How to Connect With Funders on 3 Levels
You’re in a team meeting when lightning strikes: Your team just hatched the most incredible idea! It has the potential to answer all your problems, fix community issues and revolutionize your organization. It is so tempting to go out and try to raise money for it immediately. After all, who wouldn’t want to fund the next great idea?
Unfortunately, that passion and excitement will only get you so far. Believe it or not, if you first take a step back, there is a way to capitalize on the financial support of your investors: connect your project to the investor base. And if you can connect with investors in three ways—emotionally, logically and strategically—you have the best chance of maximizing investments.
These are what fundraising professionals call the “low hanging fruit.” A project which connects with a funder emotionally might have nothing to do with their business or profession. But because they love children, for example, child advocacy projects resonate with them. Some would say they have a heart for this particular issue.
Your Challenge: Understanding and communicating the emotional appeal of your project.
These are just what they sound like: They logically solve a problem or address an issue. If the workforce development program has outgrown its space, it is logical to find a second location or expand the current facility. Even the most creative and emotional investors connect logically to projects.
Your challenge: Communicating how your project logically solves a problem.
These are more challenging, because it requires a fundamental understanding of your funders (what are their missions, goals and histories), and it requires quantifying the impact your project will have in the community. When you understand those two things you can answer the question of how investing in your project will bring tangible results to your investors.
Your challenge: Understanding your investors and taking the time to quantify your project’s impact in the community for each top investor individually.
Recently, while conducting a study for a potential new arts facility, we interviewed an influential and wealthy individual. Our client told us about this individual’s family foundation and all the good it does in the community. Of course, the arts organization wanted to know how much this family would invest in their new facility. The interview went well for the most part; the individual said there was a need for the new facility (connected logically) and loved the outreach programs in the schools (connected emotionally).
But there was no strategic connection.
“Our family foundation focuses on basic needs: food, shelter, clothing and early childhood education,” they said. “I’ll make a small personal contribution, but this isn’t something the foundation would invest heavily in.”
Every project—economic and workforce development, domestic violence and homeless shelters, YMCA buildings, promise programs, humane society facilities—can connect with an investor emotionally, logically and strategically. By taking the time to find each of those connections for each of your top-level prospects, you will have the greatest chance of maximizing their investments.
Patrick Coughlin is project director at Convergent Nonprofit Solutions, a nonprofit consulting and fundraising campaign management firm.