Law of Surplus

It is often easier for corporations (individuals, too) to give non-monetary goods than it is money or grants, especially when tightening budgets. This is called the Law of Surplus. This article will introduce the Law and provide an example and give you 2 challenges to apply it to your work and personal life.

A common mistake many beginning grant writers make is to focus solely on asking for money. They don’t take advantage of a secret that I never learned until I had 8 years in the business.

The Law of Surplus states that corporations are more likely to give what they have a “surplus” of. If they have a surplus of profits, they are able to give money. If they have employees, they might be willing to donate labor for a fundraiser or special event. You’ve probably heard of this when a corporation adopts a nonprofit. If they have a surplus of products or services, they are prime candidates for you to approach for tangible items you need for your projects.

The Law also states that if there is no longer a surplus, don’t waste any more time looking there. Instead, look for where the surplus is. In other words, if the surplus of profits is gone and corporations, like individuals, are tightening their finance belts, they are less likely to give money. Why? Because there is “no” surplus to draw from.

However, it doesn’t take much effort to find the gold mind of surpluses of goods hidden from your view. For example, a restaurant may be willing to prepare and donate food for a fundraising event. A conference center or college might donation a room while local musicians donate music and entertainment. Likewise, a construction company may be willing to donate building supplies, even labor, to renovate classrooms.


One student told me that she was having “no luck” getting a grant for $85,000 for fencing she needed for an animal shelter. You see the wolves were digging beneath the wooden fence they had. What they needed was a metal fence buried far enough that the wolves couldn’t dig under.

Instead of asking for money – like she was doing unsuccessfully – I invited her instead to look for the surplus of what she actually needed… fencing. Who has a surplus of fencing? Answer: A fencing manufacturer.

The Law of Surplus says that if a surplus of money isn’t readily available, try another surplus. She found a business who not only donated the fencing, but the labor, too, to install it. She didn’t need money after all. She needed fencing. And, she got it! $85,000 worth of fencing and labor… everything donated!

The point is that corporations are great sources of surpluses for what you need. You can take advantage of the Law of Surplus by focusing first on what you need. Then, ask, “Who has a surplus of this?” Keep in mind there may very likely be a corporation someplace who has a surplus of that very product you need right now.

By sharing their surplus with you, they are donating something they actually have. Their out-of-pocket expense is limited while the benefit of giving is not. They can even get a tax write-off in most cases.

In summary, one way to strategically use corporations is to maximize the power of the Law of Surplus to your advantage. Look first for non-money donations.

2 CHALLENGES: 1 Work & 1 Personal

Here’s 80% challenge at work: challenge yourself and your agency to get at least 80% of the items needed for your next project donated. Then, leverage these donations to ask for actual money.

In other words, once you get things donated, when you ask for money, you can show that 80% has already been donated by corporations. This makes it super easy for a funder to say, “yes” to the remaining 20% (money) you need that you can’t get donated from another source. How can they refuse when there is so much support already!

Here’s your personal challenge: identify the surpluses you have personally, like clothes, movies, and say 4 hours a month of your time. Then, find creative ways to use the Law of Surplus to give your surplus to a needy cause, like give your clothes to the Salvation Army, your surplus of movies to the local library, and your extra 4 hours a month to the local soup kitchen for the homeless. In just a few minutes, I plan to donate organic sodas to a local church.

Source by Phil Johncock

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