How to Fundraise at a New Nonprofit

It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me.

Philippians 1:7

A new nonprofit generally finds out soon that fundraising is priority number one. 

Oftentimes, I’ll get a call from a friend who wants to introduce me to a new nonprofit–new to me and new to the sector. I’m always happy to have a conversation and encourage the nonprofit leader. I also try to be truthful and honest about the realities of running a nonprofit. It seems the last few weeks, I’ve had almost a dozen of these requests. Usually, the first question is, “Are you writing grant proposals on the side and can we hire you?”

Let’s be clear: for the organization to be ready to submit a grant proposal, the organization needs to be prepared. That means a board of directors that are stable and engaged. It means strong finances and proper paperwork; including a 501c3, audited financials, 990s, strategic plan, and so much more. A new nonprofit may not have all the items that would support a grant proposal. So these conversations I have with new leaders turn to fundraising in general when they realize that they are not ready for grant proposal writing (and research and program management and follow-up reports).

In Philippians 1:7, it’s clear that it doesn’t matter the circumstances, it’s the grace that connects the people. It’s keeping people close to the heartbeat of the mission of grace. The author, Paul, makes it clear that because they are all chasing wildly after grace, he has them close to his heart. Paul found people after the same mission, not just ones who wanted to follow him. 

Likewise, in a new nonprofit, people start with a passion. They get excited about an idea and go for it. And then, they expect the people around them to carry the same passion. They ask their friends and family to join them. This is natural. Usually a new board consists of those closest to the person starting the organization. As time goes on, however, those initial board members will fall away. In the beginning, people supported the new leader. Older nonprofits have people who support the mission. In other words, friends and family won’t keep giving. It’s wiser to seek out people who are passionate about the same thing because they will give to the cause, not to an individual.

This is the very same reason why I ask new nonprofit leaders who they have networked with, and who else exists in the same space. It’s better to be walking a path and then notice there are others on the same path. These people become volunteers, supporters, board members, etc. The alternative is to walk the path alone and expect others to jump off their path to follow you. 

A smart executive director will find people who will support the grander vision and mission. Stable relationships with donors can then put the nonprofit in a place where they are ready to seek grant awards. 

If you are a new nonprofit, it is a difficult road. You may feel that you are in chains or constantly in defense. Yet, there is grace in that place as well. Seek the people who have the organization in their heart, and chase after the mission with fervor. Who knows what God will do and who he will bring to walk alongside you!

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© 2022, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

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