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Topical Resource Lists

Nonprofits and Economic Downturns

The instability of today’s economy and the global financial markets holds many repercussions for the nonprofit sector. Fundraising becomes increasingly challenging as donors can no longer give as generously as in the past. Foundations may be forced to reduce their grantmaking, and leaders may find it progressively more difficult to sustain their organizations through these complex economic times.

This selected reading list contains citations to selected works from the Foundation Center's bibliographic database on the topic of nonprofits and economic downturns, including resources to help nonprofits manage and fundraise effectively. Materials cited are journal articles and reports. For a complete bibliography on this topic, use Catalog of Nonprofit Literature, entering any of the following subject headings in the subject search field box: Economic conditions, nonprofit organizations—economic aspects, foundations—economic aspects, fundraising—economic aspects (sample search). Note: See also the Foundation Center's Focus on the Economic Crisis web site.

Research and Analysis

"Giving During Recessions and Economic Slowdowns". Giving USA Spotlight vol. Issue 3 (2008) p. 1-17.

Examines giving patterns during economic downturns and recessions from 1967 to 2007. The analysis explores giving by donor type and by type of recipient organization.

Lawrence, Steven. A First Look at the Foundation and Corporate Response to the Economic Crisis. New York, NY: Foundation Center, 2009.

Steven Lawrence, the Foundation Center's senior director of research, examines giving by close to 50 institutional donors that have announced over $100 million in support for efforts ranging from reducing the number of foreclosures to shoring up food banks and services for the homeless. This research advisory is part of an ongoing Foundation Center series intended to shed light on the potential impact of the current economic downturn on the nonprofit sector.

Nonprofit Management and Fundraising

Warwick, Mal. Fundraising When Money is Tight: A Strategic and Practical Guide to Surviving Tough Times and Thriving in the Future. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2009.

Part One contains chapters that discuss scenario planning and various fundraising strategies. Part Two outlines nine steps nonprofits can take to help them survive for the short and long term. A related article "Fundraising in Tough Times" is available online.

20 Emergency Funding Sources for Nonprofits. Fieldstone Alliance's Nonprofit Tools You Can Use e-newsletter (16 December 2008).

The Nonprofit Finance Fund analyzed the impact of the 2001 economic downturn on 6,500 mid-sized organizations and provides advice for organizations based on the research findings.

As the Nonprofit Sector Faces Recession, Nonprofit Finance Fund Outlines 5 Recommendations to Prepare for Economic Downturn. Nonprofit Finance Fund, 2008

The Nonprofit Finance Fund analyzed the impact of the 2001 economic downturn on 6,500 mid-sized organizations and provides advice for organizations based on the research findings.

Managing in Hard Times. Institute for Conservation Leadership & Environmental Support Center, 2003.

"This publication provides best practices and tools for managers of environmental and conservation nonprofits in our challenging economic times."

Managing in a Tough Economy: How Nonprofit Leaders and Their Organizations Are Facing the Uncertainty. Bridgestar, 2009.

Operations and finance professionals describe steps that have been taken to weather the economic downturn.

Managing in Tough Times: A Collection of Resources for Nonprofits and Funders Navigating Turbulence. The Bridgespan Group.

"Includes Managing in Tough Times: 7 Steps," "Managing Through Tough Times Survey Themes," "In Bad Economic Times, Focus on Impact," and other articles.

Young, Dennis R. (ed.) Wise Decision-Making in Uncertain Times: Using Nonprofit Resources Effectively. New York, NY: Foundation Center, 2006. Call Number: 620 YOU EFF WIS

A follow-up to Young's 2004 publication "Effective Economic Decision-Making by Nonprofit Organizations," this new volume focuses on the challenges faced in the post-9/11 world. Demands on essential nonprofit services have escalated, while the bursting economic bubble of the 1990s and the government’s preoccupation with terrorism has reduced funding. Moving beyond the core principles set out in "Effective Economic Decision-Making"—pricing, compensation, investment, outsourcing, economic options, strategies, and policies—this new guide examines four topical issues: operating decisions, capacity building, foundation decision-making, and the nonprofit/business dynamic.

