– Wayne Elsey
Nonprofits today need to be thought leaders to raise more money. Some strategies that enable them to successfully fundraise in today’s environment, where everything changes at lightning speed, combine a mix of old-school principles and new techniques.
Since the beginning of time, humans have communicated with each other by telling stories, and supporters and donors still appreciate a compelling vision. The difference today is that, with countless nonprofits and social enterprises doing good work, champions want to know your story in a succinct and 21st century manner.
Donors and prospective supporters need to understand the problem you are trying to address. Start with a look at the broad issue to put your organizational story in context. Next, express what your organization is doing to make an impact with these:
- statistics and facts about what you are doing in the community and how you are making a difference; and,
- the story of someone who is being served by your organization.
Today, donations are increasingly tied to results. Leading organizations and thought leaders are providing measurable results and facts about how their nonprofits are making an impact. Donors, even at the general gift level, want to know that their $10 can, for example, help provide vaccines or food to a child in need. This sort of communication allows a donor to believe that his or her donation has actually helped to change someone’s life. There is no greater feeling than that when making a charitable gift.
When your organization is satisfied that it is communicating a relatable story and measurable results, the next item is to execute both short- and long-term goals and objectives. Many businesses look for short-term profit, and not enough planning is done around the long-term. Apple is not the largest company in the world because it is looking at only the next six months; their product pipeline and development extends for years.
Nonprofit organizations need to remember that, sure, there is pressure to show immediate results, and there should be areas where your organization can demonstrate quick returns. But to truly effect change and address an issue, it takes long-term vision. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is looking to eradicate malaria globally; they are taking it one small step at a time, from country to country, until they envision seeing it completely gone within a generation.
Today’s organizations need to continually think out of the box – in fact, they need to redefine and reinvent the box. Limited thinking and relying solely on old techniques is a recipe for stagnant growth. Today’s donors are sophisticated and they have the resources they need to learn about your organization and those of your competitors with little time investment. If they believe your organization is not thinking of new and fresh ways to deal with issues or in your communications with them, they have no problem giving their money and time to another organization that will meet their needs and make (they perceive) a deeper and more measurable impact.
Today’s nonprofits must innovate at every level and use technological resources to have an ongoing engagement with their savvy donors and supporters. The same goes for staff: your staff wants to know that your organization is a thought leader in its space, and the only way to do this is to foster an environment where people are committed to staying ahead of the curve.
Finally, the highest-growth nonprofits prioritize their income streams. They succeed at obtaining money from one or two key revenue streams, allowing them to leverage funding partners in, for example, corporate funding, and have their supporters introduce them to others who might be interested. They also understand that being a “nonprofit” is simply a tax designation: they are businesses and they need to focus on the money. They are then able to broaden and deepen their programmatic impact and reinvest in more effective strategies to make all key areas of their organization a success.
Wayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Wayne Elsey Enterprises (WEE), which operates at the intersection of business, nonprofit work and social enterprise, working with social enterprise organizations, nonprofits and companies on strategy, branding, development and education. http://wayneelsey.net/.
This article is reprinted from Vol. 2, No. 2, of Nonprofit Performance Magazine. Subscribe today!