By Madhusmita Bora
Building a strong network is crucial for success in getting your organization funded. Black and brown leaders in the nonprofit and mission-driven space offered tips to help grant-seekers expand their networks, showcase their impact, understand financial needs, and advocate for their organizations’ sustainability.
- Network: Like the business sector, the world of philanthropy thrives on relationship building. Grow your Rolodex, list of email and phone contacts. Show up at events and mingle. “I would cold call (potential funders) and say I don’t want to raise money with you but want to know people that you know, whom I can talk to,” said Michael Roberts, CEO of First Nations Development Institute. “You just need to hustle to collect the network and the easiest way to do that is the first person that funds you, you get them to introduce you to their peers.” Philanthropists give a credence to peer recommendations. Create a buzz and visibility for yourself and your organization.
- Allyship: Philanthropists are willing to share their network. They want projects and organizations they fund to succeed. It is in their best interest because it makes them look. Tap into your current and former funders and ask for support.
- Invest in your back office: Build a team of professionals, which will help reflect a well-oiled administrative machine. It’s important to have defined roles for all your administrative personnel and ensure that your balance sheets, taxes and all accounts are in order. Draw up your mission statement and have a solid project proposal before you get out there to seek money. Hire a grant writer who can keep track of grants and deadlines.
- Know and own the impact of your work: Document and archive the impact of your work and projects. This will support your application when you ask for money. It will also help you think about how you will measure progress on the project you are seeking money for.
- Sell safety: “Safety sells better than your cause, unfortunately,” Roberts of the First Nations Development Institute said. Granters like funding high-performing grantees, and once rapport and trust are established, they are likely to reinvest.
“If you go above and beyond and make funders happy, they won’t give up on you,” Roberts said. “It’s pretty dear to them that they have a grantee that’s awesome and they can trust. People like funding us because we perform year in and year out.”
- Stay local: Baby steps is the way to go. Start with small local grants and build your credibility and capacity before applying to large foundations.
- Have a number in mind: Have a sense of how much money you need, and what your operating costs are. Develop those numbers with an abundant mindset, and take pride in your work, said Darren Isom of The Bridgespan Group. ‘Know those numbers like your mortgage payment and say it so often that people question themselves why they don’t know it,” he said. “A number that is not normalized doesn’t get funded.”
- Advocate for your organization: Many BIPOC leaders are good about advocating for their community but they forget to ask money for their organization. “As a leader you have to think of the organization as being steward of the community and it has to exist past your tenure there,” Isom said. “ You have to prioritize infrastructure as critical to impact and ensure community success and do it in a sustainable way.”