Before a donor will want to make a long-term commitment to supporting your organization, they must believe in not only what you’ve done to address the problem in the past, but also on your plans for the future. This involves communicating your vision to your target audiences and describing how you plan to improve upon currently offered services. In addition, use this opportunity to explain how your plans will help address the problem in the future.
If you’ve accomplished the previous three steps, your prospective donor should care about the problem and believe that supporting your organization is a worthy cause. At this point, he or she should be asking, “How can I help?” Obviously, there are numerous costs involved with running an organization and, as a nonprofit, you likely depend upon a combination of donations and grants for your very survival. Donors are more likely to give if they understand these costs and how their gifts might be used. How could a donation of X amount of dollars help fulfill your organization’s vision? Think about all of the costs involved with running your organization. Since your case for support is similar to an advertisement, you should focus on expenses that are most likely to be attractive to your audience, namely the expenses associated with running programs or offering services to clients.
Now that you’ve made your case, it’s time to ask for support. Be assertive! Let your prospective donors know how important their support is to you and those you serve and that by supporting the organization, they are making a difference in the community. Also let them know what perks you might have to offer, such as newsletters, recognition, and invitations to special events.
Your case for support must engage your audience. Passive voice and variations of the verb “to be” are not effective means of conveying the dynamic nature of your organization. Instead, use an active voice. For instance, rather than saying “the Neighborhood Homes Project was founded in 1958 by John and Jane Doe,” say “John Doe founded the Neighborhood Homes Project in 1958.”
It is essential to capture the points that are central to communicating your message by being thorough and concise without losing your audience. Be selective in choosing what points to include and trim any unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Ensure that the appearance of your materials is attractive to the audience. Use a readable font and don’t neglect color scheme or spacing.
For a helpful “on the go” resource about how to present your case, download the form, Tips for Presenting.
Now it’s time to think about specific sustainability strategies. The first strategy to consider is establishing partnerships. There are numerous potential benefits to partnering with other organizations. Not only can partnerships enable you to better serve your clientele, they can also assist with outreach, help you save money, and make you seem more attractive to potential donors.
In the current nonprofit environment, partnerships have become a near necessity. More than ever before, donors are looking for organizations that are positioned to offer comprehensive solutions to their clients’ complex problems. To begin the process of finding and engaging potential partners, download the Who to Partner With Template.
In the space provided on your Who to Partner With template, list the nonprofit organizations operating in the community you serve and examine them by answering the following questions. Do they:
Place a circle around the organizations that meet all three of these criteria. Take some time to contact these organizations and assess their interest in engaging in some level of shared services. Then, put together a meeting with one or more of these organizations to discuss possibilities. The following are a few examples of common shared services:
In the next section of your Who to Partner With template, tailor a “Case for Partnership” for each the organizations that you circled, outlining the benefits that they stand to gain from partnering with you. Your “Case for Partnership” is not an official document. It essentially consists of a one-page bulleted list of talking points to use when communicating with a potential partner. It is a straight-forward, logical appeal to the benefits of collaborating. You should consider mentioning the following points:
You should also consider developing strategic alliances with corporations and businesses that work with some of the same clients or have other reasons to be interested in the work you do. Stress the impact you’ve had in the community (from your Case for Support), the compatibility of your organizations, and what you could achieve by working together. Emphasize that it makes good business sense. Talk about the trust and reputational boost they could gain by working with you. Another benefit you could mention is the increased employee morale and retention rates enjoyed by companies that are engaged in their communities.
Once you establish partnerships, you must also work to maintain them. Like people, organizations are dynamic entities that change over time, conceivably to the point where the original basis for a connection no longer makes sense. Ideally, a new basis can be found, particularly if a partnership has borne fruit in the past, but dissolution is certainly common when partners grow too far apart. Don’t wait for this to happen! Be proactive! Take steps to maintain your partnerships! It is useful to think of your partnerships in terms of the bonds that hold you together.
It is important to come up with a sustainability plan for each of your partnerships. Download the Maintaining Your Partnerships Template to assist you in developing strategies for maintaining partnerships.
In the first column of your Maintaining Your Partnership template, list all of the organizations that you are currently partnering with. In the second column, label each partner depending on the category they fall into: transactional, complementary, or collaborative.
A transactional partnership is originally formed to bring about a direct material gain for each member. You agree to share services, such as office space or purchasing power, but little more.
Complementary partners have compatible missions and may work with the same clientele. They are likely to use each other as referral sources and may work together on a community initiative or a grant, but they operate as fully independent entities.
Collaborative partners work together on a much wider scale, integrating one another into daily operations. Members of a collaborative are still independent, but the partners exert considerable influence on one another while working together to fulfill a common vision.
