2 Fundraising Lessons to help Acquire Donors
So you have started some element of a City Transformation Movement! Congrats!
Now you need to figure out how to fund it!
Fundraising for City Movements can be a tricky adventure. The reality is, especially when starting out, a leader can spend a significant amount of time fundraising throughout the year, which can be demoralizing for someone who “just wanted to do more ministry!” Yet, with the right mindset, fundraising can help build momentum, increase participation from the community, as well as finance your operations.
I believe most fundraising fails because leaders either are poor at communicating their purpose, or their vision and plan to achieve their purpose is not very compelling. Conversely, most successful fundraisers can clearly articulate a vision that inspires others and can provide a roadmap on why they have been successful to date and how they will continue to be successful in the future.
Most of us believe we have a clear vision for what our ministry does, but the proof is in being able to articulate that purpose clearly and concisely to others. A few years ago a friend and I attempted to raise capital from Venture Capitalists for a project. While we thought we had a great idea that would change the world, when attempting to communicate that vision in front of others, we quickly realized there were major gaps in our communication and strategy that had to be addressed before someone could quickly understand what we were trying to accomplish.
Here are two lessons we’ve learned at Love Our Cities that have helped us acquire donors.
Lesson #1: People won’t get behind something they don’t understand.
At Love Our Cities, we boiled down our value proposition to one phrase, “We help leaders run city-wide volunteer days.” It’s the first thing you see on our website. That’s our secret sauce, and from there a story develops as to why it’s important and how we are making an impact in cities all over the country.
This simple statement has been a launching point for us to quickly identify with our audience. If they resonate with our value proposition, then we have an instant connection upon which to build on and gain momentum. If their response to our value proposition isn’t positive, then the reality is it’s probably not a good match and we can both move on and not waste each other’s time.
Can you clearly communicate your organization’s value proposition in one phrase? Who can you present to that will give you honest feedback to help refine your communications?
Here’s an example of our presentation that is in the form of a slide deck that we often send to people to help them quickly understand who we are.
Lesson #2: Funders are not just check books, they’re co-conspirators.
In order for people to support you, they have to not only clearly understand what you are doing, but they have to believe in it. When you fundraise, you are not only asking them to back you financially, but you are asking them to partner with you in your mission. They have to be aligned philosophically and emotionally.
We have multiple funding streams at Love Our Cities (more on that in my next post), and each one requires a different approach in our communications. When approaching Church partners, we focus on being an extension of their local mission outreach and helping them connect in the community. When approaching business sponsors, we focus on the work we do in the community how they can benefit from brand alignment. Each group has a different set of value propositions, and each need to be addressed uniquely.
When you show the value add you are providing them by working together, you not only are able to raise funds, but you gain co-conspirators who are invested in your success. As your network grows, so does your collective wisdom and purview to different opportunities.
Our network has introduced us to other sponsors, grants, and opportunities to work in our community that we never would have had access to without them. Some of these come from board members, but others are financial partners that are vested in our success.
How are you approaching different prospective funders and positioning your messaging to align with their goals? How are you inviting them to partner with you?
The more we focus on these two lessons, the more we’ve found success in our fundraising efforts. Admittedly, we are a small organization, but these lessons are helping us grow and mature.
In my next post we’ll look more at our funding channels, why we have multiple channels, and how each one plays into the larger purpose of our organization.