Help Your Funders Help YouJan 10, 2023
Today's economic environment is an uncertain one -- it's a phrase we're all too familiar with now.
Beyond the broader landscape, tech changes will likely add to a downturn in your efficiency margins.
All of this might make you hesitant to push for new investments.
Instead, think of this as a moment to test new funding streams and gather important data points that will help you mitigate future risk.
My philosophy is that recessions are an ideal time for operating in a testing-to-learn mindset. You'll learn how your new tactics will perform at the lowest-efficiency margin they're likely to see, which will help you promise improvements in the future.
Take a look at ideas for how you can help your board and corporate partners help you when it comes to funding innovation. >>
Know (All Of) Your Asks
When you’re thinking about the resources you need for a project or upcoming fiscal-year budget, think beyond a monetary pitch and get to know how your board members and corporate sponsors are uniquely positioned to support you in the ultimate goals of your project.
For example, if you’re interested in launching a new social media channel like TikTok, is there someone on your board or a corporate sponsor with great connections to a brand that you admire who is executing on TikTok well? Ask that board member for not just an intro to the brand, but also for a training session from that brand’s social media manager. Position yourself to learn what they have about that channel’s algorithm.
Relatedly, who among your board members’ connections might be able to help you lead with non-monetary asks, such as requests for free ad space or a pitch to a news leader they know well?
Get to know who your board members are beyond their wallets so you know how to position them to help you best. Make your asks clear so board members know when to raise their hands.
Make Your Objectives Clear
This might seem obvious – board members and corporate sponsors want to know how their investments are going to pay themselves back and where they’re delivering value. You should provide a well-crafted view into the financial KPIs and payback window for the budget you’re looking to secure.
But you also need to spend time making sure that your investment partners understand the intangible objectives of the project. Is this project meant to help you diversify your advertising streams so that you’re better able to weather economic uncertainty in the future? Are you testing a new channel so that you have solid numbers to back you for future-year investments? Is this project an opportunity to develop your staff in addition to generating revenue?
With an understanding of the deeper implications of the initiative, funders are likely to be invested not just in approving a scope, but also in helping you think creatively about meeting your ends through different means.
Establish a Playbook
Take all of the ambiguity out of the two ideas above by drafting a go-to playbook that your board and corporate sponsors can refer to so they easily know what kinds of support are helpful to you.
Spell out how your partners should make asks and for what.
Specifically what news organizations would be helpful partners to you? Which brands are doing marketing well and may make for valuable sponsors or teachers? What skills does your team need to learn and hone internally that your board or corporate partners could help supplement? Make it easy to know what you want by providing a deck that depicts all of this.
When you’re asking for a sizable investment, it might be tempting to knock the numbers down to make them more palatable. Avoid this idea and instead, be as upfront as possible about total costs. Demonstrate that you’ve thought through various scenarios – including where things could go wrong and how that might increase costs – so you communicate your thorough research.
While details may change over the course of executing a project depending on its scope and scale, providing initial projections gives investors something tangible they can use when evaluating a proposal’s viability. After all, uncertainty carries risk—for both sides—so reducing ambiguity through detailed cost estimates puts funders at ease while also solidifying trust.
Investors need assurance that their investments won’t go awry due to lack of oversight or mismanagement; they want assurances that leaders will stay accountable throughout every step of implementation and remain transparent about successes and failures alike. Come to the table with clearly defined processes for tracking progress as well as strategies for ensuring compliance with established protocols during each stage of delivery (e.g., regular updates from management sent out via email or posted online). In addition, showcase who the working team will be and how you’ll respond to staff turnover should it happen.
Think Long-Game and Holistically
Brand and revenue efforts should always be interlinked if done well, (I'll have more content dedicated to this topic specifically soon!) and your ask should reflect this truth.
Provide a holistic view into how upstream marketing tactics will impact bottom-line revenue. Put together thoughtful views into how impressions gained in Year 1 will lead to email address capture that builds a valuable lead pipeline in Year 2 and monetizes in Year 3.
In times of economic uncertainty, being able to communicate long-term results and set expectations will be evermore important. On average, recessions since 1900 have lasted about 15 months. When you're up against this reality, shift to a longer-view. By forecasting a five-year plan instead of a three-year plan, you illustrate how recessions are an accounted-for bump along the way.
All told, your board members are supporting your organization for a reason. Walk into every conversation remembering that and do the legwork to understand what that reason is so you have it to draw from.
When you're ready, here's how I can help you with your investment strategy:
>> Book 1:1 help to formulate your action plan or discuss a strategic objective.
>> Contact me about ongoing support with financial projections, board relationships, blended investment planning, and more.