Easier Said Than Done : Face Hard Times Without Fear
Sorry, but the economic downturn is probably going to hurt.January 2009 By Jeff Brooks
If you’ve checked your 401(k) balance lately, you might have tasted that metallic tang in the back of your mouth that signals raw, animal fear. It’s not a nice feeling. It’s a feeling that can make you want to do something wild, like grab what’s left of your money and hide it in your mattress.
Don’t. Trust me — it’s totally uncomfortable. And the Mattress Plan is going to play even worse havoc with your retirement than the economy has.
Things are scary all over right now. Chances are, your organization is suffering a drop in revenue, whether from individual donors, corporate supporters or government sources — maybe all of the above. Some nonprofits already have shut down. Undoubtedly, more will in the coming months.
But please — be not afraid.
Actions made in fear are almost always destructive. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He knew that a whole bunch of people freaking out could do a lot more damage than a tough economy could.
Well, surprise: The fear-driven fundraisers who make up so much of our industry are freaking out. They’re going into hibernation, hoping to wait this thing out. They’re making it much, much worse for themselves.
But in a way, their absence can be good for the rest of us. Those fear-based cuts mean a less crowded fundraising marketplace and less junk in the mailbox. It also means printers, mail shops and broadcasters, facing less business, are more willing than ever to cut us deals. This might be a time when we can spend less to get more.
It’s easy for me to tell you not to be afraid. But you have to navigate through this craziness. So let me give you a few more pointers that can help you keep your courage up in hard times.
Don’t cut donor acquisition
Cutting acquisition is tempting. It’s the most costly fundraising activity and the one least likely to produce immediate positive net revenue. When cash flow gets tight, your money people might zero in on acquisition.
Don’t let that happen! Acquisition is the worst possible thing to cut. It saves a few dollars today but will hurt you for years into the future. For every three donors you don’t acquire now, that’s one high-producing core donor you won’t have three years from now. The hole that will make in your future revenue is irreparable; you can’t go back and redo lost opportunity.