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Calm vs. Crisis Fundraising

When I was a full-time fundraiser, I would cringe when I saw fundraising appeals that focused on a crisis.

“Our bus has broken down (again) and we need your help immediately!”

“We’ll have to close our doors if we don’t raise XXXX by next week!”

As a donor, do either of these motivate you to give or are you concerned about the nonprofit being financially unstable?

Calm vs. Crisis

Calm: Investing in proper stewardship and donor recognition


Crisis: Always asking for gifts

Calm: Appreciating donors’ gifts


Crisis: Making donors feel guilty for not giving more

Calm: You and Your to emphasize the donor


Crisis: We and Us statements

Calm: Your gift is making an impact by helping 100 children learn to read


Crisis: We need your gift now

Calm fundraising means having a plan and a backup plan. When you are proactive with your fundraising, you have diversified funding streams and do not depending too heavily on one source such as foundations or special events. Additionally, your organization has a board of directors that is supportive and engaged in fundraising. They may not make the ask, but they open doors and participate in stewardship by thanking donors.

A nonprofit must clearly communicate the needs of those they serve and just as clearly demonstrate fiscal responsibility to stakeholders and the public in general. One way to do this is to have operating reserves. At the very least, reserves should be enough to cover one full month of payroll including taxes. A common reserve goal is three to six months. Having some cash reserves will keep you away from crisis fundraising.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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