10.24 Seeking Sustainable Funding Sources

Dear Kim:

We are brand new foundation based in South Africa offering housing, access to clean water and food security to the poor people all over the continent. We have seed funding for projects for 2013 but need to find funding to sustain us over the long haul.  What are the immediate next steps for doing that? 

~Looking Further Down the Road

Dear Further: 

Your work is obviously very important, and, with few exceptions, probably not too controversial.  South Africa has a dynamic and vigorous NGO sector, and many South African nonprofits are funded by a wide range of individuals as well as by foundations and other institutions.  Since you are fairly set for 2013, I would spend time talking with other service providers, including some of the really large players such as World Vision, and see what works for them.  They have more resources to spend than you, and they have established themselves, but what did they do starting out?  What can you adapt to your smaller situation?  When I was first in fundraising 35 years ago, I spent a lot of time talking to development people at big organizations.  I got advice that I put into three categories:  not helpful at all, not helpful right now, and HELPFUL.  I then created a plan to implement ideas I thought were helpful now or would be when certain things were in place.  I ran those plans by people I knew and refined them.  The fact is that few organizations start out as household names with giant budgets unless they are endowed and named after someone who is, him or herself, a household word.  They start with 20, 50, 100 donors and move on from there.  You also need to think about how you WANT to be funded in 2020.  What makes the most sense for your mission?  What gives you the most flexibility?  Here in the USA, many organizations have raised a lot of money from foundations, but now foundations are shifting priorities or spending down.  These organizations have no one to fall back on and many of them will close.  Their problem is that they only looked for immediate sources of funding, and did not think about what best served the long-term interest of their work.

Good luck!

~Kim Klein