Let’s face it: times are tough. This economic slowdown has seen giving slump more dramatically than in the past. The explanation is obvious…just drive by your local gas station, go pick-up groceries or look at the unsold homes in your neighborhood. Donors have less disposable income and are anxious about the future.
So, is there any good news? Actually, I think there is. The economy will recover—economies, like history, are cyclical by nature—and oil prices are already beginning to stabilize and drop from record highs. In addition, in recent days, we’ve seen a remarkable rise in the dollar’s value, making imports and goods, including food, more affordable. These are all positive signs.
Positive, macro-economic signs, however, do not change the amount of money in a donor’s wallet, at least not for a while. The reality is that we will see lower levels of giving at least into 2009 (remember, even when things get better, donors are cautious for a while) and maybe longer. There are no guarantees, and nonprofits doing their budgeting should not bank on year over year revenue increases.
Until things really turnaround, however, there are some creative and tangible things you can do to operate your organization more efficiently and effectively. Start by finding the most obvious place to cut costs without losing effectiveness or capabilities and if you follow the example of today’s most savvy companies and governments, that means focusing on IT costs.
Most IT spending today is incredibly inefficient. It relies on an outdated model of paying huge up front costs and ongoing license fees to lease software over which you have little to no control.
For example, how much do you pay Microsoft for desktop applications and back office applications (like Exchange)? The City of Washington, DC saved millions of dollars each year in licensing fees by switching to free (Google Aps) and Open Source (Open Office) solutions for their desktop applications. All of these are fully compatible with Word, Excel, PowerPoint and other Microsoft standards. How much could you save by doing the same? How many more lives could your nonprofit improve with the funds you’d save and have available for programs and services?
This is a large part of the reason that Orange Leap made its mature and full feature constituent relationship management (CRM) solution available as an open source offering earlier this year. You have all the functionality (and more) of a product like Blackbaud’s Raiser’s Edge®, but your cost of owning and operating the software will be 40-70 percent less. Plus, you don’t have to pay huge up front fees and you are not beholden to us. It’s open source. It is as flexible and customizable as you want it to be.
Hopefully, the silver lining to these difficult economic times is that nonprofits will find ways to creatively cut costs so they can focus more dollars on the people they serve. Software, including but not limited to CRM solutions, is a great place to start.