An organization I care about created a gorgeous new website that is alive but not thriving: no delicious hubbub of new activity, an eerie stillness permeating the pages. I knew why but I asked anyway: there’s no money for outreach. That inspired me to write down the rules I know about how to have money for outreach, even after your new stuff is already out in the world. (For those of you wondering what I’m talking about, “outreach” = all the ways you think up to tell people about the new stuff you’re offering.)
Rule #1: Stop thinking of outreach as a separate thing. Think about outreach as part and parcel of your new stuff. When you conceive a wonderful new program or product, conceive how it gets to the people you want to have it. If you see things as mental movies, see your new stuff in their hands, and then back up the film a little: how did they get hold of it? See it. And take notes!
Rule #2: Plan for outreach when you plan to produce your new stuff. This is a no-brainer now that you know Rule #1, but let’s say you didn’t. Let’s say you’re just reading this post now after your beautiful new stuff is already unleashed on the world–and languishing, unused and (apparently) unloved. Never! It’s not unloved–it’s unknown! An important distinction!
Rule #3: It’s never too late to write a happy ending! It’s never too late to add Part Two to the mental movie script. RAISING CLARITY’s special tool here is the power of your mind to produce just what you ask it to. Go back into your mental movie, now with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight. Rewrite the script. You can give the movie a happy ending because you know the end of Part One. Remember: that’s privileged knowledge, not everybody has it. In fact, almost no one has it because your new stuff is unknown (see Rule #2). You thought this was a problem? It’s a blessing. There’s one or more contained in every problem. To most everyone else, your new stuff is still new! Fresh! Virginal! Innocent! and available to be shared fresh with all the people you wanted to have it initially. Don’t skip this step: really see the movie corrected now from the vantage point of all your experiential wisdom. (That wisdom includes any negativity about the experience as long as you’ve reflected on it and drawn lessons from it.) THIS is the time you also fix anything wrong with your new stuff that the few people who’ve used it have told you about!
Rule #4: Rewrite your original budget to include outreach. Once you’ve rewritten your movie–your mental conception of the whole project, program, product, including its necessary outreach part–rewrite your budget. “Budget?” I hear you say. Let’s try another word: PLAN. You planned to have enough money to produce your new stuff. Right? Or did it just materialize? Let’s say you planned it. (If it just materialized, write me in the “Comments” to this post.) Go back to your original plan for how to produce the new stuff, and rewrite the plan. Trust me on this: rewrite the plan. In your revised plan, outreach is very much a part of the whole. It has its own section, but it’s part of the whole plan now. In fact, each outreach action has a little price tag in your revised plan. What outreach actions are you going to take? Use your experiential wisdom (see Rule #3). You’ve learned a lot about what’s not working; you’ve also learned something actionable about what would work. Cost out the top three to five smartest outreach investments and put them with their costs into your revised budget–I mean, your PLAN.
Rule #5: Now, fundraise for your outreach. Sshh! I have heard all your objections before. You can totally fundraise now that Part One (your new stuff) is completed. In fact, it’s much easier now. Let me remind you of some important facts about your situation to reframe it for you:
- For an (individual) donor or a (foundation or corporater) funder, your new stuff is a great investment: Most of it is already paid for.
- Troubleshooting your new stuff? Done! Its Beta Phase, its trial run, its pilot are completed. There are folks who give grants just for piloting a project! You’ve saved your investors all kinds of money because your project has already been piloted! It is up and running, and it works beautifully. (If it doesn’t, you have taken the steps to fix it back when you observed Rule #3.)
- Your new stuff inevitably gives more glory to those who fund its outreach than those who helped you produce it in the first place. This can’t be helped because now you are in the creating-reverberations phase, the “viral” phase. Part of the outreach is its messaging. Part of the messaging is who helped make the messaging possible. We always thank and give glory to everyone who supported our work. It’s just that although this is the least expensive phase, it has greatest reverberations built into it.
- Outreach can also be the most measurable part of your new stuff: nowadays, it’s easy to measure how many users, for how long, in which ways are using your new stuff. Think of it as the “inreach” part of outreach. While some of your investors think measurable results are extremely important, others just think they’re useful, and a few don’t care. I think measurable results are usually easier to come by than we think at first, uncreative blush. (We are always estimating and measuring the results of our actions in the world, so why not write them down? It’s not that hard if we are using the right–most helpful–units of measurement.)
- Ask both the new stuff’s existing investors and new investors (donors, funders) to fund the outreach you’ve planned. Those who gave before to produce the new stuff do not know that before reading this post, you thought your new stuff was unloved. Trust me: they are busy. They have not read every update you sent about it. But they may be quite excited now that you’ve given them a decent interval to fund outreach that builds on their initial wise investment in your new stuff. Outreach now is a great investment for new donors too because your new stuff, again, is paid for, piloted, gives glory as part of the messaging, and has easily measurable results.
Enjoy! and great success finding the funding you need for outreach for your new stuff. Subscribe to this blog–it inspires us. Contact us to work with us or just ask questions.