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:
- They aren’t telling their story effectively.
- 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.