No matter how worthy your mission or heartfelt your enthusiasm, you likely need funding to make your youth program a reality. That’s why our experts at BellXcel took the time to speak on this vitally important topic in a recent webinar. Check out five of their top tips for boosting your fundraising strategy:
1. Explore all your options.
First, it’s important to consider the full breadth of options for fundraising. There are a variety of funding avenues to explore, including:
- Public grants, including funding from federal, state, and local governments.
- Private grants and donations from foundations and philanthropic individuals.
- A fee-based program model in which families pay to enroll.
For a fully funded program, a combination of public and private funds is often the best option.
School partnerships can also play into your fundraising strategy. Consider whether you can partner with a school to come under their funding umbrella or work with them to provide vouchers to students in need within a fee-based model.
2. Ensure funding requirements align with your mission.
The best partnerships start with shared goals and priorities, so you should look for a funding partner that is on the same page as you. For example, a faith-based nonprofit fundraising strategy may prioritize churches and religiously affiliated organizations as potential partners. A program focused on reading may want to partner with schools and public libraries.
Keep in mind that most grants come with compliance requirements. The granting organization has a vested interest in how your funds are used and the outcomes of your program, so it’s understandable that they often require some level of accountability.
This is another reason why it’s important to seek funding from organizations or individuals that share your mission and values. Their definition of success in your program should seamlessly align with yours. (It’s also why it’s important to have a reliable and convenient means of tracking data like attendance and program outcomes.)
3. Pair data with participant stories to appeal to funders.
Hard data on the scope and success of your program is a major asset when you’re applying for funding and as you demonstrate outcomes to funders. However, data alone can fail to tell the full story.
When it comes to private funding partners, you can make a stronger impression by providing stories of real kids or even staff members in your program to humanize the message and demonstrate your impact.
A statistic about the number of months of learning gained on average across your student population is great, but it may not pull at your partner’s heartstrings quite as much as an account of a kid who started the year apathetic about school and ended with a smile on their face and an enthusiasm for a particular subject. If you can, include the student’s words in your story or quotes from their family and teachers.
4. Build a lasting relationship with funding partners.
School and community partnerships can deliver benefits beyond funding, so it’s important to broaden your perspective and approach to funding partners. Focus on relationship building rather than approaching partnerships as transactions.
In the initial stages, this can look like collaborating with potential partners on your funding strategy and communicating openly about their goals for programming. After you win a grant or secure funding, the work doesn’t stop there—you need a robust communication strategy to meet compliance requirements and maintain the relationship long-term.
Download “The Youth Programmer’s Checklist to Successfully Partner with Schools” to learn more about forming a strong partnership.
5. Diversify your sources of funding.
Finally, ensure you’re not relying on one funding source because this puts you in a precarious position. If a grant isn’t renewed or a donor chooses to discontinue their funding or ceases to be a good fit, you could find yourself scrambling to keep your doors open.
Diversify your funding sources so that, in these circumstances, you still have a solid donor pipeline supporting your program. You may still need to seek out new sources of funding, but you won’t be starting from square one.
For example, the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds are a great option to pursue right now, but there is no guarantee these funds will remain beyond 2024. That means although ESSER funds can help schools and community-based organizations right now, they’re not the most reliable long-term option. Consider other sources of public funding or private funds in addition to temporary aid.
Learn more about developing a great fundraising strategy.
From considering all your options to finding the right partner and getting them excited about your program, there’s a lot to consider with your fundraising strategy. Want to learn more from our experts? Watch the on-demand webinar, “Fundraising Strategies for Youth Programs”!