I founded the nonprofit Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) in 1987 on my public high-school teacher's salary. Over the next three decades, I spent a huge chunk of my time figuring out how to raise the millions of dollars we needed each year to fulfill our mission of bringing entrepreneurship education to low-income youth around the world.
Today, NFTE’s annual budget is $13 million, with much of that funding coming from the corporate community—a natural partner in helping kids learn business skills in order to escape a future in poverty.
I experienced tremendous anxiety and made lots of mistakes--but I learned many valuable lessons I can now share with my clients here at SMP. Here's what's key to know: Corporate foundations and philanthropies rely on a team of experts to forge partnerships with nonprofits around the world who often share their social vision.
These experts are the gatekeepers you need to impress.
Below is an invaluable interview with one such former gatekeeper, SMP principal Anuja Khemka, who shares four great tips for how you can attract corporate funding to your nonprofit.
Anuja served as Vice President at the JPMorgan Chase Global Philanthropy group, where she spent years evaluating proposals and helping nonprofits shape projects worthy of corporate funding. She is also a Management Fellow at Columbia University focusing on Social Enterprise Administration.
Steve Mariotti: Aside from having solid financials and noteworthy impact, what are some effective ways nonprofits can position themselves more competitively to receive funding?
Anuja Kehmka: Here are four great tips any nonprofit can use to improve its attractiveness to funders.
1. Focus on Alignment, Avoid Mission Creep
Corporate foundations are strategic and targeted about their giving. They have solidified program areas which define the exact issue area they are looking to fund and the population they want to serve. One example might be entrepreneurship education for low-income women.
Before approaching a potential funder, therefore, investigate the corporate foundation’s program areas of giving and be sure you understand them. Then, request funding for programs that align with these.
It's very important, however, that you do not undermine your mission to make a program fit with a corporate funder. If it's not a good fit, don't try to force it. Look for a funder whose giving aligns with your mission.
2. Always Be Evaluating
Corporations will focus on your measurable outcomes, your track record and embedded evaluation. Make sure you can showcase what your evaluation method will be, how will you measure success, and what success will look like.
At SMP we help our clients develop their measurable "unit of change," which is analogous to a for-profit business's "unit of sale." If you provide entrepreneurship education for low-income women, for example, you could set benchmarks like "100 women trained in entrepreneurship education in Year 1," or "two white papers produced on the positive impact created on GDP through women’s participation in the workforce."
3. Showcase Your Impact with Media
Cultivate relationships with reporters from different press and media outlets—especially those that cover the development sector or the issues your nonprofit tries to solve. Garnering noteworthy press adds unique credibility to your organization.
Communicate with funders in creative and compelling ways. Tell real, human stories that showcase your impact. Use other media in addition to print--such as photos and videos--to inspire potential funders to feel engaged with the people your organization is helping.
4. Connect with important networks.
There are so many organizations you can join that will make you more credible and help you network. Just a few examples are: Philanthropy New York, Council on Foreign Relations, Aspen Institute and the World Economic Forum. Doing so will not only help position your organization as a leader in the field, but can help further your cause by better informing the whole sector.