Monday, December 31, 2007

Grants for Emerging Artitsts' Avante-Garde Art Projects

From The Foundation Center...

Franklin Furnace Announces Open Call for Artists Deadline: April 1, 2008 The mission of the Franklin Furnace Archive ( http://franklinfurnace.org/ ) is to present, preserve, interpret, proselytize, and advocate on behalf of avant-garde art, especially forms that may be vulnerable due to institutional neglect, their ephemeral nature, or politically unpopular content.

As part of that mission, Franklin Furnace annually awards project-based grants to emerging artists, allowing them to produce major works in New York. Works may engage the Internet as an art medium and/or venue. Artists from all areas of the world are encouraged to apply. Full-time students are ineligible. Grants will range between $2,000 and $5,000 each.

Visit the Franklin Furnace Web site for complete program information and examples of previously funded projects. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10010421/franklinfurnace

Grants for Post Production of Documentary Films About Jewish Life

From The Foundation Center...

Foundation for Jewish Culture Invites Applications for Fund for Jewish Documentary Film

Deadline: March 7, 2008

The Foundation for Jewish Culture (formerly the National Foundation for Jewish Culture) ( http://www2.jewishculture.org/ ) invests in creative individuals in order to nurture a vibrant and enduring Jewish identity, culture, and community.

The foundation's Lynn and Jules Kroll Fund for Jewish Documentary Film provides grants for the completion of original documentary films and videos that promote thoughtful consideration of Jewish history, culture, and identity.

The priority of the fund is to support projects in the final stages of post-production that address significant subjects; offer fresh, challenging perspectives; engage audiences across cultural lines; and expand the understanding of Jewish experience.

Applicants must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (director or producer); be in post-production at the time of application; be an individual, a nonprofit organization with federal tax- exempt status, or have a fiscal conduit that agrees to receive and administer an award on behalf of the project; have creative, editorial, and budgetary control of the proposed project; and own the copyright of the completed film.

Funding will not be provided for research, script development, or other pre-production expenses. While applications from emerging artists and first time film- makers are welcome, all applicants must submit either one of their own completed films or a film they worked on, preferably, in some major capacity. Grants from the fund must be used for projects in post-production at the time of the application.

Fund awards generally range in size from $15,000 to $35,000 each and are awarded to up to six filmmakers. No grant will exceed $50,000, or 50 percent of the total project budget, whichever is less.

Visit the Foundation for Jewish Culture Web site for complete program guidelines. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10010420/jewishculture

Grants for HIV AIDS Prevention Programs

From The Foundation Center...

United States Conference of Mayors Accepting Proposals for HIV/AIDS Prevention Grants Program

Deadline: February 25, 2008

The United States Conference of Mayors ( http://usmayors.org/), in cooperation with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for HIV, STD and TB Prevention ( http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp ), has issued a Request for Proposals for the HIV/AIDS Prevention Grants Program to strengthen local capacities to carry out effective HIV/AIDS prevention activities.

Proposals will be accepted for the following funding priority: Implementation of HIV/AIDS Prevention Services Targeting Women of Color at High Risk of HIV Infection. USCM plans to award grants totaling approximately $420,000 to local health departments, nonprofit community-based 501(c)(3) organizations, and Native American tribes for the implementation of HIV/AIDS prevention projects targeting high-risk women of color.

Applicants must propose to conduct an individual- or community-level intervention that has been or can be shown to increase the adoption of safer behaviors and/or reduce the risk of HIV transmission. All proposals will be judged by an external panel of experts solely on merit; membership in USCM is not required. No proposal will be selected for funding unless it provides clear evidence of the participation of the target population in developing the proposal and a clear role for the target population in conducting the proposed program. Grants are restricted to projects whose intent is to provide direct prevention services to the target community; research projects will not be funded. Funding will be divided into six grants of approximately $70,000 each.

See the USCM Web site to download the complete Request for Proposals. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10010367/usmayors

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays - A Gift For You: Alton Brown's Fudge Recipe...

For the holidays I am giving you fudge!

Below is a fudge recipe from Alton Brown, cook and cooking science guru of the show, "Good Eats" over on the Food Network. I printed the recipe from their website last year and was not very happy with how the fudge turned out (admittedly, that could be due to cook error).

Today, I watched Alton's fudge episode and took notes. The recipe and directions on the site are very different than his directions on the show. These are Alton's directions as noted by me (all errors are mine)...

Alton Brown's Fudge

Food Network Difficulty: Medium
Yield: 64 one inch squares
Temperatures: Fahrenheit

Warning: cooking any candy is dangerous as sugar is heated to the point of liquefying. If it gets onto your skin (e.g. boil splatter, falling onto you, touching it accidentally, etc.) the liquid sugar will potentially severely burn you or others. Use caution while making this. Keep a close eye on the mixture during the entire process. Do not leave it unattended. Keep children and pets away from it. Use extreme caution while making this.

The whole key with making good fudge is the texture which is about the crystals you create in your fudge. 234 – 240 degrees is the softball candy stage and this is the perfect stage to make fudge. Professional fudge makers get the fudge to 236 degrees before cutting heat and leaving it to cool.

Utensils:
heavy bottomed 2 quart sauce pan [Note: I just made this fudge yesterday morning and if you use an aluminum sauce pan the fudge cools too fast when you're stirring fast, at the end of the process. Use a stainless steel sauce pan!]
wooden spoon (must be wooden so that it does not conduct heat and burn you)
digital candy thermometer (others are not as easy to read or use)
rubber or plastic spatula
8x8 inch glass dish
parchment paper cut to three inches larger on all sides than the 8x8 glass dish

Ingredients:
2 ¾ cup regular white table sugar
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 tablespoons unsalted butter (plus extra to grease 8x8 dish and spatula)
1 cup half and half
1 tablespoon light corn syrup

If desired:
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped roasted nuts (must be roasted)

Directions:
1. Grease the 8x8 inch glass dish and the spatula with unsalted butter. Tear a piece of parchment paper that is 3 inches larger than the glass dish on all four sides. Place the glass dish in the center of the piece of parchment paper and cut the paper, from each of the four corners of the dish, to the tip of the paper’s corners. After all four corners of the paper are scored, fit the parchment paper into the greased dish snugly.

2. If it is humid (raining out) when you make the fudge, cook the fudge to a higher than normal softball candy stage. Cook it to above 234 degrees (as directed, below). It will finish with a grainy texture but the fudge will then soften within a day or two.

3. In the heavy bottom saucepan, combine the sugar, chocolate, 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, half and half, and light corn syrup.

4. Over medium heat, stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved and the chocolate is melted.

5. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to a boil.

6. Once it boils, reduce the heat to low medium and cover (so that the condensation, inside, rolls the sugar that accumulated on the sides down into the mixture) for three minutes. The mixture will simmer inside the covered saucepan.

7. After three minutes remove the lid and attach the digital candy thermometer into the mix and onto the pan. Set the digital candy thermometer to go off when the mixture reaches the softball candy stage (234 degrees). Cook the mixture until it reaches 234 degrees. You can cut the heat when the thermometer reaches 232 degrees and leave the pan on the turned off burner. It will coast to 234 degrees on its own.

