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[RECORDING] Fundraising Masterclass: Crafting Convincing Funder-Centric Communications

Filed in Core Communications — October 10, 2022

In our blog we’ve pulled back the veil on our approach and methodologies through a largely ‘plug and play’ resources and Masterclasses so you can skillfully engage the funding partners your mission deserves.

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For organizations seeking greater impact, the inability to communicate your work in a way that inspires significant funding can be a major pain point. One of our core beliefs as Black Fox Global is that organizational storytelling is the driving force in building powerful connections with funders and motivating action. Effective storytelling invites funders to not only be part of the solution, but inspires empathy and communicates shared values, ideals, and truths.

Crafting your organization’s messaging with funders in mind can feel like a daunting endeavor. At Black Fox Global, the approach we take to organization messaging can be distilled to a three step process, as experienced in our Communications Toolkit. In this article we aim to summarize our message development process for you.

But before we dive into our process: let’s first consider what funders are actually looking for in your communications.

What are funders seeking? 

1.  A personal connection to your mission: 

We talk about effective fundraising speaking to both the heart and mind, and developing your personal connection to the work really speaks to the heart. Some questions you can ask yourself or your team to help facilitate this narrative and personally connect you to your mission include:

  • What originally drew you to this work?
  • What was the most exciting for you in the early days of this work?
  • What impact are you most proud of?

See “Crafting Your Why” for more guidance on connecting your personal story to your fundraising.

 2. Unique Identity: Why this work is uniquely yours to do 

This leads into your organizational ‘why’ or why this work is uniquely yours to do. Some of these questions for you, for your team or for your board, can include

  • What do you find most compelling about your mission?
  • What’s at stake if you don’t solve these issues?
  • What sets you apart from other organizations doing this work?

3. Credibility: Why you are the organization to solve the problem

While the previous points are really about speaking to the funder’s heart, credibility speaks to your organization’s capacity to do this work. This is the mind piece and is often factual and objective. Questions that will help you frame your credibility include:

  • What are the tangible resources you have available to you?
  • How about the unique expertise of your leadership, Board, and staff members?
  • Where else have you received funding? Mention past grants from foundations and organizations, as this speaks volumes to your accountability and your credibility to do this work.

 4. Impact, Impact, Impact!

Lastly, data, as to be expected, is overwhelmingly important to complement your storytelling. Surveys and reports throughout the social sector name impact as one of the top three, if not most important considerations for funding.

Many early stage organizations only track what they’re accountable to their current donors for based on your current grants. If you are looking to engage new funding sources, it’s important to be able to create a cohesive narrative around the data you have. Even if you’re not at a stage to invest in robust data collection, begin to think through the metrics that can speak to your work. For both donor-facing communications as well as for your own measure of employee accountability and organizational progress, it is important to articulate what these metrics are.

The Black Fox Global Message Development Process

Now that you’ve answered some fundamental questions related to fleshing out your organization’s narrative, we can move on to creating a funder centric engagement pitch.

Many of you will already know the traditional formula for nonprofit communications is centered around problem-solution-impact. But when we’re thinking about funder-centric communications and setting our clients apart from the other wonderful organizations doing similar work, we find that building messaging around three categories – Who We Are, What We Do, and How We Do It, is more conducive to building an organizational story which we know goes further with funders.

Once these fundamentals of identity, work, and approach are articulated, we’re then able to go back and tell the problem-solution-impact story with greater precision – as well as draw stronger connections to those universal themes that drive action and connection.

Identity: Who We Are

This first bucket is really about your core philosophies, beliefs, and values – and possibly your origin story if you feel this is relevant to your work today. Within this section, we also push clients to be very clear about where they belong in the “ecosystem”-  it’s just as important to define who you are not as who you are. Are you a systems change organization, or do you purely exist to deliver programs or services? It’s important to have clarity about your identity and what you’re looking to achieve.

When developing your identity messaging, keep in mind: 

  • Make a clear distinction between identity and work: introduce yourself first, before going deeper into your vision.
  • Demonstrate guiding philosophies, values, and core beliefs.
  • Define where you belong in the “ecosystem.”
  • Start with a descriptor. Are you a network, ecosystem builder, convener, collaborator, or a social impact organization? Find a descriptor that feels unique and relevant to you.

Work: What We Do

Next, we move into looking at What We do, or your organization’s work. In this section, we focus on your organization’s aspirations – not your programs or approach just yet! Your What We Do should be inclusive of the problem you are solving and the outcomes you will be creating.

In other words, think of this bucket as a mini, compressed theory of change, which shows how you expect outcomes to occur. When you are describing what you do, this is really focused on goals, outcomes and aspirations. We are not yet talking about the specifics of the nuts and bolts of your programming. Here, you are describing your work but not yet your approach.

The role of aspiration is really key in making this distinction. This is where mission and vision meet action “ The ‘what do we’ piece helps a funder or supporter truly connect the dots between your vision and your programming.

Approach: How We Do It

Lastly, this bucket outlines your unique approach to the work. While there are many organizations addressing your issue area (and who may even share the same vision as you!) you are the only one doing so in a particular way. This section should outline your real point of difference and distinguishing features as an organization.

Some key considerations to look out for when building out your approach include:

  • Rules of threes: Can you summarize your work in three categories?
  • Be very selective with industry or academic jargon.
  • Focus on accessibility and readability. These should be clear, succinct, and even able to read out loud if needed.

While the problems that you are working on are nuanced and complex, by doing the difficult work of message development for your organization, you can define the problem in a way that the donor sees a direct line to you as the solution.

Once you’re done crafting the primary messages, at Black Fox Global, we progress to secondary messages or talking points. These messages add color, dimension and detail to what you have already done with the primary messages. You can pick and choose these talking points depending on what funder you’re in conversation with, or proposal you’re working on.

With the primary messages and the talking points, the hardest part is over! At this point, you have what you need to tell a compelling organizational story.

The full elements of Black Fox Global’s Communications Toolkit includes core messaging, talking points, a pitch deck, email templates, telephone talking points, an engagement letter, and a comprehensive Case for Support, for you to use as needed with funders.

Black Fox Global’s Communications Lead Rosie Urbanovich is featured in a Masterclass produced by Catalyst 2030 discussing these concepts; the recording from the session is available on the Catalyst 2030 Youtube channel.

Additional resources:

A sample full Fundraising Communications Toolkit by Black Fox Global for Launch Girls (with permission).

Learn more about our Fundraising Communications Toolkit offering here.