Can You Bubble-Wrap your Nonprofit Against Inflation?
Everything costs more these days. EVERYTHING. Historically-high inflation rates are affecting all of us in some way. The pandemic caused an increased demand for nonprofit services. Now inflation is having the same effect. Just like Covid, inflation hits you, your friends and the people you serve – the most vulnerable members of our community – the hardest. Is there anything you can do to protect your nonprofit while weathering the inflation storm? Don’t expect a quick fix, but you can make some helpful adjustments now until the economy recovers. Here’s how.
Don’t complain, but share your pain. Communicate with your donors. Reach out and let them know how the current economic climate is affecting your org and the folks you serve. This sets you up to then ask for a little more. It’s okay to ask for a little more. Not everyone will be able to oblige, but those who aren’t struggling to pay their own bills will empathize with the position you’re in, and the havoc inflation is currently wreaking. Their donations simply don’t go as far as they used to. If you have a good relationship with your donors (and we sure hope you do!), an additional ask won’t be offensive or off-putting. Nor will it come as a surprise.
Recurring + Monthly Donations
Monthly donations are a nonprofit’s lifeblood during hard times. Reach out to your supporters who are already giving monthly, and ask if they could please increase the number just a bit. Or request a bi-monthly gift for the next few months, to help see you through. (Don’t forget to thank them profusely!) Also consider reaching out to your supporters who aren’t currently giving monthly, and tell them what’s going on. Share your plight. Then see if they can join the ranks of your other monthly donors and commit to a small recurring one. One-time donations are great, but if you can amass a greater number of smaller donations, on a regular basis, you’ll be in better financial shape. Over time, those small gifts really do add up.
If you don’t have corporate partners, now’s the time to seek some out. Larger corporations aren’t completely immune to the pinch of inflation, but they are generally in a better position to give than small businesses currently are. Another bonus to procuring support from corporations: They can help you find volunteers – often highly skilled ones! It’s common practice for corporations to send employees out on volunteer missions, as part of their community outreach. So what do you need done? Identify your needs and ask your corporate supporters to keep you in mind, when it’s time for them to offer up their workforce for volunteerism.
Two more things to consider to stay out of the red: Increase the price of sponsorships, and diversify your revenue streams.
Diversify Revenue Streams
We advise you to do this at all times, but with astronomically high inflation, diversifying revenue streams truly is ESSENTIAL. None of your fundraising campaigns and/or activities should make up more than 25% of the money you raise annually, regardless of whether it’s an annual or semi-annual campaign. As for events, our data suggests they account for about 8-10% of the total money nonprofits raise each year. If you’re not asking donors to support you through varied campaigns such as Peer-to-Peer (P2P) and Donor-Advised Funds, perhaps it’s time to start.
Lean into Donor-Advised Funds! DAFs allow donors to make a contribution, receive a tax break, then start managing the fund. As the investment grows, the money is distributed via grants. The tax break incentivizes your donors, without costing you anything. DAFs are particularly popular and effective during times of economic uncertainty.
This is a perfect climate in which to seek out federal, state and local grants. Grants are straight-up gifts (unlike loans, which you have to pay back). It will take some research on your part. Who’s giving out grants? How can you get on their radar? What sets you apart? What will you do with the money? Think of this research as boarding up your windows, in preparation for the storm. Your rainy-day fund is getting depleted. Grants and major donor campaigns are among the most quick and effective ways to refill it.
Major Donor Campaigns
Ever conducted a major donor campaign? They take a lot of legwork, but the payoff is definitely worth it. Consider that there are plenty of donors out there, who aren’t as affected by the rising cost of everything. FIND THEM through a major donor campaign strategy. (Strategic planning is one of our service offerings – allow us to help!) This is a demographic that may not cringe when they see their receipts at the gas pump or the grocery store. Identify your org’s most pressing needs, personalize said need, and go tug on these fortunate folks’ tender heartstrings.
Something else that’s popular and effective during tough economic times – in-kind donations. No money is exchanged with in-kind donations; it’s a gift of a product or service. Through in-kind donations, your community can still support you, without spending their own cold hard cash.
Adjust Your Service Models
What are some other ways your community members can support you, that doesn’t cost them (or your org) anything, except their time? Can you focus on recruiting more volunteers to take some of the burden off of yourself and your staff? Try and come up with perks to incentivize volunteers’ increased involvement. Let’s say you run a food bank and receive donations of food from a community garden. Would your volunteers be willing to help harvest, if they could take home a portion of the produce to help feed their own families?
Little by little, these are some
of the things you can do NOW to help you weather the inflation storm. Buy yourself some time, so to speak, until the economy rebounds.
Hold or Curtail Expenses
No doubt you already keep a close eye on your budget, but now’s the time to really put it under the microscope. So you really want to r
eplace that slow old printer, for example – but you can make do with it for another year, right? You likely don’t have a “throwaway” culture mindset – you’re in the nonprofit sector, after all! But if you look at everything you use through a belt-tightening lens, you’re likely to find ways you can scrimp and save, without creating a dramatically adverse effect on the folks you serve OR your staff.
The last thing you want to do is lay off employees. Not only will it end up costing you more in the long run, in terms of training new employees, it’s terrible for morale. For some, it’s inevitable. But make sure you’ve explored any and every other money-saving measure, before you take this drastic step.