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Reader Questions: Bootstrap your Nonprofit Startup in 4 steps!

A Question from Molly at Women With Drive

> Thanks so much for your follow up. Ours is a nascent nonprofit, established
> in August 2010. As a brief backgrounder, I’ve spent the bulk of the previous
> four months establishing the legal structures, building a board and
> a network for supporting long-term growth. I have a media/advertising
> background (both church and state; prepress/on air/design/placement). In all
> of my heretofore volunteer efforts with nonprofits, I’ve served as the
> marketing chair.
>
> Our nonprofit applies a solution to systemic poverty for women that I
> haven’t found in my research prior to establishing Women With Drive
> Foundation. Our mission is to provide a woman with a car (including assuming
> maintenance costs) for two years. In exchange, she undergoes an extensive
> assessment to identify her specific barriers to independence (ie. education,
> financial acumen). With the results of the findings, she and a program
> officer draft a two year plan designed to address her challenges with our
> common goal being her independence. Many nonprofits provide interview
> skills, clothing and other training, but when the rubber literally needs to
> meet the road, few provide an actual vehicle and none provide our two year
> program.
>
> Therefore, a lot of what I’m doing is building the basement and the roof at
> the same time, so to speak.
>
> With little to no immediate funds on hand, I need to do three things:
>
> 1. Build a strong, engaged donor base.
> 2. Explore grants.
> 3. Determine how to become self-sustaining.
>
> I know nothing about any of those things. I value your expertise and welcome
> anything you can do to help. I’ve served as a free-lance consultant
> for marketing, social media and general design, and so I completely respect
> your right to be paid for your expertise. One of my solutions to square the
> circle regarding our staffing needs is to strategically retain professionals
> to provide interim skills until we need/can afford full time staff.
>
> Please let me know what I may do to help you.
>
> Again, my thanks for your consideration.
>
> Best,
> M.

Hi Molly!

First off, I love that you’re helping women get wheels. When I worked in a domestic violence shelter, this is something that would hamper women in getting the services that they needed, whether baby-sitting, counseling, welfare, etc. A car can mean the difference between a job and no job, and between a woman having to return to an abuser or not. Thank you for recognizing this.

Fundraising and marketing are kind of similar, so don’t sell yourself short when it comes to saying you don’t know about fundraising. Chances are, a lot of the same principles you learned in marketing, you can use in fundraising.

1. I checked out your web presence, and you need a website, not a ning group. The ning group is closed, and you need to be OPEN. Open for business! Open for taking donations! Capeesh?
2. You need to figure out who you know.
3. You need a comprehensive fundraising plan.
4. You need someone to help you WORK your fundraising plan. SO, you need training for your fundraising volunteers.

So first, let’s see who you know. This link takes you to a place where you can get a worksheet that will help you identify potential areas of overlap for funders and donors in your community.

For a fundraising plan,
Think about what you can reasonably do, and what you can unreasonably do.

When I first started fundraising, I thought fundraising was grants. I then found out that it was much much more, but this was over time, and it took me a long time to figure out what it was.

So that’s why I wrote my book, to be the fun, engaging primer to fundraising that I never had.

Fundraising is grants. It’s also appeals, marketing, mobile giving, events, social media engagement, lean systems, conflict management, volunteer recruitment and management, teaching other people how to fundraise, major giving, e-newsletters, and more. It’s a big job. Best done by a team of people. Who I teach you to find and train. My book covers all of this. It’s really too long to write in a blog post. It took me 180 pages to do it, and 80 pages of a resource CD on top of that.

Since you said you wanted to learn the process of fundraising, I would suggest that you buy my book, The Wild Woman’s Guide to Fundraising, because that is an excellent primer in every major aspect of fundraising, with the exception of Major gifts. Mal Warwick’s books are a big help there.

My book is a good investment, as it ALSO comes with an 80 page resource CD with templates to help you start to apply the tools I give you IMMEDIATELY to your nonprofit, whether grants, marketing, getting volunteers, or even creating a one-page development plan. (You can buy the book here.)

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