Board of Trustees

Gaberman, Barry D. "Facing the Financial Crisis: 10 Smart Things Your Board Can Do Now." Board Member vol. 17 (November-December 2008) p. 8-11.

General advice for board members on navigating a nonprofit through troubled economic times. The article offers ten basic tips, plus several examples of the positive side of economic slowdowns.

King, David H. "What's the Key to Raising Money in a Tough Economy?" Nonprofit World vol. 26 (July-August 2008) p. 24-5.

Discusses how a strong board of directors can aid in fundraising during difficult economic conditions. Notes four steps to cultivating a solid board that can help raise and give money.

Earned Income

Larson, Rolfe. Venture Forth! The Essential Guide to Starting a Moneymaking Business in Your Nonprofit Organization.. St. Paul, MN: Fieldstone Alliance, 2002. Call Number: 733 LAR

A guide for developing nonprofit business endeavors that are in alignment with an organization’s mission and financial goals. Also known as social entrepreneurship and social purpose businesses, these ventures can help nonprofits diversify funding sources and strengthen relationships with constituents. Larson explains that there are both risks and benefits associated these efforts. Chapters contain worksheets and examples for brainstorming, planning, market research, financial analysis, and writing business plans.

Robinson, Andy. Selling Social Change (Without Selling Out): Earned Income Strategies for Nonprofits. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2002. Call Number: 733 ROB

Discusses the growing importance of social entrepreneurship in the nonprofit sector and identifies specific steps to help an organization generate more money from its programs, including how to: create an "entrepreneurial culture" within the organization; brainstorm and evaluate potential earned income projects; develop and use a business plan; raise enough money to get started; and successfully market its goods and services.

Individual Donors

Hart, Ted; James M. Greenfield; Pamela M. Gignac and Christopher Carnie. Major Donors: Finding Big Gifts in Your Database and Online. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006. Call Number: 747 HAR

This textbook offers chapters by various specialists: "Prospecting for Major Gifts" by Pamela Gignac and Ken Wyman; "Knowledge Management, Data Mining, and Prospect Screening" by Jeff Gignac and Chris Carnie; "Why Bill Gates May Not Be Your Best Prospect" by Peter B. Wylie and David M. Lawson; "Prospect Research Policy, Privacy, and Ethics" by Stephen Lee and Susan Mullin; "U.S. and Canadian Strategies" by Pamela Gignac and Kristina Carlson; "International Strategies--Europe and Asia" by Chris Carnie and Sarah Boodleman Tenney; "Your Web Site: What Does It Say to Major Donors?" by Howard Lake; "An Internet Strategy for Major Donor Fundraising" by Anthony Powell; "Using Gathered Information Effectively within Your Staff and Volunteer Teams" by Nancy Johnson and Pamela Gignac; "Moving from Prospect Identification to Making Friends for Life" by Andrew Thomas and Ken Burnett; "Results Analysis and Performance Measurements" by James M. Greenfield; and "Challenges for Tomorrow" by Chris Carnie. Includes checklists, sample contract forms, and ethical guidelines. Indexed.

Hogan, Cecilia. Prospect Research: A Primer for Growing Nonprofits. 2nd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2008. Call Number: 743 HOG

Explains the terminology, tools, and procedures for prospect research of individuals, corporations, foundations, and government agencies. The author also deals with ethical issues, electronic screening, tracking processes, and organization of the research office. Includes sample policies and forms, bibliographical references, glossary, and index.

Klein, Kim (ed.) and Stephanie Roth (ed.) Raise More Money: The Best of the Grassroots Fundraising Journal. Oakland, CA: Chardon Press, 2001. Call Number: 703 KLE

From the editors of Grassroots Fundraising Journal this is a compendium of articles published over the last 20 years. The major fundraising topics cover principles, planning, various strategies (direct mail, individual solicitation, special events), organizational issues, and board development. Also includes three articles on fundraising as a career. Indexed.

