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making the ask

How Convincing is Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising Ask?

beggingTired of the endless fundraising circuit, nonprofit leaders sometimes get frustrated when prospective donors won’t invest in their nonprofits, like this executive director:

“Here’s my problem…It’s obvious these people have money, they just don’t want to share it with us.”

What this executive director fails to realize is that the burden to connect the dots for donors lies squarely on her shoulders. It is up to nonprofit leaders to articulate – in a compelling, inspiring way – how their nonprofit is creating a solution to an important social problem, and why donors should care about and invest in that solution.

A Case for Investment can help you do just that.

Now more than ever, nonprofits are struggling for funding amid growing competition and diminishing available dollars. At the same time, burgeoning interest in performance management and impact investing have focused more donors on the outcomes their investment in a nonprofit will bring.

Donors, especially major donors, are less likely to give to a nonprofit because the organization “does good work” and more likely to give because a nonprofit demonstrates how it creates a solution to a social problem the donor cares about.

Those nonprofits that want to continue to attract and grow philanthropic investment must create a compelling, thoughtful argument for why a donor should give to their organization. This argument is called a “Case for Investment.” Driven by a thoughtful combination of data and emotion, a good Case for Investment can help a nonprofit communicate and connect with their target donors much more effectively.

The Case for Investment Step-by-Step Guide can help you create your nonprofit’s case.

case for investment guideAs one nonprofit executive director who used the Guide put it:

“I am using it as a catalyst to create a branding campaign with my Marketing Committee. Of course, this will be used for fundraising and grant writing as well. We really needed the framework to build value for our donors, volunteers, and clients.”

A good case for investment is the fundamental building block from which all donor communications, marketing materials, grant proposals, website language, and more is born.

The Case for Investment Step-by-Step Guide is broken down into ten sections:

  1. Why Create a Case for Investment?
  2. How to Use This Guide
  3. The Need
  4. Solution
  5. Impact
  6. Financial Model
  7. Strategic Direction
  8. Resources Required
  9. Social Return on Investment
  10. Next Steps

In each section there is a series of questions, which you will answer. Your answers to these questions become the basis for your final Case for Investment. Examples of other nonprofit’s cases for investment are highlighted in each section, allowing you to see how others have made their arguments.

The Case for Investment Guide is one of six guides in the Social Velocity Step-by-Step Guide Series. You can learn more and download this and other guides here.

Photo Credit: JHall159

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Financing Not Fundraising: Find Money for Building Capacity

Part 6 of our ongoing blog series, Financing Not Fundraising, demonstrates the critical importance of money for building nonprofit capacity and describes how to find it.

There must be a recognition in the nonprofit sector, and among the philanthropy that funds it, that nonprofits need money to support not only their direct services, but also the infrastructure (technology, systems, evaluation, training, fundraising) of the organization. Nonprofits will only get better at creating social change if they have a strong and effective organization behind their work.

In case you’re new to this series, our Financing Not Fundraising blog series seeks to address the reality that fundraising in the nonprofit sector is broken.  In fact, traditional fundraising is holding the sector back by keeping nonprofits in the starvation cycle of trying to do more and more with less and less. The nonprofit sector needs a financing strategy, not a fundraising one.  That means that nonprofits have to break out of the narrow view that traditional FUNDRAISING (individual donor appeals, events, foundation grants) will completely fund all of their activities.  Instead, nonprofits must work to create a broader approach to securing the overall FINANCING necessary to create social change. You can read the entire series here.

George Overholser, from the Nonprofit Finance Fund, is the pioneer of this critical distinction in the nonprofit sector between money to BUY services and money to BUILD organizations.  The idea is simple. There are two types of dollars in the nonprofit sector. Those that BUY nonprofit direct services (dollars for more beds for the homeless, more hours of ESL instruction) and those that BUILD a stronger nonprofit organization (dollars for technology, systems, fundraising staff, etc).

A nonprofit that wants to get out of the vicious fundraising cycle needs to make a commitment to building their organization and finding, and convincing, donors to fund that building effort.

Let’s take fundraising infrastructure for example. Most nonprofit organizations lack sufficient infrastructure to bring enough money in the door.  They don’t have enough money to hire experienced fundraisers, buy efficient and effective technology to track donors, create compelling messaging and collateral, train their board in fundraising, and so on.  But with dollars to invest in staff, technology, planning and expertise, the organization could transform their fundraising function into one that raises many more times the amount of money that they currently do.

So how does a nonprofit organization find money to build their organization? Here are the steps:

  1. Create a Plan. Develop a road map for the future that includes a budget for the real costs of the real infrastructure and capacity you need to get there.

  2. Determine the Ask. Split the overall cost for these infrastructure elements into reasonable ask amounts given the relative capacity of your donors.

  3. Create the Pitch. Create a compelling capacity funding pitch that connects these infrastructure elements to an increase in your ability to create impact in the community.  A more seasoned development director means that you can raise more money, more effectively, more quickly. With that additional revenue, your services can reach more people.

  4. Analyze your Donors. Look for the individuals, foundations, and corporations who love what your organization does, have the ability to give at the ask levels you determined in #2, and could be made to understand the argument that money to build can allow your organization to do so much more.

  5. Explore Alternative Funding. Find new ways to fund capacity building. For example, PRIs, or program-related investments, (essentially loans to nonprofits) could be used to build fundraising  infrastructure because once a nonprofit’s capacity to raise money has been increased, the loan could be paid back out of the additional revenue. Explore creative options like this with funders.

  6. Make the Ask. Present your plan and pitch to the donors you have identified and educate them about the critical importance of capacity capital.

Money to build nonprofit organizations isn’t just lying around. Indeed, most donors claim that they aren’t interested in funding anything beyond direct services. But with a compelling argument for how money to build an organization can result in much greater impact, many more donors can become builders.

If you want to learn more about applying the concepts of Financing Not Fundraising to your nonprofit, check out our Financing Not Fundraising Webinar Series, or download the 27-page Financing Not Fundraising e-book.

Photo Credit: y_katsuuu

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