Two Problems Preventing Faith-Based Organizations From Getting Funding

When I decided to get into the grant writing field, my initial intention was to help faith-based organizations find funding to support their work.

I know a lot of faith-based organizations that do a lot of good work for the community. They offer after school programs for youth, they feed the homeless, they even work with ex-offenders to keep them out of prison and get them into the workforce.

These are all wonderful acts of service. Even better, they are all fundable activities. Faith-based organizations can get money from private donors as well as federal agencies. Yet, many are unsuccessful in securing funding.

Based on my experience, I believe there are two primary reasons for that:

  1. They aren’t telling their story effectively.
  2. They aren’t demonstrating their successes.

One of the downfalls of faith-based organizations, especially churches, is they don’t always operate their ministries as a business. Fortunately, most of them are aware they need to establish a separate nonprofit organization that operates independently from the church. That’s an important step, but there are still other business practices from which faith-based organizations can benefit.

The chief among those practices is marketing. Marketing beyond the walls of the church. It is important to invest the time in creating a marketing plan that is customized to your organization, and based on your community, access to resources, and your budget.

Sometimes marketing requires spending money on traditional outlets like TV, print, and radio. That’s only a part of it.

The other aspect to marketing is social media. Though social media marketing is key, it’s not everything. Too many organizations think this is all they need to do. So, they set up Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts and that’s their marketing strategy.

That one tactic is not enough. To be successful in fundraising you have to be able to tell your story comprehensively – through various mediums and formats. This includes attending community meetings, networking, distributing newsletters, etc.

The second reason many faith-based organizations aren’t able to get funding from major sources is they aren’t able to demonstrate their success. Major funders will need to see something more than just a good program. They need to see successful outcomes.

Those outcomes have to be based on more than anecdotal information. Funders want to see the data. Unfortunately, many faith-based organizations are not gathering data in a consistent, effective way. Some aren’t gathering it at all.

Major donors want to be assured they’re investing in a program that will be successful and will yield sustainable outcomes. Sustainable outcomes ensure a positive return on their investment.

The only way to demonstrate sustainable outcomes is to use evidenced-based practices and to consistently track the program’s success.

Super Bowl LI…

How I Turned a Loss into a Lesson About Fundraising

It’s the day after the biggest night in sports and I – like many Falcons fans – woke up devastated. Unless you live on another planet, you know the Atlanta Falcons played the New England Patriots for the Super Bowl Championship last night. And by now, you also know my beloved Falcons lost.

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It was such a close game. It was a historical game since it was the first time in the 50-year history of the Super Bowl that the game went into overtime.  Obviously, the fourth quarter of the game was an emotionally charged nail biter to the very end. So, it’s understandable that I would be disappointed by the loss.

But what I woke up wondering is why I couldn’t just let it go. I’m not a player. I wasn’t getting any type of monetary gain if they’d won. I had absolutely no skin in this game. Yet, I woke up feeling like I was mourning the loss of a loved one.

Just as I was beginning to blow it off to being a woman and having intense emotions, I read something that shed some light. In fact, it’s very relevant to nonprofit work and charitable giving. Hence, the reason I’m sharing this blog with you. Otherwise, I don’t think you’d care one way or the other about my grief over this game loss.

It was a quote from a blog by Seth Godin. He wrote about fundraising. He explained his theory of why people give to charity or why we buy into a particular brand. Meaning, why we accept the story the brand tells about the organization.

He said: “We love the memory we have of how that brand made us feel once. We love that it reminds us of our mom, or growing up, or our first kiss. We support a charity or a soccer team or a perfume because it gives us a chance to love something about ourselves.”

That last sentence stood out to me. “It gives us a chance to love something about OURSELVES.” Now, I get it. I know why I can’t let this go.

You see, the reason I was pulling so hard for the Falcons goes way beyond my love of the game and my respect for the players. I love the story of the Falcons.

They have overcome some rough seasons to get to where they are now. They got a new coach last season, and this year they were the comeback kids. Going into the game everybody saw them as the underdog.

For me, they represented the classic American story of hard work paying off. They have put in the work as a team. The players formed an unbreakable brotherhood. They played better this year than they have in a long time.

I predicted this would be their year because I felt like they’d earned it. The stars were aligned and it was their time.

That’s the parallel of how I see my own story. I have had some rough seasons in life, especially the last couple of years. Last year I moved to Florida to get a fresh start. Things started out a little rocky, but I’m starting to feel like I’m getting some footing.

