A Funding Rationale is — simply — why you need the funds and what they will do for your impact. More completely, the arrival at a compelling funding rationale is part messaging and part cost-accounting. A funding rationale describes the funding-need, or ‘ask’, in terms of a compelling project, program, or priority-initiative.
Another way to explain funding rationales is in the context of a sales operation. If you’re committed to sales — as a system for fundraising — then the funding rationales are your ‘products’ and ‘services’ – they’re the compelling things you have to sell — around your IMPACT! A funding goal without a strong funding rationale is like having a quarterly sales goal without any specific products to sell.
Examples of funding rationales:
A Program: Programs are elements of your ongoing impact. Often, you have line-items in your budget for programs — or you have a regular practice of cost-accounting your personnel across programs. How you package and frame the program (for funding) is the funding rationale. This could be:
In terms of ongoing support/subsidy.
Funding a unit of impact. (Eg. It requires $1000 to underwrite the gap for each school.)
Around a time-based goal/outcome. This describes where you are taking the program over the next 3-5-10 years, for example.
A ‘Project’: While ‘project’ can have many applications, we commonly refer to incremental and time-based expenditures as ‘projects’. Examples:
Prototyping a new program.
A building project.
The focus should be on framing the project in a compelling way so that it supports the vision, or offers a compelling vision in-and-of-itself.
Note: Most organizations are familiar with ‘projects’ since the grantmaking world favors project-related-funding.
A Priority Initiative: Priority Initiatives are like mini-campaigns within the context of your total vision. They enable you to package (or bucket) a number of projects and/or programs and build a narrative (typically self-evident from the way the priority initiatives are named/framed — and goals are described).
A Vision (a ‘campaign’ as a project): You can package a total funding need in terms of the vision and the outcome. The vision-as-a-project works best when the project and vision are one-and-the-same, like a new hospital. For more complex plans, the vision is more likely to serve as a container for multiple funding rationales.
Bonus: The examples above speak to the cost-accounting/budgeting approach. There are select times when a funding rationale can be effective when built around the role of the funder’s involvement (eg. leadership, legacy and transformation).
Many of us are taught to PRESENT, but almost nobody is taught to ENGAGE.
When we are taught to PRESENT we are instructed to stand up straight… speak slowly… project your voice… perhaps even with passion! PRESENTING focuses on the commanding actions of the presenter.
ENGAGEMENT focuses on the desired outcome of the other party, or audience. At For Impact we’ve developed this definition for ENGAGE(MENT):
A dynamic within a relationship that holds attention, heightens interest, and motivates toward action.
Without trying to teach the art of engagement in 500-words-or-less, I simply want to raise this awareness. The next time you’re preparing for a conversation, sale, or ‘presentation,’ think less about what you want to say and think more about ways to hold attention, heighten interest, and motivate toward action.
Here are a few nuggets to help you think about ENGAGE(MENT):
Think about questions to ask to get the other person’s brain engaged.
Use visuals, even and especially in one-on-one conversations.
Listen! Don’t interrupt! When someone’s talking it forces them to be present — when they’re talking they are ENGAGED.
If you’re really interested in ENGAGE(MENT) one of the best books I share is Brain Rules by John Medina — specifically Rule (Chapter) #4 on Attention. Medina goes deep into ways to keep the brain engaged.
The Rule of 3 is the ultimate simplification and framing device. It’s powerful because it simplifies anything AND offers an arrangement that is digestible… even attractive to the human mind.
We are wired to receive things in threes. When you have two of something it creates conflict – it’s an either/or. The three-act play uses this – typically the second act creates the tension and the third act resolves.
When you have more than three, studies show the brain is more inclined to ‘give up’ than to internalize all the points.
Going back the Roman age, Cicero became a famed orator using the cadence of three’s in his speaking. Today, politicians, advertising agencies, and media people use this device — the second you look for it, it’s EVERYWHERE.
Think about the resonance and stickiness of three’s…
Small. Medium. Large / Tall. Grande. Venti.
Faith, Hope, and Love.
Goldilocks. Mama Bear, Baby Bear, Papa Bear.
