Feeling Stuck to Get Nonprofit Clients?
Any time you’re trying to get and keep nonprofit clients, it’s inevitable you’ll hit roadblocks. You might’ve experienced some of them already.
Things like not getting nonprofit leads, not having confidence to reach out to nonprofits, and even spiraling into imposter syndrome.
Well, here’s what I know to be true: if any of this sounds familiar, it’s totally normal.
But if you simply accept this at face value, you’ll never get and keep nonprofit clients.
And I know where you’re coming from. I get that it feels like some this is out of your hands.
It’s frustrating to come up against these things – again and again. I’ve been there myself, and I’ve seen other Aspiring Freelance Grant Writers go through the same thing.
And it’s especially stressful because you know that getting past these challenges are key in helping you get and keep nonprofit clients.
So, in this article, I’m going to make it easy for you. I’ll help you avoid these usual headaches by showing you the simple steps I follow to get and keep nonprofit clients which will save you lots of time, money, and frustration.
However, before we go any further, it’s important I bring your attention to something that often gets overlooked as you begin to see this on a practical level.
And ignoring this virtually guarantees you’ll have a tough time trying to get and keep nonprofit clients.
It’s easy to think it’s hard to get nonprofit clients.
This is a dangerous assumption to make, and I don’t want you falling into this trap. But at some point, most of us believe this is true – myself included!
And this big assumption is why so many Aspiring Freelance Grant Writers are struggling.
Coming up, I’ll reveal the truth behind the old belief that it’s hard to get nonprofit clients. And more importantly, I’ll share you what you need to know instead.
The Mindset Behind Getting Nonprofit Clients
Okay, so I am going to go over some tried and trued strategies. Freelance Grant Writing students that have gone through my Freelance Grant Writing Course have experienced much success in implementing niching approaches when identifying and finding nonprofit clients.
But before we get to the step-by-step approach, I need to mention the underlaying thought process to this.
I am going to use an example that I got from Michelle Rohr in Secret Owl Society as she likened it to your super fans, I am going to apply this thought process to your clients.
In advance, thank you Michelle Rohr for this analogy. 😉 You can check out all her goodies on secretowlsociety.org.
Consider yourself as a host of a dinner party and you are a host. Now consider your potential or existing clients as guests to your dinner party. Let’s reclaim the relationship by not blankly saying ‘grow your list’ or ‘clients’ but guests.
Now the next step is your invitations! Would you send out a blank invitation to everybody?
No, you would send out invitations to those who you want to have some great conversations and enjoy their company.
So, in this way shift from looking at clients as a price tag to thinking of them as having missions you support and as people you want to build long-term relationships with.
For example, instead of just Googling nonprofit clients in your area, instead consider what types of nonprofits are you excited about? Which executive directors would you want to have at your dinner party?
You are here to enjoy the nourishing feast of your body of work and inviting people to sit down at your table and enjoy it with you. ~ Michelle Rohr
Expanding on this very important thought process is that much of the masculine marketing world has focused on really identifying what your client wants, what their needs are, and more.
But if we look at the example of the dinner party, we find that the host is the most important person. If the host isn’t relaxed and enjoying time with her guests, then it’s all off-balance.
As we get into the step-by-step process, I want you to really think it’s more about YOU as a grant writer than what’s the most popular or prevalent nonprofit out there.
For example, during the pandemic, and throughout this transition time, there are a lot of health sector nonprofits emerging and there are a lot of grants available. However, you might be way more passionate and interested in focusing on climate justice, the women’s equality movement, and education for discoverabilities right now. You want to talk to those people at your dinner party.
So, it is okay to go back to your values and really think about who YOU want to serve.
I am not saying that a grant writer cannot take on diverse clients, but if you are passionate about certain causes and movements then your interest, conversations, grant research, and more will be more present and therefore more prosperous.
Plus, I want you to think about having a career that gives you intellectual fulfillment.
Remember, part of securing your nonprofit client will include some sort of marketing, whether that is posting on social media, writing blogs, starting a podcast, teaching webinars, or more. I.e., this means you will create content and become an expert in that content… so make that content interesting to you.
If it’s interesting to you and gives you satisfaction, it will translate to others. As an example, I have been very fascinated and passionate about feminism and changing the narrative on success from a masculine power to a feminine strength.
I have seen, and lived through, so much discrimination against women. This includes women being discriminated purely because of their gender, access to capital, access to networking, feeling safe in communities, as well as physically, mentally, and emotionally abused.
Due to this discrimination what I have learned is that many women, myself included, have perpetuated the trauma in their lack of self-confidence. This in turn can result in feeling like they need to act like men when they are leaders or not step into their fullness by undercutting their services and sabotaging their pricing and self-worth. I’ve worked – and continue to work through – much of this, but what I found is that when I started conversations about this so many other women lit up and wanted to be at my dinner party!
What does this mean? I am super passionate about writing articles and conducting podcasts on feminism (i.e., equality) in the nonprofit space, as well as weaving these topics into my courses! And that attracts others who have similar mindset.
Will I only serve people that are interested in these topics? No, I love all people who are kind, but it does help me focus on the dinner party I want to hold and the people I want to interact with and have in the Grant Writing & Funding community.
So, who do YOU want to have at your dinner party?
Different Types of Nonprofits
There are many types of nonprofit organizations, just like there are different types of grants! But you don’t have to serve any and all!
