Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Value for money

My friend wants me to help write guidelines for not-for-profits looking for funding. More to the point, he wants to help a friend of a friend to find funding for the art school for kids who would never afford art lessons, or may never have conceived of art as something they might excel in. The art teacher who runs the programme has no idea, or inclination to ask for funds, but understands that the good idea could be extended to a lot more kids, if only there were additional resources.

First off, we have to believe that these organisations are concerned with other (higher) objectives than making money. Dig deep, and you understand that they wish money would accrue to them as a result of their "good works." They may not be equipped or staffed to think about making/ securing/ earning that money. The underlying assumption is that their good work is above mere money, and at the very least worth something, if not "a lot."  What we are searching for is an equation of value to attract dollars to a virtuous and even virtual good.

Whether they realise it or not, such organisations require a third party, an advocate even, to rationalise the value, and therefore the dollars that might be extracted from the business world. Some call that the real world, but it is perhaps less real than the world that directly affects the lives of children.

This is what the needy not-for-profit says:  We've been a not-for-profit saving trees for over 40 years. We need to attract funds to pay salaries, to build an education centre. Let's target some energy sector companies for contributions.

This is the virtual response of the company: Donation, you want a donation? Well, what is the specific immediate need?

Not a donation, a sponsorship? How is what you are doing compatible with our brand? Will our support bring us benefit, mileage, goodwill? Can we put our name to your project? Would we want to?

So you want us to just give you some money? How will you account for it? How will we justify to our shareholders that we have a benefit from what you want us to give you? Fill out these forms.

This can almost be too hard for the group that just wants to sing, plant trees, save guppies, or shelter small animals.

Despair not, says the party of the third part, there is a middle ground. And it's called the relationship. To the corporate funder, the relationship is about "who you are" and "why should we fund your operation" and "what's in it for me." To the not-for-profit, the relationship may be about the earnest effort to do more good (the value) but resources are required.

The way to bridge two almost mutually exclusive mindsets, not to mention objectives, is the conversation, which may be seen as the prelude to the relationship. A good conversation lets each party understand the other - the history, philosophy, positives and weaknesses. (Sometimes, the conversation may be replaced by simple research.) The conversation may start with a chance encounter, or a letter of introduction. A good outcome is the appreciation of what each can provide to the other, what values are common, where the paths intersect and can flow together for mutual benefit. A good outcome may also be the intuitive knowledge that you aren't compatible, or not ready for each other at this moment.

Since this is written for the not-for-profit, you know that not all business funders are the same. The small local retailer may be more compatible and serve the relationship better over the long term. The company that does not have a lot of free cash, but which offers "in kind" or human resource could be as valuable as the one that can write a cheque easily. The relationship grows as the not-for-profit develops and the business too, each in their own way.

The option many not-for-profits in Trinidad seem to prefer: to hit the jackpot with a giant pay out from a big company. Word has it that AA company or BB company has given a few hundred thousands to save the tadpoles; and everyone targets them. Maybe you'll have an initial success with a cheque to send two art students to visit MOMA; but then what? Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.

Not-for-profits need to build sustainability into their  operations as in their relationships. Sure, buy the lottery ticket every week. But there's need to plant your own pigeon peas in your backyard.

Let's look at today's takeaways. Not-for-profit, what's your "good?" What is the value you're offering? It may not be what you think it is.  Is it sustainable? If not, how would you make it sustainable? How would you replicate it? How you respond will provide keys to what you need. Hopefully, you'll gain certain knowledge about your "good" and the value that is trade-able to make it better, bigger and a model for others. That's value for anybody's money.








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