This was originally posted on December 9, 2014 for nFocus Solutions, which provides great data solutions for non-profits, government agencies, and communities. Check them out (after reading this post, of course)!
Do you know what funders want most?
They want tangible results they can see and understand. They also want to feel like they are part of your vision. After all, they are helping you reach your goals.
To be proactive and help funders feel engaged with your organization’s mission, you don’t need to hand them a crystal ball with an image of your organization. Just give them clear, concise facts that give them a clear picture of your programs. Your future will soon reap rewards.
Try these 7 methods to keep funders engaged, motivated and excited:
1. Remember WIIFM
‘What’s In It For Me?’ is a tried and true adage, and funders definitely wonder about this when they hear your pitch. But your story isn’t about you; it’s about growing your community through creativity, determination and follow through. Show them how it feels to make things happen by drawing them into your success.
For example, you could share your program in a newsletter that illustrates ‘before’ and ‘after’ reading levels or shows an increase in attendance and time. This can tie your accomplishments back to their funding. Be sure to avoid simply bean counting and demonstrate factual results.
2. Collaborate for long-term gain
Funders appreciate groups that impact entire communities. They realize that no one can do it all, so they often fund partnerships for impact. Take the challenge: develop a plan with organizations that complement your services. According to Stacie Hines, current project manager at nFocus Solutions, “Funders like to see data share agreements—it proves you’re working together.”
3. Be nimble
Flexibility is key, and so are tangible goals. That might mean changing your methods and managing your data. Set short-term goals that help reach your long-term vision. Try tracking your efforts with a logic model that connects inputs, activities and outcomes to prove your impact over time. “Having a defined approach will help you stay focused,” Hines explains.
4. Identify trends as they happen
To stand out, learn where your community needs help. Take the pulse and track real data that walks through your doors. When Hines was employed at Reading and Beyond in Fresno, Calif., she helped them develop their Promise Neighborhood, or federally-supported communities that aim to improve educational opportunities for youth. She reminds us, “In today’s world, measuring outcomes is critical to prove your impact.” The good news: you don’t need a crystal ball. Instead, turn your data into knowledge and lead your community to decisive action.
5. Don’t forget your staff
Your staff can make or break your organization. They also have ideas about how to make your programs shine. Funders sometimes connect to the front line in order to get the real story, so make sure your employees understand your strategy and how their efforts affect the goals and mission.
6. Bring funders with you
Today’s funders are active; they want to follow your progress. Be sure to communicate regularly—not just when it’s time to ask for more money. They may help you avoid potholes that you don’t see at full throttle. Hines adds, “Ask them if they would like to volunteer or attend events where your clients will be.” At the Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission, Hines invited funders to contribute their time and talents to provide a direct way to connect on a personal level.
7. Be specific
When you ask for money, be specific about programs and share the whole cost. Funders don’t have time to figure out what ‘support’ means. Provide a menu of different projects and break down numbers over time. You can also request funding levels and in-kind donations. And keep asking until they say no, then schedule requests on a yearly basis.
These steps not only keep funders happy and engaged, they can re-energize organizations and ultimately impact communities.
All content © 2016 by Deborah Collyar and nFocus Solutions, Inc.unless otherwise specified. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to use short quotes provided a link back to this page and proper attribution is given to me as the original author.