We’ve all heard it, “No mission, no money.” But what does that mean exactly? After all, sometimes you just need to make money to get through. It doesn’t always have to be related to your mission, right? Wrong. If you want to stay within the purposes of your Articles of Incorporation, communicate to the community exactly what you stand for, and leverage your fundraising efforts, you need to be a mission hawk, especially when it comes to fundraising. You don’t want your nonprofit to be known as the one always with its hand out asking for donations. Rather, you want to be known as the nonprofit in town who makes a tremendous impact, no matter what size the donation. And to do that, you need your focus to always be on your agency’s mission. Always.
Individual donors give to nonprofits through direct donations, peer-to-peer campaigns, tickets to special events, and auctions and raffles held at those events. The goal for you is to raise money. In the case of direct donations, the goal for them in is to make an impact on a cause they believe in. In the case of peer-to-peer campaigns, they want to support their friends or family. In the case of event attendance, they want to have a nice day or evening out with some of the money going to a good cause. Although all these methods will raise you some money, which ones will raise you the most money and promote your mission? Because you want to promote your mission above all else. And here’s why.
We talked about the importance of communicating mission to individual donors in Building Donor Relationships: Individuals. It also so happens that individual donations, particularly email campaigns and major gifts, cost less to garner than other forms of fundraising. In addition to costing the least to raise, repeat individual donors tend to give for longer periods of time and are a more stable source of funding than grants that have to be applied for every year, government contracts that have onerous reporting requirements and must be renewed annually, and special events that are labor intensive and raise money at a single point in time.
Peer-to-peer campaigns have the advantage that someone else raises the money with your nonprofit as the beneficiary. Special events are fun and can bring a community together. If your agency does engage in these types of fundraising activities, they still need to be mission related. You want your community to know exactly what your organization does and what it stands for. Which means your nonprofit must communicate strong, consistent messages. And consistent messages are communicated through word and deed, in other words, encompass everything the organization says and does. That is why you want your fundraising related to your mission. So you leverage your fundraising efforts with your communications. We talked about consistent messaging in How to Generate Stupendous Community Support.
In Grant Writing: Answering the Question What Need Will You Meet? we saw that lack of funding is not a need for foundations either. Foundations are interested in meeting community needs, of solving community issues they care about. To get the grant funding, you, then, need to ask for help in making a significant impact on that community issue instead of asking for money. And the issue that your nonprofit addresses is memorialized in its mission statement. You match missions – the issues they care about to the issues your agency addresses. It’s all about mission. For more detail on developing relationships with foundations, read my article Building Donor Relationships: Foundations.
When you pursue business donations, it is also important to keep mission front and center. Because businesses are interested in partnering with nonprofits who have good brands and mission fulfillment is the crux of your nonprofit’s brand. We covered the importance of creating a good brand in Influencing the Conversation About You. We explored how to develop relationships with businesses in Building Donor Relationships: Corporations, What Businesses Want, and Helping Business Professionals Meet Their Goals.
Government funders, too, are interested in mission impact. The government ostensibly provides funding to fix community problems. And, again, your mission states the community issue your nonprofit impacts. To get the funding, match your agency’s mission to the purpose of the legislation, particularly the implementation of your organization’s mission. And be judicious in what governmental funding you accept. Sometimes a nonprofit will fit the guidelines and the mission doesn’t quite match. While some of that is necessary, just be careful. You don’t want to end up running programs that have very little to do with your mission. Avoid mission drift. I have seen it ruin more than one nonprofit. For more on developing relationships with government funders, read Building Donor Relationships: Government Funders.
Wrapping It Up
Remember, you are primarily interested in raising money. Your donors aren’t though. Donors are interested in mission impact. Clearly communicate what your nonprofit stands for through everything it says and does. Leverage your fundraising activities with your communications. And watch for mission drift. No matter what the channel of funding – individuals, foundations, businesses, or government – a mission emphasis will always produce the best results.