Aligning donor desires to your non-capital campaign

Heavy equiment for building thingsI was asked today by a client: Can we run fundraising for investments like staff that were identified in our strategic plan? Say a “non-capital campaign?”

Yes you can. Universities and hospitals do it all the time. Their big comprehensive campaigns usually include lots of stuff like buildings and equipment. But they also don’t overlook other capacity and operating needs, like new staff or programs.

To maximize success for a campaign like this, reframe the way you talk or think about donor motivation.

To get some help here, we’ve turned to the really smart folks at the Nonprofit Finance Fund. They frame the difference in terms that create a shared vocabulary for speakers of For-profit and Nonprofit English.

For the Nonprofit Finance Fund, build money (for “philanthropic equity”) is qualitatively different from buy money (for program execution). Builders invest in your enterprise capacity, not your services.They are more likely to be interested in enabling your growth with large gifts. They may only be providing you smaller annual donations because you haven’t piqued their true interests.

Buyers pay you to provide services to others. Buyers may be willing to contribute enough, if communicated well, to cover your other operating costs (too often considered “overhead” But that’s another article). But buyers don’t provide sufficient income above current costs to finance major new initiatives.

The takeaway: recognize, as the biggest nonprofits do, that you need institution-builders as well as buyers for your services and products. Seek out and engage investor-builders who will help you launch, grow and extend your best ideas into bigger forces in the world. Don ‘t apologize. Make the case.

By bundling your multi-year investment needs, you can create a non-capital campaign.

Our clients at the Economic Progress Institute created a two-page summary of their growth needs to talk to funders about, with info graphics that outline the investments in staff capacity they needed and  how that would improve their impact. Check it out.

You’ll find excellent articles to explain nonprofit finances to your staff and board at the Nonprofit Finance Fund website. You’ll find them in the Learn section. They do an incredible job of interpreting the looking glass world of nonprofit finance into language that your more business-oriented donors and volunteers will understand (and vice-versa).

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