June 14, 2022

Delivering on our promise: template inflation language

Craft a compelling picture of what’s happening in your organization, why it’s REALLY BAD, and what philanthropy can do to get you through the storm and make your organization stronger for when the next crisis hits. 

In this blog post from May, we talked about how inflation is wrecking havoc all over the non profit sector – simultaneously creating greater demand for services while increasing the cost of doing business.   It’s an unprecedented experience that needs to be heard by those in the best position to do something about it: your funders.  As an organization on the frontline, you have an important story to tell about what’s it’s like right now for your revenue streams, your expenses, your programs, and your clients, and how precarious a position you’re in.

And why tell that story at all?  Because philanthropy needs to get with the times:  they are holding on to trillions in wealth and there isn’t going to be a better time than RIGHT NOW to let go of more of it! Whether your story is in a grant proposal, an appeal letter, a blog post, or even in your pitch to your donors, now is the time to get comfortable asking for more from those who have more.

Craft a compelling picture of what’s happening in your organization, why it’s REALLY BAD, and what philanthropy can do to get you through the storm and make your organization stronger for when the next crisis hits.  How do you do that?  Glad you asked!  Feel free to use and modify some of the following language:

  • “We are expanding our organization’s reach in the community during the steepest rise in expenses for basic needs in 40 years.  And we as an organization find ourselves near the end of our ability to do more with less, or even with what we have in hand.  Compared to last fiscal year, our expenses have increased by XX%, while our revenue has decreased by/remained stagnant.  There has been a X% increase in demand for (specific services), and for the first time ever we have had to implement a waitlist while our clients struggle.
  • “While our annual operating budgets account for rising costs every year, we were not prepared for a rise in inflation to the extent we have seen since late 2021.   Everything has become more expensive to operate: our programs (by X% over last FY), our indirect and administrative costs (by x% over last FY), even our fundraising expenses, effectively reducing the value of every dollar contributed to us.  And as inflation devastates our clients/families/community’s household budgets, their need for our services increases.
  • “The COVID-19 pandemic threatened our communities to a degree that had been previously unimaginable.  Now, inflation has inflicted yet another threat upon them as the cost of basic needs rises beyond what their household budgets and circumstances can bear.  Without support from (name of funder), (your org) will be severely challenged to maintain its commitment to provide a meaningful level of support to anyone who comes through our doors for help.”

Other points to consider:

Don’t be afraid to use a real example of a terrible choice you had to make that threatens your org and/or its programs and impact.  For example, if you had to lay off staff and put more work on the plates of your remaining staff to cut expenses, tell that story.  And describe how it threatens to perpetuate a toxic culture in your organization that cannot be allowed to fester and grow.  Talk about staff morale as a result.

If you have reserves that you have had to tap into to get through the year, tell your funders about that.  This inflationary period is testing those internal “lifelines” you’ve worked hard to grow, and risks weakening them if things don’t get better…or when crisis hits again.  Because it will.

Lastly, be direct about what you need from them: an x% increase in their grant/gift over last year to help make up for what’s been lost or diminished.  A multiyear grant so that your organization can develop a real multi-year growth strategy instead of the single-year budgeting and planning that contributed to the crisis you’re in now.  Or both!  Both is good!  Frame it as financial disaster planning.

But don’t be scared to make the ask bigger and bolder than before, because bigger and bolder is what you will need to be to face the future.

Need some help?  Get in touch with us at heythere@kazanasstrategies.com today.