Setting funding priorities

There's no doubt that your nonprofit would benefit from an influx of cash, right? You and your board know that new funding should be found, but perhaps you feel a bit overwhelmed as to how that will happen. You have an important mission and do good work. What should you do next?

You should break down your nonprofit's mission into specific, fundable projects or programs that can be sold to potential donors. These discrete pieces of your work will become your funding priorities. When starting this process, aim to identify and define three to five priorities. Any more than that, and you might start to dilute your and your staff's efforts, going after funds for too many various needs.  

Here's a five-step process to get you started:
  1. Make a list of all the major concerns facing your nonprofit's leadership over the next two years. Do you need to construct or renovate new space? Hope to increase the number of people you serve? Are you planning to add or expand initiatives that will further your mission? Get all of these things down on paper.
  2. Understand, at least roughly, how much each of these will cost annually. Determine a ballpark figure to accompany each major concern. Perhaps it'll cost $500K to build a new clinic, $250K to expand financial aid packages to 10 students in need, or $10K to launch a new literacy program.
  3. Rank the list in priority order - not necessarily highest to lowest amount of funds needed. If $10K for a literacy program is more critical to your nonprofit's mission than a new $500K building, list that first.
  4. Decide how many of your top five should be pursued fundraising-wise this year.  How many fundraising staff members do you have? If you have just one, then asking him or her to focus on all five priorities could be unrealistic. It's better to have a laser focus on a couple of needs than pay little attention to all of them.
  5. Flesh out the funding priorities that you're going to pursue. Articulate every detail: What is the project/need, why is it important, and how will it be carried out? What are its goals and estimated budget? How does it link back to your org's overarching mission?
The result of this process will enable your nonprofit staff, leadership and donors to rally around your most important needs.

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