8. At 234 degrees (or 232), turn the heat off and do not touch the pan or its contents. Do not bump, move, stir, or shake the pan. If you do, a seed crystal could form and this would crystallize your fudge and make it grainy. Let the fudge cool to 110 degrees.

9. After it cools, add one tablespoon unsalted butter to the top of the fudge (do not stir, let it melt into the top of the fudge) to keep it from drying out and stir it like crazy (fast). As you’re quickly stirring the fudge, watch for the fudge to turn from shiny to a matte (dull) finish.

10. When it goes dull, slow your stirring and test the fudge by lifting the spoon a bit in the bowl and watching the fudge fall off of it. If it falls thick (slow and thick fall), then now is the time to add the roasted nuts and vanilla if you are adding these. If you do want to add roasted nuts and vanilla, do so now. These will rapidly cool the fudge, so quickly get the fudge into the greased and parchment paper lined 8x8in dish after adding vanilla and roasted nuts.

11. Pour the fudge into the greased and parchment paper lined dish (roasted nuts and vanilla added or not). Smooth the top of the poured fudge in the dish, down with the greased spatula.

12. Let the dish of fudge sit in a cool dry place and cool down for at least 2 hours before cutting or eating it. Do not put it into the fridge to cool the fudge because it is too wet in your fridge for this kind of fudge.

13. Cut the fudge into 1 inch pieces and store it in an airtight container for up to a week.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The IRS to Reveal the New Non Profit Tax Form Today - Small Revenue Organizations Will Have to File, Too

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is reporting that today the IRS is going to share its new tax reporting form for American non profits.

Beginning in 2008, the IRS is going to require more American non profit organizations file a tax report, whether your non profit is a multi-million dollar operation, or not. It used to be (prior to 2008) that if your organization received less than $25,000 in a given year, the organization did not need to report to the IRS. Even if your non profit receives less than $25,000, as of 2008, you will need to file a tax report to the IRS. Those non profits who will have to begin reporting, i.e. received less than $25,000 in revenue will file an electronic (or real) "E Post Card".

To understand why the IRS is implementing these new reporting rules, and what the goals are, read my post, "New IRS Reporting Requirements for Non Profits, Or What Does the Pension Protection Act of 2006 Require of Non Profits Starting In 2008?"

The tax form that most American non profits file is the IRS tax form 990. Not only is the form a tool for the IRS to monitor American non profits' accounting, work, viability, commerce, and transparency - it is also a very helpful tool to those of us who are grant writers. To learn more about how this public document can assist you in getting grants read my posts, "The Grant Writer's Little Helper: IRS Tax Form 990 Post 1 of 2" and "The Grant Writer's Little Helper: IRS Tax Form 990 Post 2 of 2".

To retain your federal non profit status, your organization is going to have to complete its federal tax due diligence, so be sure that you understand the new form and its changes.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Nonprofit Management's Effects on Operations and Dealing With the Negatives...No Sweat!

Come join us and share your response. Christopher Scott, our host for the December Giving Carnival, asks "How much does the leadership of an Executive Director or C.E.O. effect fundraising?" Christopher writes the "Nonprofit Leadership, Innovation, and Change" blog. Email him with a link to your post, responding to his question; or email him your written response at mailto:Christopher.Lynn.Scott@gmail.com by this Wednesday, December 20th. Be sure to check back the day after to read our colleagues' responses!

I am getting back to Christopher, here. Let me know your response to my response!

My answer is "it depends". 'No duh?', right?

The effect that an executive director or C.E.O. has on fundraising depends upon many of the nonprofit organization's attributes. How much a leader effects the fundraising depends upon:
__ what the needs are of the constituency that the organization's mission serves
__ what the organization's goals are to meet those needs
__ what the plan is to implement programs, etc.
__ the nonprofit's mission
__ its' by laws
__ what the organization's donors prefer
__ the nonprofit's Development Plan
__ how the nonprofit executes its Development Plan
__ its' operations
__ how it is staffed and how much experience/talent the staff has
__ the leadership's experience (from volunteers, to staff, including the board of directors)
__ how much the board is a working board
__ how much oversight and leadership the board retains
__ the C.E.O. or executive director's experience, confidence, and interest in fundraising
__ the organization's office culture
__ many other of a myriad of possible variables, such as the economy, etc.

A nonprofit is overseen by a group of volunteers, typically known as the board of directors or the board of trustees, and beneath them is an executive director or C.E.O. that runs the day to day operations. Beneath the C.E.O. are the volunteers or staff, or both. At each tier there are opportunities, hopefully, for volunteers to contact board members with concerns, for staff to talk with the executive director easily, and for the board to ask volunteers and staff how the executive director is doing. How well a nonprofit is run depends upon how much the volunteers, staff, and leadership know about modern nonprofit operations and management. It also depends upon successful policy, operations, and successful implementation of policies and goals. If our organization is being operated by people who know what 'should' be done for effective success, and they're being honest and communicative about where the organization should be growing, how, and when (and if there are quorums, information is shared, and all parties listen, share, and are willing to compromise (all involved parties have equal weight during talks)) - then the organization is probably setting priorities based on the needs of the mission statement and the clientele or whatever/whomever your organization is serving. The organization is operating as a mission-focused organization. This is the ideal.

We all, no matter how professional, well-meaning, seasoned, how good we are at communicating, planning, and implementing, have limits. The goal is to, in effect, dilute leadership's faults across the entire organization, such that no one person's traits, limits, access, etc. can weaken or hurt the organization, its' goals, or its' operations. The healthy nonprofit needs effective, capable, good leadership, and no one is perfect. So, you acknowledge everyone's imperfection or humanity and get proactive. You don't want the leader's foibles to become the limits to the nonprofit's capabilities. And this does happen...

Let's say that you and I work for a reputable nonprofit that runs smoothly (achieves budgetary benchmarks, meets the community's need, achieves mission success and growth, has healthy cash flow, etc.) and the volunteers, board, and staff work well with our executive director (she communicates well, cares about the mission statement, is a natural leader amongst the volunteers and staff, works well with others, succeeds at various goals, etc.), then we're probably, generally, happy because all seems to be going well. Christopher's question forces us to consider more about our executive director, though. The question, in this scenario, is 'is this all we want?' The executive director usually manages and oversees day to day operations. If our executive director loves to talk with our clients, with our vendors, with the staff and the board, but is not comfortable asking our major donors, for instance, where they connect with our organization, and if they can support the new program; then our nonprofit runs well, day to day, but is not really going after major donors' money. Specifically, a major donor should be approached peer to peer, meaning our organization's leadership (not the staff) should be asking for money and fostering the relationship. Since our particular leader is not pushing themsevles and meeting with major donors, that potential revenue stream is left on the table which may be unfortunate if we need more cash flow for that new program. Now, if our board of directors is a working board, and they're out there developing our major donors because they're happy with our executive director but also see, AND OPENLY ACKNOWLEDGE that she does not develop major donors - then it does not matter that our executive director is less of a face to face fundraiser. The executive director is mostly focusing on the day to day management of the office and its goings on, and the board is fine with that. The board's chosen to take on the major donor fundraising work, themselves. If, though, our board is a young board or a new board - then the major donors and their potential investment into our organization is null.

