Where am I going to keep finding the money to (insert: pay my staff, cover programs, offer benefits..) as we grow?
This is a fear that keeps almost every ED of a growing nonprofit that I’ve ever et up at night.
This is the little voice in our heads, even when we get a new grant, when it’s time to hire, everything turns on this question – How am I going to fund my growth?
So this week I’m talking about the framework that I used to attract millions of dollars into my organization, and that I teach inside my accelerator. This strategy really marked the shift in my own fundraising that I think led in large part to my hitting my first million.
First, I’m excited to share that I’ve opened the doors to my Accelerator.
I talked 2 episodes ago about why I started the program – because growing from 6 to 7 figures is a unique period of growth in the life of an organization, and it can be fraught. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming — I build out a growth plan with the leaders in the program, and then give them training and coaching and hands-on support to actually execute.
So I’ve done it – I’ve launched and grown a high impact organization, and I’ve supported dozens of organizations in doing it. My students have doubled their budgets, re-energized their board so they actually have partners, built teams to actually support growth…
So if you’re really ready to scale, and you;d like my eyes on the inside of your org so that you’re not throwing spaghetti at the wall, apply at richiebabbage.com/nextlevelnonprofit and lets see if we’re a good fit to work together.
Second, next week is my 100th episode!! I shared last week that I’m inviting my listeners to leave a review and get a free coffee and coaching call with me! The reviews help the algorithm get the podcast to more people like you who may be interested! I’d love for you to head over the Nonprofit Mastermind Podcast, leave a review, and then shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with Review in the subject and let’s grab coffee and talk!
Ok, so I used the word attract in today’s title for a reason. I say attract on purpose.
To attract something means: to pull to or draw toward oneself or itself.
If we’re honest, most of us talk about fundraising as if we’re running after or chasing down new funding. We have to go out and find and land new funders and donors. We research and identify and think of ways to set up meetings… we’re constantly brainstorming people we know and people they know… and it can get exhausting.
There’s so much effort and friction involved in that conceptualization of fundraising. Even thinking about it makes it exhausting. And the reality is, it makes growth scary.
If growing your team, or adding more depth to your program means chasing down more money, deep deep down inside, that makes most people anxious.
Let’s be real for a second – one of the toughest things for me about growing my organization was the weight I felt making sure that I could pay the salaries, and offer benefits to the team that I cared about so much and that worked so hard. That weight could keep me up at night.
So if in our minds and in our hearts, we associate growth and expansion with the friction and weight, and anxiety of finding and chasing new money, there will always be a drag effect.
So instead, what if we thought of fundraising as the opposite of chasing? What if we got phone calls from new funders inviting us to apply, or emails from people in our network asking to connect us to people they know that want to know how they can support our work, or invitations to share your work at invitation-only funder convenings…
What if you set up a fundraising system that drew funding to your organization rather than you always having to chase it?
When I figured out how to do that, my relationship to fundraising changed at a fundamental level, and so did my funding. I won’t lie – the weight never went away. For me, that sense of responsibility was always there. So I don’t want to suggest that I’m going to walk through some magical strategy that will make the stress of fundraising go away for those of you for whom it stressful.
What I will say is that focusing on strategies that attract resources takes a lot of the weight off – it does a lot of the fundraising lifting for you.
The idea behind this framework is to leverage the power of the watering hole.
In nature, watering holes are fascinating – they bring together all types of species that all share something in common – the need for water. Instinctively, hundreds of different animals can end up being in a single spot to get the one thing they all need.
Metaphorical watering holes exist in our own lives too. Just like animals gathering around a watering hole, we all share a need to feel connected to like people, be informed of our world. Watering holes are the places that meet that need – the conferences, newspapers, blogs, podcasts, social media platforms, and physical spaces where people go to get their information and to feel connected to others.
The most efficient and effective way to attract new funders and donors is to find the watering holes of the people who would have an affinity for your mission, share what you’re doing, and get them to have the thought: “I want to hear more/ learn more about this organization…”
The Framework is organized around four attraction strategies: Stages, Pages, Partnerships, and Social.
The first is “Stages” are places where you can broadcast your message and lots of people can see you. Things like conferences, webinar and podcasts.
