Saving Money During Tough Times

If your charitable organization is like many, contributions are lagging during this tough economic period. During times like these, it’s important to find ways to cut costs so that your organization can continue to provide its basic services on a smaller budget. Following are some ideas to help you save money.

Trim budgets
Take a look at your budget from last year’s events, and look for ways to cut costs. Consider, for example, hosting a dessert celebration rather than a full dinner. Or, consider increasing the cost of attendance to reduce the funds required from your operating budget.

Apply for grants
It costs very little to apply for grants from foundations who give regularly to non profit organizations. Research the foundations that have typically supported organizations such as yours and then research their grant requirements. Many simply require a grant request letter along with a copy of your 501c3 letter and your financial statements. If you spend your time wisely – applying only to those organizations that have shown a pattern of giving to causes like yours, you’ll find that this can be a simple way to bring in additional donations.

Hire a grant writer
Hire a grant writer who can create a template grant letter for you if you don’t have one. In many cases, one basic grant request letter can be modified over and over again for multiple grants. You can offer the grant writer a bonus (not based on grant monies), but it is considered unethical for grant writers to accept a percentage of donation brought in. (see comments)

Renegotiate with vendors
Go over your event items with your vendors to see if you can get lower prices. If your organization has grown since you last negotiated prices, you may be able to get a break simply because your attendance numbers have grown. If you can’t get lower prices from your current vendors, you might consider shopping around to see if it’s time to change vendors on some items.

Trim your newsletter
If you’re spending money distributing a monthly mailed newsletter, consider moving your newsletter, and other communications vehicles online. The costs of maintaining a website are far less than that of sending out paper mailings. It’s also more environmentally friendly. Simply get your website going, and then use all your communications vehicles to let people know that you’re going online.

Consider joint fundraising ventures
Partner with a compatible organization to host a fundraising event. Of course, you’ll receive only half the contributions, but you’ll also incur only half the costs. Partnering with another organization can mean the difference between having the resources to host an event and not having enough resources. It can also expose your organization to other donors, and your partner organization to your donors, which can increase your both of your donor bases.

There are lots of ways to be creative and cut costs while keeping your important programs running. It requires a little ingenuity, but your organization can continue and even thrive during a down economy.

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  1. Posted by Susan 7th April, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Generally, it’s considered to be unethical for a grant writer to work for a percentage of money rather than to be paid a flat fee — see the American Association of Grant Professionals code of ethics at

  2. Posted by 7th April, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Thank you Susan for bringing this issue to our attention.

    More about compensation for grant professionals from the AAGP:

    17. Members shall work for a salary or fee.
    18. Members may accept performance-based compensation, such as bonuses, provided such bonuses are in accordance with prevailing practices within the members’ own organizations and are not based on a percentage of grant monies.
    19. Members shall not accept or pay a finder’s fee[3], commission[4], or percentage compensation based on grants and shall take care to discourage their organizations from making such payments.
    20. Compensation should not be written into grants unless allowed by the funder.



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