If our organization's leadership does not properly oversee our executive director or does not understand what modern fundraising, nonprofit operations, or current laws require - how will our organization continuely succeed and grow to meet the need? Our mission statement and our organization's interview or studies' findings that indicate our cause's constituency's needs, should be driving the what, where, when, how, and why that our organization does (or doesn't do). Our leader's personality limits, lesser confidence, or restricted abilities should not be restricting our organization.

It is everyone's responsibility to watch for what is falling through the cracks.

If a leader demonstrates strengths in all but one or two aspects of all of the operations (which is normal) that's fine - but the organization's volunteers, staff, or leadership SHOULD be honest, recognize these reasonable deficits, weigh them against the needs of those your mission serves, and deal with the deficits. Do what is not being done, if it is needed.

Never allow one person's humanity; their limits, become the organization's limits. Your organization's growth, capacity, abilities, and goals are everyone's responsibility.

Grants for Communities Sustaining Local Natural Resources Such As Wetland, Riparian, and Coastal Habitat Restoration

From The Foundation Center...

Proposals Invited for Five-Star Habitat Restoration Matching Grants

Program Deadline: February 15, 2008

The Five Star Restoration Challenge Grant Program seeks to develop community capacity to sustain local natural resources for future generations by providing modest financial assistance to diverse local partnerships for wetland, riparian, and coastal habitat restoration.

The National Association of Counties ( http://www.naco.org/ ), the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation ( http://www.nfwf.org/ ), and the Wildlife Habitat Council ( http://www.wildlifehc.org/ ), in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( http://www.epa.gov/ ), Southern Company ( http://www.southerncompany.com/ ), and Pacific Gas and Electric Company ( http://www.pge.com/ ), are accepting applications for the program.

Currently, funding is available from the program's two corporate sponsors in the Southeast states and most of northern and central California. Five Star Program partners are also soliciting proposals nationwide because additional funding from EPA is expected to be available later this year to support projects throughout the U.S. and its territories.

Five Star Projects must include on-the-ground restoration efforts; an environmental education component; partnerships (involving at least five organizations); and measurable results. The grant program is open to any public or private entity. Projects should be completed within one to two years of the award. Requests must be for $10,000 to $40,000 each.

For more information on the Five Star Restoration Program, visit the NFWF Web site. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10010209/nfwf

Grants for Community Revitalization Via Production, Preservation, Or Financing of Low to Moderate Income Housing Units

Home Depot Foundation Offers Support for Affordable Housing Programs

Deadline: March 1, 2008 (Letter of Inquiry)

The Home Depot Foundation ( http://www.homedepotfoundation.org/ ) is dedicated to creating healthy, livable communities through the integration of affordable housing built responsibly, as well as the preservation and restoration of community trees.

The foundation makes grants to 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charities in the United States and to charitable organizations in Canada. The foundation awards most of its grants by directly soliciting proposals from high-performing nonprofit organizations with the demonstrated ability to create strong partnerships, impact multiple communities, and leverage grant resources. In order to identify potential future nonprofit partners and/or respond to unique community revitalization opportunities, a limited amount of funding is set aside to be awarded through a competitive process. Preference is given to proposals that include community engagement resulting in the production, preservation, or financing of housing units for low- to moderate-income families that address as many of the following considerations as possible: resource efficiency in design, construction, and operations; minimization of the depletion of natural resources, including timber and water; landscape features such as trees and shrubs that minimize demand for water and synthetic chemicals and reduce the "heat island" effect; reduction of maintenance costs through the use of innovative and durable materials; the use of environmentally friendly building materials; site planning with minimal environmental impact; use of energy-efficient and renewable technologies; improvement of indoor air quality, including moisture control and proper ventilation; and smart site planning and land use.

Complete program information, an FAQ, and an eligibility test are available at the foundation's Web site. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10010205/homedepotfound

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Greatnonprofits.org Launches - A Site for the Public to Review and Share Their Non Profit Experiences

We have the first "Zagats-like" Guide to nonprofits, GreatNonprofits launched a new site with consumer reviews about nonprofits to help people find worthy nonprofits.

(Dec 10)San Francisco, CA- This season, donors who are looking for worthy non profits to give to or volunteer for have a new site where they can checkout reviews of the nonprofits by people who have had a direct experience with it.

The site, www.greatnonprofits.org, harnesses the Internet's ability to aggregate user-generated content and follows the model of restaurant, movie and product reviews made popular by Zagats, Amazon and Epinions.

"People interested in giving or volunteering can now read reviews of non profits submitted by real people who have seen first hand the results. This will help people make giving or volunteering decisions," says Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits.

"It is a bold step forward for philanthropy."Users on the site can browse hundreds of profiles and reviews of nonprofits and write their own reviews of nonprofits they have interacted with."The consumer review sites have helped tens of millions of shoppers make better buying decisions. Informed consumers shop more in aggregate," says Naval Ravikant, GreatNonprofits advisory board member and founder of Epinions.

"Similarly, GreatNonprofits, by giving authentic, unbiased reviews will create greater trust and faith in charities, and increase the level of giving overall."At GreatNonprofits.org, donors can read personal stories, see photos, and videos showing how people have volunteered with, worked with, donated to, or benefited from the work of nonprofits. Pittsburgh is the first city to participate in the pilot.

Through the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership, over 300 nonprofits are participating. Reviews of nonprofits have been written by people who have volunteered, who have donated or who have benefited from a non profit's services.

Says Vivien Luk of The Forbes Funds, "We see GreatNonprofits as a way to connect the public with services provided by our local nonprofits and to better connect nonprofits with each other. This is also a great way to increase donations and volunteerism for our local nonprofits.

Ni says that GreatNonprofits complements other sites where people go to research nonprofits, such as Guidestar. "GreatNonprofits provides people with subjective, personal reviews– it's a complement to sites which publish data about nonprofits."

For Further Information: Contact GreatNonprofits.org 415-902-2659 or
perlani at greatnonprofits dot org

Monday, December 10, 2007

Want to Spend Less on Your Non Profit's Fundraising? Here's How...

As I always, I want you to do a few things. The up shot? This particular post will probably help your organization keep some money in the bank, that it would otherwise spend.

What do I want you to do?

1. Track some specific information.
2. Analyze that information.
3. Review findings. Make changes based on findings.

I describe each step, below.

You can use the following method to reduce your organization's fundraising costs for each fundraising method that your organization currently does or is planning to implement.

If you are making a certain amount of money, annually, from a given fundraising method you are probably pleased to just be able to add the revenue to your organization's financials' "Income" line, year to year. I understand. We all feel that way when we raise money for our causes. I've even been known to yell, "Hallelujah!" With the current economy, though, we're all feeling the squeeze. Like you, the organization that I work for needs more cash flow right about now.

Let me show you how you can spend less on each of your fundraising methods, thereby keeping more of the organization's money in the bank.

