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6 Things That Should Go Into Your Nonprofit Mid-Year Tune-up

Ahh, sweet July in Houston. The temperature is higher than most of our IQs right now. Donors have all escaped to Colorado. Nothing to do but fry an egg on the sidewalk or linger in the frozen food section at HEB.

Or you could spend some time making a mid-year assessment of your nonprofit’s fundraising program. That way you’ll be prepared for what may be the most important fall fundraising season most nonprofit fundraisers have ever faced.

What’s Different This Year?

Donor revenue dropped last year for only the fourth time in 40 years. After inflation, individual donations fell by 13.4%, according to the latest Giving USA report. Some decline in donor revenue was to be expected after people were so generous throughout COVID. Last year they were hit with a falling stock market, rising inflation and threats of a recession. But more than 13% in real dollars?

Foundations pulled back too. A survey found that three out of four foundations say they’re freezing or reducing grant amounts this year. Again, no surprise there. Their portfolios suffered with the market drop and they try to avoid dipping into their capital too much. Fortunately, that may improve as the market continues to pick up, but when grants could rise again is anyone’s guess.

The donor mix is out of whack and may be broken. Willie Sutton was a bank robber and when asked why, he said, ‘That’s where the money is.” Or at least that’s the story. Nonprofits have focused primarily on large donors because that is where they get the best results. However, the downside is that small and mid-sized donors have been neglected and their gift amounts have been shrinking for several years now. We’re even seeing evidence that donor attitudes are shifting, as in this headline: The wealthy should give more to charity, say people who stopped donating, according to a new poll.

Faced with that, nonprofits can be one of two things, an ostrich or an eagle. Spoiler: Eagles soar!

Here’s what should go into your midyear tune-up:

1. Compare your last 12 months of revenue with previous years. Amounts. Sources. Gift sizes. Recurring donors. Events. Stewardship. Where do you need to improve?

2. Are you telling your story well enough? Do donors “get it?” Does everyone in your organization understand your messaging, including the board?

3. How are you communicating with existing donors? COVID changed the way people receive information and some of the ways we reach them have changed as well. It doesn’t matter how well you tell your story if no one hears it.

4. How are you thanking and stewarding your donors? Thanking people is just good manners, right? It’s also the key to recurring gifts.

5. Where are you finding new donors? This is the biggest question facing most nonprofits. Donors are out there…somewhere. Locating them, interesting them, and investing them in your future is critical in 2023.

6. Are you doing the simple stuff right? Former President Obama said recently that the key to success is to "just learn how to get stuff done." There’s plenty of advice available on adapting to a changing donor landscape; what usually trips us up is strategically deciding how to move forward and then executing it. It starts with the big picture, but it ends with sweating the details. This is the place to be brutally honest with yourself: Is your organization getting stuff done?

Storyboard HTX wants to help. We help organizations develop the strategy to succeed and we provide the detailed work to execute that strategy. We can help your development team with projects, or we can serve as your outsourced communications department.

PS. Part of execution is having a well thought-out and integrated communications approach. We recently created this video to help walk you through the steps.


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