3 Tips for Recession Proofing Your Organization
As we watch the news about markets and instability right now, it can feel like 2022 is deja vu all over again. (Anyone else shudder reading that?) In Spring 2020, the uncertainty felt by the organizations we serve was palpable. It seemed everyone was asking how the pandemic, job losses, lockdowns, businesses closing, and other related changes would affect donors. Fundraising banquets and longstanding golf tournaments were canceled, even as needs on the field grew greater.
We saw organizations shift into three groups – some, carrying on as usual, another group pulling back on operations due to uncertainty, and another group shifting to invest in building new systems. And, as a team, we decided to be part of that third group, and shifted very intentionally into a refreshed mission to strengthen organizations committed to hope, generosity and justice.
Here’s what we learned during that time – and how it can help organizations facing different – but similar – challenges in this season.
Know your donor – and know them well. Most organizations we connect with say they know their donor, but when we dig into this, they often have a caricature of the donor they fear losing – not a strong understanding of the donor they connect with best. One of the most important things you can do right now is to care for your donors by understanding what they’re thinking about during this season, what is keeping them up at night and how you can serve them now and in the future.
Know your beneficiary – and how your donor relates to them. Do you know what your favourite donors and the beneficiaries of your work have in common? When we’re helping connect real-life donors to the real-life people we serve, understanding their common ground is critical to making a genuinely rewarding connection, for both of them! And, since connection is critical to building long-lasting donor relationships, this is foundational to your organization’s sustainable growth.
Invest in your foundation. When we took a look at the revenue of the organizations we worked with over the last 2 or 3 years, we identified some incredible trends. The organizations that invested in building a Brand Playbook, marketing strategy, public engagement and fundraising refreshes saw dramatic growth. Some of these organizations were small, and some mid-sized, but their growth outpaced their investment in ways that surprised even us. While these foundational pieces might not seem exciting – they clearly energize and equip internal teams by releasing them to do the creative work they want to do well, rather than reinventing the wheel year after year.