Maintaining your partnerships means keeping them alive and not allowing them to grow stagnant. Sometimes, maintaining the status quo is desirable, but over time it is more likely that the scope of your partnerships should evolve in response to organizational and environmental changes.
Transactional partnerships are need-based. Thus, maintenance entails ensuring that the arrangement continues to fulfill each partner’s needs. Maintenance of a transactional partnership requires both members to openly communicate information pertinent to the agreement. Fostering a sense of trust and reliability serves to strengthen the stability of the agreement, increasing the chances that the nature of your partnership will evolve rather than dissolve as a response to your organizations’ changing needs. Even if a relationship must dissolve, open communication will make you aware of this sooner, giving you time to make new arrangements and insulating you against future uncertainty. Make plans to talk with someone from your partner who either has decision making authority or knowledge of the aspects of his or her organization affected by the agreement. Meet at least twice a year to discuss how the arrangements are working and what adjustments could be made to benefit all or both partners.
Complementary partnerships are opportunity-based. These partnerships are formed for benefits such as giving clients access to additional services, increasing visibility, or for winning a grant that neither organization is capable of carrying out alone. As with transactional partnerships, open communication is essential to maintain the partnership, but since your organization’s reputation is likely at least partially at stake, the communication needs to be more regular and its scope needs to be greater. Maintenance of a complementary partnership depends upon each member having faith that the other members will produce high-quality services that are relevant to the work they do. Partners need to be made aware of new organizational developments such as a geographical expansion of services. Also, as opportunities are sometimes fleeting, partners need to be kept aware when new chances to work together arise. If they prove to be reliable, complementary partners are a valuable commodity that can greatly enhance the visibility and success of your organization. Make arrangements to talk at least quarterly to keep one another aware of new developments and opportunities.
Collaborative partnerships are mission and vision based. A collaborative partnership is formed to combine efforts and resources as a more effective and efficient way to address a common problem. To maintain a collaborative partnership, it is essential that each partner not only be kept informed of, but also that each partner has a say in any decisions concerning significant developments within other partner organizations. The dynamics of a collaborative partnership are complex, so leaders need to agree on a schedule to discuss aspects of the partnership, such as maintenance of a common vision and resolution of any partnership difficulties. Due to the closeness of the partnership, direct interaction is frequent and real human relationships are especially important. To maintain these relationships, you should consider creating institutional structures, such as annual get-togethers, that foster a sense of camaraderie and mutual identity.
The Community Tool Box has additional information concerning how to maintain a coalition, which is essentially the same as a collaborative partnership.
One of the most dangerous traps an organization can fall into is an expectation that current sources of revenue will remain consistent and that previously successful fundraising strategies will remain fruitful and sufficient in uncertain economic times. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket! One of the best ways to sustain your organization is to expand your potential revenue sources through developing a vast number of resources.
Direct funds are usually your target, but in-kind contributions can help to offset expenses or improve organizational effectiveness. When targeting a donor, think about what else they might have to offer either instead of or in addition to cash gifts. Marketing assistance and/or space to hold an event are just two of many possibilities that you could suggest to appropriately-situated donors.
A well-managed group of volunteers can help you cut down on staffing costs and/or increase the quality or quantity of the services you provide. The following resources can assist you with volunteer recruitment:
Donors don’t just come out of the woodwork. You need to take steps to find, engage, and cultivate both individuals and businesses who share your organization’s interests and goals. The key is to become relationship experts.
Foundations, corporations, and all levels of government are all potential sources of grants. By developing relationships at each level, you can increase your awareness of upcoming opportunities, as well as your likelihood of success when applying for grants.
By charging a small, below-market fee for the services you provide, you can ensure a reliable source of income for your organization. One strategy to achieve this is to implement a fee-for-service model. Also, the Grantsmanship Center runs an intensive workshop for nonprofits, geared at providing information about planning, developing, and growing an effective earned income program.
Planned giving allows a donor to leave money or assets to a nonprofit at the time of his or her death. Although the benefit to the nonprofit is deferred, the promise of future income imparts a measure of long-term security.
An endowment campaign is a fundraiser for the purpose of creating a renewable source of income. Funds from the campaign are placed in an endowment where they are invested. Your organization can draw on the income generated from the investment to meet various operational expenses, but must leave the endowment itself untouched, thereby ensuring that it remains a future source of income.
By completing the steps of the sustainability planning process, you significantly increase your organization’s chances for growth and survival. Even in the midst of uncertainty, you can achieve organizational stability. Thank you for taking the time to learn about creating a sustainability plan for your organization.