RKD’s David Miller shares three recommendations for preparing for year-end and beyond.
One of the best parts about attending The Association for Animal Welfare Advancement’s conferences is the conversations I have with people across the industry. And I was thrilled to finally get back together and see so many familiar faces—and meet a few new ones—this past week in Chicago.
Among the many topics discussed during our time there, one subject kept popping up over and over: inflation. So many animal welfare organizations are being hit hard by a double whammy of rising costs and softening donations.
And you’re not alone.
Giving USA just released their annual report for 2021. They found that inflation has all but wiped out the fundraising gains made by nonprofits last year.
This is certainly a cause for concern. However, as we’ve found out repeatedly during the pandemic, having a plan for action beats panicking 10 times out of 10.
So what should animal welfare organizations do now to prepare for year-end and beyond? Here are my top three recommendations:
Don’t pull back in acquisition
It may be tempting to trim back spending on acquisition to save money in the near term, but research shows that it’s a terrible idea. Not only will you lose the influx of new donors now, but you’ll also miss out on gifts next year and the potential for major gifts down the road.
Many people in the fundraising industry have heard the story of what happened when the American Cancer Society dropped its acquisition program in 2013. It took roughly five years for their program to recover after losing nearly $30 million in revenue.
The solution, instead, is to optimize your direct mail program with data and analytics, while sprinkling some investment into digital channels.
In mail, refine your list strategy to focus on high-value donors who are committed to animal welfare causes. Digital media can also be used to target prospective donors and motivate them to give.
Keep chugging along now or your annual program will be in bigger trouble later.
Focus on stewardship
Another temptation will be to simply ask your current donors to give more. But don’t forget that they’re feeling the pinch of inflation as well.
Now is the time to really lean into your stewardship practices. Remember: You want to build long-term, committed relationships with these donors. Thank them for their support, show them the impact of their gift and make them feel like a hero.
I’ve written on this topic here before, so check out 4 Simple Stewardship Practices and Stewardship: Breaking Free from the Ask-and-Repeat Model to help you dive a little deeper.
Ask major donors for help
Your wealthy donors are not experiencing the same pinch of inflation as the average American. Don’t be afraid to ask them for support.
Most major donors are problem solvers, and they’re deeply committed to your cause. They don’t necessarily give to help a particular animal. They want to fix the underlying issues that cause animal abandonment and abuse.
Asking them to close the funding gap caused by inflation gives them a problem to solve—provided that you can tie it to your mission and your services.
Start checking in with these donors by phone, send them a handwritten note or set up an in-person meeting. Alert them to the challenges you’re facing, and remind them of the various avenues they can give—donor-advised funds, IRAs, stocks and even cryptocurrency (take it out now before it drops even more).
Make the effort to connect with your major donors, and I promise it will be worth it.
The last couple of years have certainly tested the resilience of everyone’s fundraising programs, but we’ve made it here today by adapting and staying proactive. Inflation is the newest hurdle for us, and I’m confident we’ll rise to the challenge.