4 Ways Nonprofits Can Retain Donations During Inflation

Don’t Let Inflation Curb Your Donations: 4 Ways to Retain Generosity During Economic Peril

March 27, 2024
5 minutes
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Nonprofiteers—if inflation rates are sending you into a spiral of economic anxiety and payroll panic, you aren't alone. We've brainstormed the best ways to counteract the deflation of donations due to inflation. But first, let's get the stats straight.

Here's the latest on inflation and generosity

Consumer prices are at an all-time high. For the first time in forty years, inflation hit 9.1% in June 2022, and in spite of a gradual pricing pullback befitting of the seasonal transition, charitable organizations and consumers will continue to endure the painful effects of inflation for the foreseeable future.

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that inflation softened to 8.2% in September 2022 and then continued to go down through February 2024, along with a decline in unemployment to 3.4% in March of 2023—a labor market that held steady through at least January 2024, equaling just over 6 million unemployed. The steady glimmer of economic reconstruction provides hopeful news for those who have experienced financial hardship as a result of widespread price increases and the ongoing global pandemic.

But while rising costs have negatively impacted nearly every sector of consumer spending, discussions around inflation and philanthropy have been limited.

We get it—why should we emphasize the importance of giving when many of us are struggling to meet our basic needs? The truth is, although our economic means may have shifted, our overall dedication to philanthropy has remained steadfast in the face of hardship.

David Schwab put it pretty succinctly on the Nonstop Nonprofit podcast:

"...if we think about inflation, we just lost 15%. It's so critical for organizations to adopt a growth mindset because the market is so volatile... everything around us is changing faster than ever: new technologies and changing economic global economics... even the most hyper-local nonprofit organization is affected by macro trends if you're not thinking about radical growth."

The concept of “giving” may look different these days …and that's okay!

4 ways to counteract donation deflation

Remember, nonprofit organizations and the hardworking humans who serve them don't stop showing up for their communities during periods of economic peril. In order to maintain nonprofit sustainability, you must be transparent about your needs, champion your teammates, and get creative to find new and innovative ways to drive impact.

Riding the wave of inflation is hard. But, as Glennon Doyle reminds us, "we can do hard things". So let's do it.

Do the math

The key to nonprofit sustainability is transparency in the face of economic adversity.

Let's take a communal deep breath. *Breathes*. Okay. You don't have to pretend to have it all together. Instead, be transparent with your donor pool about the needs of your nonprofit and the negative impacts of inflation on your bottom line.

"But transparency is scary!" It doesn't have to be. Start by naming the costs that have increased for your organization due to inflation, be transparent about how those costs divert less funds to your programming, and ask donors to cover the few-dollars difference. (And we know that it's more than a few dollars for major donors; still ask! They're the ones who will understand 

Appeal to your recurring donors

Reach out to current donors and ask to increase their monthly donation based on inflation percentages. Try to increase a $10 monthly donation to $13 to combat inflation costs. Be clear with donors about how their increased contribution will positively impact your organization and continue your programming, and remind your donor base that any contribution provides value.

Donors Cover Fees

Ask donors to cover the fees. With credit card fees, transaction fees, and platform fees eating into your donations, it's time to call on individual donors to add a small amount to their donations that'll have big impact.

Champion Your Team

Let's bust the overhead myth that puts pressure on the nonprofit sector to keep overhead expenses below 20% of overall expenditures. The reality is that investing in your team and prioritizing retention will benefit your nonprofit in the long term by avoiding the costs that come with turnover and hiring.

So...anyone want a raise? We thought so. Your staff needs to pay their bills and deserve economic security while they're working hard to save the world. The hard truth is that nonprofits are more likely to face layoffs in uncertain economic times. At the same time, nonprofit staff are more likely to report being overworked, underpaid, and overwhelmed by new divisions of labor. That's where nonprofit fundraising strategies (and transparency!) come in.


