A Challenging Economy = More Donations

Nate Luttrell- 08.10.2009

Nonprofits have a unique advantage in a bad economy: People VOLUNTEER their time to help these organizations further their cause. No other area of business has that unique strength, and that is the focal point of creative fundraising.

There is another old adage that we might want to consider: “Time is Money” – so do Volunteers = Donations? If we throw-back to our Physics class, make some substitutions, and show our work, we might come up with something like this:


Time is Money  (Time = Money)
Volunteers offer Time (Volunteers = Time)
Donations most often consist of Money (Donations = Money)
Volunteers = Time = Money = Donations
Volunteers = Donations

So how can we use this information? I know, I know; it’s a bit of a stretch, but please just bare with me for a moment and pretend it really is this simple :-)

There are many reasons people give their time and/or money to philanthropy. But we can probably theorize that if someone wants to contribute to your organization, and were appealed to give either their Time OR their Money – there’s a breaking point to when someone might value one over the other. For example: If someone was asked to give a donation of $250, or spend a Saturday afternoon volunteering – which would they choose? And if the economy was bad, wouldn’t they lean more towards giving their time over their money? And so we continue with…


A Challenging Economy = More Volunteers


This is where we may find our “Silver Lining” because there is another reason why people donate: Value! Examples of these might be Golf Outings, VIP events, and Black-Tie dinners. These people, often your major donors, want to help your organization but would like it to be surrounded by an event so they can socialize and celebrate their philanthropy with others. Hosting a fun and interesting charity event will even create “buzz” for your future events. So let’s press our hypothesis and equation a bit further:


  • It takes effort to pull off a great, value-added charity event.
  • A great event will attract higher donations, both in quantity and amount.
  • Increased Effort = Increased Event Donations
  • Effort takes time (Effort = Time)
  • Volunteers Offer Time (Volunteers = Time)
  • Volunteers = Increased Effort = Great Event = Increased Event Donations
  • Volunteers = Increased Event Donations


So without going too overboard with this (I might have already passed that point!), I hope that the majority of the readers have come to this potential conclusion, and, ergo to the “Silver Lining” we’re all looking for:


  • Challenging Economy = More Volunteers
  • Volunteers = Donations AND Volunteers = Increased Event Donations


So we arrive at our conclusion (for nonprofits):


A Challenging Economy = More Donations!


So, if these assumptions are likely or, at the very least, plausible; how can we use this information for the greatest good? I humbly suggest that you take one step back from your standard campaigns and operations, and look for any way that you can place volunteers with the goals of:


  • Increasing Awareness
  • Increasing Retention
  • Decreasing Costs
  • Adding Value to an Event


Try to think of a few creative ideas on your own. In my next post, we’ll talk about a few that we’ve come up with.  Leave a comment with some of your ideas!  Until next time – keep doing good work :-)


Get free updates of the the blog articles sent to your inbox by entering your email address:

Make sure to check out our Social Media for Nonprofits resources section or brows by topic ...

Popular Posts

Recent Posts

Nonprofit Tech Featured Blog