Albert Einstein was quoted as saying “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Unfortunately, the world of nonprofit development can be notoriously fickle and unfocused.

Clearly we are in a major recession with no end in sight. The trick is not to panic. Here’s how you can meet your goals and, yes, even prosper in the upcoming year!

  1. Stay the course. Develop a balanced, thoughtful budget approach which includes realistic goals for grants and corporate support, individual support, program support and events. Plan as you normally would.
  2. Retain staff. This one is key. I have worked with nonprofit organizations who have had – seriously – five development directors in three years! How can an organization have any kind of continuity with donors with that kind of record? Staff your organization with quality individuals and do your level best to keep them.
  3. Invest in Education. If you’re not sending your development staff to workshops, classes and seminars, you’re doing your organization a grave disservice. Why are so many organizations reluctant to invest in education for their employees? Training enables and accelerates innovation. It’s good for the employee – it’s good for the employer.
  4. Research, research, research. Foundation giving may be declining. On the other hand, it may not. Remember, foundations are created with the sole purpose of supporting philanthropic causes – regardless of the state of the economy. To maintain their legal status Foundations MUST donate an amount equal to 5% of their assets averaged over 5 years. Foundations also often INCREASE their giving in challenging times to offset decreases in giving from other sources
  5. That said, you need to make it a practice to routinely scope out new sources of foundation funding. Develop a system where you’re sending out proposals or letters of inquiry to new foundations on a weekly basis.

  6. Start a Monthly Giving Program. This one’s a no-brainer and I am astounded that more organizations have not picked up on it.
  7. If you’ve got donors who are giving you $1,000, $100, even $25 every year, they’re prime candidates for a monthly giving program. Implement one now. Give donors the option of monthly credit card or checking account debits. And what rule says you can only mail once a year? Why not twice or even three times a yea

  8. Refine (or Define) Your Story. Benevon calls it the organization’s “emotional hook.” It’s your nonprofit’s “story” – what makes donors give to you. The most compelling stories bring on the tears. Talk to your board members, talk to your clients, talk to your staff, talk to foundation funders and individual funders to find your emotional hook. Bring it to life.
  9. Communicate. It doesn’t have to be on a weekly or monthly basis but it absolutely needs to be consistent. Donors would rather be kept notified on a timely basis in a simple manner than receive a glossy magazine publication (that makes them wonder what the heck you are doing with their money) once every two years. A two to four-page quarterly or triannual newsletter is ideal.

About the author: Pamela Grow is a consultant, assisting nonprofit organizations with proposal development, prospect research, annual appeal strategies and communication planning and is the author of “Five Days to Foundation Grants.” Check out her weekly blog, “Towards Effective Nonprofit Writing” and join her Facebook group, Tools for the One Person Development Office.