I get calls from leaders of new non-profit organizations periodically to help them raise money. Often these individuals have already gone through an awful lot of work to get their organization established. Usually they’ve already a) established a mission; b) written bylaws; c) established a board; and d) filed paperwork with their state and with the federal government to establish non-profit status.
They’re ready to find funds to get started and many think that foundations are the deep pockets they need to establish their services. Often at this point they’re a little frustrated because they’ve discovered that foundation grant seeking is difficult. They’ve probably written letters of inquiry with no return so they suspect they’re doing something wrong – because their mission is so worthy.
My guess is that what they’re doing wrong isn’t presenting the importance of their mission; it’s more likely to be that they haven’t built an internal case for funding – they very simply haven’t gotten started yet and foundations often see “start-ups” as risky investments.
Here is my advice to people wanting to start up a non-profit organization from scratch.
- Build a budget and strategic plan before filing your non-profit paperwork.
- Build an influential board that is willing to contribute financially or raise a percentage of the budget you need for year one.
- Build your local network with agencies that care about your mission, that may either have a budget for your services, or who may include you in future grant applications to provide services.
- Include other non-profits in your local network, including your local community foundation.