Issue 28, Fall 2012
The handwriting is on the wall in big bold letters: Government funding for many redevelopment and social service programs is going to be dramatically reduced over the coming years.
In fact, many local and state government agencies—some of which serve as financial intermediaries to local nonprofits—already have seen their own budgets slashed, if not totally eliminated.
On a recent project, I interviewed the community development director of a large metropolitan municipality whose budget recently had been slashed by his state’s legislature. He told me that local government agencies that have lost staff as a result of such cuts “are eagerly looking for strong nonprofit organizations to partner with.”
For many nonprofits, this is an opportunity to step up and fill the voids left by local governments’ inability to continue to provide much needed and valued community services.
But what if yours is one of the nonprofits reliant on those same government funds that are being cut, and you simply don’t have the resources to fill the voids?
There’s opportunity here for you as well—if you’re willing to step out of the box, be creative and dig your heels in to seek out other-than-government revenue streams.
Get over the shock and disappointment that your government funding has been, or is about to be, drastically reduced or eliminated and begin taking a long, hard, introspective look at your organization.
What are the most important ingredients to a good narrative?
Martin Teitel, a 45-year veteran in the world of nonprofits, 30 of them for grant making foundations, in a recent interview said what matters when it comes to grant applications is “clear, concise and compelling writing,” writing that speaks to hope, a vision of a better world and how your nonprofit proposes to get us to that better place.
I would add that you need to include within the context of your narrative, compelling data that speak to your mission-driven successes.
It’s not enough to say 500 people walked through your doors last year. Serious donors want to know where those people are today, and how, specifically, have the services you provided to them improved their lives or the dynamic of your community.
Government funding may be drying up, but in many parts of the country the economy is starting to come back. Here are some suggestions for places to bring your narrative:
In lieu of seeking “donations,” position your organization as a community leader seeking an “investment” not only in your organization, but also in the community at large. To do so in good faith, you will need to make a strong case for how your services and leadership contribute to the common good of making your community a better place for people to live, work and play. The return on investment, or ROI, you and your investors are seeking is social, not financial.
Be aware that your brand narrative is your story, not your fairytale. Your success at developing new revenue streams will be short-lived if you don’t live up to your narrative and the promises you imbed into it.
Sound easy? It’s not! Nothing worth doing ever is. It may require you changing your entire business model. But in the face of reduced government spending on social issues, what other options do you have?
You can either embrace change and move forward, or....?
As always, I look forward to receiving your feedback, questions, success stories and branding challenges. Also, if you are in need of a motivational speaker, trainer, branding consultant/coach, or management consultant who can help you answer the questions: Who are we? What do we do? How do we do it? And should anyone care? I invite you to for more information.
In the meantime, good luck with your branding! — Larry
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