Other Ways to Fund Your Nonprofit Idea
by Rebekah Marr, CO.STARTERS Director of Operations & Programs
If you work for a nonprofit, you know what I mean. The mad rush to pull the information together. The making sense of the last three years financials in the specific format requested by the funder. Trying to get that letter of support (which you already wrote for them to make it as easy as possible) signed by a partner organization. Write. Review. Write. Review. Write. Review. Finally you get it all together and submit just in time…
And then you wait.
Grant funding—the lifeblood of most nonprofits—is mostly a waiting game. You put your best plans for transforming your community into a request and then wait to find out if you made the cut.
As someone who has worked both on the grant-making side and as a grant writer, I personally know what an amazing opportunity grants are to fund your important work. But, I also know they aren’t the only way.
If you are anything like me, I thought that the biggest pool of money out there to support nonprofits came in the form of grants.
I was wrong.
Of the $427.71 billion Americans gave to charity in 2018, only 18% of it came from foundations. The biggest source: individuals. According to the Giving USA report, 68% of all dollars given to nonprofit organizations came from individual donors.
Instead of playing the waiting game and putting all your hopes into a single grant request, consider approaching individuals. Identify people who care about your community, who are comfortable financially. Invite them to coffee, share your vision and your work. Then ask them to support it with a specific dollar amount.
Unless the person is really wealthy, a $20,000 request might be a bit much. Instead, ask four individuals for $5,000. Or ask eight for $2,500.
The best part: no writing, no waiting.
Another source to consider is corporate sponsors. Corporations have dollars dedicated to making their name visible. Helping the community in the process is a double corporate win.
The trickiest part of sponsorships is finding the right person at the organization to approach. While the CEO/President might seem like the most influential person, you’ll probably get further with the general manager or person in charge of marketing.
When you ask, be clear in your request and in what the sponsor will get in exchange. Focus on their visibility and any promotion you’ll do on their behalf in exchange for them sponsoring your work. It may also be helpful to give them multiple options at different price points. Creating a sponsorship packet can help explain the value of working with you and outline the exchange.
Even if you tend to use grants as your primary funding source, foundations and government agencies can be fickle. They’ll change their focus after a strategic plan or a regime change.
For true organization sustainability, diversify your funding—starting with individuals and corporate sponsors.