When a Nonprofit Doesn’t Have a History of Success

by | Jul 26, 2016 | Development/Fundraising, Grant Writing

Today’s topic involves a history of success. I am recovering from travel, altitude sickness and a healthy does of being wiped out! But, all for a good reason. I’ve been meeting great new people, learning about the no kill movement, hearing amazing stories of animal rescue and truly enjoying time with friends. I hope this weeks post finds you well!

This past week, Funding for Good had the amazing opportunity to present at the Best Friends National Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Our team spent four days getting to know incredible people from all over the country and learning about their struggles and successes in the animal welfare/rescue world.

This week’s blog is dedicated to a handful of passionate volunteers (you know who you are!) who stopped by our booth to ask this important question:

How can our organization apply for grants or approach donors if we cannot demonstrate our “history of success?”


Some of these nonprofits were just recently incorporated and have not had sufficient time to establish a history of success with partnerships or programs. Others were in the toddler stage of development but have never tracked critical data to demonstrate how their programs were successfully impacting the community.

The encouraging news is that it’s never too late to start tracking data to build that history of success. We all know that successfully reporting impact plays a vital role in generating dollars to support your mission!


Below are a strategies you can use to leverage support from donors while you work to track data for future “history of success” stories:


1.  Use comparables– If your nonprofit is launching a spay/neuter program for the first time, share success data from similar organizations in comparable communities.


For example: Our nonprofit, Furry Friends, is committed to implementing a spay/neuter program designed to serve a minimum of X dogs/cats this year in Happy Tails County. Based on data from a similar community in Save Them All County, we are confident that our efforts will create lasting impact by reducing the number of unwanted animals surrendered to our county’s animal shelter by x%  and reducing the number of animals euthanized within the county annually by x%.

[Insert important data from that comparable nonprofit/community to support your program design/goals and demonstrate likelihood for success.]


2.  Strategic Partnerships- If your nonprofit does not have an established history it is important to align yourself with key community partners who are credible and who CAN demonstrate a history of successful project/programs.


For Example: Our nonprofit, Furry Friends, is excited to partnering with the City of Waggly Tails, to ensure the success of our new spay/neuter project. The city is committed to the welfare of all local residents, both two legged and four, and brings added value to this project in the following ways [list specific areas of commitment from key partner(s).

Make sure to get a partnership letter from all collaborating organizations that include the following: statement of need for the project, commitment to partner with your organization, why they believe your organization can accomplish stated goals, and assurances of specific resources they bring to project.


3. Evidence Based Projects/Programs- If your organization lacks a proven track record, seek out projects/programs that have data to support their impact. There is no need to waste valuable volunteer time reinventing the wheel. Avoid generic requests for funds to “provide workshops/education” surrounding the need for spay/neuter programs if an evidence based curriculum or program model is already available.


For example: Furry Friends proposes to offer quarterly spay/neuter programs in diverse regions of the county to a minimum of 100 participants in 2017.  Our dedicated staff/volunteers will utilize Pet Parenthood, an evidence based curriculum that is recognized nationally for its content, high success rate for prompting spay/neuter awareness, change in behavior of pet owners, and an increase of advocacy efforts for pets among program participants.


As you work to establish your own success story, it might be helpful to ask “Who is doing this best?” 

Identify other organizations at the local or national level that have the capacity, integrity, and passion you want to see within your own nonprofit. Take time to contact them and even visit so you can find out HOW they got where they are.  This isn’t a history exam so it isn’t cheating to take notes and even copy the successful steps of others.

When Should an Organization Start Looking at Grants?

Grants and Your Fundraising Plan

Best Friends National Conference: Mandy’s Talk on Grants



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