Find Your Funding Spark: 3 Things about Mission & Impact

Cross-posted with permission from Maryland Nonprofits. Part of the “Stronger Organizations, Stronger Networks track at this years MANO Conference. Learn more and register here: bit.ly/MANOAC17.

If a stranger asked to live in your house for free, what would you say?

Probably no, right?—because you expect something in return: rent.

Well, we can’t ask donors to invest in our organizations without giving them something in return, either! We have to demonstrate that our organizations are worthy investments by showing our funders a return, which is …… IMPACT!

Any time you are thinking of your fundrasing strategy, ask yourself: What impact are we achieving with our mission? This is the first question you have to answer to create a successful strategy for your organization.

Here are three things to consider about mission and impact as they relate to your fundraising:

1. Recognize that not all missions are able to achieve the same kind of impact, and not all funders want the same kind of impact. An animal shelter and a local theater company will have very different types of impact. Thus, their missions will attract different types of donors. The theater company is more likely to attract corporate funders because they provide opportunities for advertising to a local community audience, while the animal shelter might be slightly more successful with individual donors because of their love of animals. It’s important to know how your organization’s mission and resulting impact match up with various types of donors.

2. Know the difference between outcomes and impact. Outcomes are the direct result of how you implement your strategy. The impact is the change that occurs as a result of the outcomes.

Here’s an example: The (hypothetical) DC Animal Rescue Shelter’s mission is to reduce animal cruelty and protect animals from kill shelters. One of their strategies is to patrol the streets for stray animals. The outcome of that strategy would be the number of stray animals they rescue. The impact of that strategy might be decreased litter and waste in the neighborhood, fewer animal noises at night/more quiet neighborhood, or people feeling safer letting their pets out at night.

3. Invest time and resources in measuring impact. It doesn’t have to be super expensive or complicated to measure impact. Let’s continue with the example of DC Animal Rescue Shelter. They want to have some way of quantifying their impact over time, but they don’t have a lot of time or money for evaluation. With a clear understanding about what it is that motivates their donors to invest, the DC Animal Rescue Shelter can gather information from the community and use it to craft their appeals.

For example, the staff at the shelter knows that litter and animal waste in the neighborhood is a major issue for the local homeowner’s association. They also know that getting stray animals off the street can reduce litter and animal waste. So, they might survey community members before and after a patrol to determine whether their strategy of patrolling for and rescuing stray animals does, in fact, reduce litter and animal waste around the neighborhood. If they are able to show their impact in this way, they will have a strong case for support from the members of the homeowner’s association. They could do the survey over email, or by canvassing, or by tabling at a local fair or festival. As you can see, this method is not complicated or terribly expensive, but very valuable for demonstrating impact.

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