Many people find fundraising scary. They cringe just thinking of asking friends for money, making unwelcome and annoying calls, and sending out yet another long-winded plea for grant funding. But fundraising is really about creating connections and synergies that provide mutually beneficial partnerships to otherwise disparate groups. If you think about fundraising as being about creating win-win relationships, instead of money, you will tap into an entirely different and much more rewarding experience.
Below, SMP principal Anuja Khemka shares three tips for successfully forging these critical relationships. Anuja also shares her inspiring experience in India leveraging the tools she learned in corporate philanthropy to help children living in slums, trafficked women and sex workers' children.
Three Tips to Improve Your Relationships with Corporate Funders
1. Leverage Your Board
Leverage influential board members to rally on your behalf. First, look for connections between your board and corporate leaders. Make meaningful introductions between these two sets of key influencers so they can form a mutually beneficial partnership to create positive change.
At the same time, give your board of directors attention and care by providing leadership training, learning retreats, and networking opportunities. Remember, no factor is more compelling than an engaged CEO with a demonstrated commitment to partnership.
2. Engage Program Officers
Program officers will either bat for you or boo you when their board votes on your proposal for funding. They can also be your guides and help you develop the nuances of a winning proposal.
Developing an honest, two-way relationship with the program officers who are most important to you can help you get ahead of the pack. Engage them as thought partners and encourage them to be completely truthful with you about the challenges your organization needs to fix.
Program officers can also help you attract additional funding through their network and serve as a reference for your organization.
3. Build Capacity
Develop and invest in capacity building around evaluation, communications, marketing, and board engagement. Doing so will help your nonprofit gain the competitive advantage many others competing for the same funding may be missing.
Building these organizational capabilities may seem difficult at first, but it is doable if you prioritize your goals and align your resources. Be honest with yourself about what your organization needs most. Get capacity building groups and experts to come support your growth goals.
Helping Women and Children in India
Steve Mariotti: How did you go beyond your career in corporate philanthropy to work on-the-ground in India?
Anuja Khemka: Sometimes life-changing moments happen on very ordinary days, in ordinary places. It was a busy day when I met I Create CEO, Ulhas Kamat, at a Starbucks on Wall Street. He described the entrepreneurship work they were doing to help public school students in India. At which point it occurred to me: why not take the entrepreneurship program to Mumbai slums, red light areas and juvenile prisons, and provide entrepreneurship training to populations that find it hard to get jobs because of the stigma they carry.
Ulhas was enthusiastic so I actively fundraised to implement this program and met my target funding goal. I convened three major NGOs in Mumbai dealing with slum children, trafficked women, and sex workers’ children--Door Step School, YUVA, and Prerana Anti-Trafficking. We taught the children about entrepreneurship and how they could launch their own micro-businesses through a 3-week bootcamp. These children formed teams, conceptualized businesses, delivered elevator pitches and developed their self-confidence together. This was a huge accomplishment for them, given the backgrounds they were coming from—slums, red light areas, brothels, jails.
SM: What was your experience with the impact of the program?
AK: A few months later, I got reports and thank you letters from the participants. A small child from the slums, Sanjay, wrote, “Now I don’t have to wash tea cups to earn a living, I can have my own tea shop!” Another girl, Nida, who lived in a very orthodox slum wrote, “Girls in my slum are not allowed to leave home and travel to attend school, so I have started a home-school for all the girls my slum. The income from this business is helping to support my whole family.”
A sex-worker, Shabnam, wrote, “I have started a business selling plastic toys for children. The income from this business has helped me leave the sex trade and move out of the brothel.”
One of the inmates from Jhansi Jail wrote, “Had this kind of education been given to us earlier, we would have opted for this life, rather than a life of murder and crime.... Now we know where to go.”
A simple idea turned into reality in a moment and changed thousands of lives. Since that first workshop five years ago, I have helped I Create raise funds to reach over 6,000 children from the most troubled pockets of society. Every month I receive such stories of deep transformation. That’s what motivates me to continue fundraising for this program.
I feel blessed to have learned program planning, evaluation, and communications from the best of mentors. I want to take different opportunities to share whatever I have learned with nonprofit leaders—all striving to create change and happiness for those who need it the most.