Are you trying to get a new nonprofit up and running? Maybe you have a project you want to start. When it’s time to grow, it’s time to tackle fundraising. Whether you need to get a pilot program underway, build your organization from the ground up, or to transition from all volunteers to paid staff, well-executed fundraising can provide the resources your mission-based cause needs to get things going.
But where do you start? Fundraising includes a lot of possibilities and there are so many different things you can try. How will you know if you’re on the right track to get the funding you need to successfully launching your mission? When it comes to fundraising for your startup you’re going lead with your fundraising strength!
I bet your thinking, “How can that be? We’re a nonprofit startup. We have no fundraising strength!” I’m here to tell you that you already have a natural orientation to one of the three ways to successfully fundraise for a new cause. Whether you have operating history or just an idea that is needed in your community, leading with your fundraising strong suit will significantly reduce your funding timeframe.
Let’s take a look at what your three options are to select a winning nonprofit startup fundraising strategy.
1. Go Grassroots
Do you think in bullets – short compact statements that tell your cause’s story in simple ways? Are you happiest handling multiple activities that share the same information in many ways? Do you thrive on delegation and empowerment – not only convincing but inspiring others to action? If you answered yes to these questions and they are your first set of skills that you use when approaching a challenge, then a Grassroots approach is your strong suit strategy.
The signature of a grassroots fundraising approach is that it is broad-based and reaches many people. Think buzz. Think splash. Think awareness. Think platoons of volunteers, supporters, donors all inspired and mobilized to support your cause. Your message goes out simultaneously on multiple channels: your social media, through events, on-the-street canvassing, networking groups, public presentations – anywhere you can capture more people’s attention, the better. You create many avenues for supporters to easily and quickly get on board with your cause and you give equal weight to empowering them with everything they need to carry the message out to others.
2. Build your Nonprofit Startup Big with Major Gifts
When you approach a project and your natural skills are to work sequentially, base your tasks on a strategically prioritized list, or connect with individuals rather than groups of people, you will find your fundraising sweet spot in the Major Gifts approach.
The hallmark of a Major Gift approach is developing a strategic small list of high-impact potential supporters and specifically setting out to win them to your cause in a prioritized manner. To be successful with a Major Gifts approach you are looking for people who can not only make significant gifts for your cause, but who are well-aligned with your mission. Don’t overlook powerful or influential potential supporters who may not have the largest financial impact. You will want to include in your priorities securing influential and powerful endorsements that you can leverage to inspire significant support. This is the fastest way to funding.
3. Grow it with Grants
If you are in your happy place when working out and refining complex concepts on paper, setting ideas into compelling and engaging prose, or deliberately clarifying details and tying together loose ends, putting your focus into grants may be your fundraising forte.
Fundraising for a startup with grants is similar to the Major Gift approach in that you are deliberately identifying and prioritizing grantors and funding programs that are well-aligned with your mission. Your next objective is to engage the potential funder so that, instead of receiving your application “cold,” they are looking for your proposal.
Since grants are cyclical and your potential funders may have specific dates in which they will accept proposals, funding a startup with grants is usually a two-step process. Your first grant is less likely to be that big award you need to fund your whole program than it is to be a smaller disbursement for a part of your effort. However these first grants are essential to your success! Your job is to leverage your initial awards as widely and often as possible. Having the endorsement of a grant funder and your cause’s ability to demonstrate good grant stewardship carries a lot of weight with top money funding programs. That first award is what often clears the way for receiving sizeable awards.
Here’s a little secret about fundraising for startups: you will actually engage in all three fundraising processes at some point. But if you select the fundraising approach that is the best fit for your cause and lead your fundraising effort using your natural strong suit, you will more quickly achieve your fundraising goals.
It can be overwhelming to figure out how to get your new project funded. Maybe you feel like your proposal skills are not as well developed as you need, or that your process for finding and engaging potential supporters is missing an essential step and you’re not quite sure what that is! Working with a Fundraising Coach is a great way to cut out the guesswork and focus on successful fundraising strategies.