Vision and passion are wonderful things; they are driving forces behind the creation of most nonprofits. But, it’s money that keeps the organization running.
Behind the lofty public goals of the organization lie the organization’s basic needs, from making payroll to buying equipment and paying the electric bill. And all that takes funding. Going after money is hard work; in fact, it’s probably the hardest part of any grant-seeker’s job.
Grant-seekers must be willing to go hat-in-hand seeking funding, and they have to be able to show why their organization — as opposed to somebody else’s — deserves to be funded. That means they have to make the organization as attractive as possible to potential donors.
Keep in mind that there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the United States, including: 1,036,255 public charities, 100,796 private foundations and 370,180 other types of nonprofits such as chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations and civic leagues.
Private grant-making organizations dispense about $335 billion per year. Public charities reported over $1.65 trillion in total revenues and $1.57 trillion in total expenses last year.
Of the revenue: 21% came from contributions, gifts and government grants; 73% came from program service revenues, which include government fees and contracts and 6% came from “other” sources including dues, rental income, special event income, and gains or losses from goods sold.
The impact of these organizations is enormous. The United Way has 1,279 offices located in every state and virtually every congressional district and works with 37,300 partner agencies across the country. The Jewish Federations of North America represent 157 Jewish Federations, which raise and distribute nearly $3 billion. Lutheran Services in America and its member agencies across the country worked with a budget of more than $16 billion last year. Nonprofit networks, like Feeding America, serve more than 37 million people each year. The list goes on.
As an applicant, if you are fortunate enough to convince a donor to pry the wallet open and fund your organization, always remember that your donor is now a client; you now must address the needs of your donor as well as your organization.
Service = Business
Finally, on top of all this, this is a business. Grant-seekers must manage staff, keep up relationships with vendors, buy equipment and furniture, pay rent, and keep the lights on. Day-to-day management can consume all of a grant-seeker’s time and energy before he or she ahs even begun serving one client or provide any services. You must be able to balance your organization’s practical needs while also focusing on its public service goals.