An Untapped Financial Resource for Start-Up Nonprofits

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As a nonprofit consultant, I know just about every nonprofit organization in my community, for better or worse. I'm on all of their mailing lists, so I receive electronic and snail-mail fundraising solicitations. But I don't donate money to any of them.

It’s not because I don’t value the role nonprofits play in our community. I very much do. I see the results of their hard work and am acutely aware of how much they need sustained funding.

But I don't want to play favorites among clients, so I don't donate directly to organizations we work with. The ethics are a bit tricky and I wouldn't want to give the appearance of paying to play. And besides, if I gave all I wanted to every deserving nonprofit I know, I'd quickly become destitute. Instead, I choose to support every nonprofit we work with by providing the best possible service at a fair and reasonable price. 

Fortunately, my community offers a way for me to give without appearing biased or self-serving. Earlier this year, I joined a newly established giving circle. This particular giving circle brings together a very large group of women who donate collaboratively to a different nonprofit organization each quarter. The winning organization is selected via anonymous popular vote by the members. 

I love having this outlet for directly supporting nonprofits in my local community without the associated ethical concerns. And collectively, the giving circle's contributions are HUGE, which can be a gamechanger for relatively small, startup nonprofits.

Some of my long-held beliefs have been reinforced since I became involved in the giving circle. 

First, many large, well-established nonprofits have pitched themselves to the giving circle’s membership, but they have yet to do so successfully. Instead, all recipients have been small, fairly new organizations.

To date, the organizations that received votes have not been those who gave the slickest, most professional presentations. In fact, the common denominators among successful presenters have included a heartfelt presentation, no small amount of stumbling over words behind the podium and a few tears shed both behind the microphone and around the room.

In short, winners have each demonstrated a contagious passion and an obvious commitment to making the world a better place. The winners’ enthusiasm and belief in their missions resonated with the giving circle’s members. Their stories truly mattered.

After being a part of this giving circle, I’m more convinced than ever that nonprofits have to be transparent with donors. A high-dollar marketing portfolio doesn’t always get you where you need to be. It’s the stories that matter. When donors feel emotionally connected to what you’re doing, they’re more likely to invest their dollars.  

For small nonprofits looking for start-up or capacity-building funding, giving circles are a good place to start. They can be quite lucrative for your mission.

And if you need help crafting a story that resonates with donors, a resource like our Quick Start Guide to Communications Planning is a big help. For more in-depth assistance, get in touch and let us help you create an editorial calendar that builds and sustains a philanthropic audience.

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  • Nice story. Good writing. You might want to consider a career as a writer.

    Alex on

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