The Need Is Great

Dec 12, 2008  |     |   General

Copy from a recent news article

The Open Door Mission in Nebraska served 1,933 meals to the needy on one day alone last month, and the organization reports record high demand for services.

“We are experiencing a 46% increase in demand for services this fall because of the economy,” says Candace Gregory, president and CEO of the nonprofit. While the organization’s revenue grew 13% between January and September, Gregory is concerned about how the organization will continue to meet the demand for services, which has grown at a faster pace.

Nonprofit organizations providing the needy with food, shelter and ser­vices have experienced an increase in demand as unemployment, foreclosure and inflation rates have risen in recent months. While giving doesn’t appear to have dropped, many of these organizations are putting an extra push behind their outreach efforts to try to keep up with demand.

The Open Door Mission is addressing the issue with the idea that donat­ing two hours a month can make a difference. “Although people may not have $10 or $15 to give this year, they do have time,” Gregory says.

According to Columbia, MD-based agency Merkle, fundraising is down this year for nonprofits in general, but was up in the double-digit range for social services groups through the end of the summer. Fundraising for nonprofits providing social services “tends to do well in a down economy because the story they are telling is truer and more dramatic than ever,” says Jeff Brooks, creative director at Merkle.

One strategy for fundraising suc­cess in these difficult economic times is to keep the messaging relevant, says Lori Burns, EVP at Russ Reid. “Social services organizations have to go to donors and say, ‘The need for services is growing because of what’s happening in the economy and we aren’t keeping up with demand,’” she says, adding that those nonprofits which continue to talk about business as usual are suffering.

Being relevant, however, can be challenging for nonprofits, which tend to print direct mail months in advance in order to keep prices down. One way nonprofits are getting around this issue is by being more active online. E-mail blasts, social networking, robust Web sites and e-newsletters are all becoming increasingly popular strategies.

The Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty bolstered its online market­ing program this summer and now has a more robust Web site, a bigger Facebook presence and an e-mail program using Convio’s platform.

“Facebook helps us reach younger people for volunteering and for dona­tions,” says Rachel Wizenfeld, communications coordinator at the Metro­politan Council. “We’re not looking for big money from Facebook, but we want to cultivate this group.”

Emergency appeals are another way around the long production cycle for fundraising campaigns. These one-page letters arrive in a brightly hued envelope printed with “urgent” or “emergency” on the front. Inside, the letter boldly states the organization’s need and asks for a donation. They are usually sent to an organization’s most loyal donors.

In recent years, such appeals have been reserved for natural disasters such as hurricanes, Burns reports. However, Russ Reid put together several this fall, including one for the New York City Rescue Mission in November. “When there is an income shortfall and the demand for services is going up, we feel it is appropriate,” says Burns.

The Open Door Mission’s Gregory says that one of her biggest hurdles is educating the public on the chal­lenges facing the organization and the community. “Keeping the doors open during these difficult times requires juggling so many different plates — fundraising, services and volunteers,” she says.