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Fundraising during a recession: 6 tips to help your nonprofit!

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Fundraising during uncertain times

We’ve all had enough “uncertain times” to last a lifetime. But as we face the potential strain that comes during a recession, nonprofits have unique challenges in their fundraising. With tight budgets, cautious donors, and a shifting philanthropic landscape, it can feel overwhelming to think about fundraising.

Thankfully, there are proactive steps your nonprofit can take that will help with your fundraising efforts during a recession!

“There's great uncertainty. There's great unknown. But yet we have to be willing to create a plan and to be able to move forward.”

-Steve Johns CEO of OneCause on the Beyond the Donation podcast

Let’s dive into 6 helpful tips for fundraising during a recession.

6 tips for fundraising during a recession

1. Express gratitude

Let your donors know how much you appreciate the support they’ve already given. Thank them for all that they’ve contributed to your nonprofit.

Lil Yachty shouting "thank you" three times. He's showing his gratitude just like your nonprofit will during its fundraising efforts during a recession!

Whether it’s been donations, attendance at an event, or the gift of their time, share your gratitude with your contacts.

Maybe you make a quick video to share on your social media channels, send a quick email or snail mail thank you note, or pick up your phone to make a call. Whatever way you choose, your donors will appreciate hearing how much you appreciate them.

2. Acknowledge the support that isn’t financial

During a recession, fundraising becomes more difficult because everyone's budget is tighter. Now is a great time to recognize the efforts of your volunteers, advocates, and those who spread the word about your cause. Some of your most passionate supporters might not be giving a regular gift, but they’re giving their time. Maybe they’re faithfully attending every event, advocating for you on social media, or giving their time to your cause. Let's be honest; they are likely the unsung heroes of your fundraising journey.

Before sending out your thank you, take the time to create a social media tool kit. A toolkit includes branded images and information to make creating a social media post easier for your contacts. Then you can ask those who contribute to your nonprofit to share their “why”.

“Even if a supporter, isn't necessarily one of your largest donors, make sure that you understand how much time they're spending with your organization because someone who is volunteering, attending events, serving, and just volunteering for those events, they may be one of your most passionate supporters.”

-Steve Johns on the Beyond the Donation podcast episode 13

3. During a recession, prioritize donor retention in your fundraising efforts

First and foremost, personalize your outreach efforts. A quick response when someone gives a gift or reaches out to you goes a long way for donors. You don't need to wait until the end of the year to connect with them; sending thoughtful notes along the way can make a big difference. Building a strong relationship with your donors is so important. Regularly reaching out to them and communicating their impact keeps them connected to your mission. And a connected donor is more likely to engage and continue giving.

Make giving easy

A simple online giving page option makes donating accessible to your donors. When your donation process is straightforward, donors are more likely to follow through with the giving process. Offering options like automatic recurring donations, different payment methods, and the ability to choose the fund they are donating to are a few options to help your donors follow through.

It’s also important that your pages are branded to your nonprofit and that your donation forms are embedded on your website. This builds trust with donors because they know they are giving to you. When a donor is redirected to a different website or has popup donation forms show up, it is harder for them to trust that they are giving to a legitimate nonprofit vs giving to a scam.

Communicate the impact

By communicating impact, you continue to cultivate relationships with your donors. With a stronger relationship, you are able to better engage donors. And donors who are more engaged are more likely to continue giving. Ultimately, your supporters want to know that when they donate to you, they are doing good in the community. You need to show them the good that is being done and the impact that is having.

“If people don't really understand the impact that their] gift is having, they may be part of that X percent of folks who are gonna churn in that first year, which is a large percentage.”

-Steve Johns on the Beyond the Donation podcast episode 13

4. Rethink and reimagine your fundraising

How often have we heard the word “pivot” these last few years? Fundraising since 2020 has required a lot of creativity and pivoting. So there are people who have already paved the way in trying new fundraising strategies!

Ross pivoting a couch just like your nonprofit will need to pivot its fundraising efforts during a recession

Fundraising right now might look a lot different than it has in years past, but it's a great time to experiment and try something new and creative. Virtual events grew in popularity over 2020 and 2021, and what we learned is that donor reach is much greater when you include a virtual option. Someone might attend a virtual auction when they wouldn’t come to a gala, so hybrid events have become more popular today.

With the prospect of a recession, it might feel intimidating to change your fundraising, but it’s worth considering what out-of-the-box ideas you could try during this time!

5. During a recession be transparent about your fundraising and planning

It’s okay to not have the answers. It’s okay to be unsure of what steps to take next, and to still make a plan anyway. Steve Johns CEO at OneCause recognized the need for transparency during the pandemic. With so much uncertainty, he had to make the difficult decision to be honest about his own uncertainties about moving forward.

“If I got up in front of everybody and said, I have all the answers, don't worry about it, just follow me, everybody would know that I wasn't being truthful. You have to be strong enough to admit that you don't have all the answers. Just because I don't have all the answers doesn't mean that we're not going to be able to figure it out. And just because we don't have all the answers doesn't mean that we can't put a plan together.”

-Steve Johns on the Beyond the Donation podcast episode 13

By choosing honesty and transparency with your staff, volunteers, and donors, you’ll be able to grow their trust in your nonprofit. Supporters are more likely to stick around when they know that your nonprofit is trustworthy and honest.

6. Simplify your fundraising software and processes

During a recession, it might seem like the wrong time to change up your fundraising software, but it makes sense to think through your budget and cut unnecessary spending. One nonprofit saved over $3,500 annually by switching its donor management platform!

On top of that, if your nonprofit is using more than one software, siloed data is likely standing in the way of your fundraising efforts! You need a donor management platform that is easy-to-use and supports your fundraising efforts, especially during a recession!

“There are four or more sources of data that the typical nonprofit is using today. And those data points are probably sitting in different silos and not able to be brought together for good decision-making, for smart fundraising for nonprofits.”

-Steve Johns on Beyond the Donation podcast episode 13

Take the time to assess whether your donor management platform is working well for you. Is the system too complex or standing in the way of your fundraising efforts? Does it cost too much? Is your data spread out among too many spreadsheets? Or are you using a donor development platform that fits your needs and serves up actionable steps to help you cultivate better donor relationships?

Nurture your donor relationships with DonorDock. An easy-to-use Donor Management Platform built for nonprofits like yours.


Fundraising during a recession feels uncertain and a bit scary. But by taking proactive steps, your nonprofit will be prepared to weather whatever comes your way!

  • Expressing gratitude to your donors, both financial and non-financial, fosters deeper relationships.
  • Prioritizing donor retention through personalized outreach and easy giving options helps with continued engagement with your mission.
  • Embracing creativity lets you reimagine your fundraising efforts.
  • Transparency builds trust with your supporters and staff.
  • Simplifying your fundraising software and processes saves you money and time.

By implementing these 6 tips, your nonprofit can continue to make a meaningful impact amidst the challenges of a recession. Remember, there is strength in unity, and together, we can overcome any obstacle that comes our way. Let's face these uncertain times with courage and determination, united in our commitment to create positive change and make the world a better place.

Elisha Ford
Content Writer
Written by
Elisha Ford
Content Writer

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