To demonstrate, let's say, hypothetically, that your non profit writes and mails an annual appeal each year to your donors. Let's take a look at your 2007 annual appeal mailing (and this could be done for any of your fundraising methods, so if you raise money mostly by grant writing or instead use donation envelopes in a quarterly newsletter, etc. - whatever - this recommendation applies).

Let's say that you just mailed your annual appeal letter to 300 folks who've donated to your non profit, before. You've included a donation remittance envelope with each letter. Here are the real expenses for this particular project:

Expenses:
Letterhead paper - $1,500
Letterhead window envelopes - $1,500
Donation remittance envelopes - $500
Postage - non profit bulk rate sending mailing out - $105
Postage - non profit bulk rate to receive donation remittance envelopes - $20
Mailing labels - $15
Printing mailing labels and letters - professional printers or wear and tear on your printer - $30
Executive Director's time - proof reading annual appeal letter, analyzing results - $50
Fundraising Manager's time - writing annual appeal letter, organizing project, analyzing results - $100
Fundraising Associate's time - printing mailing labels, updating donor database w/returned letters, receiving and processing donations - $100
Bookkeeper - accounting for donations and delivering checks to the bank - $60
Volunteers' time folding, stuffing, sealing envelopes, and bundling mailing -$0
Mileage reimbursement - delivering mailing to post office, delivering checks to the bank - $7.00
Total Expense: $3,997

Now, for each of these expenses there are ways to bring your costs down. For instance, be sure that your non profit has a federal non profit bulk mailing rate for large mailings. Go to the post office to apply for one, if you haven't. Do not spend the regular postage rate on your larger mass mailings. Also, compare local printers, office supplies, and letterhead costs. Consider whether one of your regular donors is a print shop owner? If so, ask them if they'll donate printing, letterhead, etc. (these are in kind donations). Buy paper, etc. in bulk to get a reduced price for your purchase volume, or form a co-op with other local non profits and buy your supplies together, getting an even bigger large volume purchase discount to share amongst your organizations. Lastly, use volunteers as much as is possible.

For this post, though, I'm going a step further to show you how to keep more money in the bank. I'm asking you to do the three steps that I listed, above. This analysis can be done many different ways. Do what works best for your organization. Here are my suggestions:

1. Track some specific information:
Before you mail them, and after the envelopes have been labeled, break the annual appeal letters down into three distinct groups based on the recipients' giving history: large amount donors, medium amount donors, smaller amount donors. For your internal use get three different colored pens, give each group a color, and mark each remittance envelope according to how the donor has given in the past. For instance, let's say that Mr. Frank Paul has given $100 to each of your requests and that's a larger donation amount for the typical amounts your organization receives. Then, place a small line on his remittance envelope in the color that you've assigned to your larger amount donors. Do this for each of the three groups. Your letter recipients won't know what a little color dash on the remittance envelope means, but it will allow your group to gather some information. When you receive donations, keep track of how many of each color responds to the annual appeal letter, and keep track of how much each envelope, for each color, donated. You will learn how many people are giving at the same amount level year to year, how many donations you received from each of the giving level groups, and how many of your donors responded to the annual appeal letter, overall.

2. Analyze the information:
In American professional fundraising, it is estimated that it takes 3-5 years (depending on the fundraising method) to make money on a given fundraising method. In other words, you need to expect to lose money on a new fundraising methods for at least three years after you establish it, before you will begin to make money on it (cover your expenses plus raise more money). This varies, of course, because older organizations with established donor bases could expect immediate net earnings on a new event or method. Keeping this in mind, look over the amounts received, donor history vs. how much they gave to this letter, and overall response to your mailing. If this is a brand new fundraiser you should expect only a 3-5% total response (and that's OK if your organization can afford it (or budgeted for it) because a new fundraiser is an investment in future funds). Otherwise, ask your self some questions: did the donors who've given at higher amounts to the annual appeal in the past, give at that same high level again this year? Did you receive many responses from the volunteers and smaller amount donors? Overall, did you receive at least a 10% response (i.e. for 300 letters mailed, you'd receive 30 letters)?

3. Review findings and make changes:
Let's say that from your mailing above you received 100 donations. For 300 sent, that's a great response. One finding, then, is that your donors respond well to annual appeal letters, as a fundraising method, and seem to like them. If, though, your organization only received 5 donations, total, from the mailing; you need to find out why and make changes. Call up a few donors that you know, personally, who did not donate and if they're comfortable doing so, ask them 'was the letter well written?', 'were they just too inundated by donation requests from several non profits at the same time of year?', 'would they rather give to your organization through another way such as a special event or a quarterly newsletter's envelope?' Ask them what they didn't like about the letter. Listen to them! Make changes. Perhaps you need someone who's a better writer to write next year's annual appeal? Maybe they wish they'd receive your letter in late October instead of December, when most people get many donation requests, etc. Listen and make changes. If you notice that donors who gave in larger increments last year are given a little less (i.e. Frank Paul only gave $75 this year instead of his usual $100) you can surmise that your donors are feeling the economic downturn and forecast for your organization's next fiscal operating budget accordingly. Lastly, let's say you see, from the results, that 95% of the smaller donors and volunteers did not give at all. Next year - either do not include them in the annual appeal request or only include those small donors who gave.

It's not that you want to remove those who did not give, from your donor list. What you want to do is take note, for each donor, when, how, where, and why they have given to your group, before; and then you want to reach out to them that way annually. Don't waste money on trying to get donations from them in ways that they've demonstrated to your organization that they do not care for. Do not spend money where you are just wasting it. To know where that is, you need to gather some information.

Be sure to compare apples to apples. Compare donor giving trends to the same events, year to year. Also, follow through. If you've taken the time to begin this analysis process, see it through all the way to learning from your finding and implementing changes. There are many questions about your donors' preferences or giving trends that you can research if you set your organization up to be able to gather that specific information. First, determine what the question is that you want to know (i.e. How many of our major donors are also giving to the non profit down the road whose mission is similar to ours'?). Second, ask yourself what information or resources you'd need to answer this question (i.e. Get the other organization's donations roster from perhaps their newsletter, website, or annual report which are all available to the public, usually). Lastly, analyze your information, review your findings, and make necessary changes (For example, perhaps 80% of your major donors are giving to the other non profit and you've found from the roster that they're giving the other group more money. That's fine, but make a move. Contact a few of them and ask them what their connection is to your organization (Do not mention the other organization. They haven't done a thing wrong. Make the conversation about them and your organization. Through your questions, remind them why they give to your group at all), and ask them for a higher amount donation for this or next year because you've found that they give at higher levels).

Cut the unnecessary spending and keep a little extra dough in the bank. It will add up.

Grants for Local Or State Affordable Housing

From The Foundation Center...

MacArthur Foundation Announces Awards Program for Public Sector Housing Preservation Leaders

Deadline: January 29, 2008 (Letters of Interest)

Through its awards for State and Local Housing Preservation Leaders, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation ( http://www.macfound.org/ ) intends to provide $35 million in total new funding for innovative public-sector initiatives designed to preserve and improve the existing stock of privately owned affordable rental homes across the United States.

