PROMISING PRACTICE: SEEKING FUNDING AS A SOCIAL ENTREPRENUER
by Riley Jones, IV
One of the more critical activities in starting a new venture is rather obvious: raising money to sustain operations. What is less obvious starting out is where to go to find capital. While there are many different types of capital you can take advantage of—loans, venture investment, grants, the list goes on—this particular Promising Practice will focus mostly on what’s known as non-dilutive funding.
Non-dilutive funding is any type of funding that does not require you to give up equity or ownership in your business. This is only applicable to for-profit ventures. For non-profit ventures, all funding is non-dilutive. Below, you’ll find my internal process for finding funding opportunities that help you get creative and practical about how to apply it to your venture.
Step 1- Introspection
Sit and think deeply about the various types of communities and organizations that your venture has the potential to interact with. Also, consider the various aspects of your identity as a founder that might align with funding opportunities. Write these down. If you have to stretch to make something fit into a particular category, then it might not be the best fit. Alternatively, this may help open up new ways of thinking about the streams of non-dilutive funding that might apply for you.
- What are some commonalities among the people your venture aims to serve? Do they all live in a particular area?
- Do your customers all share common interests? Are they a part of similar groups? Do they experience similar issues in any way?
- Does the school you attended have venture funding resources?
- Are there funders looking to invest in people with your particular racial, gender, or socioeconomic identity? Think about this broadly. Funders are all about creating a community of entrepreneurs; this means that there is something out there for everyone.
Other potential areas to consider:
- Geographic Region
- Academic/Professional Specialty
Step 2- Find Resource Depositories
Once you’ve identified the various buckets that you and/or your venture fall into, then you should find resource depositories (think newsletters, websites, and listservs) that fit within those various categories. There are going to be a lot of them!
Here are some of my favorites:
Word of mouth
Step 3- Securing the opportunity
- Always make sure the story you tell is aligned with the mission and vision of the opportunity, even if you may fit other criteria.
- Build relationships before and leading up to the date of the award to get connected to the people offering the non-dilutive funding.
- Make sure your public-facing materials and your private materials (deck, videos, one-pagers) don’t contradict the narrative you’re pitching for the grant. It can confuse funders!
If you have specific questions and want to follow up, you can always reach me at email@example.com. I’m happy to help support you on your entrepreneurial journey.