Creating a Sustainable Funding Stream

Increase the sustainability of your funding stream by strengthening the connection between donors and clients.  Whether it is a one-to-one relationship (donor to client) or a one-to-many relationship (donor to clients) will depend on your services and the cost of your services.

At Mission Enablers, our experience suggests that donors find making gifts that meaningfully, measurably, and durably change a life are the most fulfilling.  Small gifts provide most donors with the opportunity to make a fulfilling contribution.  Since the small gift can be directly connected to a client, it is easy for the donor to feel a direct connection.  When many small gifts must be pooled before a single client can be served, the donor’s connection to a client seems less direct and personal.  In this case, if possible, it is best to subdivide the client’s needs into gift-size increments so the donors can feel direct and personal connections.

For example, buying a child a winter coat is a meaningful and measurable gift.  However, the durability is low (winter will end or the child will outgrow the coat).  In addition, the duration of the connection between the donor and the child is limited because it is a single transaction.  Ideally, there would be a need for the donor to provide recurring support for the child.  Providing a coat once a year is good but providing quarterly, monthly, or weekly support for several years is better.  Paying for or being a weekly mentor or tutor is one example.

The desire of the donor to stay connected to the client significantly increases the sustainability of your funding stream.  Participating in an ongoing need helps donors feel that they are part of the process.  From the donors’ perspectives, transactional activities (giving a coat for instance) feel impersonal.  When there are ongoing connections, the donors feel committed until the need is met.

It is also necessary to keep the donor connected to the problem the mission statement promises to solve.  In this example, the winter coat is just one of the many needs the client has.  It is part of their journey toward the endpoint.  Therefore, donor communication must report the milestones achieved by the client so that the donor understands how the coat is creating success for the client and fulfilling the promise rather than just meeting a need.

Next Step:

Help each of your donors to understand how their donations connect them to clients in ways that are meaningful to the donors

Use your donor cultivation activities to monitor each donor’s level of connectedness

Measure the effectiveness of your fundraising based upon the connectedness of the donors rather than the dollars raised

Once the donor feels connected to one or more of the clients and understands how that connection leads to the success of the client and the fulfillment of the mission, the donor will develop a sense of responsibility and see themselves as a partner rather than a donor.  When the sense of responsibility to the clients and partnership with your nonprofit develops, you will know that you have significantly increased the sustainability of your nonprofit and funding stream.

Your donors make funds available for charity because they have a well-developed sense of responsibility.  When they add your clients to their list of responsibilities, you will have a very strong bond with your donors.

Take It Further:

Extend the process to include volunteers, board members, and staff members

Use donor loyalty as another indicator of the growing bond between your donors and clients


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