By Jim Wehner I recently shared dinner with two close friends who are both Executive Directors of growing non-profit ministries working with underserved neighborhoods. We spent the first part of our time talking about the good things going on in their ministries.
It is encouraging to hear passionate leaders describe their work. Before long, though, the discussion turned to funding and fundraising.
It always amazes me how passionate, gifted leaders can feel so frustrated when it comes funding their vision. I have been raising funds for several years, and it can be challenging. But I have also found some practices that help me support the work about which I care deeply. You may find them helpful as well.
1. Give yourself a clear funding goal for the year.
Most of us struggle with this part of our job because we have trouble connecting the dots between our vision and the costs that accompany it. If you lack clarity on funding needs and goals, your staff and board have no way to partner with you on achieving and exceeding them.
2. Block time weekly for this part of your job.
Most leaders work regularly to clarify, tweak, and strengthen their thinking in program goals. However, they spend very little time addressing funding goals. Give yourself a small block of time weekly to clarify your asks, schedule appointments with funders, write thank you notes, and prepare grant documents. This simple discipline will make you a better communicator, too!
3. Look to multiple sources for your funding needs.
Personal support, donor events, program fees, board giving, and grants should all be part of your overall plan. Some may come easier to you than others, but make sure each funding stream gets your attention during your weekly blocked time.
4. Become bilingual.
While many non-profit leaders speak fluently about their program, funders often speak the language of finance instead. They want clear metrics that help them discern the effectiveness of the organization’s work and by extension, their monetary gifts. They want to see audited financials and a clear program budget. Mastering this language, as well as your program language, can immensely increase your effectiveness in grant applications and donor conversations.
5. Add journaling to your prayer life.
Journaling can strengthen and deepen your prayers. Nurture an ongoing conversation with God that connects and develops over time by writing. It has helped me gain a clearer picture of how God answers prayer, as well as how He shapes the requests themselves. The journal can engage your faith as you await God’s provision for future funding needs. Fundraising can become an experience that develops your spiritual strength and maturity rather than a source of stress and frustration.
Funding is a key aspect of a non-profit leader’s work that cannot be overlooked. Without creative support streams and generous donor partners, many organizations will not be able to accomplish their vision. But attention to this aspect of a leader’s role can unlock incredible potential for growth and leadership development.
What practices strengthen your fundraising strategies?