I like to categorize the type of nonprofit (not meaning who they serve but the capacity of each nonprofit) into three different types of nonprofits. And yes I use animal names because I love animals.
1. Start-Up Pup
The Start-Up Pup is the most prevalent and this is one that typically has secured less than $100,000 in annual operations each year. Pups may not have received any grant funding or very small grants or fundraising. They also have little infrastructure in place and are just starting to grow their capacity. Pups would want to hire a grant writer to find foundation grants rather than federal grants or conduct fundraising.
According to Nonprofit Sector in Brief 2019, 29.5% of nonprofits registered with the IRS in the United States that filed their 990s, fell under the Start-Up Pup category of receiving less that $100,000 in an annual operating year.
In this way, Start-Up Pups are one of your most prevalent types of nonprofits! They also are the most common nonprofit to work with an intern or volunteer grant writer or to ask for free services from a grant writer.
Now, you might be just starting out to write grants, so working with this type of nonprofit could be very beneficial in the beginning. You may also get the most experience as you can do other things to help besides writing grants, such as strategic planning, fundraising events, donor nurturing, board development and more. The downside is that you might not get a lot of support or guidance from the board as they may be new to all of this too and depend on your expertise.
2. Expanding Monkey
Expanding monkeys have a bit more sizeable of an annual operating budget versus a start-up pup and have been around the block longer. For example, they may have an annual operating budget between $100,000 to $1,000,000 per year.
Most Expanding Monkeys are hybrids of Start-Up Pups and veer closer to the $100,000 mark. This type accounts for 37.1 percent of nonprofits!
On the higher end of Expanding Pups, $500,000 to $999,999 of annual operating budgets, consist of merely 10.4%.
Overall, the expanding monkey has secured funding, such as grants, state contracts, foundation grants and smaller federal grants.
Typically, they have some infrastructure in place, but it is not optimized, and they understand the value that a grant writer brings to their organization. For expanding monkeys, hiring a freelance grant writer vs. an employee is a smart move to help control their overhead and they may hire a grant writer to not only write grants but also do grant research and donor nurturing, and to improve their infrastructure.
3. Cash Cow
The Cash Cow is the most established nonprofit organization and has an annual operating of more than $1 million per year. Cash Cow’s result in about 23.1 percent of nonprofits, according to Nonprofit Sector in Brief, with 5.4% of $10 million or more per year.
This type of nonprofits are very good at getting grant funding, and most tend to secure most of their grant funding from federal grants. Many also have in-house grant writers but may hire a freelance grant writer for writing certain types of grants or assisting the current in-house grant writers.
The Cash Cow understands the value of grant writers, but also will be much more specific when hiring a grant writer compared to Start-Up Pups. For example, Cash Cows will want to know your grant writing background, strengths in securing certain types of grants, and more.
Understanding different types of nonprofits is important for grant writers. For example, when a grant writer does an interview with a nonprofit one of the questions you can ask is about the annual operating budget. Just knowing this will help you identify what types of services may be important for them and where they are at in their nonprofit journey.
Specialist or Generalist with Grant Writing?
Now that you know the different types of nonprofits, we go back to who you want over to your dinner party.
You may be so interested in the nonprofit world that you want to support orphanages in Ethiopia, animal shelters that focus on cat health, all the way to planting trees in Washington State. You may find that each and all missions that nonprofits serve is interesting and if you only focused on one topic you would get bored!
That is okay. You may consider yourself a generalist then!
What about the specialist? Well, you may really think about certain causes that light you up – and those people to have at your dinner party – and stick with that focus.
Does that mean you have to take on those clients exclusively only?
But you can focus on this industry as mentioned above: research grants on these topics, write blogs about it, attend conferences that focus on these needs, etc.
In this way, you can really light up and become more of an expert in a certain area.
Let’s do a quick review of what we covered:
First, we saw a whole new way to think about how to approach nonprofit clients. Remember, you are the host of the dinner party! You can use what you learned here today to immediately help you get your ducks in a row.
Plus, you found out the different types of nonprofit clients, so you are more familiar with their needs and where they are at emotionally and financially.
In next week’s article and podcast, I’m going to show you the entire system so you can understand how to approach pricing and packaging your freelance grant writing services.
It builds on everything we talked about today. And most importantly, it outlines everything from starting from the ground up to growing and scaling.
I believe this is the most valuable training in this 4-part series. You’ll walk away with so much clarity about how everything fits together – and you’ll see the areas that are most important for you to look after right now.
So, if you’re a newbie grant writer, this will give you the exact track to run on to develop pricing and packaging.
And if you’re already an accomplished grant writer, then you’ll learn the specific steps you can take right now to amplify the momentum you already have.
Plus, you’ll identify a few things which are likely holding you back from growing and scaling the way you want to.
But for now, I’ll leave you with this…
Just by learning what we covered today, you’re one step closer to your ultimate goal.
You want to start a real business and get nonprofit clients – and you and I both know it’s SO much more than just that.
Because it means you’ll have less stress, and more time to spend with the people you love. And that’s what really matters.
So, take what you’ve learned here today and start putting it into practice. Maybe you’re just in the beginning stages, or maybe you can apply it right away. The key thing is to get moving! You’ll want to take these small steps which will get you where you want to be.