors receive during this time of year?
My best advice is not to try to compete with much bigger and better-funded organizations by mimicking the colorful, jam-packed year-end appeals that many of them favor. The most important element in any fundraising appeal is, almost always, the letter. Chances are, you're best off writing a great letter and mailing it along with a simple response device and reply envelope in a plain white outer envelope. Your odds are increased if you mail the package using real first-class stamps. Don't worry about placing graphics or "teaser" copy on the outer envelope. Testing shows those elements just as often depress results as enhance them.
Question from Jon Hysell - Hamilton College:
We want to thread the needle and recognize the "elephant in the room" without creating a reason not to give. Our Annual Fund Chair has suggested the following be included in our lead solicitation that goes out under his signature: "I respect that the economic climate today is very challenging for Hamilton, its students and its alumni, and that this year special dedication and generosity from alumni will be on display in achieving the Annual Fund goals. Gratefully, our alumni have never before flinched from a challenge in furtherance of Hamilton's laudable mission." I'd appreciate your thoughts on this message and suggestions for something similar as a follow up message for our second solicitation.
Your Annual Fund Chair is on the right track. If you regard the current economic crisis as an opportunity rather than a problem--always a good idea--then you'll conclude after very little thought that difficult economic conditions are harder on students than they're likely to be on donors. Your case for giving is strengthened. Take advantage of it. Many people are persuaded to give more when they know that others are having a much tougher time trying to survive this economic climate.
Question from Andie Wilcox, Community Hospital Foundation:
This will be the first year that we have done any direct mail/year-end appeal. Considering the economic climate should we have our donation amounts on the low side?
Unfortunately, you haven't given me enough information to answer this question as helpfully as I'd like to. Presumably, you'll be writing to your donors--people who have given to your hospital through channels other than the mail. Presumably, too, you know how much these folks have previously given. If both those assumptions are correct, then I suggest you write personalized letters asking for donors to match their highest previous contributions, or if possible to give even more. This isn't a time to be low-balling your requests. The suggested gift amounts, then, would be: [ ] $(highestpreviousgift) [ ] $(highestpreviousgift+20%) [ ] $_________.
Question from Janice, Mothers' Milk Bank :
We are a fairly new nonprofit (3 years) and are trying to figure out who to target for our first real direct mail campaign. We do not have a donor base at the present time. Any advice on how to find our target market?
If your organization is well enough funded to contemplate a mailing of, say, 20,000 prospect names or more, then your best bet is to consult one of a number of list brokers specializing in fundraising lists. A broker can steer you toward donor and member lists of other nonprofit organizations with compatible missions, toward subscribers to publications that write about related matters, and possibly even toward buyers of goods that are typically purchased by or for nursing mothers. If you're considering something much more modest, then I suggest you begin with your staff, board, and volunteers, collecting names on an individual basis and gathering together any information you can obtain about those who have visited or called your office, attended your events, or in other ways shown interest in your work. Either way, the going will be slow and expensive. These are trying times to launch a new direct mail fundraising campaign.
Question from Jillian, small nonprofit:
On our annual appeal letter we are asking that people consider giving a significant contribution this year as it is our 25th anniversary and we hope to expand modestly--that it is a pivotal time for us. Should we rephrase?
At this juncture, no one--repeat: no one--can predict the outcome of the year-end appeals that nonprofits across the country are already starting to launch in the mail. Clearly, we are experiencing an economic reversal that is significant, to put it mildly. But no one knows how donors will respond to the crisis. History tells us that fundraising revenue declines by far less than personal income in a recession. My advice is that you strut your stuff--make the case for giving as strongly as you possibly can. (By the way, writing that you want to expand "modestly" may not be the most inspiring way to motivate bigger gifts. Make sure you dramatize the expansion as worthy of the upgrades you're seeking.)
Question from Carol, Local Y:
Our annual appeal does well, and our list is predominantly past and current members, program participants and donors. Before the last couple of weeks of financial uncertainty, we discussed putting resources towards reaching more households and businesses in the area with a cold letter. Worth the effort? Thanks.
Yes, that would be worth the effort--if you can successfully make the case that the people you serve through your human-service programs are suffering in the current crisis. Your community may respond generously if you can drive that point home. Our experience in fundraising over the years shows clearly that donors will dig deeply if they understand how great the need is. However, I wouldn't go overboard. Make sure you limit your donor-acquisition activities to those prospects you rate very highly. This isn't a time to spend money loosely.