These new awards are part of the foundation's expanded commitment to Window of Opportunity ( http://windowofopportunity.macfound.org/ ), a national initiative dedicated to the preservation and improvement of affordable rental homes.

The foundation expects to select up to ten states and localities to receive awards in 2008. These awards are likely to include grants and/or program-related investments ranging from $250,000 to a maximum of $5 million. All funds must be used to design, demonstrate, or scale up a significant preservation initiative. Only the following entities can apply for funding through these awards: city, county, or state governmental body, or a formal collaboration among several governmental units operating in a common geographic region. The applicant should oversee key sources of funding and subsidy for developers and owners of affordable rental housing, including but not limited to Community Development Block Grants, local affordable housing trust funds, and proceeds from tax increment financing districts. State agencies applying for these awards should be responsible for allocating Low Income Housing Tax Credits and private activity bonds, in addition to major state-funded resources for affordable housing. In general, public housing authorities will not be eligible.

Visit the foundation's Web site for complete program guidelines and instructions for submitting a Letter of Interest. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10010114/macfound

Grant for Exploratory Field Studies and Cultural or Natural Sciences

From The Foundation Center...

American Philosophical Society Accepting Applications for Lewis and Clark Fund for Exploration and Field Research

Deadline: February 15, 2008

The American Philosophical Society's ( http://www.amphilsoc.org/ ) Lewis and Clark Fund encourages exploratory field studies for the collection of specimens and data and to provide the imaginative stimulus that accompanies direct observation.

Although applications are invited from disciplines with a large dependence on field studies, such as archeology, anthropology, biology, ecology, geography, geology, linguistics, and paleontology, grants will not be restricted to these fields. Grants will be available to doctoral students. Postdoctoral fellows, master's degree candidates, and undergraduates are not eligible. The competition is open to U.S. residents wishing to carry out research anywhere in the world. Foreign applicants must either be based at a U.S. institution or plan to carry out their work in the United States.

Grant amounts will depend on travel costs, but will ordinarily be in the range of several hundred dollars up to about $5,000 each. Grants are payable to the individual applicant. Budgets should be limited to travel and related expenses, including personal field equipment.

Visit the American Philosophical Society Web site for complete program guidelines. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10010109/amphilsoc

Friday, December 07, 2007

Great Quick Article On Getting Sponsorships

Danielle Sonnenberg wrote the following piece for The Street.com. It's a great quick synopsis on how the sponsorship relationship between companies and non profits works. Click on the following link to read the piece.

How to Get Sponsorship for Your Non Profit dated 12/4/07

Monday, December 03, 2007

Emergency Grants

[Note: As is true of each and all of my posts, this post is information for anyone working or volunteering for a non profit 501(c) 3, or 4, 5, etc. entity. This is not information for individuals, families, or for profit businesses - as there are extremely few legitimate grants for individuals out there (except artists for their work, doctors for their research). Be leery. Legitimate grants for individuals are usually only given by governments, municipalities, Tribes, etc. depending on their budget and that year's goals. If you are an individual needing emergency assistance, perhaps seek help from The United Way, The Salvation Army, or The Red Cross]

In terms of grant writing, fundraising, and overall non profit operations; emergency grants are really and truly for a non profit organization's emergent situations. If you hoped to raise the full budget for a project or program, but didn't, that isn't really an emergent situation in the eyes of most emergency grant donors. An example of a situation that would warrant needing an emergency grant is if your organization normally and historically runs well (meaning that cash flow is normally not problematic); but your agency was recently hit with an unforeseeable, understandable, new, high expense. Furthermore, your organization expected fee increases and budgeted accordingly for the coming year, but just this quarter - your organization is in trouble and doesn't have the cash flow to perhaps meet payroll, afford basic programs, etc. In other words, your organization is not in crisis (facing having to fold or close permanently); your organization has endured an unforeseeable expense that has drastically reduced your budget for the quarter (or time being); and the organization expects to recover (operate efficiently) after this hiccup. Emergency grants might be a viable solution for your problem.

Unfortunately, as you know, our economy has slowed down.

Economic downturns effect non profit organizations just as they effect for-profit businesses. One of many scenarios can hurt non profit cash flow. Non profits may receive less government funding which can be detrimental if they've been operating on a specific amount of government money, year to year. Foundations may have the cash flow to give more in this climate but most probably do not. Individual donors are paying more for gasoline, heating, and the dollar is waning in value. Individual donations may be down. Bequests, endowments, multi year grants, annual special events income, and other time-specific donation revenue streams may be guaranteed but if your non profit needs cash flow now; you and your organization's leadership are worried.

Help is out there!

As is true with all fundraising, if your non profit's mission statement meets an unmet need in your community, if your projects and programs are meeting needs and well, if your organization receives donations from individuals and companies, and if you operate your organization according to modern best non profit management practices, etc.; your non profit is probably in a great position to raise money and in this case, emergency funding.

Community foundations usually keep emergency grants in reserve for emergent situations. If you are not sure that there is a community foundation nearby, do some research. Contact your closest United Way, speak to their Development Manager, and ask. Look around on the Internet. If there is not a community foundation right in your city or town, look to see if one exists in your region. Often community foundations grant to non profits outside of their town, but within the geographic region. Once you locate your local community foundation, contact their program manager and ask if they offer emergency grants. If they do, ask what the giving guidelines are, including deadlines, available amounts, what they cover, etc. Some foundations also offer emergency grants. Research!

While regular (non emergency) grants are not a quick fix solution for cash flow needs, they do provide funds. Grant writing at the end of the year is a lesson in research, timing, and reading foundation's current budgets! Fiscal years vary from organization to organization. Some non profits may not be facing the end of their fiscal year right now, as they may not keep their fiscal year the same as the calendar year. Their fiscal year may be July 1 to June 30th, or otherwise. For those whose fiscal year match the calendar year, non profits must spend down their operating cash flow annually. Grant donors such as foundations are no exception. If, for instance, they have $500,000 budgeted to give in grants this fiscal year, they need to spend the amount to make their budget. If they've only given $450,000 as of today (December 3rd), they're looking for one or more good projects to fund, and spend their remaining $50,000 to meet their budget. Yes, this happens! If you talk with a foundation and they like the project that you're working to fund, and they mention that they are looking to spend down at the end of the year - apply! Your project may very well get funded even before the end of this year!

You could also write an honest, coherent, short, thorough, easy to scan (use bullet point lists, instead of requiring that they read sentences) letter to your constituency explaining your organization's current position. Demonstrate that your organization is merely experiencing a hiccup and not facing having to close. If you only need money to get through this quarter it is different (and more likely to garner support) than if you have very little money to continue operations at all. Share how this happened because donors are going to want to be sure that if they give now, you will and can manage their money to the benefit of your organization's mission statement. Explain where their support will go, how much you need, for what timeline, and why your organization has come to this point. It's OK. It happens. What's more, your constituency will know the whole truth and they will invest. You may not receive many $1,000 donations (because of the economy), but if you raise $10 from 1000 donors; you've just raised $10,000 dollars. Keep in mind that usually, a non profit with an established donor base, will receive about 10% response to letters. So, for instance, a 5,000 letter mailing could raise 500 responses (in various amounts unless you run a $10 request campaign, for instance), and if the letter is well written, if your constituency is invested in your cause and organization, etc.

