Grant Professionals of Lower Hudson
Many thanks to the Heller Fundraising Group for giving us permission to repost this article from their website, written by Betsy Steward. You can read the original article here on the Heller Fundraising Group’s website, which also has some free fundraising tools you may want to check out.
4 Helpful Tips for Fundraising During a Recession
By Betsy Steward, Heller Fundraising Group
I’ve been reading a lot of articles and hearing a lot of discussions that predict a recession in the near future. I’m also aware that many experts talk and write about the current strength of our economy. No one knows for sure what will happen this year. I sincerely hope we don’t experience a repeat of 2008-2009. Not only was my fundraising job extremely stressful, but my husband got laid off in October 2008 as well. So, yeah, I’m not excited about doing THAT again.
That said, I thought this might be a good time to share my experience of raising funds during that awful time known as “The Great Recession.” I certainly don’t claim to have a magic formula, but the small nonprofit where I worked, unlike many other organizations nearby, experienced a steady increase in donated funds instead of a decrease during that time. I’ve been thinking about how that happened.
The Background: Before my current job as a fundraising consultant, I had been hired in 2007 as the nonprofit’s Development Officer. I worked there for ten years, eventually becoming the Director of Development. Early on in my tenure, I made a couple of changes to the existing fundraising strategy. All of my changes had to do with building and strengthening relationships with our donors. The changes paid off, and the results started showing almost immediately.
Tip #1: First, I set a policy of never, ever sending another letter that starts, “Dear Friend.” It is not a good way to build a relationship, and there’s really no excuse for it in the 21st century. All databases are capable of personalizing a salutation field, even if you’re using Excel as your database and Word as your letter-generator. If you don’t know how to make your system produce a letter that starts, “Dear Joan,” or “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith,” then find someone to help you figure it out. It’s not that hard, and it will be worth your time.
Tip #2: Second, I set an ambitious policy for acknowledging donations. Upon receipt of a donation, we would call or send a handwritten note to the donor within three days, and our official acknowledgement letter on our letterhead with official tax language would be sent within two weeks. This policy applied to every single donation, regardless of the size. I wrote notes to EVERYONE, even people who sent us $10. I must admit that we didn’t always manage to keep up with my 3-day deadline, but we came close enough that donors felt they were thanked immediately, which is critically important. A note sent when a donor can’t even remember writing the check is almost as bad as no note at all—maybe worse, since it makes your nonprofit look so careless and disorganized.
Tip #3: Another action I took wasn’t a change to the fundraising strategy, but rather a continuation of it. Following the rule of “rain or shine, keep your friends close,” I continued to reach out to our major donors. Some development professionals take the approach of “OMG, it’s a recession, I better not bother my donors!” That’s a mistake that comes from thinking about your donors as your financiers instead of your partners. Your donors believe in your mission, and it matters to them if you’re successful or not in making the changes to the world that they want to see. If you leave them out of the conversation during hard times—especially when they are well aware you’re facing a major challenge beyond your control—how does that build the relationship? If anything, a recession offers an excuse to engage donors even further, especially when you remember that they’re donating because they, too, believe passionately in your mission and want you to succeed.
Tip #4: I did something else that I think is worth mentioning: I ignored the recession. That’s right, I ignored it. Instead of wringing my hands and worrying about what if, what if, WHAT IF…., I kept my mind on my job and made sure I did everything I was supposed to do as a development professional. Many of my colleagues (including, and maybe especially, my board members) were quite nervous about fundraising in such a bleak economy, spending a lot of their time and energy talking about how awful it was for fundraising. I made every effort to avoid doing that. If someone started complaining about the economy, I would change the subject or find some reason to leave the discussion without being rude. When it was just too distracting, I pushed myself to refocus on the task at hand—sometimes more successfully than others.
Of course I wasn’t oblivious to it—believe me, it was challenging for my whole family when my husband lost his job, and I can’t claim that I didn’t worry at all about raising funds in such an environment. But I worked at being disciplined about keeping my attention on my job. As a result, I was able to keep up with my rigorous acknowledgement policy and all the other tasks that one-person-development-office professionals have before them.
I mean, that’s all you can do, isn’t it? Keeping your nose to the grindstone usually pays off. Worrying and complaining about things beyond your control just makes you miserable, and you STILL have to do your job.
Here’s a glimpse of my organization’s donations from individuals during that time:
So if we are indeed headed for a recession—or even if we’re not!—try some of these things. Maybe your organization is well beyond sending “Dear Friend” letters, but I still receive them, so somebody out there hasn’t upped their game yet! And what is your acknowledgement policy? Could it be better? I recommend you take a look at all of your processes to make sure you’re doing everything you can to build successful relationships with your donors.
Recessions come and go, but relationships are what we fundraisers and our nonprofits depend on. That doesn’t change, whether the economy is thriving or diving.
