Non-profit organisations (NPOs) have always been the backbone of society, but are under huge pressure to deliver even more services as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown. Despite their contributions, however, many NPOs are struggling financially due to diminished funding.

It is more important than ever for NPO leaders to nurture relationships with potential donors, to be thoroughly prepared for a meeting with a prospective funder, and to follow up in a professional manner.

This is according to Inyathelo, a non-profit established in 2002, with a key mandate to help other NPOs to become financially sustainable and well-governed.

One of Inyathelo’ s most popular resources for the non-profit sector is a collection of five booklets comprising the Attracting Support Kit for NPOs. This is available from the Inyathelo website for R300. The booklets were initially commissioned by the Western Cape Department of Social Development and are now in their second edition.

Referring to the fifth volume in the series, Fundraising meetings and writing proposals, Inyathelo Finance Director Soraya Joonas offers nine crucial tips to help NPOs to hold successful fundraising meetings.

  1. Do your research: Check that the individual, company or foundation shares common values with your organisation. Have they visited your projects, met a Board member or donated in the past? Many donors’ circumstances have changed. If a company is laying off staff, it is unlikely to have funds.
  2. Build a relationship: Donors give money to organisations they know and like. If someone is already aware of your organisation and has confidence in it, they are far more likely to support it.
  3. Set up a meeting: Ensure you can provide plenty of information on your NPO and its programmes, and the project you require funds for. Allow time for the potential donor’s comments and questions.
  4. Meeting attendance: The CEO or executive director should attend, plus the finance director or project leader, to answer specific questions. This will enable you to work as a team and talk to one another’s strengths and knowledge.
  5. Likely questions: Be prepared with appropriate facts and figures on the following topics:
    • Stories – capture the voices and perspectives of recipients who have benefitted from your work. This could be letters of thanks, a videoclip, a short interview or feed-back in your monitoring and evaluation reports.
    • Statistics – how many people does your organisation help?
    • Budget – size of your organisational budget and the programme/project budget range
    • Other donors – who else supports your organisation?
    • Staff – how qualified and competent are they?
    • Impact – what has changed in the community due to your work?
    • Sustainability – what is your sustainability plan and how can the donor be assured that you will be a partner with longevity?
  6. After the meeting: Write ashort contact report for your organisation on the meeting; write a thank you and confirmation letter to the potential donor; and follow up with a funding proposal. Ideally this should reach the recipient a week before the due date so that the recipient can check it and make comments to improve it.
  7. Statement of need: This paragraph is a central part of a proposal. It should accurately describe the problem to be addressed, and show you are passionate about the issue. This will encourage the prospective donor to read the rest of the document.
  8. No response? Politely emailto confirm whether they received the proposal and if there has been any progress. Do not nag. It could be that your proposal may only be considered at a Board meeting scheduled for later on in the year, or for when a new budget is allocated.
  9. Not successful? You may ask politelyif there was as specificreason why a grant was not made. You can then have a discussion within your NPO on where you can improve. It is not necessary to take rejection personally.
  10. Remember that even if a donor is unable to support you now, they may be able to within their strategy in the future, or be able to extend a network to those that could support your work now, says Ms Joonas.

    “Tell your story accurately and with passion, provide facts and figures, and show that you are competent to carry through and to action the plan.”

    First published in iAfrica and WomenOnTop