Is Now the Right Time to Step Up Your Direct Response Program?

July 13th, 2022

Friends, uncertain times can make us feel uncertain about fundraising. But times like these are the exact time NOT to pull back. Instead, it’s the right time to double down on proven strategies.

Yes, we are still dealing with a two-year-old, no-end-in-sight international pandemic as well as its effect on our lives and communities. We also are facing a national political crisis over ideologies and the direction of our country. And economic forecasters are predicting another recession is on the horizon.

But that’s why it’s more important than ever to continue to fundraise and to fundraise year-round.

The communities we live in need nonprofits now more than ever to help fill the gaps – shelters, foodbanks, advocating for our rights, protecting our earth from climate change, and a myriad of other services. Keeping fundraising going also means more money in the bank, which allows your organization to have a greater impact during tough times and lessens the pressure if you do encounter a temporary decrease in giving.

And one way to maximize your organization’s income while lowering your risk is to make sure you’re diversifying your fundraising portfolio with a good balance between events, grants, and individual giving. And a great way to expand your individual giving program is by maximizing your direct response program.

A strategic approach to using both digital and print platforms, direct response remains one of the most reliable and effective methods of fundraising as well as acquiring new donors. And while there is no crystal ball to peer into and see your fundraising future, direct response programs have proven effective time and time again, especially in times of turbulence.

Need more encouragement to ramp up fundraising right now? Here are a few fundraising facts and tips to win you over.

Learn from the Great Recession. Understanding how recessions have impacted charitable giving in the past can shine a light on what to expect and, more importantly, what to do to prepare for future economic issues.

In 2008, the U.S. economy was in one of the worst downturns since the Great Depression. Millions of people lost their jobs. Home prices dropped drastically. The result? Many nonprofit organizations felt it was best to pull back and wait for better economic times.

But here’s the real scoop: Charitable giving in America has remained fairly consistent through good and bad economic times. According to the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality, in four of the seven U.S. recessions, charitable giving increased, though usually at a slower rate than in non-recession years.

During the Great Recession, however, giving did decrease – by 3.7% in 2008 and then 8.3% in 2009, but the decline was short-lived and those that stayed the course bounced back better and faster. According to the Center for High Impact Philanthropy, by 2014 charitable giving had risen to $358 billion, surpassing the pre-recession high of $355 billion in 2007.

That’s why it’s important to continue your direct response program during tough times – it can clearly showcase that your organization’s purpose does not go away when the economy is in a downturn and, in fact, the need may very well be greater.

Donors Don’t Give If You Don’t Ask. You may have read that statement and thought “Duh!” but think about it. Cutting back on fundraising asks during tough economic times translates to telling your donors there isn’t a problem to address and money isn’t an issue.

In fact, times of economic uncertainty are great times to strengthen your relationships with donors, but here’s what you need to know to be successful: The top three reasons donors give to a nonprofit are because they believe in its mission, they trust the organization, and they get to see their impact. Therefore it’s critical that you communicate urgent needs to your donors digitally and via mail, engender trust through transparent communication, and report back to donors how they are making a difference with their gifts.

Use Analytics to Your Advantage. When facing a period of economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to work closely with your direct response team to analyze your program’s performance and trends.

If the time does come when you need to reassess your budget or evaluate your fundraising efforts, segment and channel analysis will help you pinpoint where to cut back and where to ramp up.

Being Warned Is Being Forearmed. While much about direct response fundraising is predictable, it also has seasonal fluctuations and external influences that affect results such as, you know, global pandemics or recessions.

Being able to “pivot” your fundraising focus in response to seasonal trends and in times of change is incredibly important. And the best way to be successful at adapting to change when it comes to direct response is to partner with fundraising experts who have “seen it all, done it all” and who are nimble and flexible enough to be able to capitalize on the moment.

In these fast-changing times, be sure you are working with partners who are constantly challenging the norms and finding innovative, fresh ideas, who love data and analytics, and who are always looking around the next corner to anticipate what’s ahead. The bottom line is you need a partner who is focused on your organization and helping your fundraising be as successful as possible so that you can keep doing the good work you do.

With almost four decades’ experience serving nonprofits of all shapes and sizes, the ONE primary focus of Newport ONE is helping your organization succeed to expand its reach and impact. Find out all that is new at Newport ONE, please reach out to

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