By Susan Ross, Partner.

I’ve kept a newspaper column for many years called “Learning to be grateful for life’s normal days.” Encouraging us not to overlook their beauty, Donna Britt writes in the Washington Post of their “magnificent mediocrity” and says “those are days worth loving.”

Never was that more true than during the 2020-21 pandemic-related upheaval of our normalcy.

Nonprofits did what they could. Some hunkered down while others geared up, and most of those who continued fundraising just closed one of their best years ever. Our advice, shared through every Zoom call and e-newsletter over the last year, was not to wait it out but instead to continue to do the hard work of asking people to support the mission.

So now as you begin to plan your 2021-22 fiscal year, how do you account for the results and make reasonable predictions for what the future will bring for your nonprofit? Here are four strategies to keep in mind:

  1. Data Analysis. One-year baselines are fraught with problems right now, so do a good analysis of gifts, current and former donors, renewals, etc. over at least three years before setting your goals. If you have been able to increase by 5% a year in “normal” times, set goals that reflect that estimation over what last year should have been, rather than what it actually was (whether that was higher or lower than normal).
  2. First-time Donors. Work hard to keep first-time donors. Recent studies have shown that only 6% of new donors will make a second gift – a disastrous statistic considering how hard we work to find new donors. If you were lucky enough to pick up new supporters in 2020-21, be sure they know you appreciate them.
  3. Appreciated Securities. Include a message about the tax advantages of donating appreciated stock, particularly for those who have done so in the past. Generous individuals who saw big gains in their investments may be especially motivated to give in response to a time that was so hard on many others. Be sure your back office is primed and ready with instructions on how to help donors make such gifts.
  4. Donor Advised Funds. Pay special attention to donors whom you know have Donor Advised Funds. Ever-growing sums are sitting in DAFs, estimated to be $140 billion in June by The New York Times. Last year, 28% of philanthropic giving went to a DAF instead of directly to a charity. This money is on its way to great nonprofits, but it is not there yet. A strong, personalized message of need and mission is what you must offer to help move it along.

We are grateful for the opportunity to do this important work together. Contact us if we can help you plan for a new kind of normalcy.