Are you trying to save or build your nonprofit? Does your Board wonder why your email and letters don’t bring in much money? The most common reason for low fundraising results in NonProfit Donations and cash is that you don’t have a seat at the table where cash is distributed. It’s not enough to send out an email and get ten dollars from Aunt Ina.
Today, I want to look at six tables where the cash is handed out. Nonprofits of privilege are already seated at some or all of these tables. The rest of us look on with envy as they magically acquire funding. I recentlt saw that a candidate for mayer did not win the election and accepted the CEO job at a local nonprofit. Amazingly, the revenue to that nonprofit has soared to 100+ million dollars. There are reasons why that happened and you need to understand your capital environment and build a plan to sustain your agency even if you only want a million dollars. I hope you figure out which table is best for your agency and start a strategy to have a chair with your name on it.
Donor Advised Funds and Foundations Table
These gifts and grants are going to be in the thousands instead of the hundreds so your strategic plan has to be significant over 3-5 years. Ideally, you need a capacity grant instead of a program grant. To start a new program, you have to hire people in advance and most program grants won’t pay for that. Getting a seat at this table will take a strategy. I know a recent instance where a foundation was approached directly. They responded, ‘We don’t want a proposal from you unless we ask for it!” One of my coaching methods is to connect you and your board with people they know who are already at the table for NonProfit Donations and cash.
Government Contracts Table
The second table is government contracts. In New York City, 43 city agencies give out contracts. You need to be at the table of the agency where you have the best chance of getting a contract. If you are doing Senior Daycare, you don’t need a seat for the Department of Education. The point is that agencies that already have a seat at the table and get government grants without competition. I lost a bid on a city contract and requested a hearing with the freedom of information act. The departmental representatives had obviously not attended many hearings. She said immediately, “I’ve never heard of you.” That’s not a great legal argument, but it certainly showed how these contracts are offered. If you wait for public bids to be announced, you are getting the crumbs left over.
The third table of cash is in academic research. The universities and research journals of privilege heavily regulate which research gets funded and reported. Phil Altbach studied universities around the world and formulated the theory of centers and peripheries. Ideas and grants start at tables in the center and little is left for others. If your nonprofit is in advocacy or innovation, you need to find a way to one of the academic tables of privilege.
Federal Funds Table
The fourth table is federal funds. Most federal funds are entitlements such as Social Security. The large discretionary areas still on the table are in health and armaments. Significant surges in emergency services occur periodically after a hurricane or other disaster. Political leaders sit at the tables that distribute these funds. Attend fund raisers for politicians in your area and work your way into a seat at the table. Steamtown in Scranton Pennsylvania received $66 million in federal grants. Federal amounts are not likely to be small, so your agency needs capacity to deal with a larger allocation.
Fortune 400 Table
The fifth table is the Fortune 400. Fortune Magazine outlines the 400 richest people in the USA every year. Just like the Vanderbilts of old and the New York 400, these people are loosely connected. Your chance to sit at this table may be largely serendipitous. For a determined nonprofit leader, plunge into all of the networks that surround you and waiting for serendipity. I got one contract by waiting for a red light and someone offered me a contract. That contract has produced impact and $3 million dollars. You may be closer to NonProfit Donations and cash than you assume.
Table of the Committed
The last table is the table of the committed. In my first fulltime job, there was no money for assistants. I recruited 15 volunteers who made college visits every week. We had a monthly meeting and meal at my home. Most of the group also made contributions. In the book, “The Revolution will not be Funded”, some of the nonprofit work that will save our world is not popular with any of the other tables. The system rewards wealth and distribute a few dollars for relief. If your nonprofit dreams empower or innovate, you need the Table of the Committed. It takes a strong stomach to lead such a group. There will be too many ideas and regular challenges for leadership. It also was a time in my own life that was most important.
These are six powerful tables that can finance the donations, grants, and contracts parts of your capital structure. There are other sources – fee for service, Giving Tuesday with $10 from Aunt Ina and other capital sources as well, but the tables that I mention today are essential to consider. They also are carefully guarded and your job is to penetrate the party and find a seat with your name on it.