Remind your donor base of the critical work that your team has done throughout the year, and ask for donations to help give your team a raise to combat the hardships of inflation. #Raise4Raise sounds like a campaign hashtag to us (but we're open to ideas)!

Championing your people is just as important as championing your cause. Fundraising efforts that benefit your staff will boost overall morale and employee retention—which are critical to your nonprofit infrastructure. Take pride in celebrating your team and fundraising for the compensation that they deserve. Your nonprofit will be better for it.

Come up with creative inflation-busting fundraisers

Reduce, reuse, recycle! Who knew that combating inflation is good for the environment? Now is the time to venture into your storage closet and repurpose old assets and props for new and innovative nonprofit fundraising ideas! DIY experts—this one is for you! We've put together a few creative concepts to get you started, and we have hundreds more nonprofit fundraising ideas on our blog!

Last-minute cook-off

Are your food donations about to expire? Turn them into ingredients for an “everything but the kitchen sink” cook-off! Whoever makes the most delicious dish using donor-sourced ingredients wins—and all the profits go towards your nonprofit. This is a creative way to combat food waste, save money on supplies, and raise money from donors! A win-win.

Approxi-Met Gala

Wish you scored an invite to the Met Gala? Organize your own! Host a charity fashion show repurposing vintage clothes and costumes. The less you spend, the more creative each look will be! If you have a thrift shop, challenge attendees to put together runway-ready designs from your stock. Clothing donations are an excellent alternative to monetary contributions for folks facing economic hardship due to inflation.

Community Auction

Everyone wins with a community auction! Source donated auction items from local artists, community creators, and small businesses to help support your community by boosting brand awareness. Your donor base will be excited to support your nonprofit and shop locally!

Sharing is Caring

Let's get social ✨ Supporting a nonprofit organization by spreading the word is an underrated way to contribute your time—but in our growing digital landscape, likes and shares drive impact!

Remember, you can ask for contributions through social media sharing, testimonials, non-monetary items, or in-kind services. Sharing the message of your nonprofit will help your potential donors make meaningful contributions while reducing the impact of inflation.

Spread the Wealth

Leverage individual donation pages to hold peer-to-peer fundraisers! Instead of asking one donor for a $100 donation, which may be too much for them to swing, that same donor can ask their friends for $10 each, which is much more affordable. Peer-to-peer fundraisers make donating more accessible and drive your donor base—especially during inflation.

Double the Donation

Encourage donation matching! Thousands of companies support nonprofits through corporate donation matching. You can easily double your donations without breaking your budget even during periods of inflation (and we can help!) Check out our company matching integration to automate the process.

The Reel Thing

A testimonial video is a great way to promote your nonprofit on social media or to send to the press when requesting coverage of an event. Put out a call to your donor base on social media to submit a short video about how your nonprofit has impacted them. Edit the videos together and voila—you have a no-cost promotional reel for your nonprofit that will undoubtedly bring in more charitable donations by spreading the word. If anonymity is important to your donor base, request written testimonials that can be used for shareable graphics and social media assets!

Your community wants to show up—remind them that there are many creative ways to do so that will drive impact.

And if all else fails...have you tried Oprah? We hear she's very charitable 🤪

Oprah laughs manically, with a caption of "You make me laugh"

A final note on the unflagging nonprofit spirit

It's not a coincidence that donation and inflation rhyme—while the two seem antithetical to each other, they aren't mortal enemies. In fact, economic adversity can lead to new opportunities to get creative, support your staff, and test-drive a new model of transparency for your donor base.

Next time you hear about rising rates of inflation on the news, remember that nonprofit leaders are innovators by nature. Your innovative spirit can overcome any obstacle—chances are, you've already done that by starting a nonprofit in the first place.

Scaling community generosity is not always about generating the most revenue (especially during difficult times). Leveraging your community's philanthropy in creative and innovative ways will make the biggest impact on your cause.

So…inflation, be damned! We've got this.

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