Communications is vital to philanthropy

If the current recession mirrors the one in the mid-1970s, donations likely won't rebound until at least 2012.

If the current recession mirrors the one in the mid-1970s, donations likely won't rebound until at least 2012, as The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently reported.

The situation will likely get worse before it gets better. Nearly two-thirds of respondents say that the amount of money they plan to give to nonprofits will stay the same or decrease this year, according to a recent poll commissioned by Fenton Communications. 

Nonprofits must compete for a smaller pool of donated funds from individuals and that they will be scrutinized like never before. What's important to donors?

Below are results from the survey that show being a good steward of funds and providing trustworthy information to raise awareness for a cause reign.

  1. Is a good steward of donated funds, spending wisely and effectively on activities and programs that advance its mission (79%)
  2. Provides trustworthy, objective, and fact-based information to raise awareness and promote a cause or issue (76%)
  3. Provides valuable services for people that meet needs not provided for by government agencies (74%)
  4. Raises money effectively to support its mission (73%)
  5. Communicates clearly, effectively, and persuasively (73%)
  6. Maintains a clear, compelling, and focused mission that it consistently promotes (70%)
  7. Takes a strong stand for what it believes in, even if its position is controversial or unpopular (67%)
  8. Has a strong voice which has been effective in influencing public policy (66%)
  9. Is creative and innovative in finding new ways to promote an issue and get people involved (65%)
  10. Builds strong partnerships with the business community (65%)
  11. Mobilizes people to take action through grassroots or community organizing (61%)
  12. Generates meaningful coverage in the media to build awareness for its cause, win supporters, and bring about change (59%)

You know the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, did it really happen?” The same holds true for the above. If donors are judging you on a multiplicity of factors and you don't communicate when you are in fact delivering on what they want, how will they know? And, if they don't know, then why would they give?

Although times are lean, don't cut your communications staff and budget. Your donors want to know what you're up to.

Lisa Witter is the chief strategy officer for Fenton Communications.   

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