After receiving my exclusive invitation for the kickoff party and beneficiary announcements for the 2018 City Gala, I realized that I wrote about Red Carpet celebrity tips from John Travolta and lessons from the Women's Empowerment panel, but I hadn't yet written about the most important thing. The amazing amount of effort and creativity the City Gala team uses to help seed deserving non-profits.

When best-selling author and City Summit moderator Greg Reid presented spot-on questions to people who have found ultimate success in so many ways, the result is opportunity after opportunity for learning from the best. Opportunities for non-profits, social good and for-profits as well. His goal was to highlight proof that "bringing together the highest level of entertainment and business leaders in the common agenda of social consciousness, achievement, and a dedication to giving forward to worthy humanitarian programs throughout the world."

The Take-Aways Are Still Hitting Me

At one point, I found myself talking with Ryan Long, the founder and executive producer of City Gala and he got me thinking about business in a different way. We (you and I) talk about profit quite often, but we don't venture much into the realm of non-profit, even though the business landscape is growing more and more towards social causes and because of this, we have witnessed a non-profit explosion. At the end of the day recognition means more to someone who has already found success, than more money or a higher net worth. The nonprofit sector creates opportunities to do good, while leaving a legacy so I want to continue our discussion about getting funded, and focus on nonprofits this time around.

Does Money Make The (Nonprofit) World Go 'Round?

All of this talk about nonprofit might make you think anyone with a heart for a cause could just go for it, launch, and quickly begin raising millions for whatever their heart desires. Except nonprofits need money, and more than money, they need mentorship, and business acumen. Founders need to know the landscape, just as any business owner does, or they will fail. Knowing this, Ryan and his team will actually coach/mentor incoming charities sometimes for an entire year, before the next City Gala event even happens.

With The Proper Support, Nonprofits Can Thrive

There are other foundations who have realized the needs of up-and-coming nonprofits, like Dale Goldboldo, Founder of International Arts & Philanthropy Foundation. When Dale isn't working in film or alongside celebrities like John Travolta, he is supporting charities around the world in areas of fiscal sponsorship, program development, and even fundraising... because the need is very real.

From The Founder of City Gala, Advice Nonprofits Need For Success

  1. Expand your mission to reach further and to to include more people. A lot of nonprofits, in the beginning, start with a very narrow niche, and their mission constricts them from ever reaching the type of growth they are envisioning. Knowing this from the beginning will help you expand your mission, and your reach, for maximum growth.
  2. Early funding is critical and proper branding will determine this. As Ryan so rightly put it, "People will work for money, but they will die for recognition." You can use this to your advantage but in order to get the right people willing to rally for your cause your messaging must be genuine and clear. If you want to get the funding you need, early enough to make it work, your message has to be right, to fall on the right ears.
  3. In order for your nonprofit to be deserving of success, there are requirements. In addition to my points above, you must also know how to launch, understand how to take in money, be skilled, or have staff trained, in grant writing, and you must possess a complete understanding of the possible revenue channels and how to use each to your full advantage.

Chris Breed, Founder of BreedLife, a charity recently sponsored and supported by the International Arts & Philanthropy Foundation at this year's City Gala, had this to say about their early struggles and how they are overcoming these difficulties:

What are the big challenges facing nonprofits looking for seed money?

Seeding a start-up non-profit involves some unique complexities . Labor and capital are typically the most important inputs to seeding both for profit and non-profit companies. You can't raise capital without a stellar team but you can't create a stellar team without capital unless of course you use equity as a substitute. In For-Profit ventures, new hungry entrepreneurs are willing to become co-founders and work long hours for '0' pay for the potential of an exciting upside in their equity stake. In the initial stages of a company, the opportunity cost of capital is extremely high so equity allows the for-profit company to retain the much needed capital, while hiring talent it would not otherwise be able to afford. Unfortunately, this incentive structure facilitated by equity compensation does not exist for the start-up charity.

This is the criteria that will designate whether a nonprofit is sustainable enough to survive. Your heart, and tugging on the heartstrings of others can only get you so far. If you have this criteria in place, you can begin thinking about the more complicated details of early seed money.