Develop a Budget and Plan for Fund Raising
Even though many dialogue-to-change efforts rely on volunteers and in-kind assistance to get started, it is essential to think about budgeting and fund raising from the beginning. To determine what needs to happen first, think in terms of short-term needs and long-term goals. Take into account the program goals and timelines, and assess the capacities and resources available in the coalition.
Raising funds, like communication, is related to every aspect of your program. Your ability to raise funds will increase as you expand your outreach, involve more people in the program and tell the story of the impact on your community.
Refer to the goals of your program, and develop a budget based on those goals.
Revisit the goals of your program, and think about their budgetary implications: How many participants are we hoping to involve? How many rounds of dialogues are we planning? What will it take in the form of staffing, expertise and material resources to make that happen? Will we hire a coordinator? What kinds of support will we provide for the action stage of the program, and what kinds of staffing or other resources will it take to provide that support? What other kinds of expenses can we anticipate?
The size of the budget is directly related to the scope of your effort. Frequently the largest line item in the budget is staff salaries (for the coordinator and any support staff). (See “Possible Budget Items” on page 61 to plan the details of your budget.)
Determine how much in-kind support you have.
In-kind support (that is, donations other than direct monetary support) can be crucial in the early stages of a program, when raising funds can be more difficult. It also helps establish a track record of community support for your program that can be critical to future fund raising. Ongoing, in-kind assistance is frequently the backbone of a strong, effective program.
Examples of invaluable in-kind support from coalition members include:
- Office space
- Staff time
- The training function, in whole or in part
- Printing and photocopying
- Graphic design for posters and fliers
- Child care
- Radio or television airtime; newspaper space for public service announcements
Decide which fund-raising strategies you will pursue, and design a plan.
First, determine how much money you need to raise in order to meet your program’s goals. Look at your budget and the available in-kind support. What is your deadline for raising the funds?
Given your target amount and target date, start planning specific tasks and timelines. Do this in collaboration with the coalition members who will be involved in fund raising. Enlist them in brainstorming ideas for the plan and in helping to carry it out. Ask people to commit to specific tasks.
Many fund-raising plans include the following tasks, along with target dates and staff or volunteer assignments for each task:
Compile a list of possible funding sources.
Ask coalition members for ideas; each person will have a knowledge of different funding sources. Check the local library or university for a directory of philanthropic organizations in your community and region. Some communities have nonprofit resource centers with local directories. State agencies that handle local affairs also provide directories of state and local funders.
Investigate the sources on your list, and determine which ones are worth approaching.
What kinds of projects do they support? What is their average grant size? Have they given to projects that are similar to the dialogue-to-change programs such as other community building or citizen involvement projects? Have they given to projects that deal with the same issue your program will address? What are their funding guidelines? Do their grant-making schedules meet your timelines? (Some may have websites you can visit; you may need to call others to obtain information about their grant making.) Does anyone on your coalition have a connection to the source?
Develop talking points that will form the basis of your fund-raising message.
Be prepared to talk about why the issue is important to the community and how the dialogue-to-change program will help make a difference. This is much like talking with a potential coalition member; the only difference is that the kind of support you are seeking in this case is primarily monetary.
In order for funders to make a sound decision about whether to fund a program, they need to know about outcomes – that is, what the program will achieve. Be prepared to communicate about this aspect of your program.
It can be challenging to talk about the outcomes of dialogue-to-change programs, partly because you can’t describe in advance the specific action and changes that will result from the dialogues and action forums. Yet, you should be able to describe the kinds of impact you expect to make, and the kinds of community organizations that are committed to the program. Also, remember to point to other dialogue-to-change programs around the country that have addressed the same issue, and cite the kinds of outcomes that have come from them. Finally, be prepared to describe how you will document and assess what the program has accomplished.
Set up meetings with possible donors.
If someone on your coalition has a relationship with a potential funder, that member should request a meeting. Or, perhaps there is someone on the coalition who could make an introductory call about you and your program. The most effective fund raising is done on a one-to-one basis with individuals you already know. Whenever you talk with potential donors in your own community, remember to invite them to participate in a dialogue or action forum themselves. When you meet, ask funders about their programming priorities and how the dialogue-to-change program might fit.
Develop written proposals to meet funder guidelines.
Decide who will be involved in developing the proposal; even if several people are involved in brainstorming, limit the number of people who work on the final product. If you decide to hire an outside grant writer, make sure that person is involved in enough discussions to know the most important things about your program goals and plans. If you will be developing several written proposals, you will need to create a system for keeping track of due dates and of what each funder requires.
Stay in touch with the funders from whom you have received support.
As soon as you receive notice that you will be awarded a grant, send a letter of thanks. Then create a timeline for sending reports to the funder, and for communicating stories about what kinds of difference their funds are making. This is not only common courtesy, but will help keep your program fresh in their minds.
Decide whether and how you will use fund-raising events.
These can be effective, but they are labor-intensive. If you decide to use events as one of your strategies, consider holding an annual fund raising event. That way, the energy and resources that go into designing the event for the first go-round can be put to good use in holding repeat events. Though subsequent efforts will still require lots of work, the planning can become more routinized; if planned well, such events can provide a predictable source of income each year.
Finally, write down your fund-raising plan, and share it with everyone who is playing a role.
A written plan makes it easier to track your progress, and to remind people of tasks they agreed to take on.