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Seed Funding 

Foreword: There are two types of seed funding. Seed funding can refer to new nonprofits looking for assistance getting started. It can also refer to established nonprofits looking for assistance to start a new project. This article is focused on startup funds for new nonprofits.

 

 

A flourishing non-profit organization is cultivated a lot like a garden.  It takes planning, hard work, plenty of watering, and of course avoiding stepping in fertilizer.  After a while your garden grows and blooms.

 

 

And, just like starting a garden, starting any non-profit involves two key components: a plan and money.  The plan is usually the easy part.  However, with the state of the current economy, finding money to fund a non-profit can sometimes feel like looking for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  We can all see the rainbow, but no matter how hard we run we can't get to the end.  This is especially true for new non-profits who do not have an established track record.  Many grant makers are leery of providing funding to an organization without a proven history.  But, without funds, the non-profit will never get off the ground long enough to establish that proven history!  Talk about feeling stuck!

 

 

Desperately Seeking Funding

 

So what is the best way to obtain funds?  You should immediately start scouring the internet for grants and apply for anything even remotely connected to your mission statement, right?  If you enjoy banging your head against a wall then you might find that enjoyable, otherwise there are a few other ways to go about looking for funding.  (But don’t forget about all the awesome services at Grant Gopher!)

 

 

Plan, Plan and Plan Some More

 

Before even starting to seek funding (and really before you even start the nonprofit exemption process) you should draft a business plan to determine how much money you need and if the proposed organization would even work. This planning phase is also the time to see if there are any similar organizations doing comparable work in your immediate area. If so, they are already funded and would be a direct competitor who is in an advantageous position. 

 

 

As part of the business planning process, you will define a Mission Statement. You must have a clearly defined purpose for your organization, otherwise you are putting the cart before the horse.  If you want people to invest in your organization with time and money you need a clear statement in writing.  Anyone who will give you money wants to see a well thought out declaration that provides vital information on structure and planning.

 

 

After you have your shiny, new Mission Statement in hand you have a variety of options.  Here are a few ideas instead of simply filling out grant requests.  (Note:  Make sure you have your incorporation papers and letter of non-profit status before accepting money)

 

 

Family & Friends - Just like when your kids are selling magazines for school, the first place to look for assistance should be family, friends, and colleagues.  Initial seed money often comes from individual donations as well as donations from people within the organization (founders, board members, volunteers, and interested individuals).  Your personal network can be a great resource to help get your idea off the ground.  Also it can be really hard for them to say "No" when you give them your soulful “puppy dog eyes” look.

 

 

Community Leaders - Many non-profits try to include local business and community leaders as Board Members.  This is a good idea as it provides additional contacts, experience, and a larger pool of resources for fundraising. Finding influential people who are passionate for your cause and in turn become invested by joining the board can be a big help in establishing your credibility.

 

 

Research Locally - Find local foundations and other businesses that provide grants for local groups.  You will have less competition compared to national grants and local groups will be more likely to have ties to your existing network.  This can be advantageous if you have a proven track record even though your non-profit doesn't yet.

 

 

Business Clusters - Keep an eye out for local business clusters.  Some states, like California, have innovation hubs that are created to spur economic development, competitiveness, and jobs in regional clusters.  They provide office space and technology support to start-up businesses as well as access to a Board of Mentors who provide valuable experience and insight for free.  This can be a great opportunity to find a small home to start the non-profit.

 

 

Support Organizations - Who in your area might benefit from the launch of your non-profit?  You should approach these businesses and organizations for support.  If they see you as an asset in the future you might gain volunteers, donations, or other types of assistance.  This is sort of a 'you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours' proposition. It is also another way to grow your network.  Even if they can't help now you might be able to work together in the future.

 

 

 

Host a Launch Party - Typically when a new business opens the doors they have a 'Grand Opening'.  You can do the same thing but instead make it a 'Launch Party' where guests provide a donation for tickets to the event or some similar idea.  As a non-profit you need to think 'fundraising' first whenever possible.  This can also be combined as a business mixer to attract future donors and connect people for future endeavors.  Of course this doesn't have to be a business luncheon.  You can have a "Disco Night" or a "Country Rodeo Night" party. There’s no reason to avoid fun and innovation in your “FUN”-D Raising! 

 

 

Starting with a clear plan is vital to the success of your non-profit.  From there, expect to work hard on raising money; fundraising is more competitive than ever.  You need to look for a variety of funding streams because you can't expect to get it all from one place.  Water trickles from many sources to make the biggest rivers and often non-profit funding does as well.  There is no reason to be trapped in a windowless room everyday filling out grant applications, endlessly hoping for money.  Seed grants for starting new nonprofits are rare, so don’t be afraid to refocus your time, get innovative and seek other sources. Your garden will surely bloom!

 

 




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