Fighting the Funding Inequality Gap

By far, the vast number of cultural organizations in the United States are small. In every city, we see dozens if not hundreds of small non-profits, but only larger ones tend to dominate the landscape. Unfortunately, this has historically been how funding gets doled out by foundations. Or perhaps it’s because of it. Here is an excellent blog post that discusses this issue, which I hope you’ll take a few minutes to peruse.

This paragraph on why there is funding inequality, and what to do about it really jumped out at me as particularly relevant:

Funders continue to support programs that are successful with verifiable benchmark support data, and are managed at the highest level of skill, and an understandable majority of those programs are executed by a small percentage of resource rich cultural institutions with long-term experience

What this is saying is that the money often goes to organizations that are run well, and are able to provide funders with “verifiable benchmark support data.” If I were a funder and I got a grant proposal from an organization that said: “With this $10,000 grant we will be able to increase our revenue for returning ticket buyers by building a marketing program that targets them. This will in turn increase our revenue by $50,000!” I would be much more inclined to give than if I had a proposal that said: “We plan to use your grant to increase our earned income.”  

This all ties back to the notion that today you must run a metric-driven operation where you can benchmark your “KPI’s” (key performance indicators) so that you know how well you are doing as described by numbers. Otherwise, how do you do you know if your organization is meeting its goals? I hope that you and your board have defined fundraising and revenue goals that you are being measured against, as this will help you make your case to funders.

If having measurable goals and benchmark support data is in the playbook that the bigger institutions use to raise money, ought not this be in your playbook as well? It used to be the case that you needed a big staff and expensive technology to do this. No longer! Today the right tools for the job — a CRM system that provides these reports for you on a daily basis — is essential and affordable. So start raising money as if your organization is already one of the dominant ones!

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