By Alan Kravitz
Can you really make a living with nonprofits?
I get this question a lot — especially since I specialize in nonprofits. My answer is an emphatic “yes” — if you’re realistic and target your prospects carefully. These are gargantuan-sized ifs in the nonprofit world.
By realistic, I mean that at least for now, be prepared to negotiate pricewise. While $75-$100 per hour is still realistic, there’s no question that nonprofits have been adversely affected by the economy.
Many face not only charitable decreases, but also state and federal funding cuts. As a result, CEOs are slashing every budget they can — including outsourcing budgets.
But the good news is that you can navigate these bumps and do pretty well for yourself by being smart and strategic in your approach. Here are five steps that have always worked well for me.
1) Go for big organizations and/or big names. If the United Way likes you, they’ll give you lots of work. So will Bill Gates. The best nonprofits are run very much like businesses — and often by top businesspeople, too. But this leads me to:
2) Avoid the grassroots. Yes, it sounds heartless. But if you want to make a decent living here, you’ve got to use your head more than your heart. Small, local organizations probably can’t pay anything close to what you want (or need.) Save the grassroots for volunteering.
3) Pay attention to your mailbox/inbox. The causes you already support should get priority on your contact list. Why? Because there’s already a bond there. Non-profit professionals are very passionate and dedicated — and they like vendors who share their mission. And be sure to mention your support in your pitch. While that alone probably won’t be enough to seal the deal, it’s still a big plus.
4) Do your research. There are many online tools, but my favorite is Charity Navigator. Here, you can easily see what an organization raises annually.
For me, a charity has to raise at least $3 million to pique my interest — and ideally I go after the ones raising $13 million and up. These are the organizations that have budgets to pay writers decently.
Just as important, Charity Navigator also independently rates charities for financial effectiveness. I pay attention to charities that get at least 3 stars (out of four.) The more professional a charity is with their own donors’ dollars, the more professional they’re likely to be with you. Charity Navigator will also link you directly to the organization’s website, so you can research names of marketing/communications directors, development professionals and chief operating officers. Once you have all that:
5) Start calling and emailing. I hear collective groans now, but I’ve gotten several clients this way (including two just this week.) And since nonprofit folks are some of the nicest people around, even the rejections are sprinkled with thank yous. Referrals, too!
Final tip: Just be patient.
Especially now, you’ll probably hear prospects say, “We want to do this, but we’re waiting on funding.”
Don’t despair. Be understanding and stay on their radar. Your persistence will eventually pay off.
In fact, one of the great advantages of a nonprofit niche is a steady work flow. If clients like you, they will come back to you – a lot.
Got any advice for targeting nonprofits? Tell us in the comments.
Alan Kravitz is a freelancer copywriter and editor at The Infinite Inkwell. He specializes in writing for nonprofit and socially conscious for-profit organizations.