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Is it still possible to raise funds during a Crisis?

Andreea Marin Banicawith her UNICEF – UNICREDIT card

By Despina Andrei, Fundraising Manager, UNICEF Romania

Before the crisis started, UNICEF Romania generated two-thirds of its income from corporate sources and one-third from private individuals. Now, two years later, the situation is reversed; two-thirds come from private sources and one-third from the corporate sector.

Most companies reduced their Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) budget; some eliminated it completely. As a result, UNICEF received a far lower response from its public appeals in Romania. Even though also affected by the recession, private individuals were more responsive to the emotional impact of emergencies such as the Haiti earthquake and the floods in North-Eastern Romania in summer2010, and gave generously.

Companies expected a stronger quid pro quo from UNICEF and other organisations in terms of attracting media attention in return for their financial support for projects.

So can funds still be raised in the midst of a recession? The answer is “yes”, provided that UNICEF and other organisations dependent on local fundraising adapt their strategies to the new reality. In UNICEF’s case, income was not just sustained, but almost doubled during the last two years when the recession was at its worst in Romania. The key was to put emphasis on emergency appeals which generate empathy for the suffering of the victims. This aroused the generosity of private individuals. In the case of the corporate sector, we moved from sponsorships to partnerships. In practice, this means long-term arrangements whereby the corporate donor is involved at every stage of the project from planning to monitoring to evaluation, while the association with UNICEF helps them to raise their profile among the public and reach their commercial targets.

GDF SUEZ Energy Romania representative, Ramona Sararescu, on a visit to one of the project schools

Just as businesses have modified their marketing plans to reflect the economic downturn, the non-profit sector must also adjust itself to the new context in which it must operate. Opinion is split on the likely effects of this critical period, but one thing is certain: it will leave its mark on the activities of NGOs and international organisations. It is hard, if not impossible, to come up with a one-size-fits–all solution to fundraising. All not-for-profits have their own methods to raise funds and they have only just begun to adapt to the unfavourable economic conditions. Organisations that rely exclusively on companies for their financial support will be more seriously affected because of the lower CSR budgets. It may thus be a time to expand donor portfolios by seeking out new supporters from among companies that have not traditionally been associated with sponsorships and partnerships. Also, developing the idea of monthly pledge donors through the banking system, an important source of funding in other EU countries but in its infancy in Romania, may eventuallyyield good results.

All in all, it is an important time to share our ideas more and to become more proactive and innovative. Flexibility and creativity will determine how successful fundraising organisations will be, especially while the effect of the crisis lingers.



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