Lewis, Herschell Gordon. "Making the Case: Times are Tough. You Should be Tougher." NonProfit Times vol. 22 (15 July 2008) p. 12.

Offers advice on fundraising under adverse economic conditions, with a focus on direct mail solicitations.

Sargeant, Adrian and Elaine Jay.Building Donor Loyalty: The Fundraiser's Guide to Increasing Lifetime Value. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 2004. Call Number: 743 SAR

Solla, Laura A. The Guide to Prospect Research & Prospect Management. Freeport, PA: Laura A. Solla, 2006. Call Number: 743 SOL

Defines prospect research and explains how it fits in with an overall fundraising plan. This author considers individuals, foundations, and corporations as prospects. Explains how to identify potential individual givers though various research tools and information sources, and then how to assess a prospect's net worth. Numerous Internet resources are described. With bibliographical references.

Wilson, Thomas D. Winning Gifts: Make Your Donors Feel Like Winners. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008. Call Number: 743 WIL WIN

The book focuses primarily on techniques for soliciting individual donors and maintaining their loyalty to an organization. Case statements, recognition opportunities, and fundraising approaches are among the topics addressed by the author. Indexed.

Special Events

Axelrod, Terry. Raising More Money: The Ask Event Handbook. Seattle, WA: Raising More Money Publications, 2004. Call Number: 760 AXE

Numerous templates and sample forms are provided for the various stages of planning and implementing a fundraising event. Also gives advice for leveraging the success of the event after it's over.

Goldstein, Lauren. The Special Events Toolbox: A Nuts-and-Bolts Guide to Planning and Implementing Successful Special Events Campaigns for Nonprofit Organizations. New York, NY: Cause Effective, Inc, 2004. Call Number: 760 GOL

Includes many worksheets and sample forms for the multiple stages of planning and implementing a special event. Goldstein helps organizations determine their objectives and readiness for hosting this type of endeavor. With bibliographical references.

Stallings, Betty and Donna McMillion. How to Produce Fabulous Fundraising Events: Reap Remarkable Returns With Minimal Effort. Pleasanton, CA: Building Better Skills, 1999. Call Number: 760 STA

Divided into two sections, the first provides advice about choosing the right special event, selecting volunteers, planning, publicizing, and evaluating the event. The second section is a how-to guide for planning and managing a dinner event, and includes worksheets, checklists, and insider's tips. An accompanying computer disk is included.


Foundation Center's Focus on the Economic Crisis: Best ARRA Funding Resources Mapped by State

Nonprofit Collaboration

Andrews, Becky. "Are You a Good Candidate for a Merger?" Nonprofit Tools You Can Use (24 August 2009).

Presents questions to consider when determining your organization's readiness for a merger. The information was excepted from David La Piana’s book, The Nonprofit Merger Workbook Part I: The Leader’s Guide to Considering, Negotiating, and Executing a Merger.

Hoskins, Linda and Emil Angelica. Forming Alliances: Working Together to Achieve Mutual Goals. Saint Paul, MN: Fieldstone Alliance, 2005. Call Number: 609 HOS

Because more donors are looking for collaborative efforts among nonprofits, the book is addressed to both agency leaders and funders, explaining the alliance continuum, the challenges and pitfalls of collaborations, as well as the benefits. One chapter discusses means for furthering an existing partnership. Contains numerous worksheets, sample letters of agreement, and other helpful tools.

La Piana, David. The Nonprofit Mergers Workbook: The Leader's Guide to Considering, Negotiating, and Executing a Merger. St Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 2000. Call Number: 609 LAP MER

The initial chapters explain the different forms of mergers available to nonprofits; following this are steps for an internal assessment and for the process of identifying a potential merger partner. Typical problems, negotiating strategies, funding issues, and steps involved in implementation are explained. Appendices include various samples, such as ads seeking a partner, confidentiality agreements, and implementation plan.

