Do the math to simplify your funding story.
To me ‘doing the math’ means owning and internalizing an understanding of your numbers. It also means taking the time to simplify the numbers in a way that others (board, prospects, staff) can understand. Numbers tell stories.
DO THE MATH to determine:
Your gap. Sell your gap.
Private schools have a simple gap between the tuition and the cost per student. Schools should ask funders to fund that gap. Example: $1016 per child. Sponsor one child for one year.
We also do work with a lot of performing arts centers. For round numbers, let’s say box office support makes up 50% of the annual budget. This is a 50% gap. You can package any program and ask someone to fund the gap in that program 50%.
The true cost of programs.
This is a big one. Organizations frequently under-estimate the true cost to deliver a program. Worse, many don’t know, they just pick a number out of the air. The cost to deliver the program (impact) is essential to your funding rationale. Knowing the real numbers boosts confidence in the ask and helps the funder buy into a funding rationale. You can ask someone to underwrite part or all of the program.
A funding rationale around impact.
Along with the previous point, you can do the math to tie programming monies to impact. Clean and simple example to illustrate the concept: Let’s say you have a program that impacts 4th-6th graders at (80 classrooms @ 20 students per class) at 40 schools. You can do the math to create a simple funding rationale:
- $80,000 to underwrite the program for one year
- $2,000 per school
- $1,000 per class
- $50 per child
Funders will appreciate your creative packaging to communicate the impact value so long as you’re simplifying (not changing) the math to tell your story.
A funding plan (this assumes you have a funding goal).
I’m still amazed every time I walk into an organization and no one can agree on a funding goal. Without a goal how can you do the math to get to the goal?
When you’re selling a vision you can also sell ‘the plan’. If it helps, think of a ‘mega-project’ that will require the participation and support of 32 funders. To get one funder on board you will need intelligent and believable math illustrating the funding plan for all 32 funders.
For some organizations the math will be clean (like the examples above). Other times it takes a lot of work to make it simple. In writing this piece I quickly reviewed the math for 80 past clients – organizations of every shade and shape – sometimes the math took minutes and sometimes days. However, in EVERY case we were able to get some simple math around a gap, a program, the impact or a plan. It can be done.