As record inflation makes fundraising more difficult and more important, remember that your work is offering others an opportunity to be charitable.
“Talking about how inflation is changing a nonprofit’s ability to meet needs—and deal with any increase in demands—is crucial to helping donors better figure out how to make a difference.”
This is an important insight from Gregory R. Witkowski, writing at the Chronicle of Philanthropy with advice for fundraisers staring down record-high inflation. The important insight, however, falls in the latter half of the sentence.
I remain unpersuaded that “talking about … inflation” is a good idea in your fundraising communications. You want to talk about your donor, your mission, and the problem your donor is solving by advancing your mission. Slipping into the “money illusion” to educate your donor about the shrinking power of her donation risks uninspiring, transactional messaging. (An exception to the rule might be your principal donors who often peer behind the curtain, so to speak, and get an insider’s perspective into how they can support the organization. These donors, note, are uniquely interested in making a difference in your organization.)
But that point aside, Witkowski catches something that fundraisers do well to remember: you are “helping your donors … figure out how to make a difference.”
Most fundraisers stumble into fundraising. Rare is the child who dreams of one day being a successful fundraiser. And we all know the cultural image of fundraisers as hat-in-hand money grubbers always looking for you to get your wallet out.
Fundraisers, and the nonprofits that employ them, depend on the charity of generous Americans, right? That’s true, of course, but it’s not a one-way street.
Fundraisers also offer others an opportunity to be generous. Yes, we need the charity of others, but in needing their charity, we offer them an opportunity to be charitable—which is itself a form of charity.
The job description of a fundraiser is to ask donors and prospective donors for money. But the reality of the situation is that fundraisers are offering donors and prospective donors an opportunity to be charitable and then helping them figure out how to make a difference.
Plagued as we are by record inflation, fundraisers need to redouble their efforts to hit their goals. Nonprofit organizations need more dollars from their donors even as those very same donors feel their dollars not going as far.
As ever, the first principle is not to veer from fundamentals. Fundraising during a pandemic is like fundraising before a pandemic; fundraising during inflationary growth is like fundraising in a stagnant economy. In 2022—just like in 2020 and 2019 and the years prior—you are looking to inspire others about your vision for the future and to invite them to help you in making that vision a reality.
But now, when we know that dollars feel tighter for everyone, when two years of uncertainty has grown into a third year of uncertainty—now might be the time to remember that your act of asking for money is itself an act of charity.
Your act of inviting the donor deeper into your mission, to dig deep and stand with you—even now—is your way of helping them make a difference and living lives of meaning.