I’ve never been a big fan of grants.
Hear me out.
In my fundraising career, I’ve always tried to focus on opportunities that are sustainable for the organization, that deliver long-term potential. To me, individual donations are really the best source of that. Hands down, a broad and diverse base of individual donors provides the most stability for an organization now and into the future.
I might have also been influenced by my early thinking and research on feminist and grassroots fundraising, in which I and others argue that community contributions redistribute the typical power imbalance in philanthropy.
It’s not that I have a problem with grants, so much as I see organizations focus all their efforts on grants without taking the time to build that stable and diverse base of individual donors.
I get it – a single grant can make a small nonprofit’s year (or longer) with one gift. For those who struggle with keeping the lights on, that’s very appealing. It can feel like less work for more money.
I want you to get grants, but not at the expense of building a broad-based individual giving program.
And here’s the thing – you don’t need to do that much to start building your individual giving program.
Here are three steps you can take right now to grow a broad and diverse base of support that can grow and thrive over time, providing your organization with stable and undesignated support to meet your ambitions and mission.
Figure out a “thank you” routine
Start with carving out time on a weekly basis to thank donors who gave that week. Make this part of your routine. It is the MOST important part of building a long-term base of support.
Yes, you do have to ask for support, but it doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think. Look at your network, understand their relationship to your organization and then identify a way to ask that aligns with that. There are many vehicles for asking and collecting donations, such as e-appeals, crowdfunding, face-to-face asks, etc. You don't need to do all of them, but be consistent.
Tell your donors how their support made a difference. Better yet, tell a story about the impact of their contributions. Who has it helped and how?
Repeat this, listening to your donors for feedback on how you can continue to improve.
I truly believe every small nonprofit can make time for these small actions.
You may not see huge results in the short-term, but you’ll never reach those big results in the long-term unless you start now.
If you’re feeling particularly overwhelmed by all the fundraising work you know you need to do, but you just don’t have time for, we at The Good Partnership are starting to offer done-for-you fundraising to help build your base of support. Learn more here and book a free consultation to learn how we can help you build long-term and stable donor support (and yes, we even write grant applications).