“If I had to put a headline on the economy [of 2011],” says GuideStar President & CEO Bob Ottenhoff, “I’d say, ‘Uncertainty.'”
And the uncertainty pervading the nonprofit economy was particularly unsettling for organizations with budgets of under $3 million.
“Smaller charities were much less likely to report increased fundraising results and much more likely to be pessimistic about how they thought 2012 was going to turn out,” Ottenhoff says, referring to the most recent Nonprofit Fundraising Study released by GuideStar and other leading organizations in December.
“Larger nonprofits are more likely to have a diverse funding mix. They are more likely to be able to appeal in different ways to different demographics,” he points out.
So is there a moral to the 2011 story that will give the smaller organizations that make up the vast majority of the nonprofit marketplace a path to great fundraising success in the new year?
“One of the things I’m really focusing on is how we can build strong organizations,” Ottenhoff says. “They need to be able to adapt to changing winds and changing fortunes and changing conditions in the broader economy.”
How can organizations already under economic strain be so adaptable and flexible with limited bandwidth? By focusing their fundraising attention on the most important thing: their customer, the donor.
“They have to get to learn who are their donors,” says Ottenhoff.
“Donors want to do the right thing…but they don’t always know how to do it. We as nonprofits need to help them out by telling them a little bit more about our organizations and being not only transparent and accountable…but talking a little bit more about the effectiveness of our organizations.”
Watch this short video interview with Bob Ottenhoff to learn more about philanthropic returns in 2011 and lessons that organizations large and small can apply in 2012.