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4 pro tips from changemakers on how to secure funding for nonprofits

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4 pro tips from changemakers on how to secure funding for nonprofits

The trick to find nonprofit funding can feel like a moving target. These changemakers offer their advice for how to get it done.

The keys to nonprofit fundraising. Start small!

Funding for nonprofits. It's one of the most daunting aspects of starting or growing your organization In a sea of aspiring founders, how do you stand out? How do you get funders to believe in your vision and the impact your vision will have on lives?

Securing funding as a nonprofit leader is often a task of making clear to others what is already obvious to you: the value your organization has, and what you're doing differently. 

But there's a bit more to it. 

The Stand Together community partners with thousands of changemakers who grapple with the job of convincing donors they're worthy of support. Their advice shows that it often isn't enough to design an innovative organization. Timing, presentation, and location can all be the keys to securing the funding you need to get started. 

Here are their takeaways. 

1. Craft a compelling story

To attract the attention and interest of funders, create a compelling narrative that highlights your organization's vision. 

Your vision should include the main characters it will affect, the values driving you, and what your ideal impact will look like. It is particularly useful to step into the shoes of your audience, and think about what sort of narrative will spark empathy in them. 

"Storytelling is one of the most important skills you can have when you're launching any new venture," says Sal Churi, founder of Trust Ventures. "I look at over 2,000 companies a year, all trying to convince me to invest in them. My biggest piece of advice for any social entrepreneur is to know your audience, and craft your storytelling to reach that audience."

2. Seek innovative funders

Some organizations, like the VELA Education Fund, are most interested in spurring innovation and experimentation.

Rather than invest millions of dollars in a select few, they spread thousands of dollars across thousands of people, allowing them to fund a variety of different organizations. 

"There are many different approaches that you can take when you're a philanthropist and you're investing in entrepreneurs," explains Meredith Olson, president of the VELA Education Fund. "My advice is to invest in pilot experimentation. There's tens of thousands of innovators that are within our communities. 

Having a particularly unique or innovative approach could work well to catch the attention of a similar funding agency. "In order to reach the innovators, we reduce the grant size, and we increase risk appetite," says Olson.

3. Start small

It can be useful to seek a smaller amount of primary funding as a proof of concept. 

Here's why a smaller amount can be more successful: It's less of a gamble. It can lead to a funding organization being willing to take a chance on you even if you're relatively new or small.

"That we've had a thousand [volunteers] who have been through our program, who are in their communities, not just here in Dallas, but across the country, is evidence and indicative of impact to the communities that we're trying to serve," says Antong Lucky, CEO and president of Urban Specialists. 

If you're able to take hundreds or thousands of dollars and use it to make a big impact, your chances of getting even more funding down the road increase. 

"My first piece of advice that I give to anyone interested in activism and looking for funding is do the work," Lucky explains. "I can't tell you from where, but I do know this: If you do the work, the resources follow the work."

4. Do your research

Terri Sorenson, CEO of Friends of the Children, took an approach that many eager founders adopt when seeking funding: They reached out to as many cities as they could. 

Sorenson came to regret that.

"What we found is when we wanted to go to a certain city or place, rather than the community asking for it first, it was very difficult, and in most cases we weren't quite successful," says Sorenson. "I would advise really making sure that the community wants you. Do your research."

Rather than pitching your nonprofit to funding organizations wherever is closest, be intentional to increase your chances of securing funding. Research different areas to see if there are already nonprofits doing similar work there, and if there is a gap to be filled in that specific community. 

The Stand Together community partners with thousands of changemakers tackling the root causes of America's biggest problems. Explore ways you can partner with us.

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