Blood, sweat, and tears. Note: This one comes from a Churchill speech, “Blood, toil, tears and sweat.” The fact that no one remembers toil underscores the point of THREE.
We use the Rule of 3 in a lot of our For Impact framing.
Think Big. Build Simple. Act Now.
The Altitude Framework: Why / What / How
Cast a Vision. Staff a Vision. Fund a Vision.
Speaking. The next time you give a speech, focus on making just three points (or even better yet, three short stories – supporting three simple points). I’ve coached Fortune 500 CEO’s that have said, “I’ve had a lot of communications coaching. That’s one of the best tips I’ve ever received. It’s simple and works every time!”
Simplifying Your Funding Message! Instead of trying to explain ALL of your programs and projects, simply say, “We do these THREE things.”
Productivity. Try to accomplish ONLY THREE things in one day… and become more productive than you ever imagined.
With his first book, really shaped some of my thinking about culture. He defines culture building as HOW YOU WORK. He distinguishes this from values and perks. A good cultural design lets values persist, but values are not in-and-of-themselves the behaviors you’re programming into your work, team or company.*
Ben builds on culture in this second book, going deeper:
Culture isn’t a magical set of rules that makes everyone behave the way you’d like. It’s a system of behaviors that you hope most people will follow, most of the time. Critics love to attack companies for having a “broken culture” or being “morally corrupt,” but it’s actually a minor miracle if a culture isn’t dysfunctional. No large organization ever gets anywhere near 100 percent compliance on every value, but some do much better than others. Our aim here is to be better, not perfect.
Horowitz, Ben. What You Do Is Who You Are (p. 17). Harper Business.
When I think about the most successful sales (fundraising) cultures we’ve seen, they all emerged from well-defined and then focused behaviors — sales team meetings, defined sales process, goals/metrics. This focus is a really simple insight for something as complex as ‘culture’!!!!
The behaviors are easier to identify, integrating the behaviors + people is always the trickier part which is why the last sentence is so important: Our aim here is to be better, not perfect.
*In the Hard Thing about Hard Things Ben says, “Yoga is a perk, not a culture.” <– For those who know us it’s worth sharing… years ago we started a fringe benefit program at For Impact | The Suddes Group to fund gym memberships, YOGA!, and other things that would help our team achieve optimal health. We named the program ‘Culture of Health‘. We still have the program and name ‘Culture of Health‘, but when we really geek out on ‘culture’, I will be the first to admit: the program is a perk which reinforces a value: it does not much inform a system of behaviors for how we work.)
There are a lot of ways to process this nugget. However, we use it most when we’re trying to create a funding message. Typically, a team starts by assembling words into flowery prose. They’re too focused on arranging their own words. It’s often helpful to throw all that out… start with a blank sheet of paper and ask, “What do you want the prospect to HEAR?”
Often, we’re looking for the prospect to HEAR that we SAVE, CHANGE, or IMPACT lives.
I was catching up on past Chronicle of Philanthropy issues this weekend. A stat from April 2019 – Campaign Fever (subscription required) jumped out at me: “The potential estate wealth poised to change hands over the next several years is unprecedented — a projected $9 trillion by 2027, according to an analysis released last year by e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems.”
I’ve seen all sorts of numbers about the estimated transfer-of-wealth from the boomer generation… we’ve been writing about the coming transfer for almost fifteen years. I’ve seen ‘total transfer estimates’ to be between $7 trillion and $100 trillion. Who knows what the real numbers will be but this study was a reminder that the wave is coming.
I suspect – over the next five years – we’ll start to see evidence of the transfer as increasingly more planned/estate gifts mature. I further suspect these will be products of lifetime relationships.. the time to be engaging and having conversations with funders about planned gifts is now!
For 36 years, For Impact has been creating and supporting levers for change behind the most important causes of our lifetime, including climate restoration, international development, health care access, health equity, community resilience, education reform, reproductive rights, and social justice.
In support of these causes, For Impact has helped raise more than $2 Billion! Perhaps more importantly, we’ve provided leadership development and fundraising training to more than 10,000 leaders from every state and 40+ countries.
The For Impact Fellowship is a key part of our commitment to transforming the sector — to develop the next generation of talent necessary to change the world!
