In case you have not noticed, it’s bleak out there. Money that flowed freely a decade ago is now in short supply, and cutbacks are happening everywhere. Even in non-profits.
Unfortunately, says Anne Seltzer, of the Great Road-based consulting firm Anne Seltzer Development Strategies, non-profits are cutting back in the one area they need now more than ever: fundraising.
“No non-profits can afford to stop fundraising now,” Seltzer says. It is a message she hopes to bring across when she hosts “Raising Money In Difficult Times,” one of 20 workshops that make up the 12th Annual Princeton Community Works event on Monday, January 26, at 5 p.m. at the Frist Center. Cost: $29. Register at www.princetoncommunityworks.org, or call 609-924-8652.
The funny thing is, Seltzer says, there’s no reason for non-profits to ease up. “If you look at giving over the last 40 years,” she says, “giving to philanthropies in tough times is not as bad as you would think.” Even in some of the worst downturns in the last half-century, she says, most donations have stayed relatively level. At worst they have dipped 6 percent. But for organizations with missions deemed more vital to people — such as food shelters — donations often go up in bad economies.
Typically the hardest hit, Seltzer says, are the arts and education organizations. Particularly the latter, she theorizes, because given that Princeton is a seat of education, business in that field tends to be run very professionally already.
A marked change in giving by individuals, Seltzer says, is that now more than even a few years ago people are informed and passionate about specific causes, and give readily to those they believe in. Another noticeable change in fundraising is a more flexible structure. Fast fading are the days when organizations would ask for specific dollar amounts to be paid in a specific time frame, on a schedule. “Non-profits today just want to keep people giving.”
Building Relationships. Whether courting individuals or companies, however, the main avenue for success in non-profit fundraising, says Seltzer, will be to keep in touch personally. “It’s all about personal relationships,” she says.
And while now is not the time to skimp on fundraising efforts, Seltzer suggests non-profits look at their methods wisely. The best donors to contact are those with whom an organization has an existing relationship. One in which people have actually met, not just talked over the phone. All donors are important, she says, but some are more likely to give.
Speaking of skimping. Non-profits are an idealistic enterprise. They are not forged on dreams of avarice, they are formed on devotion to a cause. Consequently, the people who form them often do not want to admit to the simple truth that without enough money, the best ideas cannot get off the ground.
“If you ask a non-profit,” Seltzer says, “they will tell you it’s all about the program. They would rather not cut back on their programs.”
For enterprises in which capitalism and bottom line projections sound gauche, the idea of raising cash is too often seen as a necessary evil, Seltzer says. But this is a terrible attitude. “I think it’s a privilege,” she says. Something that brings the message to people and encourages selflessness and philanthropy. But not everyone agrees, and so non-profits cut back on this vital activity because they find it distasteful.
In a related vein, Seltzer says new non-profits should guard against being too ambitious. Sticking to the core mission is as vital for non-profits as it is for any corporation. The temptation to expand a presence or a product line is great when times are good, but it is wiser to resist and keep focused.
Not newer, better. From grant writers to pounding the pavement, the fundamentals of fundraising do not change in troubled times. They simply must get better. Grant proposals need good, clear writing from articulate writers able to spell out an organization’s mission. Though donations tend to not decrease in downturns, Seltzer says it is nonetheless pivotal to success to make the best pitch you can.
Seltzer, a 1964 graduate of the College or Worcester, earned her bachelor’s in classics and started out teaching Latin and Greek at Northwestern, where she earned her master’s in 1969. Ten years later she moved to New Jersey when her husband, Mitch, formed the Seltzer Daley healthcare consulting firm (now Seltzer Rees Company, www.seltzerrees.com).
Seltzer taught for several years at Hightstown’s Peddie School (www.peddie.org), heading the English department. In 1993, when she was director of development at the school, Seltzer was on hand to receive a $100 million endowment from alumnus and journalism legend Walter Annenberg. Calling the donation “a transforming gift,” Seltzer says “I figured I’d stay in development.”
Community Works 2009 workshops:
“Major Gifts: The Art of the Ask, by Ralph Serpe, vice-president of the Princeton Area Community Foundation (www.pacf.org);
“Fundraising = Friendraising: Casting Your Net,” by Becky Dembo, executive director of Partnership in Philanthropy (www.pipnj.org);
“The Profit Within: Bringing the For-Profit Model to Non-Profits,” by business strategy consultant Blanche Brann;
“From the Grantmaker’s Perspective: What’s Happening,” by Nancy Kieling, executive director of the Princeton Area Community Foundation;
“Success Tips for Finding and Keeping Top-Quality Motivated Volunteers,” by Robin Fogel, president ot Robin Fogel & Associates (www.coachrobinfogel.
“Creating Meaningful Opportunities for Today’s Volunteer,” by Adrienne Rubin, executive director of Hands On Helpers (www.handsonhelpers.org);
“Roles and Responsibilities of Board Members,” by Linda Meisel, executive director of Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (www.jfcsonline.org);
“Leadership Development: Communicate! Delegate! Motivate!” by Marge Smith, chair of Princeton Community Works;
“Seven Things We Know for Sure About Teamwork,” by Glenn Parker, president of Glenn Parker Associates (www.glennparker.com);
“Diversity: How to Engage People from Various Backgrounds” by Tyrone Gaskins, president of Targeting Alternative Growth Resources (www.tagresourcesinc.org);
“How to Collaborate with Other Organizations” by Calvin Thomas, president of LodeStar Associates (www.lodestarassoc.com);
“Working with Faith-Based Organizations” by the Rev. David Davis of Nassau Presbyterian Church (www.nassauchurch.org);
“Assessing Program Performance” by Regina Podhorin, president of the Leadership Group;
“Strategic Planning” by Marie Zieger, non-profit management consultant;
“Public Speaking: Mastering Your Fear” by Mark McGrath of McGrath Communications Group (www.mcgrathcg.com);
“Got Website? The Web for Beginners” by Terry Alan Murphy of Terry Alan Unlimited (www.terryalan.net);
“Keeping Your Website Fresh and Driving People To It” by Lewis Edge, webmaster for the Rotary Club of Princeton (www.princetonrotary.org); and
“The New Web: Connecting Online” by Alicia Jones, president of Strategy Solutions (www.strategysolution.biz).