How to get seed funding for non-profit?


I have a concept for a non-profit organization which would solve huge problems (think "climate change" for example) with money raised by aggregating very small payments from businesses for financial transactions with their customers. While I know it is a wild claim, the business has the potential to raise billions of dollars year after year which would be used entirely to fund projects for the betterment of the world.

Where can I find investors who are passionate about fixing our many, many world problems, rather than looking for a decent return, who might listen to my proposal? The investment required to get to a proof of concept stage would probably be in the range of $200K - $300K.

It is very frustrating when you think you have a “change the world” idea on a massive scale and you just want to be heard.

Non Profit Seed Funding Social Entrepreneur

asked May 3 '11 at 07:02
46 points

3 Answers


I think your best bet early on is to start with the crowd funding websites like:

(I pulled this from my blog post at the beginning of the year)

The basic concept is that you place you idea up with an amount of money you need to boot strap the idea. People then pledge donations, if you get enough donations you get the money pledged and get to start your idea.

answered May 3 '11 at 09:35
Robin Vessey
8,394 points


What you are looking for is an "impact investor " also known as a "venture philanthropist" : some organization ready to invest on social impact rather than on financial return only. There are several such global organizations as well as some local ones. This field is quickly maturing.

Here are some of them :

answered May 29 '11 at 04:13
81 points


What a great question. I think that Rob has put together the exhaustive list of resrouces for crowd sourcing the launch of your nonprofit. That is one fantastic idea. Here are others.

Framing the Campaign to Raise The key difference between sourcing launch capital for a for-profit and a not-profit is the desired return.

In a for-profit the desired return is financial. there are often secondary benefits -- like ego, prestige, or access. But the deal will be evaluated in terms of financial return.

In a non-profit the desired return is . . .well, all over the map. The stated is "desire for change" The secondary benefits of ego, prestige, access or just warm-fuzzies. There are hundreds of funds and individuals who make these type of investments. Your job is to find them and "close" them -- just as you would find and close an angle investor in your business.

Where are they? Their names are in the markeitng and development material of nonprofits: Look at the donor list on annual reports, in 990s. Find who the donors are that support causes similar to yours.

Their names are on the member directories of foundation associations: There are national, regional and sector associations. For example foundations that fund environmental causes have their own trade group. Find the ones that support your issue.

They are the clients of philentrophic advisors: many wealthy individuals and family funds contract with philanthropic advisors to support their giving. Find the ones in your area and communicate the opportunity to them directly. Here's a link to their trade group.

They are the funds managed by community foundations: In many communities there is a local community foundation. Most of these are actually made up of lots of donor advised funds. This means they manage the donations for specific donors. Find the ones in your area and communicate the opportunity-- they will connect you with a fund that might have an interest in your mission. (Here is a link to their trade group. )

Remember that you are making a B2B sales and need to have your marketing and sales material, pitch, and presentation prepared and practiced!

answered May 6 '11 at 06:38
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points
  • Nice set of strategies. It would be hard to pull off long term with the CrowdFunding idea I put up. I would use it as the kick start and then follow @Josephs Ideas. Possibly add "Get yourself as a TED presenter". – Robin Vessey 13 years ago

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