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Funding Strategies: Expand existing programming, find new projects, build community capacity

For better or for worse, fundraising is a key piece of most community organizations' functioning. A strong understanding of the neighborhood storytelling network can provide a boost to some of your efforts.

Our research can help your fundraising strategies in three primary ways:

  1. Expand existing programming,
  2. Fund new projects,
  3. Raise funds that simultaneously build community capacity

Expanding Existing Funding

You can expand your current funding by articulating your strategy in terms of Metamorphosis' Communication Infrastructure research approach.  This approach can be most powerful if you make an explict break with the past. For example, you might email a major donor, saying that:
"This past spring, our board chair asked for details on how our programming fits with emerging research on communication. Our team found that our impact can be described using new research on geo-ethnic media. With the tools of  more than a decade of resarch from the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism, we are now proposing to expand our programming to more explicitly build a neighborhood storytelling network to improve health and civic engagement outcomes."

New Projects, New Funders

Have you considered adding a new initiative specifically to strengthen the local communication infrastructure? As the Metamorphosis research shows, the communication infrastructure is directly tied to many outcomes, ranging from health to civic engagement. Funding such new initiatives might be a way to ask current funders for additional resources. Alternatively, new initiatives can be a chance to engage new funders who are more disposed toward approaches that emphasize the media, community storytelling, or research-based iniatives.

Fundraising as Capacity Building

Too often, we forget that fundraising is a kind of programming, and will have an impact on the community beyond its dollars raised. Research has also shown that fundraising and volunteerism are linked.  This means that programs that want to increase volunteerism should offer their volunteers a chance to donate financially, and vice versa.

If we apply this logic to the Metamorphosis findings, then practitioners might benefit from asking:

- How can fundraising simultaneously build our community's storytelling network? Or undermine it?

- Does fundraising affect the balance between geo-ethnic media and mainstream media?

- When articulating the information needs of our community, how should fundraising be represented?

The best answers may come from changes in process, not as quick tips. Specifically, fundraising should be integrated into general program planning and vice versa. The guiding questions above can be useful discussion points when bringing fundraising staff into the same room with program staff (and it still works if one person is tackling both roles already).

To be concrete, here is a quick brainstorm of possible strategies:

- Get Participatory! Ask community members to help fundraise from each other. All fundraising requires storytelling, and can strenthen the storytelling network. To maximize this, you might instruct your community fundraisers to pitch the kind of people they want to be connected to in their community, and to tell the person that this is a reason they are asking for funds. This can help the community build awareness of its own connections. More immediately, it can increase the coordination that comes from greater communication and trust. Of course, be sensitive when asking low-income community members, and be clear whether you are counting on people like them to be the primary source of funds, or whether it is more about showing support in the number of participants, not the amount of the contribution.

- Tell the right stories. Even if you target a secific audience, your fundraising stories are likely to circulate beyond your initial target. So consider whether your fundraising appeal tells the kind of stories that are also recommended by Metamorphosis -- such as those that give active roles to both community members and organizations simultaneously. 

- Bolster the budget for geoethnic media outreach. Local communities suffer when geo-ethnic media is weak, while a strong connection to geo-ethnic media can be a great way to better connect to residents and raise funds grom institutional and individual donors.

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