Here’s my perspective on fundraising during recessions and times of economic uncertainty after 40 years in the field.

CCS recently published an article about nine key steps that nonprofits can take in times of financial volatility to avoid compromising their campaign or delivering on their mission. I offer these insights to add context to our recommendations and to offer some perspective after years of working with nonprofits across sectors and states.

In my three and a half decades at CCS, we have witnessed the 1987 stock market crash, the 1991 recession, the September 11 attacks and coinciding crash, the Great Recession of 2008-2009, and the COVID-19 pandemic.

While these are uncertain times, our experience in economic downturns is consistent: organizations that don’t let external events dictate their plans prove to be much more successful than organizations that pause, delay, “pump the brakes,” or outright cancel their plans.

We know what we can and cannot control. We cannot control the markets. In fact, we cannot control any external events. We can’t control the pandemic. We can’t control what’s happening in Ukraine. We can’t control election outcomes.

We can control how we make the case for a nonprofit and the nonprofit’s campaign. We can control who we ask, when we ask, how much we ask for, and how well and enthusiastically we ask.

moving ahead with fundraising is key

If we learned anything at all during the Great Recession and COVID-19 it’s this: pausing, delaying, slowing down, or stopping are lethal to campaigns, fundraising initiatives, and can be lethal to organizations. Do not slow down. Do not “pause.” We have clear evidence and data that moving ahead, even with modifications, is preferable to pausing or slowing down.

CCS is well-versed in determining the right modifications, whether it’s the goal, the case, or the timeline, with data-driven predictive modeling. Our advice for you is to gather as much information as possible before moving forward with adjustments.

Philanthropy is resilient. While the markets may be volatile, philanthropy is not. When the markets dropped almost 50% in the Great Recession, philanthropy declined 2-3%. In 2020, giving reached an all-time high of $471 billion while global uncertainty was looming.

Donors want to give; it is up to you to stay the course. Those nonprofits that do will reap the rewards for years to come.

Looking to make strategic adjustments to your campaign?

CCS is here to help.

More Insights


Continuing a Nonprofit Fundraising Campaign in Uncertain Times

May 5, 2020

Managing a campaign is a challenge even in the best of times. In the current pandemic crisis, many organizations are looking to fundraising success during past crises in order to help them move forward.


Fundraising in Uncertain Economic and Social Times

March 25, 2020

In this webinar in partnership with AFP Massachusetts, Senior Vice Presidents Sarah Krasin and Kate Villa explore lessons learned from previous economic cycles and how your organization can turn a time of uncertainty into a time of fundraising opportunity.