How Nonprofits Should Adapt to the Reality of Inflation

From January of 2021 to June of 2022, the cost of goods increased 13%. That’s a big increase, and its impact is being felt in different ways depending on your nonprofit’s location and demographics.

The question is how should you and your fundraising or development office adapt to this new reality? From experience, we know that nonprofits need to be communicating with their constituents more, not less, during an economic downturn. The dollar, after all, just doesn’t get you as much as it did before.

Whether it’s inflation or a recession that we’re in right now, there are a few things we can learn from past downturns even dating back as far as the ‘70s:

  • Creative messaging should always be relevant and reflect what’s happening in the world at that time. For example, early on during COVID-19, nonprofits who were flexible and adapted to the moment saw incredible support from their donors.

  • In 2014, a team of British researchers found that there was a very strong correlation between a book’s language and the state of the economy at the time the book was being written. During tough times, words like “anger,” “fear,” and “sadness” appeared more often. In fundraising, the opposite needs to be done. Messages of hope and optimism must be provided. The key is to balance the emotional aspects of asks with messages of hope in donor appeals.

  • Supply chain issues have been affecting direct mail for more than a year. You should be prepared for longer lead times, especially when it comes to new donors and how long it will take for you to send them their first cultivation piece after the first gift has been received.

Finally, make sure you keep an eye on inflation and the impact it is having on nonprofit fundraising and make sure you’re building a program that invests in data and analytics.


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