Moderator   •   over 4 years ago

Step-by-Step Instructions for Finding a Non-Profit Partner

How to Find a Non-Profit Partner:
Step-By-Step Advice from Someone Who’s Done It

Developers who need a non-profit partner in order to be eligible for the Verizon Apps for Class competition are often stalled at the point of - ugh - I don’t even know any non-profits! Or, sometimes: “My friend Marcie works at the Girl Scouts headquarters, but I’m guessing the Girl Scouts is a multimillion dollar organization and therefore too large to meet the competition’s $500k/yr. revenue limit.” Yes, this is a fact. Most non-profits are huge. For some reason, this is even more true in the education arena. Small non-profits are not easy to find.

So, how do you go about finding a small non-profit? I (Merrilea Mayo, merrilea_mayo@innovate-educate.org) have had to find partners for a number of developers for this competition. At this point, I have a system down, which I am happy to share with you. It seems to result in a viable partner in about 3-4 phone calls. You can do this, too. In fact, I am sharing this system with all the entrants, so a) you can be in control of your own fate and b) I can stop making so many phone calls myself and get onto other business.

STEP 1: Find a non-profit under $500k/yr. in revenues that has some interests in common with your app

For this, go to guidestar.com. In the search box, put down two words - the name of the location you want your non-profit to be in, and the subject area that you want the non-profit to care about (=the subject area of your app). For example, “Rochester” and “science” or “Dallas” and “literacy.”

For location I typically use either the developer’s home town or one of the competition locations where the app will need to be classroom-deployed. In 2014, this is Louisville, KY; New York, NY; Rock Hill, SC; Charlotte, NC; Las Vegas, NV.

Your search will return a list of non-profits. Click on each one that looks promising and go to its “Financials” tab. Look at the green “Total Revenue” bar. Is this under $500k? Good! If not, look up the next non-profit on the list.

Re-do the search until you have a small list of 2-5 qualifying non-profits that might care about what you’re doing.

STEP 2: Figure out how to contact the small non-profits on your list

Guidestar will often list the non-profit’s website on the Summary tab, under “Basic Organization Information.” Go to the non-profit’s website and browse around until you find some phone number or email address that looks like it will connect you to a live human. Even if it’s not the right live human (e.g., the webmaster instead of the non-profit’s CEO), give the spiel below, and then that live human will usually connect you to the right live human, the one who can make the decision, and the one you really need to give the spiel to.

You will often encounter secretaries and other screeners, so you need to sound legitimate and not just say “I want to speak to your CEO!” with no explanation, like you’re some unstable and potentially dangerous person the secretary is going to have to call 911 to deal with.

STEP 3: Give your spiel to the non-profit representative

My spiel goes something like this:

• I start off by saying I’m an organizer for a Verizon Foundation-funded competition [here, you would say instead you’re a mobile app developer considering entering a Verizon Foundation-funded competition]. Note the use of the words “Verizon Foundation” in the very first sentence to establish legitimacy and separate yourself from “random guy off the street.”

• I then explain a little bit about the contest – that it’s for mobile apps, targeted at middle schoolers, designed around educational topics (English, Math, Social Studies, Science).

• I go on to say the reason I’m calling is that the competition is encouraging app developers to work with non-profits in order to enter as a team.

• Next, I explain why I am approaching the specific non-profit I’m talking to. Several reasons are usually involved, typically:
a) the competition is located in only 4 regions (and the non-profit is sitting in one) OR the non-profit and the developer live practically next door
b) the rules are structured in such a way that not just any non-profit, but only a small non-profit with < $500k in revenue, will qualify. I go on to say, that leaves very few organizations that are even eligible to enter, but yours happens to qualify.
c) And, finally, I note that the non-profit is interested in x, which is the same subject the developer’s app is in.

• I close by asking if the organization would be interested in partnering. I mention the $20K prize, and the fact that the developer and non-profit who enter as a team would split the prize, although the developer (who did most of the work) typically gets the lion’s share, and the non-profit would typically get only $1-$2K. However, the nonprofit does get the opportunity to work with a real live mobile app developer and do something interesting together, at no cost to the non-profit.

STEP 4: Following up

• If the non-profit is interested, I go on to give them the Guidelines for Partnerships document (available from merrilea_mayo@innovate-educate.org, this document doesn't have official rules, just helpful suggestions) and perform email introductions with the developer.
• If the organization is not interested, then I ask whom they'd suggest instead, and whether they would take the trouble to introduce me to the more likely organization (typically by email). This gives me another layer of legitimacy going into the next conversation, because now I have just been introduced by a trusted mutual partner.
• While waiting for that referral connection to get made, I go on to the second organization on my initial list and start over from Step 2. No sense in wasting time!

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