Betsy Steward is Senior Consultant at the Heller Fundraising Group and advises clients on capital campaigns as well as major donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. firstname.lastname@example.org
Impact100 Westchester is kicking off their Seventh Grant Cycle with their annual Nonprofit Information Session.
At this session, you will learn about their Grant Application process and important changes for this year. Registration required.
WHAT: Nonprofit Information Session
WHEN: Thursday, November 7, 2019, 10 am - noon
WHERE: Westchester County Center, 198 Central Avenue, White Plains, NY. (You will receive a complimentary parking pass a few days in advance of the event.)
Register online here.
Learn more about Impact100 Westchester and their grant program here
Note: Impact100 Westchester will also hold optional Project Pitch Days on December 3rd and 9th for your organization to receive feedback before submitting your initial proposal.
Association of Development Officers and Grant Professionals of Lower Hudson Present “Meet the Funders Panel Discussion.”
We have assembled a group of esteemed grant makers from the region who will voice their opinions about philanthropy, grant making, relationship building, evaluations, and more.
Topics to include:
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden: Executive Director, Westchester County Youth Bureau
Patti Horvath: Program Manager, Field Hall Foundation
Alison Paul: Program Chair, Grant Professionals of Lower Hudson; Principal, Alison Paul Grantwriting and Consulting
About Our Panelists
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden, Executive Director of the Westchester County Youth Bureau
Dr. DaMia Harris-Madden is the Executive Director of the Westchester County Youth Bureau, the youth division under County Executive Latimer’s Office. The Westchester County Youth Bureau oversees 140+ programs and services to benefit children, youth and families throughout the County. In her first year of appointment, she secured a federal grant- the first for the department.
Prior to this, Dr. Harris-Madden served as the Executive Director of the City of Mount Vernon Youth Bureau. During her tenure, she assisted the city in securing close to 30 million in grant monies aimed to provide support to various programs, which expanded after-school, crime-prevention, workforce development, occupational skill academies and other social and emotional programs aimed to advance the City’s youth.
Dr. Harris-Madden has served as a federal and local grant reviewer, and an Evaluator for a state funded 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant. As the current President of the Hudson Valley Association of Youth Bureaus, she assists Youth Bureaus from Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester Counties, creating a larger presence for and understanding of how the Bureaus can help residents.
Patti Lavan Horvath, Program Manager, Field Hall Foundation
Ms. Horvath is the Program Officer for Field Hall Foundation, whose mission is to improve the health and lives of older adults and their caregivers. Prior, she was the Director of Corporate Compliance and Community Outreach for Fieldhome, a healthcare organization, and also worked in educational publishing. She is a board member of the Northern Westchester Geriatric Committee and a member of the Rotary Club of Yorktown.
Kathryn Luria, SVP, Community Affairs, Director of Philanthropy, Webster Bank
Kathy Luria serves as Senior Vice President of Community Affairs and Director of Philanthropy at the corporate headquarters of Webster Bank in Waterbury, CT. Previously, Kathy served the State of Connecticut as the Director of Continuing Education and Community Services, and then Director of Marketing at Naugatuck Valley Community College. With almost 20 years of employment with the College, and now over 12 years serving as Webster’s ambassador to the community, Luria remains a strong advocate and resource throughout the state and the region. Kathy currently serves as a Director and Assistant Vice President of the Harold Webster Smith Foundation. She is board chair of the CT Council for Philanthropy; sits on the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, CT Working Cities Challenge Advisory Council; serves United Way of Greater Waterbury as a voting member; and is a United Way of Central and NE CT Women United Member.
Deena Schaffer: Program Officer, The Taft Foundation
Deena Schaffer is a Program Officer at The Taft Foundation, a $200M private foundation with a mission to improve the quality of life of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities as well as children with serious medical conditions in the New York metropolitan area and South Florida. The Foundation’s portfolio includes 60+ grantees totaling $10M+ in active grants each year. Prior to joining The Taft Foundation, Deena worked in institutional advancement for PENCIL and The Posse Foundation, two youth development nonprofits working to improve access to college and career opportunities. She earned her MPA in Nonprofit Management and Finance from NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service, as well as her BA in Sociology and Hispanic Studies from Brandeis University.
Marcy Syms: Sy Syms Foundation
Marcy Syms is founding trustee and President of the Sy Syms Foundation, and since 2012, President of TPD Group LLC., a multi-generational succession planning company. She is the former Chair and CEO of SYMS, one of the first companies to offer designer and brand-name clothing at “off-price” rather than “regular price.” In 1983, when taking SYMS public, Marcy became the youngest female president of a New York Stock Exchange company. In 2009, SYMS acquired Filene's Basement and operated 50 stores under both names.
From United Way of Westchester and Putnam:
The United Way of Westchester and Putnam is accepting applications for the Phase 36 (2019-2020) Emergency Food and Shelter Funds available through the Local Westchester Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) Board. This program provides federal funding which helps to extend currently available services for the hungry and homeless. The deadline for submission of completed applications is 4 p.m. on Monday, July 29, 2019.
