Originally posted on Nonprofit Hub by Hannah Trull.
It’s no secret that nonprofits struggle to find funding more than businesses and corporations do. Any money left over after operating costs is usually put toward helping those in need, and that’s something to be proud of.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not important to bring home a sufficient amount of bacon, or that nonprofit workers shouldn’t live comfortably themselves. You want to make sure you have enough emergency funding on deck to keep your organization running and your employees happy.
Life, however, can sometimes interfere with that. When disaster strikes, you need to have a plan in place so you and your employees can recover with as little damage as possible. Here are some places you can find emergency funding if all else fails.
There are plenty of organizations that provide last-minute grants. For example, since 2012, the Open Road Alliance (ORA) has provided over $13 million in emergency funding to organizations that might have otherwise gone under. ORA also launched a low-interest loan fund called Open Road Ventures in 2018, which plans to distribute an additional $50 million over the next five years. Look to them if you’re in a pinch!
Finally, consider the possibility of using discretionary funds, where foundations allow senior staff to give out small loans without going through the lengthy grant process.
With a nonprofit credit line, you can set up a backup fund at no cost (until you use it, of course). The most popular and highest-rated credit line, Financing Solutions, has helped hundreds of nonprofits get by when their funding is delayed—like during payroll, at the end of the fiscal year or whenever else the world takes them by surprise.
Financing Solutions claims this is better than a grant in times of emergency because instead of applying and waiting, you can be approved ahead of time to have money wired to your account immediately, and then pay it back once you’ve recovered.
However, just like a regular credit card, this does carry some risk. Keep careful track of your finances, pay your bills on time and only use the credit line in times of real emergency so you don’t end up deeper in debt.
If your organization already sells a product or service, raise your prices. Just a small increase in cost can make a huge difference. And if you don’t, you might consider it. You can sell goods, like merch, or provide “backroom” services like human resources, office space, accounting or consulting. Earned income is becoming a common practice among nonprofits large and small—give it a try!
While you may feel a little hesitant to admit to your supporters that you’re financially struggling, being transparent could save your organization’s life. After all, those who have donated to your cause in the past have already shown their support. They want you to stick around, so they might feel most compelled to give. So, shamelessly ask for help. If they say no, you’re right back where you were—no harm, no foul.
When the unthinkable happens, be sure to exhaust all of these resources before you throw in the towel. Although it can be tough for nonprofits to establish a rainy day fund, it’s also very possible—you’d be surprised by how many of your supporters want to see you succeed.