All over the media, we see the far-reaching effects of America’s economic downturn. One of those,unfortunately, is an increase in nonprofit needs and a decrease in donations. “We know that the Great Recession continues to hurt the philanthropic sector,” explains Bob Ottenhoff, Guidestar president and CEO. But Ottenhoff offers hope: “There are key things that a nonprofit can do to demonstrate that it is being effective and fulfilling its mission which makes all the difference to people trying to determine which charities deserve their contributions.”

Guidestar USA, the preeminent database for nonprofit information, has put together “11 Questions to Help Nonprofits Prepare for the Giving Season.” Although aimed at spurring donations during the holidays, these talking points are, of course, valid all year long. You may want to take a look at your current fundraising literature to see if it is addressing these issues, which help build a solid case as to why individuals and businesses should send funds your way.

Following is a synopsis of Guidestar’s information.

Demonstrate how the community benefits from your organization.

Be specific about what you are currently doing and how it affects the people or places near your donors. Show the outcome of your efforts through individual stories, use pictures, etc.

Highlight partnerships.

Donors feel that their money is being stretched further if they know you are teaming up with another agency with a similar focus.

Explain the challenges you face.

It’s OK to talk about hurdles your agency needs to clear. Just make sure that you are also explaining how you plan to eliminate those barriers.

Articulate yearly goals and outcomes.

This will illustrate what you’ve undertaken and accomplished. For more on goal setting, check out our blog archive¬†here.

Report turnover during the past two years.

Low turnover among board members and employees is seen as a sign of internal stability. If turnover has been high at your agency recently, make sure to outline the reasons for it.

Talk about who’s new.

On the flip side of the last point, this is your opportunity to tell potential donors about new board members or employees you’ve recruited — and the special skills they contribute to your objectives.

Outline how dollars have been spent.

Give potential donors confidence in your organization’s spending decisions by illustrating how charitable funding has been used previously.

Show the “organization” in your organization.

Explain initiatives your agency has put into place or plans to implement to increase efficiency.

Spotlight what sets you apart.

Use this opportunity as a chance to differentiate your organization from others that are comparable. What do you do that surpasses your competition?

Finally, Guidestar also suggests updating your agency’s nonprofit report on its web site. This allows potential donors access to information on your organization and its financials. With over 22,000 people visiting the site daily, it only makes sense to have your data available — and current — for those considering a donation.

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