In her lengthy article in Sunday’s New York Times, philanthropy reporter Stephanie Strom detailed the research findings she’s received from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and reiterated by leaders of Independent Sector and other sectoral organizations, attesting to the steady growth, or at least not the anticipated fall, of donations despite the world crises (and demands for donations in response to these crises) we’ve faced in the last 18 months. "They note that the $5 billion that was donated last year to relief efforts for Katrina and the tsunami in Indonesia amounted to less than two percent of the total donated to charity in 2004," writes Strom.
It’s great that donations haven’t slipped as much as was anticipated. But why aren’t these nonprofit leaders spinning the message in a more effective way? After all, a fall of two percent when nonprofit budgets are bare bones is a meaningful cut. And prospective donors are human, and when they read this are likely not to make that donation they had in mind. The message that’s delivered is "we have enough."
Why not something more motivational, like "our needs are growing and we’re lucky enough that our donations haven’t fallen, but they need to grow to support the increase in demand for our services?"
The lesson here. Message is powerful and should be honed before its delivered. And you only get one chance in most cases.