For new non profits, the response to a letter will probably be slightly lower because you don't yet have an established constituency. Don't be discouraged. Again, if the letter is well written, the recipients likely to be interested in your organization's cause and to give (research those who will receive the letter), etc. - you can raise a 10% of the total mailing response, plus you have started to establish your donor base. This is invaluable as established individual become your organization's constituency and are your group's life blood.

Turning to the press to raise money is risky. Your organization may come off as poorly run; unable to neither run your operations well, nor be able to raise funds. This turns donors off. People give where their dollar will meet the need that they care about. They may wonder what you've done with the money you've had. If you do use the press to raise money in this emergent moment - invite potential donors to become a part of your organization's family. Clearly demonstrate that your organization is well run, conducting best practices, and does not anticipate regularly raising money through desperate moments or the press.

Call on major donors and ask them out to lunch. Pull together a clear, thorough, and honest accounting of what happened to put your organization in its current position, and demonstrate how your non profit will get out of it and run efficiently again. Ask them directly for a portion of the larger amount that your group needs. Do this with many major donors. Learn how to do this properly, but do it. Your organization needs you to rise to the occasion no matter how uncomfortable you may feel. You'll do well if you read about how to ask for donations face to face, and practice. Really.

If your organization does not currently have a major donor campaign, estimate of your current donors who gives in larger amounts and could afford to do so, now. Again, learn how to develop major donors.

Lastly, do all of these things. Your organization's future is in your group's leadership's hands. Do not despair. Learn some current fundraising and operations practices that will make cash flow and fundraising easier and more efficient. Also, use this pressure to strengthen your organization's relationship with major donors, foundations, and individual donors. Raise the money that you need now while strengthening their affiliation and investment for the future. Use this duress to tighten your organization's operations.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Start Up Non Profit? Need Seed Money? Starting Fundraising? Here's help...Part 2 of 2

[Warning: this post and no other post in this blog is either legal or financial advice. This post is purely informational. If you need either legal counsel or the services of a Certified Public Accountant, hire either or both.]

Starting a non profit? Running a new organization but do not have cash flow? Volunteering with a grassroots group? The previous post "Start Up Non Profit? Need Seed Money? Starting Fundraising? Here's help...Part 1 of 2", included three pieces of advice that I can't urge you enough to: read, honestly look at yourself, and consider.

As I stated in the previous post, I understand that you do not have any money.

In this post I talk about how to receive grants before your organization has officially received it's legal non profit status (it's a 501(c)...3, 4, 5, etc. code designation on the federal level). The process called fiscal sponsorship offers organizations who are not legal non profit entities to receive tax free dollars. If your organization is preparing to or in the midst of receiving a legal non profit status, this is a way for you to raise money before you have tax exempt status. Similarly, if a small 501(c)(3) organization would like the benefit of a larger non profit organization's abilities, experience, relationships, etc. a fiscal sponsorship may be a good formal solution. Other possible fiscal sponsorship relationship scenarios exist but are limited by the letter of the law. There could be a "public support test" which determines whether the exempt status is appropriate, given the project or work you are doing.

Your organization needs to locate a currently legal 501(c)(3) organization that is both doing similar work as your organization is, and can offer your potential grant donors the legal tax free benefit, now, by passing the donation that they receive onto your organization's work.

In all fiscal agent scenarios, there should be a clear and binding agreement between the parties involved BEFORE any fundraising begins, to clarify and protect each entity's legal responsibilities. The agreement should also protects potential donors, because if they do give a donation (for example, a grant) and there are not proper agreements in place, the sponsorship relationship may not exist, in the eyes of the law (or the IRS); and it may wind up that, under legal interpretation, a grant has been given to you without the tax exempt status actually being in place, despite all of the best intentions in the world. If this happens, the donation might be revoked by the law, and the sponsor could lose their legal tax exempt status.

Understand that the law requires that the 501(c)(3) that is receiving the donation on behalf of your organization is legally responsible to make sure that the money is spent to benefit its (the current 501(c)(3) non profit's) mission statement work (its tax exempt purpose). It has complete control and discretion over the funds, legally.

Here are three (more likely) fiscal sponsorship relationships:

Perhaps your organization (which is not yet a legal 501(c)(3), for instance) is going to provide a program or project that the legal 501(c)(3) (sponsor) non profit is not currently doing, but their mission statement is directly related to. The official non profit can become an "umbrella" organization to yours'; extending its non profit (tax free dollars) status to your organization. A clear understanding between your organization and the 'umbrella' 501(c)(3) is strongly recommended. If the project leaves the umbrella organization's control - the ability to raise tax free dollars probably legally diminishes. The agreement should probably define when the project leaves the 501(c)(3) and thereby completely run by the organization currently without non profit status. Paying bills, being the employer, and overseeing the work/project are likely the responsibility of the sponsor (the current 501(c)(3)). Assets purchased for the project, etc. are the sponsor's property. All of this burden does infer the sponsor becomes more liable.

Hiring contractors, and determining if they are 'contractor' status for the duration of the project, or employees - places the fiscal sponsorship in another kind of relationship than the one described above because the law interprets hiring and managing contractors, as contractors, as different from the above scenario.

A third scenario, different from the umbrella fiscal sponsorship or contractor relationship is when a potential fiscal sponsorship relationship could be based on seeking grant money, specifically. The organization that does not have legal charity (or tax exempt) status, yet; writes a grant proposal and shares the proposal with the fiscal sponsor (organization that currently has its 501(c)(3) status). The sponsor's staff leadership reviews the proposal to determine whether the project is charitable and carries out its mission statement work (tax exempt purpose). Next, the sponsor's board of directors checks for the exact same. After these two steps are completed and determined to be true, the sponsor has "pre-approved" the project and will pass the grant (if received) onto the project. Then the fiscal sponsor and non exempt organization create and sign a written "grant agreement" that clarifies the relationship, the project, how and when the funds will be spent, etc., and that the sponsor retains complete control over the funds. After, the two organizations (or one or the other) seeks the grant money and the sponsorship relationship and control of money is made known in writing with any and all potential donors. When a grant is received, the sponsor receives the money as "income" and passes it on as a "grant" to the non charity entity, per your agreement. The non charity entity then makes periodic reports detailing how, where, when, etc. the money is being spent, and progress of the project, per the agreement. The project should be made into a a sole proprietorship or its own entity as the project, not the sponsor, in this scenario, is responsible for its tax reporting, employment taxes, debts, etc. and owns the assets.

As with any fundraising, the funds must be spent on what and where they were described to be spent, during the fundraising (i.e. in the grant proposal).

The sponsor, retaining the discretion over how the money is spent, can withdraw or decide not to fund the project. The money should either be returned to the donor or the donor should be made aware of the change in the use of the money and be given a say in the situation (for the benefit of the donor/recipient relationship and organizational reputation/integrity). Depending on how agreements were written (between sponsor and project manager, and grantor and grantee) a restricted donation designation or unrestricted donation designation may have been stipulated, which would direct where the money can and can not go in different scenarios such as a sponsor deciding not to pass on the money to the intended project manager (non charity entity).

