👻 Funders who ghost

Here’s how the story goes. You identify a potential funder that looks like a good fit. Then you reach out and get a meeting. The meeting goes really well. The funder is enthusiastic about your organization and your program. You reach consensus a proposal that they indicate would be fundable. A few days later you submit a great proposal, and then

You wait.

And wait.

And wait.

You send a follow-up email to confirm the funder received your proposal and ask if they have any questions for feedback.

And you wait some more.

Crickets.

You email again.

You go old school and call, leaving a voicemail.

Finally you give up and make a mental note to shade the funder when you run into them at the next nonprofit conference or happy hour.

I find these funders who ghost to be incredibly unprofessional, and all too common. Even more so in Kansas City where people are too polite, when actually ignoring a colleague like this is very impolite.

Maybe the funder is too busy to reply, too busy to say no, or too busy to give feedback. So? We are all too busy to do some of the basic parts of our jobs, but we make the time anyway. If didn’t, we would gain a reputation as unprofessional and unreliable.

Ginning up the courage to say no or to disappoint someone is a sign up professionalism and personal integrity. Wasting a colleague’s time shows a lack of both qualities.

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💩💰Nonprofit life goes up, down, and sideways

The nonprofit world is full of ups, downs, and sideways – often in the same day. The past week has been a great example.

It started out with a rejection letter 😠 from a national funder for a grant application we are confident was very competitive. And would have brought much-needed geographically diversity to the funder. The rejection letter was followed very quickly a shitty brush-off 💩 to our request for feedback on the application. We recruited several partners join us in a coalition for this project. Not only will it suck to tell them our effort was rejected, it will be embarrassing to share with them the shitty response from the funder we tried to bring to the table.

Next up was an unexpected award letter 💰for a grant that we thought was a long shot. We applied so long ago that we forgot all about it and had to dig up the application to remember what we applied for.

Then we spent the last few days working overtime to write our biggest ever grant request to one of our biggest funders. It’s a bold ask for an ambitious project that would dramatically advance a large portion of our mission and organization. 🤞

During all off this I am negotiating a lease for a new and larger office. We outgrew the current place soon after we moved in, so more space is desperately needed for our rapidly growing programs. However, it’s a big financial commitment that goes beyond the term of our current stable funding. I have champagne 🍾 ready for the staff to celebrate signing the lease, and I have restocked the secret CEO Scotch 🥃 for when I actually wield the pen.

Finally, as we were preparing some hard-earned office beers 🍺 at the end of the grant writing day, an email came in from one of the very first small family foundations to invest in our organization. This foundation’s first grant to us was a big deal because family foundations in Kansas City are incredibly conservative and risk-averse. They are very reluctant to support new nonprofits or programs outside the traditional arts and social services ares.

A member of the family is presenting examples of good and bad grant applications at an upcoming conference. She was asking if it would be OK to use our grant as an example of a PERFECT grant application! 🍸🍸🍸🍸

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🤔The Four M’s of Nonprofit Decision-Making

Mission, Membership, Marketing, Money

The 4 M’s framework is a useful way to evaluate programs, events, and other opportunities and to inform your decisions about where to invest time, energy, and resources. It is useful for considering new opportunities, as well as re-examining existing programs and events to ensure they remain relevant and worthwhile.

Use the 4 M’s to think about things like:

  • The special event that brings in a lot of money but is really just a party with no clear connection to the mission
  • A program that serves the mission perfectly but has zero revenue or other funding towards offsetting its costs
  • That co-branding opportunity with a local business that gets great exposure but direct, tangible benefit

Whether you are a startup deciding where to invest precious resources and energy or a big organization drowning in opportunities and requests, the 4 M’s can help clarify your decision-making process.

Mission

How well is it aligned with your mission, core values, and the reason you organization exists? 

Things are highly aligned with the mission are of course important, but they must be balanced with efforts that bring benefits of the other M’s. If everything you did was mission-aligned you could still go out of business if there wasn’t enough cash coming in the door. Or it could be ineffective if clients don’t know about your great services.

Membership (or donors)

How much does it grow your base of individual supporters?

For membership organizations, does it bring new members? For other types of organizations, does it bring you new individual donors or new contacts who become reliable supporters? Members/donors are more than just a source of money. They are a source of volunteers, energy, excitement, and much more. An activity that grows your base without making a lot of money could still be valuable in other ways.

Marketing

How does it grow awareness of your organization and its mission?

Does it bring you exposure, visibility, media coverage, etc. ? Clients, partners, and funders can’t find you if they don’t know about you. Sometimes it’s important to just build your brand, market position, and overall awareness.

Money

Does it bring in real cash money? 

That means it makes a net profit after expenses, including staff time. Don’t forget to factor in staff time to the budget! For special events, many experts suggest an 80% profit desireable to make it worthwhile versus other revenue sources you could pursue. Your nonprofit is a corporation, and all corporations need the resources to offer useful services delivered by competent and happy employees.


How many M’s does the opportunity satisfy?

The more the better! Something that hits all for 4 M’s is probably a no-brainer. It’s easy to make the case for pursuing the opportunity or keeping the program or event. but most things in life involve some trade-offs.

If it only aligns with one or two M’s, it should align completely. For example, an event that raises a six figure gross revenue with an 80% profit margin might be worth it, even if it does nothing to serve the mission, market the organization, or get more members. Conversely, we often do things that are mission-aligned but lose money or don’t contribute to marketing or membership. Those can be OK, too – if they are significantly in service to the mission.

Make more M’s

Sometimes those Single-M opportunities can be tweaked to add another M. That lucrative event can better include the mission or clients.

The key to using this framework is balance. It’s OK to have a few things that only hit one or two M’s, as long you limit that number and are intentional about when you allow those things to pass through the filter. Strive towards most things you do hitting three or four M’s.

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