Moving the needle
Sharing lessons learned in seeking donor funding and partnership
In iF’s 12-year tenure, many of our clients have sought help pursuing investor funding and partnership. Our support has included developing pitch decks, crafting fundraising strategies, and conducting competitive analyses and stakeholder engagement plans, to name a few. Our clients span innovative start-ups to initiatives within global multilaterals– all to say, we’ve been around the proverbial block and have picked up some tips along the way. Peruse the following at your leisure, and reach out if you feel we missed something, we’d love to broaden our understanding and continue the conversation.
All work and outcomes must be aligned with to a greater vision and mission
When approaching potential donors, it’s important to speak from a place of authenticity, and drawing directly from your vision and mission is a great way to do so while building trust and consistency. Not only should you be clear about your vision and mission, but you should ensure your work and outcomes align with them at every step of the way. A lack of transparency and follow-through on your vision and mission will damage the relationship you have with your potential donors and partners. Recently, iF partnered with gDiapers, a compostable diaper solution founded on the mission to “eliminate plastic disposable diapers from the South Pacific by 2028.”When presenting their organization to potential donors and investors, they were met with success as their entire presentation harkened back to their overarching mission.
Be clear and specific about the impact that the person or organization will make, and how it will be measured
A challenge in moving donors and partners to act in support of your initiative or organization is being clear about the impact their contribution will make. Measurement and evaluation of the impact of said contribution, whether financial or otherwise, can assure donors that they are making a difference. Think about both the big, audacious changes you want to make in the world and the responsibility you have to your donors and partners to shepherd their resources accordingly.Though mostly aspirational for now, iF recently explored the possibility of using decentralized currency to help donors and large philanthropies measure the impact and efficacy of their donations. Because decentralized currency is easily trackable, donors would be able to clearly understand how, when, and by whom their contributions are being used.
Define the value proposition for the prospective donor, and don’t compromise your values for theirs
Particularly when moving individual contributors to action, highlighting the value proposition for them and their organization is often overlooked. The themes and issues most relevant to the individual or organization you’re in contact with should align with the initiative you’re attempting to rally support for. This means that not all donors are good fits for your initiative, and vice versa. Avoid compromising the integrity of your effort for what a donor may value.
Use personal examples and stories of the outcome of the work that leverage data to support and advance the narrative
When presenting your organization or initiative to potential donors and partners, the examples you give of your effort in practice can be crucial in moving the needle. Statistics are great, but when real human impact is reduced to numbers, logos can quickly dissuade individuals from realizing the true importance of taking action. Keep the donor in the realm of emotional thinking by telling the story of your project/organizations’ impact in more than just numbers. Always ensure all data presented supports and enhances the greater narrative, and works in tandem to confirm the human-centered stories you’re communicating. Who are the people or groups that are benefitting from a potential investment? Can you bring their voice directly to the donor? In his previous work at KEXP, iF associate director Mike Yoon found that having the station’s donors meet the musicians they were helping to support was a powerful way to truly connect the emotional dots.
Keep in contact, even if the donation or support was standalone
Even if the donation in question is understood as a one-time interaction, avoid treating your relationship with that individual or group in that way. Wherever possible, reiterate gratitude and give updates on the work that is being done either directly or indirectly as a result of their contribution. If you approach your donors and partners through the lens of a long-term relationship, they are more likely to view you as a continued partner, and not simply a temporary recipient of their support.
Every quarter, Intentional Futures puts out a long-form piece on what we’ve been up to, and what we’re thinking about.
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