It only took a quick Google search to see that there are nearly 800 registered non-profit organizations in Grays Harbor County. From education to social services to charitable funds, Grays Harbor contains a great number of projects aimed at improving the welfare of the community through hard work and funding.

So, how do non-profits get funding in order to do their important work? We wanted to share a bit about the experience locally and beyond of obtaining funding for projects, as we work with many non-profits who use these funds to improve their marketing and branding efforts.

Even a non-profit faces the challenge of finding a good marketing strategy that fits their budget, but it’s not always as straight-forward as it might be in a business. A business may consider their marketing budget to come from a percentage of sales or projected sales, while a non-profit can think about marketing in a much less linear way as they have access to a variety of funding options… not direct sales.

Local Grant Programs

Many non-profit organizations receive funding through grants. There are many MANY foundations and funds that provide money for either specific projects or general operations around the country. In Grays Harbor, we have a few which stand out where we often see our non-profit clients are obtaining funds from. For some clients, we also may go through a process of building out the proposal and grant application with them for their marketing and design projects BEFORE they have been funded so they have a more accurate application.

What is important to remember when applying for grants?

  1. Pay attention to the organizations mission. Many of these organizations have a tendency to fund certain kinds of requests over others. For instance, the County Tourism LTAC fund provides marketing funds to non-profits and events which exemplify and enhance the mission of bringing visitors to the area. Your request should fit into the mission, paying close attention to the words you use in your request and finding ways to show in your application that you are, in fact, promoting their mission as well.
  2. Pay attention to the organizations’ history. How much does a foundation typically fund for a similar project or organization as yours? What is their overall annual budget and what types of projects do they seem to fund more often? This will help you ensure your ask is fitting with what they find typical.
  3. Do your homework! As a past board member for a foundation, you might be surprised to hear that many organizations submit incomplete or incoherent grant applications. One word answers and illegible handwriting are ill advised when applying for thousands of dollars in grant funding. Treat your application like you would any job application or important homework assignment. Show you care and you know what you’re doing through the factual information, the storytelling AND the basic ability to put together a complete application.

Here are some local organizations worth check in with if you are looking for grant funding!

Grays Harbor Community Foundation

Seabrook Community Foundation

LTAC/County Tourism

Various city project grants

Event Fundraising

This is a common one in Grays Harbor! There are many pros and cons to event fundraising and we will be following up in a few weeks with an entire blog post dedicated to this because it can be so complicated. As opposed to grant funding, where you submit an application and get a chunk of money, event fundraising provides an opportunity for many people to give a little… though the key here is that many of those gifted funds are essentially in exchange for an entertaining event.

Putting on events is a lot of work and there are important considerations to make before launching a project like this. One of the major ones I see is that you might be doing TOO MANY events and diluting your donor pool too quickly. A good fundraising event provides a unique experience, draws a passionate crowd with the means to give generously, and gives your organization a chance to bring people together in support of a good cause.

Donor Programs

Speaking of individual donors, every non-profit should have a donor program. It could be as simple as a donation bucket at a local business… but ideally you would be able to track and maintain contact with those who donate to your program or non-profit. There’s a variety of software made specifically for this task (it’s convoluted… I know, I had a short stint as a development manager for a shelter and had to manage all of this). When you set up a way to keep in contact OR a way for donors to make regular, even automated, gifts you have the ability of keeping a more regular donation schedule AND can keep these folks up to date in order to continually gain their confidence in your work.

Through all of these ways of gaining funds, there is a major need to market your organization from that first contact with a potential donor! You should present yourself and your organization as a knowledgeable and reputable organization with a well thought through mission and vision. The way you present this is your marketing. And one of the amazing benefits of non-profits is that you have GREAT stories to tell! You are making a difference! If you are not already recording stories, quotes and impact from your work on those benefiting from your services, you must start now.

The stories you share will enhance your chances of gaining more funds and continuing to grow and reach more people. Tell your stories through grants, events and donor programs over and over again. Find champions within your organization and find compelling messages.

Stay tuned for next week when we’ll tell more about the unique challenge of Target Marketing for non-profits.