Telling Your Overhead Story

| by Seth Crawford

This week's guest blogger is Seth Crawford, Marketing Strategist at Angel Oak Creative in Raleigh, NC. Angel Oak Creative specializes in what its team is most passionate about: exposing and empowering the stories of nonprofit and for-mission organizations through marketing. We enjoy working along side them to strengthen the capacity of several great nonprofits in our community.   

Every nonprofit can relate to the constant struggle of trying to run effective programs AND raise unrestricted dollars to support those programs. If you’re like most nonprofits, you’ve encountered donors who just don't understand that unrestricted funds are required to sustain the programs donors love.

But what if there was a way to prove it? What if you could show the programmatic impact and economic value of unrestricted funds? 

You can.

You just need to learn how to tell the story. A story capable of raising unrestricted dollars. A story like this:

Wait. Let’s set the stage. Before you can start thinking about telling a story like this, you need to first identify one key program on which to focus. Your nonprofit may do a lot. But it’s hard to explain a lot. So get targeted in your approach. Sit down and determine the largest need in the community that your nonprofit seeks to address. In the case of our Unnamed Nonprofit, that need is home foreclosures. 

Case Study: Unnamed Nonprofit 

1.  Identifying the local issue

a. Wake County holds one of the highest foreclosure rates in the state

b. 1 in 400 homes is foreclosed

2.  Impact on Individuals

a.  The homes of neighbors next to foreclosed homes decline in value by an average off $1,500

b.  If you live in a neighborhood in which foreclosures aren’t an issue, the impact still hits close to home

Okay, pause. Do you see how the nonprofit continues to drive home the importance of the issue? It uses data to show the impact on individuals. If the issue you address doesn’t directly impact every individual, find the community impact and show the indirect effects. Like this:

3.  Impact on Community

a.  National average cost of foreclosures to local governments is $77,935

b.  Who’s paying for it? Your tax dollars

 Boom. The issue is everybody’s problem.

4.  Nonprofit Intervention

a.  In steps Unnamed Nonprofit

b.  Foreclosure prevention costs Unnamed Nonprofit $3,300

c.  96% less than what it costs local governments

5.  Nonprofit Impact

a.  Proof is in the pudding

b.  Programmatic: In five years, Unnamed Nonprofit has prevented 2,300 homes from foreclosing

c.  Economic: $174 million in savings to the local economy 

So, sound like a nonprofit worthy of your support and funding? What if I told you that if this nonprofit were able to invest $50,000 in fundraising, that $174 million in savings would sky rocket? What about that by offering unrestricted dollars to this nonprofit, your donation would actually multiply? Sound worthy of your unrestricted dollars?

Here’s the key. Data. Data and specific impact metrics are vital to proving your worth as a nonprofit. But maybe your nonprofit doesn’t have any data tracking protocol in place. Maybe it will take a few years to gather all the appropriate date. Does that mean you’re stuck? No.

It’s never too late. First you have to know what kind of data you need. Identify your organization’s one program that has the greatest impact, and ask some questions from a donor perspective? What would my community look like without this program? What is the economic value of this program? 

Then put the processes in place to track the success of the program. While you’re tracking the program, begin collecting success stories, or, as we call them, data with soul. While you’re waiting to get the numbers and statistics that prove your value, you can still tell a compelling story of impact. All you have to do is ask those served by your nonprofit.

Don’t live in fear of your overhead. Leverage its significance. All it takes is a data-driven story. 

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