Why forgiving yourself and making friends could be the best thing for your fundraising strategy
I just got off the phone with a small nonprofit in a tough place. While they do crucial work for low-income families in their area, their financial situation is so hard that they are risking closure. They recently lost a major funder, can’t access funding from Centraide or their government agency due to a moratorium on funding new groups, and they were flat out of ideas. The person on the other end of the phone was bummed, and with good reason.
Unfortunately, a lot of orgs we work with find themselves in a similar situation: trying to fund their missions out of a shrinking pot. (I know we are!)
Now, there’s a lot to say and write about how to get more money, but my two of my most important pieces of advice? Forgive yourself, and then go make some friends.
The tough financial situation that your organization is in is not yours alone. Over the past decade, Quebec nonprofits have had to vie for fewer and fewer dollars, at the same time as demand for services increases. That’s right: the same economic conditions and mindsets that have led to decreases in nonprofit funding have also translated into cuts to public service organizations and public benefits, meaning that more people than ever are looking for support from nonprofit service providers.
Quebec funding conditions are not your fault, and bearing the weight of it won’t help you or your organization figure out where to go next
That is a structural thing, and while we can battle austerity, the ways these funding cuts hit our workplace can feel like they are because of some personal failure. They aren’t. And while you can always seek out information, resources and strategies to up your fundraising game, you can’t control the broader economic context.
Quebec funding conditions are not your fault, and bearing the weight of it won’t help you or your organization figure out where to go next. So please–do yourself a favour, forgive yourself, and think about all the kickass work your organisation has been doing just to survive. You got this.
Find a Buddy
One of the first things I did when I started out in fundraising was find a mentor: a wonderfully experienced fundraiser who was generous enough to have a coffee with me every few months to answer my newbie questions and offer encouragement.
Pictured: Juniper and her fundraising mentor!
Another tip? Recruit an awesome fundraiser or two for your board so you can collaborate from the inside.
On a lot of teams, especially small nonprofits, responsibility for funding development falls on the shoulders of one or two people. Often, these are justice-minded folks who had never planned to become fundraisers in the first place. Often, they are also on teams that see funding as a necessary evil, which means that no one is jumping for joy to come out to that fundraising walk or sell raffle tickets. This fun combo of high responsibility and low appreciation can feel stressful and isolating, so seeking external support can make all the difference. Finding a mentor, or getting drinks with other fundraisers can help us build the resilience and wherewithal to keep on keeping on.
Another tip? Recruit an awesome fundraiser or two for your board so you can collaborate from the inside. A fellow funding nerd just joined our board (Hi Remy!) and it is so so motivating for me. Because fundraising can be awesome-sauce! It’s just more fun when you aren’t alone.
At COCo we are committed to supporting Quebec social justice organizations face their fundraising challenges by offering coaching, training, and a listening ear for those days when you get your third grant rejection of the month. It’s a tough climate out there folks; we need to stay together!
Juniper Belshaw wears many hats, including as a funding trainer at COCo, bringing ten years of experience in fundraising for Montreal nonprofits such as Head & Hands and Dans la rue.