Yes, the Holiday Season is almost upon us. School is back in session for most students. Halloween advertisements are showing up here and there. And for many nonprofits this is the time when they are planning some significant fundraiser.
In the face of the economic downturn, while giving has been sharply down over recent years, Americans are still a truly generous people. We support international needs. We give to needy families through our religious organizations. We give of our time to community causes. And the Holiday season is the time of year when we are thinking most of others, as well as when thoughts can turn to the end of the year, the New Year, with resolutions, and also, another tax season, when deductions for such things as charitable giving weight heavy.
Looking at the local animal welfare sector -- animal welfare causes, as you can tell from that USA Today chart or from the source, the GIVING USA Report, are not a very significant recipient group. Could that be because of the time tested fundraising axiom that "If you don't ask, you don't get."?
Animal welfare groups frequently complain that donor prospects ask them, "Why should I give to help animals, when there are human beings around us that are suffering?" That report and the USA Today graphic show that relatively speaking, plenty of support DOES get o human services causes. So animal welfare groups should make use of these findings and offer people that reassurance, that there is room for giving to al sorts of causes, and that animal welfare might need more support than it currently gets.
But back to "If you don't ask ..." sometimes small groups, and maybe especially, volunteer organizations, bemoan that people just don't seem to be very generous to their cause. BUT, you gotta wonder just how much they have done to make their cause appealing, or to make donors feel great about giving!
People give because they have been asked. That means, you DO need to make an ask. You have to offer a specific opportunity to the right individual at the right time, and then ... be quiet. You do have to put an opportunity to help, in front of me. And then, maybe if, over a long time, I continue to not respond, THEN you may be able to say that people like me, don't support animal welfare causes. But when groups DO ask, people DO donate. So make the ask! Make it in a variety of ways, appealing to different types of thinking. But DO make it!
Another blind spot for some animal welfare nonprofits is thinking that foundations and their grants are the first and best way to make a big splash. Well, it's true that for large chunks of money, private and corporate foundations might be sensible sources. But many groups, including animal welfare groups, really don't need large chunks of money. Instead, they need a steady cash flow. They need cash for operating expenses, to buy paper and toner. They need cash to keep the lights on, and to run programs. These are the kinds of expenses that many individual donors can understand best too! Because, many individuals today either have similar expenses in their own small businesses, or they deal with these expenses in their home budgets.
Back to timing. Nonprofits often don't ask often enough, either. I know, I know. Everyone SAYS that they get asked too often. But isn't it possible that they're asked in the same way, too often, and not that the frequency of asks is too high? I'm a donor to a number of charitable causes, myself. I recognize that I start to feel inattentive if several appeals I receive approach giving and need in a similar way. But also, I recognize that when I am asked in the right way, by an organization that I recognize and that has recognized me as one of their donors, I will still consider giving.
You cannot say "Thank you" too often either. Studies have found that donors who are promptly and sincerely thanked, tend to give more. Since THANKSGIVING is coming up, like many nonprofit consultants, I'd urge local nonprofits to be sure and THANK your donors, now, whether you have been doing so previously, or not.
The season coming up is a wonderful one filled with warmth and joy. Yes, it's hectic for the fundraising crew, but if you do your work carefully, you will also be participating in the most generous time of the year.