For this particular post I used "Fiscal Sponsorship: Six Ways to Do It Right - A Synopsis"
by Gregory L. Colvin; Silk, Adler & Colvin, San Francisco, California;April, 1993
; as a reference. For more detailed information read this article.

Update: For a real world warning to the potential hazards of fiscal sponsorships see Another Nonprofit Fiscal Sponsor Collapses - With Client's Cash

Monday, November 26, 2007

Start Up Non Profit? Need Seed Money? Starting Fundraising? Here's help...Part 1 of 2

Getting a non profit off the ground is tough. I know that you don't have any money.

If you aren't sure what a start up non profit is, read "Life Cycle of an Exempt Organization" on the IRS website.

These are three pieces of good free advice...consider each. The sooner that your organization is on its feet, the sooner you will have cash flow, organizational growth, and success.

__ While you and your colleagues started the organization and have been, without fail, doing important work in your community - a non profit organization is a legal entity. The IRS sees it as such for tax purposes (your group does not have to collect taxes - receives tax free dollars -because you're doing work for the community). I urge you to also see it as its own stand alone entity SEPARATE FROM YOU. If you look at the non profit you've created as 'your good work' or 'the good work you and your friends do' - you'll miss that there are non profit management, operations, and organizational growth needs that even "your" organization must fulfill. You may even fail to follow through on required fiscal or legal practices or reporting because you think (and operate as if) you and your friends are running a club. A club is an informal organization without the official benefit of tax free dollars, so it does not need to follow through with specific non profit best practices and laws. A non profit must comply with federal, state, city, and county legal code. Here's what is really critical about my point: if you and your friends see the organization as "yours'" then it leaves little room for donors, volunteers, potential and board members , etc. to feel a part of the growth, goals, work, and mission. My advice? Get out of the way of "your" organization's achieving success. You and it are separate. It will go on, in time to have its own life with or without you. You have helped to form it but allow others to help it succeed. You've cut your organization's throat when you alienate potential constituents. Is this you? Work with and listen to others who come to help with experience, concern, and interest.

__ If the founder of the organization is working for the non profit as the executive director, and the culture in the organization becomes such that the founder will have that position, indefinitely, then being able to hold the executive director accountable for their achievements (or lack of them) is really critical. What is best for the nonprofit (any nonprofit) is whatever is best for the beneficiaries of the nonprofit (who benefits from the mission of the organization? What do they need? Is it being provided to them such that they are getting what they need, easily?). The focus for any nonprofit's leadership should be the work of the organization, and what is best for the non profit's beneficiaries. I know that a founder finds a non profit, without a doubt, out of their passion for the issue that the organization serves. If, though, the executive director does not understand that they are an employee of the nonprofit, in the eyes of the law, (as the nonprofit is a legal entity so all employees are to follow employment law, and all employers (the nonprofit) must follow employment/employer law);the risk (which jeopardizes the non profit's credibility and reputation) is that the executive director is not being held accountable to do the job (per the non profit's executive director's job description), because how can the founder that is the permanent executive director be properly overseen by his or her board and held accountable? The risk of losing one's job is very real whether the founder that is the permanent executive director admits that to themselves or not. The law requires board members to run the organization in the best interest of the organization - not in the best interest of the founder and their wishes. For instance, maybe the founder/permanent executive director is not achieving job benchmarks, set each year, that the executive director should meet. If an executive director is understood to be permanent, how is this lax behavior in the best interest of the nonprofit, its beneficiaries, or the mission statement? How can leaders on the board properly lead? In other words, if a founder takes the executive director position but plans to indefinitely be the executive director - how does the organization's leadership oversees the executive director; is the board a passive or active leading board; and how is the executive director truly and really held accountable to the beneficiaries of the non profit's mission work and accountable to the stakeholders in the non profit (e.g. donors, volunteers, community partners, etc.)? The risk is that a culture may get established, internally, in the organization where the executive director controls everything (even the board which is actually legally required to oversee him/her) so the culture, internally, becomes one focused on the executive director (founder, in this case) and their wishes or intentions rather than about the board (as a collective) deciding through proposals, discussions, and votes what is best for the nonprofit. How, if a founder/permanent executive director controls even the board, is the vision that the organization sets for its mission work focused on the beneficiaries? It is a tough place when a nonprofit protects a founder's position as a permanent executive director - something that may stem from the founder feeling a sense of entitlement. The focus must switch to be on what are the results of the organization's programs and services (services outcomes); on being successful and current as an organization; the community's needs should be the focus. Let's truly be honest. Sometimes a founder/executive director is not, eventually, or at some point in time the best candidate, anymore, to run the organization to its full potential to benefit the community. If the organization has gone along with the 'founder/permanent executive director' the agency's leadership has designed itself to re-actively 'protect' an executive director into an indefinite position - it's missing the point that the non profit is a public trust, as the federal and state governments have provided it with official non profit designation; which is why nonprofits have the ability to raise tax free dollars. How well a nonprofit operates, is led, and is operating at its full potential are about the community - not the founder. All boards must do what is best for the organization and if an executive director has an 'indefinite' position, there is a risk, over time, that protectionism for him/her will become an operations norm, within the agency - how could it be avoided? Yet, actually, the non profit is its own separate, individual, legal entity. It should be seen as an entity that is set up to succeed on its own two feet; to have a long life separate of any group people or single person. No one is entitled or permanently attached to it, once it receives its official non profit designation from the IRS.

__ I know, and anyone who understands what your non profit does, understands that you care deeply about the cause that you're working for. I don't know you, as you read this, and yet I know it to be true. Honestly. True as it is, though - you can not only focus on and only work on your organization's programs. A nonprofit is a business that must have cash flow. If you want to create a non profit that can sustain its mission statement's goal YOU MUST give some time to learning modern best practices in non profit administration, board operations, fundraising, etc.; AND set time aside every week to complete necessary operations tasks. You can not only work on programs, weekly, and expect any difficulties your organization currently has (such as cash flow) to get better. Some of the best resources in the non profit sector have been hand picked, by me, and included in the Amazon Store, to the right on this web page.  These books were selected because they are standards in the professional nonprofit sector.  Read down the titles and then click on a couple other topics on their left navigation bar. For grassroots and start up organizations, be sure to check on Kim Klein's Chardon Press offerings at the bottom of the left navigation.  If you can't afford purchasing any of these books, be sure, then, to check for them in your local public library.  Getting informed is an investment in your organization's future and its ability to grow what it provides to the community.

__ Yes, you really and truly must fundraise and regularly. If you pull a board together but don't require that they have non profit management, fundraising, legal, or other important relevant skills amongst the board members - then you have a board without experience or knowledge. If you don't know how to account for money or donations that you receive, but have the best intention in the world - who cares?! You're not conducting your non profit's operations professionally (or legally)! You must learn what the non profit that you're working for requires, legally, operationally, strategically, and otherwise. Really. If you do not actively fundraise each business day, you'll look for 'quick solution' money options as reserves dry up, and there are none. If there were good, safe, honest quick financial solutions - you would've heard about it. If your organization has needs, creates bills that need to be paid, needs to help more in your cause, and could do more - then you need cash flow. The only way that your organization is going to both operate soundly and have a future (growth) is if you learn how to formulate organizational goals, learn how to plan for them, learn how to budget for these goals - and learn how but also actually raise money for both needs your org has now, and for growth, and goals. Yes, you must learn these things - again, they're an investment in the organization.

