Understanding USP is Key to Securing Philanthropic Income - ProBono News

11 September 2017

Not for profits wanting to build philanthropic income need to have an elevator pitch and must understand their unique selling point (USP), according to the director of Strategic Grants, who has been sharing her secrets on how to build and sustain philanthropy.


Man giving presentation

Jo Garner, who joined The Funding Network co-founder and CEO Lisa Cotton for a “fireside chat about philanthropy” at the Third Sector Live conference on Thursday, told Pro Bono News organisations needed to learn to communicate their key messages.

“[The Funding Network] model of promoting philanthropic giving to charities is all around the charities doing a pitch at an event that there are many philanthropists at,” Garner said,

“Clearly, they’ve got a short period of time to get and communicate their key messages around the need for the support, why they should get the support, so what is their capability and competency in meeting the need and delivering the mission of their organisation and what the potential outcomes of particular projects that they’re doing are.

“And that is exactly what strategic grants does with organisations as well, hence the really nice synergy between what The Funding Network is trying to do in terms of capacity building the sector and in terms of what we’re trying to do in terms of capacity building the sector also.”

Garner said it was “fundamentally important” for organisations to have a key messages document and for everybody in the organisation “to be singing from the same song sheet”.

“So many of them don’t have that and it’s just a vital communication tool,” she said.

She said people working in the social sector can become subjective and unable to communicate the mission.

“People who work in this sector are passionate about the mission and the cause, and they just become a little bit subjective I guess,” she said.

“They understand it really clearly but when you drill down and ask them ‘but why, but why, but why’, at every level, then they realise: ‘Oh ok, we know that, it is all in our heads, but now we understand that you don’t know that’.

“Then a lot of the people too in the sector are actually those who are delivering a service and delivering on the mission, they’re not necessarily marketing and communications, fundraising, business development people, so it’s not their natural skillset.

“But again when you sit down with them, and ask them a series of questions and explain to them why philanthropists want to know this information, then they understand, it is a lightbulb moment and that’s really fun seeing them saying: ‘Okay, wow, now I get it, we’ve got all of this information and I can give it to you’.”

Garner it was important for organisations to have a clear mission statement as well as a strategic plan that defined their short and long term objectives.

“From there they need to have the project wish list, so what are the projects that they need funding for, that they’re going to fundraise for, and then around each of those projects they need to have clear project plans, so there is a start date and an end date, and that is the way a funder wants to see it,” she said.

“Within that period there is going to be an aim, strategies, key milestones and then what are the outputs going to be and what are the outcomes going to be and what is the potential long-term impact going to be, and also what the need is for it or who the target audience is.

“All those things we see as basic, but when you put it to them in those terms, they’re able to much better understand how they package the work that they are doing into those saleable projects if you like.”

Garner said building philanthropic income was not new for many charities but there were many emerging trends in philanthropy that they needed to be aware of.

“You’ve got a new generation of philanthropists coming in, whereby you’re seeing the young, children and grandchildren of philanthropists who set up their foundations when they accrued significant wealth and they may have had a certain mission and objective and idea of what they wanted to give, but as they’re educating and bringing their children into that philanthropic giving the children are living in the modern world and have different ideas of what they want to do with the funding and where their passions are,” she said.

“Likewise, a lot of the philanthropic bodies have Facebook pages, have Twitter feeds, are online and have online groups and things like that and so a way of charities engaging them and stewarding them and looking after the relationship is through online recognition and thanks and acknowledging the support they’ve given on their Facebook pages.

“And you see, if you look at some of the big foundations, and some of the charities, you’ll see a lot of interaction between their beneficiaries and them on social media, so that has all evolved quite significantly.

“Then of course we’ve got impact investment which is coming into play, where philanthropists are looking at other ways, not just grants, but actually investing some of their corpus into a charitable project that is going to give them both a financial return on investment as well as a social return on investment.”

Garner said rather than philanthropic money replacing government funding she anticipated a growth in partnerships between government, philanthropy and business.

“There is still government funding available but government has been very clear around their want to have less funding partners, so they’re looking at giving bigger amounts of money to fewer organisations with the expectation then that the community organisations, the charities, will collaborate and work together, apply as consortiums, broker each others services in an effort to get collaboration happening in the sector,” she said.

“I think rather than philanthropic money replacing government funding, what we want to see is a partnership between government and philanthropy and business, and I am very aware of the fact that a lot of philanthropic foundations are trying to have conversations with government where they can initiate that and I think that’s a growing area. I think we’ll see more partnerships between government, philanthropy and business in the not too distant future.”

When asked about how charities must both collaborate and compete for funding, Garner said organisations needed to question what made them unique.

“At the end of the day, each charity needs to win the funding but what they need to do is highlight what their point of difference is and what is their unique selling point, so why should a  funder give them the funding and not someone else,” she said.

“That is an interesting self-awareness question really because if they can’t answer that, then why do they exist? And that’s when they need to say: ‘Well actually we are doing the same thing as them [so] why aren’t we working with them?’

“And I think that is the question that charities need to start asking themselves if they are doing something similar to an organisation they are going to have more reach and a lot more impact by teaming up with them potentially, so I think they need to ask themselves and be able to demonstrate: ‘What is the need that we are fulfilling and how is it unique and why are we the best organisation to do it?’”

Read the full article on ProBono News here.