La Piana Associates, Inc. The Nonprofit Mergers Workbook: Part II--Unifying the Organization After a Merger. St Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 2004. Call Number: 609 LAP MER WOR

This volume is a sequel to La Piana's 2000 publication "The Nonprofit Mergers Workbook." The book outlines the multiple, often-concurrent issues that must be worked through in order for a merger to be successful. Creating and managing an integration plan is essential, and it will involve the board, staff, volunteers, and systems. A sample of such a plan, with worksheets, is provided in the appendix.

Manley, Linda Schechter and Neil Stevenson. Building Successful Collaborations: A Legal Guide for Nonprofits. New York, NY: Lawyers Alliance for New York, 2007. Call Number: 609 MAN

The booklet helps nonprofits analyze the benefits and risks of collaboration. A due diligence checklist is included to help identify appropriate collaborators. The guide also discusses the lawyer's role, the negotiation process, the written agreement, and collaboration management. The appendices contain sample agreements in the area of workforce development.

McLaughlin, Thomas A. Nonprofit Mergers and Alliances: A Strategic Planning Guide. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1998. Call Number: 609 MCL

Textbook approach to the decision, planning and implementation of nonprofit mergers. Discusses differences between mergers and alliances. Provides seven step-by-step chapters to achieve a successful merger.

Haider, Don. "Uniting for Survival." Stanford Social Innovation Review vol. 5 (Summer 2007) p. 52-5.

The case study examines the ways that four Chicago-area cancer support centers collaborated before forming a fifth nonprofit to leverage their resources.

Hung, Priscilla. "Time to Merge? Fundraising and Financial Implications." Grassroots Fundraising Journal vol. 28 (January-February 2009) p. 4-7.

Hung elaborates on seven lessons that were learned in negotiating the merger, over two years, of the GIFT organization with Grassroots Fundraising Journal.

Panepento, Peter. "Banding Together." Chronicle of Philanthropy vol. 18 (6 April 2006) p. F2-3.

Nonprofits are often hesitant to raise money together with other organizations because they fear that they may lose donors. The article provides examples of joint fundraising projects and explains why they were successful.

Wei-Skillern, Jane and Sonia Marciano. "The Networked Nonprofit." Stanford Social Innovation Review vol. 6 (Spring 2008) p. 39-43.

The article discusses the way that small nonprofits can accomplish as much as or more than their larger peers by building networks with other like-minded organizations. Emphasizes that in order to build capacity in this way, a nonprofit must focus on its mission rather than its organization, and on serving as a node rather than a hub. Provides detailed examples of nonprofits that have succeeded through partnerships with other nonprofits, local governments, and additional institutions.


Hart, Ted; James M. Greenfield; and Sheeraz D. Haji. People to People Fundraising: Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Charities. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007. Call Number: 676 HAR PEO

Explains how to use the latest Internet tools and approaches to fundraise and develop support for your cause. Topics discussed in the volume include social media, advocacy, special events, Web site evaluation, integrated campaigns, widgets, and other technologies. Indexed.

Stanionis, Madeline. The Mercifully Brief, Real World Guide to Raising Thousands (If Not Tens of Thousands) of Dollars With Email. Medfield, MA: Emerson & Church, 2006. Call Number: 676 STA

Basic information and advice, illustrated with many examples from Internet solicitations.

Web Sites

Foundation Center: Focus on the Economic Crisis

Association of Fundraising Professionals: A Survival Kit for Fundraising in a Bad Economy

Beth Kanter's Blog

Chronicle of Philanthropy: How Charities Cope With a Troubled Economy

The Collaboration Prize

Fieldstone Alliance: Opportunities in Lean Times

National Council of Nonprofits: Nonprofit Economic Vitality Center

Nonprofit Finance Fund: Navigating the Economic Crisis--A Nonprofit FAQ


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