My mentor once said to me,
“I wish I would have noticed earlier in my career how closely overall fundraising results tend to mirror the economy.”
It’s such a simple idea. But knowing it helped me be a more effective Fundraiser.
There are four main lessons I took from his remark, and I hope they are helpful to you, too.
Takeaway #1 – When the Economy Is Good, Be Bullish
This is applicable right now, today. (As I write this, the S&P is up 19% since the beginning of October.)
“Being bullish” means adding another letter or email in your campaign, or even adding another campaign. It means expecting slightly higher results. It means asking Majors for a little more.
Because the economy seems to be rebounding, I am bullish on year-end fundraising this year.
Takeaway #2 – When the Economy Slows, Reset Your Expectations
When the economy slows, campaigns won’t perform quite as well. Response rates drop a bit, as do average gift sizes. Majors tend to give smaller gifts.
So when the economy slows, savvy organizations reset their expectations. If the goal and plan for the year was 5% growth, they think about reducing that to 3%. They let their Board know the revised expectations, and why.
Takeaway #3 – The World Affects Your Fundraising
If there’s a major natural disaster the week your appeal lands in homes, that appeal most likely isn’t going to do as well.
When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, we knew two major campaigns that we’d just launched were going to underperform. A significant portion of Americans’ attention turned to New Orleans… which meant less mail was opened… which meant less money was raised by our campaigns.
You obviously can’t plan for natural disasters. But you can plan for times when you know in advance that the world is going to affect your fundraising. For instance, this coming fall is the 2024 Presidential election in the U.S. We recommend most organizations not launch an important campaign the week before or after the election.
Takeaway #4 – Always Keep Noticing
My Mentor was in his 70’s when he shared this observation with me. I love that, even in retirement, he was still noticing things about fundraising. It’s a good goal for all of us Fundraisers: keep noticing things about fundraising, keep trying to get a little bit better at this craft. It makes us a little bit more effective helping our beneficiaries, the organizations we serve, and our donors.