“At least these days when you tell people you’re hurting, they believe you.”

I’ll never forget that quote I read somewhere from someone in the Austin fundraising community. The person was referring to the fact that in a down economy, prospects seem to doubt a nonprofit’s needs less.

A number of organizations – United Way, Greenlights, RGK Center, I Live Here, I Give Here – are conducting surveys to find out just how badly local nonprofits are hurting; but if they’re trying to make a case to increase giving, I have to wonder how effective they’ll be.

After all, one of the big reasons donations are down must be that people just have less to give right now, and you can plead your case all day long but if there’s no money in the bank, you probably won’t get a donation. That applies to individuals and corporations, too.

But what else might motivate Central Texans to give? Will more data do it? More bad news?

How about a return to the tried-and-true method of requests through personal relationships? Or crafting and communicating compelling stories? Or focusing on awareness campaigns, volunteer requests…. any other ways people can help besides money?

If the surveys reveal that most Central Texans nonprofits have seen a significant drop in donations compared to this time last year, I predict the initial reaction to this information by the general public may be a resounding, “Duh.”

So I hope these organizations will take advantage of the data to create a campaign that says something like this:

“Look, we hear you. You’re broke. You’re obviously not able to make the donations this year. But the needs in this community are greater than ever. Is there another way you’d like to help? We have a few suggestions….”

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