Don’t Forget To Ask Funders for Advice

3 min read

Social entrepreneurship is about producing positive social change and the best way to do this is sustainably. There is a famous saying that goes:

 “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. 

This is a saying to keep in mind when you seek funding. The funding like the fish in this metaphor will only sustain you and your initiative temporarily. Therefore you need to consider also asking funders “to teach you how to fish”, in other words, ask them to teach you how to acquire and manage the social enterprise funds sustainably.

One entrepreneur joked and said, “When I asked for money, I got advice. When I asked for advice, I got money”.

There is more than a grain of truth in this entrepreneur’s joke. Funders love to be asked for their advice on your venture. You should solicit advice as much as funding, especially if you have met a potential funder but are not yet at the fundraising stage. Not only is this easier to ask for, but it enables you to have a conversation about your venture without having to pressure a funder into whether they will give you funds or not. Asking for advice shows that you are an entrepreneur who is willing to listen and seek feedback, a quality which all funders look for.

Very often, when a funder has had a chance to review your business and given you advice which they see is taken seriously, they will be more inclined to invest in you. This is because it demonstrates to them that you are serious about the success of the venture and in turn assures them that their investment in you is in good hands. Asking for advice is both flattering as well as a way to get the funders to see the opportunities inherent in your venture. 

We have seen many social entrepreneurs very skillfully (and genuinely) approach funders for advice, and ended up building a rapport that led to investment. You can also approach certain investors to join your Advisory Board as a means to get them involved with your venture, and to build up some trust and relationship before you ask for investment.

Finally, always ask funders for their advice on where else to look for investment. If they fund you, this is the first thing that you should ask. You can say something like this:

“Thank you so much for your investment. Do you have any other contacts that you might be able to recommend us to?”

There is no more powerful fundraising champion for your venture than an existing or newly signed up social funder. Even if a funder decides not to invest in you, they will know plenty of other funders who might. This may be a way to convert a ‘no’ from a funder into a positive new lead.

For more tips on how to seek funding to scale your social impact check out our other blogs and our Social Investment Toolkit.

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