Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Does your small nonprofit need more cash?

The number one complaint Cloudlancer Writing Services receives from new and smaller nonprofits is that they are largely left out of the grant funding loop.

Either the grantmakers want several years in business, a revenue average of from $100K to $1 million, they aren't taking applications, or all of the above.

News flash…you don't need their grants to stay afloat and even grow.

The second largest source of funding for all nonprofits (after fees paid for services) is funding by individuals.

You say you have a donation button but no one clicks on it?
To increase donations you need to think like a marketer.

Good marketing doesn't initially focus on the product. It focuses on the needs of the audience for the product or service, and maintains a consistent message across all platforms.

In the case of nonprofits, when you need donations, ask yourself what your typical donor wants to see or hear.

To understand that connection, think about the sudden uptick in ads for those copper/ceramic coated cooking pans.

The infomercials don't start out telling you why their skillet or pan is the greatest.

Instead the ad spends well over half the time reminding you why you hate your Teflon™ coated cooking utensils.

The ad overtly capitalizes on your desire for a better cooking experience, while covertly appealing to your interest in new and healthier eating trends.

Learn the difference between grant proposals and donor marketing

Unlike grant applications, which tend to be program-specific, your core mission can work as your product when marketing to individual donors.
Individual donors are far easier to sway to your cause than the grant making institutions, there are a lot more of them and they are a lot easier to reach.

To market to them, think about why they donate. (Hint:  It's not because your organization can't pay the utilities this month.)

What do they get out of donating?

For some it might be personal because they are, or know someone who is, affected by the problem your programs seek to solve.

For others it might be a general sense of responsibility to society or perhaps it just makes them feel good to help.

This can  take a little detective work.  In the business world, it's called market research, in the nonprofit world it's donor outreach research.

Because everyone's circumstances change,  it's something you have to stay on top of to be successful over the long haul.

It's a bit more complicated than having me or anyone else write a boilerplate program narrative, but customization and attention to detail will pay off.

There are a number of approaches that will work under different circumstances. It can be a blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, snail mail, a really well-designed website, or a combination of all of those.

Whatever you use, be sure that your message, your brand if you will, is consistent. That might be a common tagline, the name of your organization, or a visual, but it needs to become something uniquely identified with you.

Speaking of your audience, it pays to know who they are demographically. That allows you to tailor your appeals to their income comfort level.

Conventional wisdom says you should keep your smallest donation request above $25 or even $35 dollars.

I don't agree. One urban agriculture-centered nonprofit found that by starting with a very low minimum donation of five dollars, they were able to grow their donor base and increase their online donation traffic  by 350% the first year. The next year they dropped the $5 category, and 89% of their donors just switched to $10 without a second thought. Another seven percent actually moved up to the $15 level.

The secret for that campaign was the money was tied to what it would buy; seed packets, a hand trowel, a bag of fertilizer and so on. This image-heavy strategy didn't need 1000 words to explain where the money would go…just a picture and maybe five or ten words.

The idea there is that you want to build up a habit of supporting your nonprofit first and work to increase the average donation amount as you go along.   

Need help?  Drop me a line at Let's talk about making your "donate here" button really pay off.

Friday, July 15, 2016

What kind of help do you need?

Does your nonprofit need help? More important, do you know what kind of help you need?

Hint - It might not be a grant.

A quick confession.  I backed into being a consultant/startup adviser from being primarily a grant writer that specialized in newer nonprofits.


Because too many of my clients were so unprepared to ask anyone for money.

I found myself spending a lot more of my time getting clients to the point that they could meet the grantor's requirements than actually writing the proposal.

These were clients that had been in business for a while (the minimum time in business for me to consider a grant writing client is two years) but just weren't moving forward.

Some of them had no coherent program strategy. Some had no overarching fundraising strategy.
Some didn't even have budgets, organizational or program.  Without a budget, you can't define a fundraising goal. And those are just three of a long list of problems that had to be solved or managed before I could even look for grantors that matched up with my clients.

I even wrote a nice little free handout called "Why you can't survive on grants."  Lots of people requested it, few agreed with it.

I remember one person who got the handout and then wrote me a scathing email that read in part,  "Listen, nonprofits CAN'T survive without grants. Why do you think they started anyway?  It was to get people with money to stop being so selfish and put their money to work for good."

With all due respect, if that's your reason for starting a nonprofit, I can't help you.

Another problem is what I call the "someone else has to do the dirty work" philosophy.

Some clients don't want the tools to succeed. They want to order a ready-made nonprofit and have it shipped to their door.

For instance there was the client that had no budgets of any kind because they had no idea what anything cost to produce. When a grant asked for the cost per meal of their supplemental feeding program, they told me to "figure it out and let us know."

Uh, that's not how it works. Those are figures you should already have on hand for any grant writer. I offered to show them how to arrive at the figures and they terminated the grant writing contract because I "refused to compile requested information."

I think they had me confused with their chief operating officer.

Incidentally, neither of these two are still in business.

Only you know what areas aren't working for you. Is it volunteer and/or employee retention? Funding insufficient to accomplish your mission? Perhaps the board and the CEO/ED aren't on the same page? Has increased need outstripped your level of development? Applying for lots of grants but seldom or never landing any?

Whatever it is, it's usually not because you are having trouble getting or need a grant. That's ordinarily a symptom, not a cause.

Think of it like a broken down car. You know the car isn't running, but someone has to lift the hood and replace the right part to fix it.

The nice thing is, most of the time the real problems can be remedied. In terms of your time, commitment and yes, money, the solutions aren't free,  but they do exist.

What isn't working for you?

Drop me a line and let me know.  Let's see if we can fix it.