What can organisations do to better to attract resources?
First, it is important to rethink the relationship with funders. If we feel intimidated or unequal going into a meeting, we might not ask for what we really need, or we might not push back when a funder makes an unfavourable request. The end result is that organisations are left with project funding (rather than core funding) and struggle to stay true to their mission. In our financial resilience work at Spring Strategies, we delve deeply into how to develop more mutual and transformative engagements, with real room for exploration, sharing and co-creation. It’s key to check in with yourself about how you frame the relationship with your funders.
Second, we need to do away with the “overhead myth”. Many funders believe that less overhead is better, as if organisations can tackle huge challenges like human rights violations and climate change without a strong and enabling organisational infrastructure that includes good salaries, excellent technology, persuasive communications, strong financial systems and office spaces that inspire. It’s important to educate funders and negotiate grants that make organisations stronger rather than weaker. At Spring Strategies we encourage people to use the term “Core Mission Support” instead of “Overhead” in order to emphasise that these costs are not an add on, but essential to the success and impact of the organisation.
Third, diversification of funding sources can help organisations weather disruption. While foreign grants will continue to play a big part in financing WROs globally, it is critical to look beyond these grants. Innovation is vital, especially where WROs are positioning themselves for investment capital or impact investment grants, or are building an individual support base.
Fourth, relationships are key. It’s important to really understand the funder and its priorities. Too many groups do not take the time to understand who they are communicating with, and are presenting the same standard proposal to different funders.
Try to approach the relationship-building process in stages. Start with a phone call or an appointment – put out a call to your network to make an introduction if you’re building a new relationship – and use the opportunity to explore what the funder is interested in. Explain in clear and compelling terms why you do the work you do. Invite questions. This process of getting to know one another allows both parties to learn new things that may impact and strengthen the work. And after this meeting, send a short summary of what you discussed and agreed, clarifying parameters before sitting down to write the proposal.
Finally, write funding proposals in a clear and compelling way; include a cover note with a short summary. This makes it easier for funders to understand your work, which in turn raises the chances of a favourable decision.