7 Ways to Get Funding When You're Starting a Business
More Than Me Founder (and philanthropic superstar) Katie Meyler shares her tips for growing a global initiative.
"Courage is not the absence of fear, it's the ability to act in spite of it," says Katie Meyler, summing up her extraordinary mindset—and mission. Passionate and energetic, Katie is the engine at the center of More Than Me, a nonprofit organization she founded to provide educational opportunities for vulnerable girls in West Africa. According to Katie, the name itself denotes her initiative: "living for something bigger than yourself and getting over your own insecurities." Upon moving to Liberia on a five-month mission trip in 2006, Katie was met by locals with open arms and a desire for change. When she asked the impoverished girls of the West Point slum what they wanted most, their answer was simple—to go to school.
The lack of basic rights afforded to these children lit a fire in Katie and, despite her own fears and self-doubt, she assumed the impossible-seeming feat of opening Liberia's first tuition-free, all-girls academy. Four years after launching More Than Me, Katie was awarded a million-dollar grant from the Chase Community Giving Contest. The funds were used to create the More Than Me Academy, which has become one of the top-performing schools in the country. Her success was halted when Ebola hit. "At that point, we had to pivot. We wouldn't have an organization if our students didn't survive,” says Katie. Rather than flee home to safety in Bernardsville, New Jersey, Katie worked tirelessly on the front lines of the disease, transforming her school into a disaster-response center and saving thousands of lives. Utilizing her social media platform to chronicle the enormity of the epidemic, she gained a global audience with her on-the-ground coverage, promoting her work and bringing in donations. CEO of Instagram Kevin Systrom applauded her efforts and TIME magazine hailed Katie a "tornado of energy,” celebrating Ebola Fighters as the 2014 Person of the Year. In the aftermath of Ebola, Katie continued her work, even more ambitiously than before. Surviving the health crisis had made her stronger. Realizing the best way to serve her girls was to help prevent larger issues, she set out to rebuild the basic infrastructure of education in Liberia. "Our mission hasn’t changed—it’s only evolved," says Katie. Partnering with a "forward-thinking" Ministry of Education, the 34-year-old is currently replicating her education program across the nation. More Than Me now manages six additional schools with a five-year plan that scales to 500 facilities and is projected to provide thousands of new jobs and serve a quarter of a million students. Not only is Katie a woman who can envisage the sort of reform necessary to change a country, more importantly, she is committed to seeing it through. Katie attributes much of her assiduousness to the support she receives from "powerhouse women" professionals. "They take time out of their busy lives to care about me, and that is a big source of energy," she says. Female entrepreneurs Mindy Grossman, CEO of HSN, and Beth Comstock, Vice Chair of General Electric, have been invaluable to the More Than Me cause. "I am inspired by our generation and what is happening in the world with women right now," says Katie. "Women across industries are taking risks; connecting and advocating for each other. It's an amazing thing." Motivated by her supporters and students, she faces the challenge of raising 25 million dollars over the next five years with
confident optimism. "If you stay focused on the positive and the amazing work that is happening, that's what is going to grow,” says Katie. Below, she shares her best tips for securing funding when you're just starting out.
1. Play to your strengths
Fundraising is a skill so get creative using your strengths. As a people person and a story teller, I connect with donors through our “Promise Parties,” by reciting spoken word poetry and giving speeches to raise awareness. Form a committed team that can expertly tackle raising money in assigned areas—everything from grant writing to profitable event planning.
2. Create a clear vision
Think big and bold! Visualize your goal, write it down. (What does it look like? What does it feel like?) Create a clear, compelling vision that others can understand. The objective is to win people over with your mission. Your donors must want success for you.
3. Be authentic
People need to trust you as a person before they trust you with their money, so be authentic. Potential donors appreciate honesty and transparency, it creates a bond of trust. Being hands-on with your organization’s work, even as it grows, is also important. A genuine passion and connection will resonate.
Friends support friends so be willing to show up and network. Be confident, enthusiastic and open-minded. Connect with individuals that share your vision and are eager to spread the word. Remember, you don’t only need big checks written, fundraising is about building lasting relationships and growing your reach.
5. Become a storyteller
Share specific stories of the individuals you’ve helped. How are their lives better because of your organization’s efforts? Make your donors identify with your work by creating an emotional connection. These "characters" will become the reason your donor cares about your mission.
6. Tap your social network
I originally began raising awareness by sharing Liberian children’s stories on Myspace. I used Facebook to win a million-dollar grant. Instagram allowed me to inform the world about Ebola. Social sharing tools give you a global reach and can connect your mission to the masses. The small donations made by ordinary people can add up to make a large impact.
7. Communicate with donors
Increase your chances of future donations by keeping in touch with your donors and making them aware of the impact they have made by supporting your cause. The more they see being accomplished, the more they will be inspired to
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Image courtesy of Ivanka Trump. Illustration by Cybèle Illustration