Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Mining Relationships to Grow Your Fundraising

At our agency (CSS – where I work), the vast bulk of the funding comes in through governmental sources. From memory, I think it is something like 67% of our income comes in through the state – like 4.5 million. Another 25% comes in through the township boards. In Illinois there is a government smaller than a county but bigger than a municipality. There are eight of these boards that support us for a total of roughly another million. The rest of the funding is through the development department, eight percent or so where our income is roughly six million dollars. 

So in absolute terms, the development department is not that small, but all of the in-kind and individual donations and grants that come in really don’t look like a whole lot in terms of when you plot up a pie chart. What matters is that the state hasn’t increased rates for reimbursement for some of our programs for ten years or so and each year we have to do more with less (The statutory reimbursement rate for some of our workers is below minimum wage because they haven’t kept up).

What this means is that the development department is a key place because that is the place where it determines if our net assets will increase or decrease (because you can’t say “make a profit” in a nonprofit, but you can’t operate in the red consistently).

So you have to both keep nurturing the people who do give both in terms of foundations and in terms of individuals. I think this is where you board is so important. It’s not just the ask that is important, but it is also utilizing their professional networks. I’m sure there are places you can go online and find calls for proposals that you can write a grant for sight unseen and if you are really good you might hook it. The reality is that relationships are so essential that you need to mine those first before you go taking yourself down blind alleys.