An ecosystem has two inseparable components: the physical environment and the organisms that live there. There is constant interaction, creating a situation of interdependence. An ecosystem is a fitting analogy when we talk about successful grant proposals. The idea is that you must have robust and well-connected internal and external systems and processes in place to successfully seek, apply, obtain, and manage grants.
Last week I wrote about Making Grants Out of Nothing at All and the importance of tracking program work and outcomes. Click HERE for that article.
Let’s start with your organization’s internal ecosystem.
management or leadership organism
All of these organisms are in constant interaction, thus creating interdependence. This interdependence is healthy. An unhealthy internal ecosystem is one that is siloed, where people don’t communicate and fail to support each other. Programs cannot function without funding and fundraisers cannot raise money to support the programs when they don’t know what the programs are doing.
The following are some components of a healthy internal ecosystem:
The larger, external ecosystem encompasses other nonprofits, the foundation community and other funders, and the broader community.
Some of these components interact both internally and externally:
your board of directors
the clients served.
nonprofits doing similar work
There are many nonprofits in our communities, some serve the same or similar populations. To garner the funding we need to operate, we must set ourselves apart from the others. This is where we can use testimonials and infographics to tell our story more effectively.
The board members can cross into other ecosystems and can also share our stories. Every board member should be able to clearly state, without hesitation why they are involved and what the organization does. Beyond knowing the mission statement, we must also share our personal connection to a nonprofit’s mission which is much more powerful. This is YOUR WHY.
As with individual donors, the nonprofit must have well-cultivated relationships with foundation officers. This includes ongoing, consistent stewardship. Foundation officers want to know what’s going on with your organization. Make sure your outreach plans include them, too.
The constant interaction, the interdependence within healthy ecosystems supports successful and sustainable fundraising. Let your fellow organisms/colleagues know they are important to the health of your organization’s ecosystem. We all thrive by supporting each other.
Michelle Crim, CFRE
Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.