Fundraising in a time of war: what should you do?

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine dominates the headlines, you might be wondering how it will affect your fundraising — especially if you have nothing to do with the conflict or its impacts.

If you are in the large majority of organizations that have no connection to the war, here’s what you should not do: Don’t decide for donors that they don’t care about your cause, and thus cancel fundraising.

It’s a self-fulfilling prediction. Stop fundraising and donors stop responding. It might look prescient — until someone asks the obvious question: “Did they stop giving because we stopped asking?”

Major events like wars and other disasters often suppress unrelated fundraising. They grab donors’ attention and push other causes to the back burner. Response rates to fundraising unrelated to the disaster go down. They don’t go down to zero, but they drop.

The slow-down in giving is usually not huge, and it doesn’t last long.

In fact, if you do direct mail this time of year, you may have already mailed the piece that will be hit hardest by that loss of attention.

Your war-distracted donors will be back. Yes, there’s a war going on, but everything else in their lives is also happening.

When things are uncertain, we all have to keep our eyes wide open.

In all my years in fundraising, I have never seen pre-emptive cancelling of fundraising turn out well. It only accomplishes two things: Cancelling fundraising wipes out revenue, and it speeds up donor attrition.


Comments

2 responses to “Fundraising in a time of war: what should you do?”

  1. Neil Gallaiford Avatar
    Neil Gallaiford

    Jeff, I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, the recent pandemic provides further evidence. Of course, events were cancelled and their revenue foregone, but other forms of fundraising did well, even better than in prior years. Donors continue to care and in times of stress want more than ever to feel like they are doing something worthwhile. But you can’t get if you don’t ask, and for sure a decline in asking will inevitably result in a decline in giving.

  2. Neil Gallaiford Avatar
    Neil Gallaiford

    Jeff, I couldn’t agree with you more. In fact, the recent pandemic provides further evidence. Of course, events were cancelled and their revenue foregone, but other forms of fundraising did well, even better than in prior years. Donors continue to care and in times of stress want more than ever to feel like they are doing something worthwhile. But you can’t get if you don’t ask, and for sure a decline in asking will inevitably result in a decline in giving.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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