Earlier this year, thousands of nonprofit professionals gathered in Washington, D.C. to attend the National Alliance to End Homelessness‘ Annual Conference. This event provides resources and training to those working to address America’s epidemic of homelessness, from nonprofits to governmental agencies, in an effort to help eradicate this plight that has no favorites. It affects families, youth, and those who were once middle class.
As a military spouse, I was particularly impacted by the number of organizations in attendance who focused on homeless veterans. In my role as leader for my own Family Readiness Group (FRG), I regularly talk with young soldiers coming home from war and exiting the military. While we hear all the time about nonprofits that provide services to veterans, it was astonishing to realize how many organizations across the country are working with homeless veterans. I think the organizations I spoke with were just as surprised to learn about Convergent and how we can help them. In talking with these groups, a few common themes and questions kept surfacing, which I wanted to share here.
Question #1 – We work with veterans, so you probably can’t help us with securing funding for our programs, can you?
Not only can Convergent help you to secure programmatic funding, but I am personally very passionate about helping those organizations who have a mission to help our veterans. The ability to raise large sums of money to support your programs has more to do with the value of your programs to funders than it does your geographic location, the size of your organization, or who your programs serve.
For example, many of the people I spoke with are working to help translate the skills our veterans have into areas of high demand in the private sector. This answers one of our largest needs as a country – a trained and talented workforce. Thanks to our extensive work within the economic development sector, we know that workforce development is currently the number one area of focus for both economic development organizations and their funders across the country. Programs that help an already trained veteran workforce connect with private sector jobs is a valuable service and highly fundable.
Question #2 – We don’t need a capital campaign to build a facility, we just need help finding sustainable funding. Do you do that?
The term capital campaign no longer just means ‘bricks and mortar’ like it once did. In fact, most of our capital campaigns are considered sustainability funding campaigns and focus on obtaining funding to expand programs that enable organizations to further their mission. Our job is to work with the organization and the community to determine your value proposition, or what stakeholders find most valuable about what you do.
Do you know what your community and your funders think are your most valuable programs and outcomes? Do they truly understand all of your areas of impact? You might be surprised to find that their perception and yours are very different. By understanding what your funders feel are your most important areas of impact, we are able to position you as a valuable community asset, maximizing your base of support and garnering increased funding.
Question #3 – We are a small organization so I am pretty sure you can’t help us. Can you?
Don’t focus on your size when determining your fundraising goals. A better indicator of fundraising success is, “What is the value I can provide to my community if I had sufficient resources?” We have worked with small organizations with a staff of just one or two people in communities with less than 10,000 in population every bit as successfully as we have worked with larger organizations. If your nonprofit meets an unmet community need or does something that conveys significant value to community stakeholders, we can likely run a successful campaign and do it in a way that is cost effective. We also offer the Making Mission Happen division which provides nonprofits the organizational development and planning services needed to strengthen your organization to effectively deliver your mission.
It is important to note that before you launch any big fundraising campaign you should conduct a feasibility study, also known as an opportunity analysis. A feasibility study helps you develop your proposed plans and should be done by an outside consultant who conducts sufficient confidential stakeholder interviews to assess whether a campaign can be successful. This allows you to determine a realistic funding goal, identify potential challenges and strategies for overcoming them, as well as establish a realistic timeline and campaign plan. You’ll know before ever launching a campaign whether your community is big enough, your organization strong enough, and your plans appealing enough to be successful.