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Reader Questions: How can I get funding for a think tank?

I recently got an email from a reader asking me how I would fundraise for a think tank in a country that does not have the best history of democracy or political discourse. This is my response.

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Thanks for writing!

As far as I know, usually American think tanks are funded by a few rich people who believe in the think tank. Sometimes this makes kind of a joke think-tank that simply parrots the ideas of the rich person. So, I am glad you are creating a think tank that helps create clear political dialogue.

Look for funding in other countries
If you have approached people, corporations, foundations in your country in vain, it is definitely time to go where people appreciate your work. If you are getting recognition in Poland, London, and in the Ukraine, I would focus your international fundraising efforts there. For funders, you might want to look to the UN for development money, or the Soros Foundation, they care very much about international government, as well. You could also check into the Gates Foundation.

Research other think tanks
Look at who funds think tanks in Spain, or think tanks in France or the USA. Would they be interested in funding you as well? Get the annual reports of 10 think tanks that you admire, and start researching the names, addresses, emails and phone numbers of these major donors.

Social Media Outreach
Also, if you want to get more exposure for your ideas, I would start a blog and a twitter account, and find out who the influencers are on Twitter for think tanks, and get them to write about you. In this way, you can gain more amplification for your ideas, and more exposure for your need for help.

Areas of improvement
I looked at your website, and I noticed several things that are missing that would make me want to take action.
1. Large pictures.
2. Snappy headlines.
3. A clear call to action.

Take a look at http://Kiva.org. Their call to action is simple and clear, and they have changing pictures all of the time about the people that they are helping. Because you are a think tank, it may seem too abstract for people. You have to make it REAL. Visceral. Make them understand the consequences of your nonprofit NOT being there. Make them feel the pain of democracy obstructed. Speak to their fears. Speak to their needs. Speak to their joys. And then ask them to give.

Also, take a look at http://plannedparenthood.org. Their giving page helps people give in many different ways. It could be useful to rethink your donation page that way as well.

Also, look at http://imamuseum.org. They have a dashboard that helps you see how they use the money, each of the different things that they are doing.

Also, look at http://mercycorps.org. They make it very clear what they are doing, with lots of pictures, and give you lots of ways to get involved. There are little articles all over their site on how to give.

The Networked Nonprofit, by Beth Kanter, has a case study that might prove useful for you.

Wildlifedirect.com, based in Nairobi, Kenya, started with 7 blogs in 2007 and raised $350,000.

As of 2010 they have 73 blogs, all about different animals and habitats, and they have increased their donations four-fold. They use their rangers to blog about the animals, and even though most of their donors will never visit Africa and have no tangible connection to their cause, they have managed to thrive by providing consistent specific and transparent content about what they do.

So you see, having several blogs making issues real for people can be very powerful and can be a real source of money for your nonprofit.

Make a plan
I would also make a fundraising plan, and I would use my book to help you make that. My book is $40, and it’s $8 international shipping. it has all of my experience and advice inside it, and a CD too, full of editable templates that you can use to start making more money right away for your cause. You can buy it here.

Go where people can hear you.
It’s incredible how numb and uninterested people simply go along because they do not have the vocabulary to describe their experience, and so cannot at first name and then claim what is happening to them, and then envision a better way of life.

Rankism
Once I learned about Rankism, by Robert Fuller, I found a vocabulary to help me speak to people who were numbed and uninterested, and it helped them to understand what was happening, to name and claim what was going on.

I have made a few blog posts about it:

Change your Language, Change your life
18 ways to demand dignity
What rank is your boss playing? (What Copenhagen can teach us about power)

And I devoted a large section of one of my book’s chapters to this subject, because I think it so important, when agitating against oppression, against a corrupt and unjust system, to learn the language that will set you free, to become a persuader and an activist.

As you know from your think tank, there is nothing more powerful than ideas, except possibly the vocabulary that expresses those ideas. Vocabulary, in my opinion, can expand awareness to new levels of consciousness.

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Do you know how think tanks get funded? Do you have any advice for this think tank? Have I left something out?

Is there an incredible nonprofit website that I should be telling this reader to look at?

Please leave a comment and help us out!

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