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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

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Financing Not Fundraising: The Plan
Nell Edgington

November, 2010

A few months ago I argued that nonprofits need to stop fundraising and start financing for social impact. As I wrote:

Fundraising in its current form just doesn’t work anymore.  Indeed, traditional fundraising is holding the sector back by keeping nonprofits in the starvation cycle of trying to do more and more with less and less. Really, what the sector needs is a financing strategy, not a fundraising strategy.  By that I mean that nonprofits have to break out of the narrow view that traditional FUNDRAISING (individual donor appeals, events, foundation grants) will completely fund all of their activities.  Instead, nonprofits must work to create a broader approach to securing the overall FINANCING necessary to create social change.

The idea is that nonprofits can no longer work towards social impact on one side and throw a gala event (or send out a direct mail appeal or write a grant) on the other side and think that this disjointed, haphazard way of funding their work is sustainable. To truly achieve social impact, nonprofits need to take a huge step back and figure out how to employ all of the financial tools available to them in an effective, integrated way.  This is how you finance, rather than fundraise for, social impact.

Over the next few months, in an occasional series titled Financing Not Fundraising, I will elaborate on this argument and demonstrate what financing, as opposed to fundraising, for social impact looks like.

Today I will launch the series with the core element of the idea, which is a financial plan. In essence, a financial plan is a key element of, not separate from, a nonprofit’s strategic plan. That means that the goals of the strategic plan are created with the full knowledge of 1) what it will cost to reach those goals and 2) how the money to cover those costs will be secured.

A financial plan differs from a fundraising plan in a number of ways. A financial plan, unlike a fundraising plan:

  • Includes ALL activities that bring money in the door (individual donors, foundation grants, earned income, corporate sponsorships, government contracts, loans, etc.) and fully integrates them into an overall strategy and execution plan.
  • Supports the short AND long term goals of the organization
  • Funds the programs AND infrastructure of the organization. It recognizes the necessity of and supports not only the nonprofit’s direct service activities, but also, the infrastructure, systems, planning and other organization building that will ensure that those services thrive and grow
  • Understands the characteristics and uses of different kinds of money (i.e. revenue versus growth capital, loans versus grants) and employs each available financial vehicle in the most effective way
  • Employs money-securing activities that are in line with, not opposed to, the core competencies of the organization

What I am suggesting is that nonprofits stop exhausting their boards, staffs, donors, friends, and clients with a series of disjointed activities that are meant to raise money, but actually just end up making poor use of a nonprofit’s already limited resources. Instead, nonprofits need an integrated, thoughtful, strategic financing plan that makes social impact a reality.

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