What is the For Impact Fellowship?
The For Impact Fellowship is a paid one-year employment program that mentors individuals with promising leadership potential. Fellows will receive intensive training. They will work ‘in-the-field’ on funding campaigns, and they will engage directly in sales (think: selling a mission or vision — fundraising), owning a portfolio of prospects. Fellows will receive intensive training and mentorship in the areas of:
Sales / Major Gifts Fundraising
Team Building / Leading
The myriad of connections and priceless experiences Fellows gain will advance any career path.
Does this describe you? We created this fellowship to fast-track the development of the person who feels a general or a specific calling to help others. These are people who:
Know they have strong interpersonal and communication skills (excellent writing abilities are a must) — but school didn’t fully show them how to leverage and apply those skills.
Are entrepreneurial, in that they’ve started and built programs — or even a business — in the past. Even if they didn’t succeed!
Feel the ‘fierce urgency of now.’ They don’t need to have a clear direction for their energies (that’s why we developed this fellowship!), but they feel restless — they need to get busy making an impact in the world (somehow).
Fellows will be full-time employees of For Impact | The Suddes Group. One fellowship will be based at our headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, and the other will be based at our Denver, Colorado, office.
Fellows will be paired with a For Impact Partner to work on projects throughout the U.S. (so… there will be travel).
Fellows will be paid an annualized salary of $40,000, and receive standard health, vision and dental benefits, as well as vacation and sick time, and can participate in other really cool benefits.
Fellows are responsible for their own housing but we will support the housing process with recommended locations.
Application is open to all but we are looking for individuals with a college degree (any field of study), two years of work experience and/or a partial or completed graduate degree (in any field of study). Work experience does not need to be in the not-for-profit field.
How does the application process work?
Our selection process will begin July 1, 2019 and operate on a rolling basis until we’ve identified two emerging leaders. We’ll be evaluating candidates through several steps:
Application: Submit a resume, as well as a cover letter that shows your thoughtful – and authentic – explanation of: 1) Why this Fellowship is right for you; 2) Your passion for changing the world; 3) Anything else that’s important to share about your story. Send these materials to firstname.lastname@example.org.
First Interview: An in-depth video interview with our Director of Talent, Jessica Gemm, so we can talk about what’s behind your application (and a few additional questions we’ll have), and answer your questions about the Fellowship.
Second Interview: A final interview with our President, Nick Fellers, and his senior partners Traci Bruckner in Ohio and Steve Elder in Colorado.
References: Conversations with a few key references to understand different perspectives on your background, contributions, and potential.
A solid and complete visit strategy has three parts:
Predisposition (before). Predisposition is what you do before the visit to set the context for the visit.
The Visit (often including the ask). Strategy about the visit focuses on how you will navigate the flow of the conversation toward your goals.
Follow-up (after). Most commitments are generated through timely and persistent follow-up.
So, the context of a visit is set before you visit with the prospect using predisposition and the outcome is cemented after the visit using follow-up.
Think about how much focus and energy you devote to each part of the strategy. For most of us, it looks something like this:
Compare that to this image, which spends more total energy on the prospect strategy by putting more energy into predisposition and follow-up:
It’s natural to focus our attention on the visit, since it’s where the emotional connection happens – we gear up for that and then exhale after the visit. The visual above helps us to be deliberate in our focus. Most of us need to be investing a lot more energy into predisposition and follow-up.
For each top-prospect-strategy ask yourself, “What else can we be doing in predisposition and follow-up?”
How can we use our champions (more) before or after the visit to create excitement? Or to validate our project? Perhaps it’s a simple phone call placed as part of the follow-up strategy: “Thank you for taking time to meet with Nick. I’m invested in this project and just wanted to share how important it is to me and offer to answer any questions you might have. Thanks for your consideration!”
Can we send something else, before or after the visit? Perhaps we make a care package containing copies of testimonial letters from those impacted by our work. What if we sent a package to arrive 24 hours before our visit?
Get them to campus! This can be literal or it can be useful as a metaphor. Get them to see your impact as part of the predisposition and/or follow-up strategy!