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The topics discussed here grow out of the bread-and-butter issues that confront my consulting and software clients on a daily basis. We'll talk about prosaic stuff like Membership Management, Meetings and Events Management and Fundraising, broader ideas like security and software project management, and the social, cultural, and organizational issues that impact IT decision-making.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Annual Support in a year of calamity

What a year. Since last Christmas, our planet has suffered through the tsunami in the Indian Ocean, this week's devastating earthquake in Asia, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the recent horrific mudslides in Central America. Each time, people around the world have reached into their pockets and given generously to the organizations working to provide relief to those affected by these catastrophes.

Although it seems insensitive to worry about it outloud, it's impossible for a non-profit leader not to wonder, "What will all this do to our fundraising program. How do we ask our supporters for donations when the communities affected by these calamities clamor for their help?"

And there's good reason to worry, reports the Denver Business Journal:
In a survey conducted in late 2001 and early 2002 by the Alexandria, Va.-based Association of Fundraising Professionals, half of the charities had experienced an increase in revenue through August 2001. But just two months after the terrorist attacks, nearly half of charities polled reported a decrease in funding.

CommUlinks of Colorado, a Denver-based nonprofit consulting firm, found similar results when it surveyed charities at the beginning of this year following the tsunami in late December 2004. Half the nonprofits surveyed reported revenue declines in the first quarter -- and more than 56 percent of them attributed the declines to the tsunami.
But Guidestar in an article by fundraising consultant Jeffrey Byrne recommends that you "Stay the Course" and not shy away from your normal fundraising activities:
Although it is well advised to be sensitive to what donors perceive in other causes asking for support in the face of disaster, you must continue to advocate for the needs of your nonprofit and the people you serve. Well-thought-out appeals underscoring your continued needs, tempered with a degree of sensitivity, will help you weather possible bumps in the road ahead.
Another fundraising mentor, Ellis Robinson, writes on the One NorthWest site in a similar vein.
Despite Katrina, your current members continue to care about your issue and understand that your work is valuable.
and raises an interesting point:
After 9/11, groups I worked with saw an increasing interest in close-to-home programs. One person may not be able to control the weather or stop terrorists. But you can help your constituents improve their community and quality of life by providing a chance to invest in an important need in their town or state.
Both of these writers remind us that fundraising is basically a matter of building relationships , and the natural disasters around us do not change that.

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