A victorious end for the Atlanta Falcons, was a premonition of what I believed was to come for me.

But…that didn’t happen!

The stars didn’t align, and despite all of their hard work, they didn’t win the ultimate prize. They didn’t win the championship.

I made the Falcon’s journey all about me. I had my own hopes and dreams wrapped into their journey. A loss for them was a personal loss for me.

Now, let’s look at this from your perspective as a fundraiser. When pursing funds from a donor, most fundraisers tend to get wrapped up in their own passion.

One writer put it this way: “fundraisers universalize their own passion. Because they’re focused on their mission, they think everyone else is focused on their mission.”

Here’s what you’re probably missing. Donors give “through” your organization to achieve their own desires – to fulfill their own aspirations – to live out their own values. Your organization is the means to the donor’s end. (Nonprofit Quarterly)

Here are the key points:

  1. Fundraising and giving isn’t about money.
  2. Identify the donor’s mission and seek to fulfill it, instead of your own.
  3. Figure out how to solve the problem the donor has identified. If it aligns with your mission, you have a winning combination.

If you can stop focusing on what you can get and instead focus your energy on what you can give, your luck will change. You will likely have more success with your donors.

Until next time…

Peace & Blessings!

 

What to Consider BEFORE Responding to an RFP

When the federal government releases a Request For Proposals (RFP) it can spark a variety of emotions, including excitement, intimidation and fear. Most people get excited about the amount of money available. But, depending on the size of your organization, and your capacity, it can also incite fear.

I want to help you overcome your fear and anxiety, and help you make an informed decision. So, in this week’s video message I discuss some critical things you need to consider before you decide to respond to an RFP.

The Key to Sustainable Outcomes

If you have worked in the nonprofit sector for an extended period of time you know that times are changing. With more and more nonprofits forming every day, the competition for funding is tight.

So, funding agencies are looking more closely at results. In particular, they want to know that any organization they fund will be around for the long haul. If a funder is giving money to your program or organization, they want to ensure you are yielding results – positive, sustainable results.

Unfortunately, for many organizations that doesn’t come easily. There’s a reason for that. It has to do with how they start off. Having a successful end game, has everything to do with how you start.

In this week’s video blog, I share the one thing that is tripping up many nonprofit organizations and preventing them from getting the funding, and ultimately, the outcomes they need.

Legacy Living

How Dr. Martin Luther King Has Impacted Me

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Today we are celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Had he lived, he’d be 88 years old.

This civil rights icon was inspirational to a lot of people for a lot of different reasons. For me, I’m inspired by how much he accomplished in his relatively short life. Dr. King was 39 years old when he was assassinated in Memphis, TN. Yet, 49 years later his legacy lives on.

I heard the most profound quote about legacy living while attending an MLK Day Breakfast on this past Friday. It was a comment made by our guest speaker, Dr. Bertice Berry. She said, “Your legacy isn’t what you leave when you die. Your legacy is what you leave when you walk out of the room.”

That was such a profound statement because it reminded me that we’re always making an imprint on the lives of others. Or at least, if we choose to, we always have the opportunity. It made me consider my impact. There are times I’m very conscious of the impact and influence I have. But this comment made me think differently. People aren’t just watching and paying attention to my life when I want them to. They are ALWAYS paying attention.

Even in those moments that I’m just going through my day. Whether I’m attending a community meeting, or I’m shopping in the grocery store, I always have the opportunity to leave my imprint. As an ambassador for Christ, this is especially important to me.

So, on this anniversary of the birth of one of the greatest people to ever live, I’m reflecting on what kind of impact I want to have on others. Maya Angelou once said that you don’t know what your legacy will be. Because you don’t really know who you’re impacting in the world, or how. I can’t really control that.

What I can do, is live with intention. I can be very deliberate in my actions, knowing that everything I do can potentially impact someone’s life. I also realize that can be simple. I may never spearhead a civil rights movement, or open a school for girls in Africa. But, I can be kind. I can be helpful to others. I can always strive for a spirit of excellence in all that I do.

Success for me is contributing to the progress and the advancement of others. I want to help people be better. I want to inspire people to be better.

From this day forward, I vow to be more mindful of the energy and life I bring to every room I occupy. More importantly, I want to leave every room better than I found it.

What about you? What are you going to do?