What is Fundsaving?
By Tim Mitchell, Founder, and Executive Director, Resourceful Nonprofits, Inc., a Maryland Nonprofit
Q: What do we call the ability to make big things happen with a cash budget that is unequal to the task? What term captures the art and craft (and paradox) of doing more with less?
A: Bargaining, fiscal savvy, leverage, creative problem-solving, resourcefulness, operating leanly, bootstrapping, maximizing utility… the list goes on.
We propose boiling these terms down to just one: “fundsaving,” a noun and a verb.
Fundsaving is concerned with reducing cash expenses by substituting donated products and services for those paid for with cash and preserving cash by purchasing products and services at a discount. Try thinking of it as the other side of the coin, so to speak, of “fundraising.”
Fundraising—aka “development”—entails those activities focused on the cash income side of the ledger. Fundraising is a mature and growing industry. There are technologies; in-house professionals; consultants and contractors; graduate degrees and certificates; publications; associations; directories; conferences; researchers; grantors; awards, press, and recognition; legal structures, reputation monitors, and regulatory enforcement.
In our view, fundsaving must evolve at least some of these elements or merge into the fundraising field if it is to truly be impactful. To this end, we founded RNI as a “think and do” organization and FundFerret as a website to foster interaction, share best practices, and crowdsource bargains. We believe that together, fundraising and fundsaving can help nonprofits not merely survive, but thrive in today’s topsy-turvy economy. Combined, they are a timely tool for building greater resilience. They help provide the means to meet the ends to which nonprofits were founded and to which they are now tasked. They respect and reward those whose generosity makes this work possible by ensuring that every dollar they donate or grant makes the greatest impact.
But for this to be achieved, fundsaving must first be recognized as a legitimate discipline alongside or part of fundraising. We do not know the extent to which fundsaving practices have become encoded in the fiscal DNA of the nation’s nonprofit organizations. We can, however, say a few things about fundsaving. It is largely practiced informally. It is a matter of culture, of learning. Meaning that it is a set of behaviors and practices. These are an outgrowth of money mindsets, values, and habits passed down by parents, seldom explicitly. They are the result of (too few) teens and young adults developing sound financial thinking and practices in school or after-school, in college, or on the job. Lastly, they are an outcome of financial acumen developed (or not) by trial and error by we adults.
We want to learn more about and document fundsaving practices. We aim to collectively parse, test, and contribute sound solutions. And we want to help nonprofits take full advantage of the many discounts, donated products and services, and cooperative and bulk purchasing savings littered across the internet. So, let’s crowdsource them into one big catalog so every nonprofit can benefit. It will take a lot of “ferreting out,” which is why we named this site FundFerret.org, combining fundsaving and ferreting-out into yet another new word for the nonprofit lexicon to absorb.
- Send URLs of vendors who offer nonprofit discounts or donations for the catalog.
- Suggest vendors you wish were listed in the catalog, so we can ask and add them.
- Share fundsaving tips and tricks and best practices in the forums.
- Submit an article for the blog—and for a wider audience via social media feeds.
- Send links to related articles, videos, and posts for the library.
- Submit links to organizations in any way connected to fundsaving for the resource directory.
- Share events and happenings for the calendar.
- Suggest topics and colleagues for potential podcasts and meet-ups.
In this same cooperative and inclusive spirit, we invite you to join us—as a subscriber, member, moderator, donor, vendor, or advertiser—as we explore, experiment with, and promote fundsaving!