Competitive Philanthropy

In the beginning you probably felt like a lone voice crying out in the wilderness. You could see a problem no one else could see, and it became your mission in life to solve it. You worried that there weren’t enough people out there who see what you see, but, in spite of the odds, you put a team together and started an organization to address the problem. Finally, something would be done. Armed with persuasive print materials and a tear-jerking presentation, you brought your issue into the light of day. Then, with sincere conviction, you asked for the help you needed to change the world, and in response you heard, “Sorry, but we already gave to a similar organization. You guys should really hook up!”

It can be difficult, the moment you realize you aren’t a special snowflake. No one really likes to share, and sharing your pet cause is a special kind of identity crisis. But, as in all things that involve money, you should always expect competition. Even if your competition doesn’t exist in the beginning, if you are successful, they will. That said, if your fundraising strategy is dependent on being the only store in town, it’s time for a new approach. With planning and a little creativity, you can handle the competition, even if your organization is the new kid on the block. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Make a Clear Distinction

Even if another organization is raising money to accomplish the same goals as yours, it doesn’t mean that there is only one solution. Highlighting the differences between you and your competition can be accomplished without ever mentioning the other guy. The way you brand your organization should also be distinct from any similar or well-known organizations.

Be Top Dog or Underdog

If you have the luxury of heading up an organization with a long list of accomplishments, tout them. If you don’t, play up your lack of longevity as a fresh approach. Enthusiasm does not take the place of experience, but it definitely helps. Use language in your messages that reflects this rising underdog status and strong work ethic.

Narrow Your Focus

If your interest is keeping garbage out of a local lake, your organization doesn’t need to compete with the Sierra Club. The more you narrow the focus of what you want to accomplish, the less likely you’ll be to run up against competing organizations. On the contrary, if you think local, you may find larger national organizations that are willing to fund your efforts.
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