The Emergency Food and Shelter Program National Board, which is chaired by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, announced that Westchester County was awarded $466,615. United Way of Westchester and Putnam is the administrative agency of the Local Emergency Food and Shelter Programs in Westchester and Putnam counties........
Read the full article on the UWWP website.
From Philanthropy News Digest, Feb. 5, 2019
A majority of nonprofits (54 percent) raised more money in 2018 than they did in 2017, while slightly more than a quarter (28 percent) raised about the same, an annual year-end survey by the Association of Fundraising Professionals finds……
Read the article on Philanthropy News Digest.
From TheNonProfitTimes, Feb. 5, 2019
The Foundation Center and GuideStar, the two largest data and information nonprofit organizations in the United States, are merging in a deal that took about two years to consummate but was at least a decade in the making. The organizations will be rebranded as Candid. (with a period)……
Read the article on TheNonProfitTimes.
The Westchester Community Foundation website now provides “The Westchester Index,” a robust source of relevant and extremely useful statistics for Westchester County.
The Westchester Index includes over 200 indicators of demographic, economic, housing, health, and other data from the American Community Survey, with underlying links to the source of information, such as the Census Bureau, Centers For Disease Control and the NY State Education Department.
Information can be searched by zip code, school district, municipality, legislative and congressional districts.
Access this new handy resource here.
The following text is excerpted from a post on the daily forum of the Grant Professionals Association website. The author, who gave permission for us to share this, is a grant writer with 18 years of experience who specializes government grant writing. Her comments were in response to a question from another forum participant who asked about the effects of the government shutdown.
The writer’s opinion about the long term impacts, based on her experience and connections, gave us enough concern that we felt it was important to share:
The impacts of the shutdown will, in my opinion, be experienced for years to come. The immediate impacts of the shutdown include so many delays. Just think how much of a backlog you would have if you were suddenly gone from the office for more than a month, with no one to do your work! Now multiply that by hundreds of thousands of employees. Yes, it's that bleak. As one of my good friends who works for HUD put it...I was already so far behind that getting caught up was improbable...now it's a myth!
In addition to the delays grantees have experienced in payments, many are waiting for answers to questions, policy interpretations, approvals for changes in their program or grant budgets, etc. There has also been a delay in issuing RFPs that will just scrunch the calendar for the whole year (making grant professionals like us, lose our minds later in the year)!
My bigger concern is the brain drain. I used to work in DC and knew many of the program officers and higher level folks in several departments. Many left shortly after the inauguration. Others waited...holding on out of a sense of civic responsibility or just holding out for retirement. I'm now hearing rumblings that some of the program officers I deal with a lot are either actively looking (yes, a few have asked if they can use me as a reference) or have resigned. One of my dearest friends decided to go to the private sector where, as he put it, I'll earn more and likely have greater security in terms of getting a paycheck!
I also predict that the loss of institutional knowledge will impact programs for years to come in so many ways. For example, many of our program officers act as active advocates for their programs with Congress (through report writing, relationships with staff, subcommittee staff, etc.). Now imagine that person, with 20 years of knowledge as to how to get things done, is gone. That's the reality. Federal employees, who have been vilified by political extremists and reporting in the media, already had very low morale levels -- imagine how they must feel now, knowing that this whole shutdown mess might come back in 3 weeks, and then again later this year. Now, with the uncertainty of whether or not the politicians can govern, would you stay? If you knew that your paycheck was dependent on what many consider a dysfunctional mess in our country, would you stay?
Now consider that federal employees who leave will have to be replaced. How can they possibly recruit new, high qualified individuals? Don't we want the best and the brightest? Doesn't our country deserve the best and the brightest? Further, department heads are under pressure to reduce head count, which often means that more and more contractors are used. Knowing that contractors are not protected during shutdowns, would you want a federal contract? In the news today is a report of a small business that is likely going to go belly up because of not having any revenues for more than a month. Also, there's another piece about an employee of a contractor who lost her health insurance in the shutdown and how that's impacting her family (her husband has MS and was hospitalized without insurance). She's apparently worked for an agency as an employee of a contractor for more than 10 years in the Mine Safety and Health Administration. I know if I were her, I'd be looking for another job where my family's health insurance was stable.
The brain drain -- that's the really big impact that we will feel for years to come. Just my $0.02.
Karen L. Cassidy, GPC
Governmental Grant Professionals, LLC
As a part of the grantseeking community, you know how important it is to stay on top of trends. The State of Grantseeking Survey from Grant Station spotlights recent developments in funding so that organizations can be more strategic in their grantseeking.
The resulting free reports, published in May and November, can serve as a valuable benchmark for organizations to review their grantseeking efforts, and will provide leading-edge information months earlier than other annual surveys.
View the Spring 2018 Reports here.
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