If you’re running a business in Perth, chances are you’re doing it tough.

Perth property prices have been falling due to a sharp slowdown in WA’s population growth; median rents have plummeted to historical lows; and unemployment in the state hit 6.5% in March – lower than its almost 15-year peak of 6.9% in November but above the national average of 5.9% – as the number of jobseekers reached a near 25-year high.

While the corporate sector is feeling the pinch of a wavering local economy, the not-for-profit (NFP) sector – heavily reliant on the generosity of corporates for their livelihood – is doing it even tougher.

With government funding hard to come by, these organisations only exist due to public and corporate support. If that support is withdrawn, through fewer individual or business donations as consumers and businesses alike tighten the purse strings, the impact can be severe.

NFPs still need growth. They still have boards to answer to; they still have community services to provide; they still have wages to pay.

It’s perhaps not surprising then that many NFPs are becoming more sophisticated in the techniques they’re using to raise funds.

Just because you’re not running a business for-profit, it doesn’t mean you can’t adopt a commercial mindset in your approach.

In recent months, CoreData WA has worked with a number of Perth-based NFP clients who are searching for ways to add more value to corporate partners, market themselves to new companies to increase their reach – and ultimately get more sponsorship dollars in the door.

How are they doing this? They’re using research to better understand their customers – in this case, the corporate donors – and their target market (prospective donors), and then implementing those insights by tailoring their business strategy and marketing plans accordingly.

One of the organisations, in the agricultural industry, has completely reframed the way they talk to potential partners about who they are and what they do as a result of the findings.

It’s not rocket science.

The best way to improve the relationship you have with your backers is to ask them for their feedback, yet so many NFPs are operating blind, not really knowing why the support is there and what they need to do to make sure it remains.

In a difficult economic environment, holding onto existing funding is just as important as getting new funds through the door. And it’s not just economic conditions creating challenges.

Changes in government regulation, such as the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) and the 2017 reforms to the aged care sector which see home care packages allocated to consumers rather than via the Aged Care Approvals Round, mean NFPs offering services in these sectors must fundamentally reshape their organisation to appeal directly to a consumer market.

This is a huge shift in focus and requires a deep understanding of the end customer – the person who will ultimately choose whether or not to use (and pay for) their services.

Savvy managers will use these changes in regulation and consumer behaviour as an opportunity to enhance the value they provide to clients and sponsors, as they work to remain viable in a market where the fight for the charity dollar is tough, but the fight for the customer is even tougher.