Just when we thought it was safe to start buying things again, it seems that consumer spending still hasn’t returned to its healthy, pre-Great Recession levels. Worse yet, it now appears that high-income households, jittery on global instability fears, have begun to rein in their wallets.

And that’s not good news for nonprofits that rely on higher-end donors for big-dollar giving. From the Wall Street Journal:

Donations fell 3.6% to $303.75 billion last year, down from $315 billion in 2008, according to the latest Giving USA study, released Wednesday. In 2008, they were down 2%.

Whatever their wealth, people need to feel it is secure, and until they regain confidence in the economy, giving is likely to stay down, said Claire Costello, national foundation executive for Bank of America Merrill Lynch Philanthropic Management.

So in a harsh economic environment, it’s more important than ever for nonprofits to manage donor relationships. That can be done through software that organizes benefactor contacts and monitors donation levels. Good relationship management (CRM) technology can provide a nonprofit with effective tools for emailing donors, which is the way most prefer to stay informed.

However, the best software and email tools in the world can’t replicate a handshake. You have to be proactive, and provide your biggest givers with more recognition (perhaps more than normal) and make them understand the value of their giving. Answer questions, share with them stories of how their gifts have helped others – outputs as simple as a hand-written letter, an e-mail, or a morning coffee. Be sure to also create new points of entry into your event to maximize recruiting effectiveness. If you don’t have social media networks up and running, now is the time to do so. By offering a range of such touch points, you stand a greater chance of more people coming in the door.

Here are some considerations to make when managing donor relationships online:

  • Internet is the favored method for middle and major donors to engage.
  • Half of offline donors research their gift online.
  • Online donors give an average of $163.
  • Baby Boomers account for 52 percent of online giving in a downturn.

For more tips on how to fundraise online in a tough climate, be sure to view our Downturn Guide to Fundraising and Marketing presentation

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