following tips are excerpted from What Do Funders Want? (And Why Do They
Want It?): A Guide to Using Other Peoples Money to Do Your Work.
Tip #1: The Homework
Everybody says, Do
your homework. But what is that homework? What should you be learning?
One of the most common issues raised by those who start organizations is that
they dont know what they dont know! The solution? Ask lots of
questions of lots of people. For more information, check the links at the
bottom of this article.
Tip #2: The Track Record
Start-ups do not
spring out of nowhere. They spring from your personal history, your commitment,
and yes, your homework. In its own way, that is the beginning of a track
that. First show your personal track record. Have you done similar work, and
this is merely an extension of the real-world experience you already have? Note
show that you have done your homework. That homework is indeed part of the
history of the organization. Your description might look like
Phase 1 - research and community engagement
Phase 2 - start-up and implementation
you have done your homework and done it well, you will not be just beginning;
you will be in Phase 2 of the program - the phase where you prove it
Tip #3: Get Some History Under Your Belt.
Once you have done your homework, just get started. You may have to
start small, but find a way to just begin doing the work, however you can,
without being funded to do so. This will give you the opportunity to prove that
not only have you done your homework, but that homework resulted in a program
that really works.
just that small demonstration, you will be building a track record. Then, when
you do ask for money, you are not asking for start-up funds; you are seeking
funding to expand the program, to scale it up.
Tip #4: Begin Engaging the Community
part of your track record will include the extent to which the community is
behind you in your efforts. And it is never too early to start gaining
community support for your work!
If you do your homework well, you
will have already begun that engagement process. For more information on how to
create truly engaged programs, this article can help:
Tip #5: Funding is the LAST step, not the first
This may not seem like it directly has to do with building a track
record, but hold on - it does.
folks starting out tend to leap from I have a great idea to I
need to get a grant (or other funding) to move forward. It is only when
they start digging into the grant application that they are faced with the
frustration that they are being asked to prove they can do something they have
why this tip is here: We know you will likely seek funding before you are
ready. So slow down and make yourself ready.
funding is the LAST step in your project. And when it comes to seeking funding,
seeking grants is then the LAST step in the list of possible fundraising
grants will ask you to list other sources of income. How can you create that
list unless you have done that other resource development work first?)
second-to-last step of the project is developing a fundraising / resource
development plan. And creating your budget is the third-to-last step.
is the first step? To do your homework, develop a plan, get to work on Tips
1-4, and hone your project.
can have a good idea. In the for-profit world, more than 1 out of 2 start-ups
fail. In the nonprofit world, start-ups often fail in a different way -
volunteer founders keep them going forever at their own expense.
the business world, where a failed start-up simply goes out of business,
failing start-ups in the nonprofit world lead to years of
frustration and burn-out, and a lack of impact in the community. To avoid that,
your best chance is to aim your project at succeeding from the start. And that
start is not about money; it is about being a bit more patient and doing your
planning and your homework first.
Starting a Community Benefit
Organization is an exhilarating and yes, exhausting adventure. We know - we
have founded 2 already, and are on our way to starting another! By taking the
time to do it well, though, you are ensuring your community will benefit from
your efforts for years to come.