What about crowdfunding?
In a society that’s continuing to be more interested in social impact, this is a potentially huge area to raise funds.
Think of Kickstarter. Anyone can promote any cause and collect money from anyone around the world. All they need to do is connect to an investor’s sense of purpose.
Be aware there are fees attached! If using a public platform, understand the costs associated. Take the time to compare different platforms and factor in the cost to raise money with any effort placed on a platform.
Also be aware of nonprofit fundraising laws! With the internet it is much easier to raise money from people in multiple states, even if you operate in just one. Many states require nonprofits to register in order to conduct fundraising within their jurisdiction-this may apply to more states than intended if you plan to raise funds online. The National Association of State Charity Officials published a guide for social media and internet solicitation.
That being said, there are definitely opportunities to use crowdfunding to your advantage.
Craft the right story
There are many ways to get a person to be interested in your organization. Most include connecting with their individual sense of purpose. You need them to feel the pain you’re trying to solve.
You might think you don’t have all the right details for a truly compelling story, but you’re wrong!
Beth Kanter outlines four classic storylines that work well when soliciting donors:
- Overcoming the monster – Talk about some form of adversity your organization is tackling. Are 99% of kids in your region on subsidized school lunch programs? Okay… tell that story.
- Rags to riches – Use your actual clients or service recipients as a catalyst. Explain the poor circumstances that led to them using your organization, and the 180 degree turnaround you helped them achieve. Don’t be afraid to get detailed in describing the low point.
- Quest – Everyone loves a good quest story. We’re on a quest to a completely carbon neutral society. Where do we stand on that long journey? What are you doing about it?
- Tragedy – Some events have the ability to appeal to the masses. Think of the recent devastating earthquakes across southern U.S. and Puerto Rico. Tell that story. Make people feel compelled to do something for all those suffering.
Leverage grants and other funding opportunities
While donors may make up a good core of your fundraising strategy, there are often overlooked free dollars out there that you may qualify for without realizing. It is important to understand where these areas of opportunity are and to always incorporate grants and other free money into your fundraising plans.
Master grant research
There are growing numbers of online sources that can be used for free (or at reasonable costs) to help in your prospect search. Download the free premium edition of this guide to see a list of the top sources and some of their details and how best to use each one.
Write a killer proposal
Finding the right grant for your organization is only half the battle.
How do you now secure the funding?
If you’ve never written a grant proposal before, check out GrantSpace’s free introductory grant-writing class. It can be done online or in person and should help provide a baseline for writing a good proposal.
GrantSpace also includes a repository of sample documents. This ranges from proposals to letters of inquiry to cover letters to budgets.
Key things to consider…
Do your homework! If you find a grant and it has a request for proposals (RFP), then it should have all the guidelines for you to consider. Read the document carefully. Understand any deadlines, if there is a letter of intent due before the application, the ceiling amount for funding, etc.
Then go to the funder’s website and see what other types of organizations are typically funded. Visit their websites and see the kinds of programs they offer. Does your organization seem to fit this mold? Write your proposal keeping in mind what types of programs worked in the past for this funder.
Start planning. If you agree your organization is a good fit for the grant, meet with your team and start outlining what needs to be done. If a letter of intent (LOI) is required, use it to your advantage. This is your one- or two-page pitch to the funder to show why you’re a great fit for them. If the funder likes you, they will ask you to submit a full proposal. This is potentially a huge time saver, if in fact you are not a realistic recipient for this grant.
Reach out to the funder’s program officer. They’re generally very friendly people and a simple conversation can go a long way. Either you briefly discuss your idea and it’s not a fit, and you’ve saved yourself the time and effort putting together a full proposal.
Or you’re a great fit, you hit it off with the funder, and you’ve started a great relationship together, essentially completing the first stage of the application process.
This could lead to many years of future funding. Don’t overlook this useful step! Try to build a relationship with the funder before you’ve formally applied for funding.
When you finally start your proposal, you should have all the information you need to be confident that you will win the award. It should be 5-15 pages long and cover things such as a summary of your program, background and needs, goals, evaluation process, budget, timeline, and any partnerships you are planning to leverage.
Remember to answer every part of every question!
RFPs can be very long and tedious, but any excuse to dismiss an applicant is usually enough to throw the proposal in the trash. Don’t risk this. Don’t worry about fluffy language… get straight to the point. Feel free to leverage content from previous proposals, as often the same questions are asked in RFPs.
Submit your proposal and be confident you will win. If not, you move on. There are plenty of other grant opportunities out there… see the previous section…
The grant-writing process
If you’ve been following all the steps outlined in this guide, the actual grant-writing process will be the least stressful part. You’ve already got the foundation for sustained excellence engrained in your organization. Now just wrap the bow around your mission and earn the grant dollars that you know you deserve!
In an ever-changing technological and financial landscape, it is sometimes hard to dedicate the time and effort to staying on top of what works and what doesn’t in this space.
Use the tools outlined in this guide to help your organization maximize its fundraising potential. Share your successes and lessons learned with us as we would love to incorporate them into updated material for others to use.
Nonprofit fundraising doesn’t have to be difficult, and hopefully this guide provides a good basis for crafting your strategy and executing on it for years to come!