By James V. D’Ambrosio

Recently I attended a grant-writing workshop at the Support Center For Nonprofit Management in NYC. While most of the day-long seminar focused on the nuts and bolts of preparing winning grant proposals, at one point the conversation turned to the challenging environment many nonprofits now find themselves in: struggling with reduced government support and increased competition for foundation and corporate grants.

Given this reality — unlikely to change anytime soon — I began thinking about focusing on the basics: maintaining positive relations with your donor base — those regular $5, $10 and $20 gifts comprising nearly 80 percent of individual giving, on average. Since it is far more difficult — and expensive — to acquire new donors than keep existing ones, it is imperative that nonprofits cement these relationships and not take them for granted. With gasoline soaring toward record highs — last night I saw a station raise the price 20 cents a gallon — and stubbornly high unemployment, people will continue to look for ways to cut discretionary spending. And charitable donations definitely fall into that category.

So this is a good time to update and remind long-time small donors about the good work your agency does and the positive difference it’s making in people’s lives. You should reiterate how much you value their support, framed as an important investment serving your constituencies.  This should not be a fund-raising pitch; rather, strictly an informational piece. It’s good public relations to intersperse solicitations with informative pieces that do not ask for money. Many donors — myself included — appreciate this. It reduces the likelihood of people  feeling ‘overpitched,’ i.e., only being contacted when asked for financial support.

Additionally, consider the long-term perspective: keeping  donors engaged and excited about the work you do increases the likelihood they will feel good about contributing to your cause. If you can keep donors engaged during difficult times, think what you can do when the economy improves! 

QUESTION TO READERS: How else might you keep donors engaged during these challenging economic times?

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