Established nonprofits organizations have various avenues for funding in place – robust donor programs, multi-year grant awards, major event strategies.
But what about new nonprofits?
Sure, there are foundations that set seed money aside for startups, and you can find federal opportunities at Grants.gov. You might have luck with state or municipal grant programs.
But grants can be difficult to come by as a brand new nonprofit, and you may very well find yourself in need of operating funds while you wait for that perfect grant to come in.
Here are four alternatives to grants for new nonprofits.
1. Activate your own networks.
In the beginning stages of your nonprofit, your focus should be on building proof of concept – piloting your programs in such a way that you’re gathering valuable data on the effectiveness of your organization.
Much like a for-profit startup, this is a great time to activate your networks and solicit seed funding from family, friends, and your broader networks. Individual contributions will be quicker and more impactful at this stage of the game.
2. Collaborate with another organization.
Partnering with an already-established organization is a great way to introduce your nonprofit to a broader community, share costs, and benefit from the experience and wisdom of professionals in the field. Some foundations make funding available specifically for these kinds of partnerships.
Make sure you can clearly articulate the benefits of collaborating for the organization you approach. Think about the communities you each serve – what will they gain from this partnership?
3. Find a fiscal sponsor.
A fiscal sponsor is an organization that has agreed to take your nonprofit under their umbrella. They’ll oversee your finances and handle certain backend operations.
Under fiscal sponsorship, you won’t need to worry about getting your own 501(c)(3) designation from the IRS or putting together a legal board of directors.
The sponsoring organization will maintain control of your funds and may also charge you a fee – usually a percentage of your budget.
4. Start a crowdfunding campaign.
While crowdfunding campaigns aren’t sustainable options for long-term nonprofit funding, they can work well in a startup phase as you’re working to build proof of concept. Take time to define a specific, time-bound program or event, and identify measurable goals and outcomes.
You can get creative with the “perks” you offer to donors and even incentivize your networks to spread the word!
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You can be successful with alternatives to grants for new nonprofits.
Remember that your biggest charge is to build proof – proof that your organization is necessary and that you’re doing good in your community.
Funding a nonprofit for the long term can seem overwhelming and even impossible at times. But the steps you take today to build a solid foundation will pay off in the years to come!