NEW YORK — Harriet Mouchly-Weiss has a 2-foot tall stack of abject letters from nonprofit organizations telling her of their dire financial straits because of the economic meltdown.
It was probably an ineffective approach — at least for Mouchly-Weiss.
“If I get one more pathetic letter I am going to croak,” the New Yorker told JTA.
In the nonprofit world, marketing is often a nice word for fund raising, and if organizations are going to listen to anyone about how to message their causes now, it should be Mouchly-Weiss. She is the managing partner at Strategy XXI, a marketing consulting firm that specializes in nonprofits.
Mouchly-Weiss also sits on the executive committee of the UJA-Federation of New York, and is on the boards of the New Israel Fund, the Abraham Fund and the Israel Policy Forum.
Her message is clear: With nonprofits facing a shrinking fund-raising pool as funders either lose money or become more tightfisted, organizations will have to come up with an effective pitch for convincing donors that they are running tight ships. And nonprofits have to recognize that their messaging may be their meal tickets.
Nonprofits should emphasize their emergency, says Gary Tobin, the president of the Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco, which studies the Jewish nonprofit sector.
“What is going to matter most to people are those programs for the hungry and the poor, people on Medicare and the homeless,” Tobin said.
“You have to appeal to a shift in priorities and mission in a time of crisis. JCCs should be emphasizing scholarships, day schools the same,” he said. “Everybody needs programs that serve people in need. It’s just a matter of how you package it.”
Donors will give to causes they deem important during tough times, said Steve Rabinowitz, a founding partner at Rabinowitz-Dorf Communications, which specializes in strategies for nonprofits and political interests. He cites the unprecedented amounts raised over the past two years for presidential campaigns.
But, Rabinowitz adds, nonprofits must strengthen their messages and prove to their benefactors that they remain vital.