In the creative, can-do, innovative world of nonprofits, attracting support is as much about the power of your ideas and the impact of your results as it is about who you are. Let’s now turn our attention to re-framing — positioning your impact to present a bigger footprint — using the story of a $10 mosquito net that captured the imagination of the public just a few years back.
One way to establish a bigger footprint though a simple program is to show how for every dollar spent the ROI can provide manifold value. A few years back, The Gates Foundation presented a simple solution to malaria: a $10 mosquito net. While the net itself could very well reduce the caseload of the disease, the larger impact was to make the general public and policymakers aware of the impact of malaria and other endemic diseases on fragile health systems (huge burden) and economies (working conditions).
Sometimes your bigger footprint is established not through the breadth of positive change but rather the depth of the change. Investing deeply in the lives of a few students may yield substantial benefits, especially if you can reverse a significant negative trend. For example: many nonprofits providing educational services to high school students are deepening their impact by helping graduating seniors successfully transition into college. While the number of graduates served in such a program may be much smaller than the number of active students, by helping ensure that they finish college with a degree deepens the impact of the program and points to sustained positive results.
Using your results (perhaps with some re-framing) requires time and resources. One cannot insist that the impact of a given program qualifies as having a bigger footprint without the proof of data and an attendant set of conclusions. This means that one must have the means to collect, analyze and draw conclusions from data. And you must demonstrate how evaluation is leading you to conclude that your footprint is, indeed, growing. This process — data gathering and analysis — requires time, skills and expertise which may or may not exist within your team.
For organizations who can point to small victories — be it a high school senior who becomes the first in his or her family to attain a college degree or a life-saving solution accessible to all — small results can point to or leverage larger solutions. From my experience as a consultant, a surprising number of charities have a $10 mosquito net hiding somewhere that could well be the key to attracting attention and ultimately meaningful financial support. Step back, look at your work and find yours today.