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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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Financing Not Fundraising: The Message of Social Impact
Nell Edgington

December, 2010

In part 5 of our ongoing blog series, Financing Not Fundraising, we are discussing how to move fundraising messaging away from organizational needs and toward social impact. In so doing, a nonprofit can enjoy an individual donor base that is more invested, engaged and committed to the work the nonprofit does in the community.

To recap, our Financing Not Fundraising blog series was born out of the reality that fundraising in the nonprofit sector just doesn’t work anymore.  In fact, 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 one.  That means 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. You can read the entire series here.

Fundraising often uses the messaging of organizational need:

  • “We need $100 to provide our programs.”
  • “We need $1,000 to meet our goals.”
  • “We need to build a new building.”

But that’s not how to raise money effectively.  To raise significant money, nonprofits need to focus on how they translate money into social impact. The fundraising message of organizational need stops at the nonprofit. The fundraising message of social impact takes the argument much further, demonstrating how a nonprofit translates funds raised into social change, through a three step process:

  1. A donor invests in a nonprofit organization
  2.  

  3. That investment is translated by the nonprofit’s theory of change into some sort of social impact
  4.  

  5. Some change occurs in the community as a result



The nonprofit is merely an intermediary between a donor and social impact. Therefore, the donor is not investing in a nonprofit organization, rather they are investing in the social impact the nonprofit creates.

Helping to create social change is much more powerful to a donor than simply helping a nonprofit organization. And it garners larger, more long-term donor investment and engagement in the work of the organization.

To understand this more clearly let’s take a look at how the message of organizational need differs from the message of social impact:

In every way, from the focus of the messaging, to the fundraiser’s approach to donors, to the donor mentality, to how the organization operates, an organizational needs mindset is so much more limiting than a social impact mindset.

So what does this actually look like in fundraising messaging? Let’s take an example of an after-school program for at-risk children.

According to the nonprofit’s theory of change, they translate dollars into positive outcomes for the children in their charge (increased student achievement, fewer high-school drop outs, fewer behavioral issues, etc.).  If the organization were to fundraise around the organization’s needs it might sound like this:

“Help us  reach our goal of raising $100,000 for our program.”

But if instead they were to fundraise around a message of social impact, it might sound like this:

“Invest in our work to give kids a better future, making them contributing members of society and our community stronger and healthier.”  The first message is about strengthening an organization, the second message is about strengthening a community.

The message of impact is not just something nonprofit’s should use for major donor asks. It can be used to varying degrees in all fundraising campaigns, large or small, and in all channels (social media, direct mail, email, in-person). In so doing, the organization is creating a loyal following of donors who believe in the change the nonprofit is creating and view themselves as critical partners in making that change happen.

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