For Impact


The Foundational Framework for High Dollar Fundraising

Story | | Nick Fellers

These two words, arranged from left to right, illustrate a powerful framework to help us with fundraising.

Impact drives income.

  • Insight: It’s not the other way around. Whereas we often start with a need (a funding goal, a capital campaign, a budget), in order to raise the funds, we must excel at articulating and engaging with the impact (those funds will have).
  • Funders have a challenge. You can help solve that challenge! The challenge is to… have an impact. It’s not to fund a capital campaign, or to give unrestricted funds.
    A few years ago, I sat with one of the top philanthropists on the planet and shared this simple visual. They said, “Actually having an impact is THE holy grail. It’s not always clear that the funding is HAVING an impact.”
    I think about that a lot. This individual is reported to be worth over $5 Billion, and yet, the quest for them was IMPACT! (We went on to talk about all the projects and grant requests they had funded without feeling – or knowing – they’d had an impact. This presents a fundraising opportunity for you and me.)
  • We have a storytelling problem as a sector. I know you’re having an impact. You know you’re having an impact. Our challenge, then, is in communicating and engaging around that impact. As we’ve noted for many years, this begins with what we call ourselves: it’s not about being a “not-for-profit,” it’s about being “for impact.”
  • It’s a process. First impact, then income. When we’re helping someone approach a funder, we often will say, “Don’t worry about the money part. Focus FIRST on connecting around the impact. If you’re successful here, then the prospect will often ask, ‘How can I help?’ and you can transition to what you need on the income side.”
    Or, more literally, we might start a prospect conversation by saying, “We would love to share a little bit about our purpose and impact and then talk about the impact you’re looking to have. If there is alignment, we would love to explore ways to work together.” If you ever find yourself uncertain, you can always just focus on the impact.