Early in my fundraising I had a friend and colleague who was growing a similar sized organization in a completely different area that mine. I used to wonder at how she’d get calls from funders asking to learn more about her work.
So for one of my quarterly listening tours – I invited her to lunch and asked her – how are you getting funders and donors to call you?
She explained that she’d been speaking on panels at conferences related to her field, which funders were attending, and also hosting workshops for the staff at other orgs that the funders were supporting. They were just hearing about the organizations work.
Boom. That was like a lightbulb moment for me. This is why talking to people in your network is so important – you learn things. I knew that we had so much insight into topics that mattered a lot to funders, so I made stages a part of my fundraising strategy. I ran breakout workshops, moderated panels, and spoke at funder briefings and began to develop a reputation in the funding world related to my issue.
So for you, think about:
- What conferences can you speak at? Can you be a keynote or facilitate a breakout workshop or panel conversation?
- Are there online convenings that you can participate in? Look at what’s taking place in the spaces that your potential donors might be in and reach out to the organizers to see if you can help add value.
- Reach out to relevant podcast hosts and bloggers with something that could be useful or interesting to their audience. The key here is to think not about what you want to share, but about what you have to share that BOTH provides a platform for your organization and its work AND is actually useful to the people reading/ listening. Are you seeing trends that might be interesting to others? Are you gaining insight/ learning lessons about how your part of the sector is working?
Next, think of pages. “Pages” are things like blogs, magazines, and other media — OpEds, articles, etc. that a lot of people will see, and that will shine a light on your mission and work.
Can you publish an OpEd about an important topics?
I went through the incredible workshop with the OpEd Project and wrote my first OpEd as part of the role out of our Teen Fatherhood initiative
About a week or 2 after my first OpEd, one of my board members said that someone in her firm that she’s shared it with was really intrigued and could she set up a coffee for us? That turned into an incredible donor relationship!
Can you write an article in a newspaper or magazine that your donors read?
Where can you publish your program data to get noticed? This doesn’t have to be fancy – publishing on LinkedIn is blowing up right now as an example.
Institutional partnerships are intentional partnerships with other institutions that have audiences made up of your potential donors.
- Which organizations do aligned – not identical – work could you co-host a program or event with to get in front of their audience?
- As an example – when my organization was still super small – just me, my director of programs who was a social worker, and a team of law students, I started small project with the Community Service Society here in NYC. They were huge – huge audience of people who cared deeply about building resilience in young people living in poverty. But their emphasis was on changing policy – what I had, that they wanted, was direct access to young people. Actual information about the lives and experiences of communities of youth.
- So we paired up on a small research report – they had researchers and I had social workers.
- Here’s the power – one of our strategic objectives was to impact policy on the city level but we weren’t established enough to have too big of a footprint. But in partnership with CSS, we were able to take something we were already doing really well: our programs and evaluating impact, and get it in front of press, city council, and new funders because our partner was much more established.
Also think about corporations or local businesses that have affinity groups (most do!) relevant to your mission? Could you offer virtual training or event? Could you write an article that might be interesting to them?
Finally, Social Media Platforms
Social is social media – but not in the mindless we have to post in IG and Twitter every week to stay relevant. Rather, in the: where are our people congregating and how can we be in community with them there?
You do not need to be – nor should you be – on every platform. Each one has its own purpose, algorithm – meaning how it chooses to share your content with people, and its own energy. Those of you who have spent time on IG and LinkedIn know that they are very different platforms – people use them in different way, and the platforms themselves prioritize different things – like LinkedIn emphasizes early engagement and post quality, while IG emphasizes how close you are to someone.
So think about who you’re trying to attract and there they are, and then be there.
- Can you create youtube videos of your kids or training that you provide?
- Can you do a Facebook Live or a LinkedIn Live interview with someone your ideal donors would be excited about?
- Can you use Instagram to get people excited about the impact you’re having?
- Are your donors on LinkedIn? Should you create a LinkedIn newsletter to stay in front of them and share up-to-date information about your organization?
- Is there unique content that you can create and share on social media that would be relevant and useful to your potential donors (e.g., an ebook, video training, etc.)
So that’s the framework — Stages, Pages, Partnerships, and Social.
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