Build Your Nonprofit with Funding in Mind


Nonprofit Founders open a door to a foreign world when they follow their passion and dream into the nonprofit space. Often, Founders have experienced trauma in their life and didn’t have the help they needed when they were in the middle of their situation. They came through to the other side, but they have a nagging feeling in the very core of their being that they can be the solution that they needed for others.

Founders find confusing language – ED, NPO, appeals, Donor-advised funds- and an even more confusing way of doing things. They just want to help people but instead, they feel they are drowning in to-dos and lack of funding. So, they plug along on the never-ending to-do list, never feeling like they are making progress and spending time on things that don’t move the nonprofit forward. They continue to cover expenses with their own money or organize another event because they don’t know any other way to get funds.

I’ve worked with Founders over the past few years that were in this exact situation. 

I’ve served on a new nonprofit’s Board that struggled and I saw up close the Founder’s dream die a slow death. All because she didn’t know how to do the right things and get the funding she needed. 

She’s not alone. Fifty percent of new nonprofits fail in the first year and only twenty-five percent will be left at the end of the fifth year. The two reasons most cited is lack of funding and infrastructure.

 When I worked on the new nonprofit’s Board, I realized funding and infrastructure were the two most needed things. I wondered if there was a way to build both at the same time. After much research and thinking, I figured out the answer is yes. Out of my research and experience, I put together nine steps that build funding and infrastructure at the same time. Let’s look at three steps in the nine-step plan.

Step 1: Build Your Board

Building your Board is the key to all other steps. First, a Board keeps you legal. Most states require a minimum number of people. Second, a Board is put into place for governance, fundraising, and to do everything necessary to set the nonprofit up. You have probably heard the term “working Board”. A working Board means a Board who overseas the day to day operations. Building your Board means having people to help you do the right things. My plan walks you through finding the right Board members and recruiting them.

Step 4: Signature Program Development

Thinking through your program and getting it on paper your first year helps you get clear on the details before you ever serve a client. It’s important that you do this program right because it will become your signature program- the one you become known for in your community. My plan has you put together a program with the ten common grant questions in mind. What does this mean for you? It means you build your grant proposal into your program! Once you have a few years of impacts and measurable outcomes, you will find yourself competitive for grants.

Step 9: Fundraising Basics

This is the last step in the plan, and I want to point out there are three steps in fundraising before this one. Please don’t skip them! They help you build the infrastructure and foundation to sustainable fundraising.

Fundraising basics starts from within and works its way out. To put this into practice, start with your Board. They should be giving. Then, you ask for support from the Board’s friends and family, any volunteers, and then you move out from there.

While you are working your way out, you will look for ways to get in front of your Ideal Donor (Step 6). Speaking engagements are often the most used sustainable fundraising activity for ideal donors. The whole point of sustainable fundraising is to build your donor list.

Once you start getting donors, you will want to keep track of them. Most new nonprofits start a spreadsheet but quickly outgrow it. I recommend signing up with Givebox because it will grow with you without being a budget breaker. Did I mention this incredible software is free?

Following the nine-step plan sets you up for success and helps you avoid being another failed statistic. If you would like to see all nine steps, download my free guide, A New Nonprofit’s 9 Step Guide to a Successful Nonprofit.


About the Author

Alesha Mathis is a trainer, consultant, mentor, and author of the book I HAVE MY 501(C)3! NOW WHAT?!? Your Blueprint to Starting Your Nonprofit Without Being the Sole Funder. She has over ten years’ experience in nonprofit administration, fundraising, programs, and Boards. Her love is fundraising and today she helps nonprofit Founders learn and implement sustainable fundraising strategies. You can find her blog and free templates at

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