Understand that professional non profit best practices is about the organization, its welfare, its growth, and its potential. Not one bit of modern non profit operations is about you or any one person's ego or entitlement.

As I said above, I know that you do not have any money right now and need it. In my next post, "Start Up Non Profit? Need Seed Money? Starting Fundraising? Here's help...Part 2 of 2" I explain how you can raise tax free dollars before you have your legal tax exempt status.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Top 10 Grant Writing Tips from Foundations

Happy Thanksgiving! If you would like to assist those in need this year call your local food bank, homeless shelter, or other favorite nonprofit to volunteer, or donate money, drop food/clothing, and provide what you can.

10. When considering applying to any foundation for a grant, be certain that the foundation is interested in the cause that your organization serves, gives to organizations in the geographic location that you live in, and offers grants for what it is that your organization needs the grant for. How? Read my post, "About Grant Guidelines..."

9. Do not phone the foundation that you are going to apply for a grant to IF they do not prefer to be contacted by phone. For that matter, some foundations do not want to be contacted at all. Others prefer that you do call before submitting a letter of inquiry or application proposal. Still others only want email communication. How can you know, foundation to foundation, what they each prefer? Read the foundation's Giving Guidelines and/or read the foundation's website under their "Contact Us" section. If you aren't sure, submit a Letter of Inquiry expressing your organization's mission, work, specific need for their grant, your organization's success, and get their response. It will guide your further contact with them.

8. Work and re-work your proposal drafts until all of the information that the foundation asks for is in the letter of inquiry and proposal, in a clear and succinct easily read document. Read "That Darn First Paragraph In Your Grant Proposal" and "Be Succinct In Your Grantwriting"

7. The most vital aspect of your grant proposal is describing what you need the grant for. See my post... "...Writing In Your Proposal About What You Need the Grant For" and "The Word "Gets" Is In "Budgets""

6. Save yourself and the foundations that you apply to some time. Be sure that the foundations that you apply to give to organizations like yours'. In order to understand which organizations the foundation that you're considering prefers to give to - it is important to find out who they've donated grants to in the recent past. You can do that by researching the foundation's IRS tax form 990. It is public record. How? See my posts, "The Grant Writer's Little Helper: IRS Tax Form 990 - Part 1" and "The Grant Writer's Little Helper: IRS Tax Form 990 - Part 2"

5. Be certain that your application has a good chance of getting funding by doing your homework on which foundations to apply to. How? Read my post "How Do I Prepare to Find Foundations Who Will Fund Us?" Randomly mailing applications to any and all foundations wastes your time and resources.

4. View the grant writing process as an opportunity to develop a new donor. Whether or not the foundation gives to your this giving cycle or not, they may in the future if they do not, now. Demonstrate your organization's professionalism with a strong proposal, follow the giving guideline's rules, provide the organization with every bit of information and documentation that they request, and do not give them 'extra' documentation or information. Meet deadlines. If you do not have the time to do the grant writing for your organization, hire a professional grant writer. How? Read my posts, "How Do We Afford Grant Writing?" , "What Are the Steps to Hiring A Grant Writer?" and and to prepare for your newly hired grant writer read,
"Your Agency's First Grantwriter Starts Work Monday" .

3. Be honest in your grant proposal. Do not try to tell the foundation what you think that they want to hear and 'bend' the truth. Foundations know that nonprofits face financial and operational difficulties and many today like to assist programmatically besides financially, when they can.

2. If you do not know how to create a budget, for your proposal work with someone who does or learn how to, and provide a clear, concise, coherent budget that matches the information in your written proposal. See the last link in number 7, above.

1. Do not expect a foundation to pay for your grant writer's fees and expenses. If you do - report all grant writing costs in your grant application and its accompanying budget. See my posts, "Grant Writers On Commission" and "Grant Writers, Commissions, Best Practices, and the "Why?" of it All..."

From NAMM - Five New Grant Initiatives for Music Makers, Research in Health and Music, Music Education, and More...

From The Foundation Center...

NAMM Foundation Announces New Grant Initiatives for Music Makers and Researchers

Deadline: Different for each grant initiative, below.

The NAMM Foundation ( http://www.nammfoundation.org/ ), a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing active participation in music making by people of all ages, has announced its 2008 Request for Proposals initiative.

The foundation is accepting proposals for the following five initiatives:

_ Disney's High School Musical: The Music in You Grant Program will award ten public middle and high schools a grant of $5,000 each and license to put on their own school stage production of Disney's "High School Musical." (Deadline: November 30, 2007.)

_ The Sounds of Living: The Impact of Music Making initiative will support research that examines the role of active participation in music for children, youth, adults, and seniors. Research funded under the initiative explores the effects of music learning and music making outside of formal educational settings and expands the understanding of the role of music making in health, wellness, socialization, and the inter-connections between mind, body, and spirit that contribute to wellness and overall quality of life. (Deadline: January 2, 2008.)

_ Program Grants support innovative music learning programs from nonprofit public service organizations that reach new audiences with new protocols, and that further the NAMM Foundation's mission of creating more active music makers of all ages. (Deadline: January 4, 2008.)

_ The Sounds of Learning: The Impact of Music Education initiative supports research that examines the role of music education in the lives of school-age children. (Deadline: January 15, 2008.)

_ Scientific Grants support leading researchers and research teams in the fields of music research, neuroscience, psychology, education, and/or health-related fields to explore the effects of hands-on music making. (Deadline: January 15, 2008.)

Applicants may only apply to one program.

For detailed information about the programs, eligibility restrictions, and application procedures, visit the NAMM Foundation Web site. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10009821/nammfoundation

Grants for Southern California Victims' Pets' Care

From The Foundation Center...

United Animal Nations Offers Pet Care Grants to Help Southern California Fire Victims

Deadline: Open

United Animal Nations ( http://www.uan.org/ ), a provider of emergency animal sheltering and disaster relief services and an advocate for the critical needs of animals, is offering financial assistance grants to help victims of the fires in Southern California care for their pets.

UAN's LifeLine Crisis Relief Grants can help fire victims with expenses for the following: veterinary care to treat injury or illness caused by the fires; temporary boarding; and transporting the animal to a temporary living situation.

UAN will offer qualified individual applicants up to $500 each as long as funds are available.

For eligibility information and application procedures, visit the UAN Web site. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10009819/uan

Monday, November 12, 2007

Grant Writers, Commissions, Best Practices, and the "Why?" of it All...

Happy Veterans Day! "THANK YOU!" to all of you who have served in our country's Armed Forces, and to you who were/are at home missing them while they did/do so. Our country is indebted to you for your selfless and brave service. If you would like to support our active duty service people, consider the organization Operations USO Care Package . For service people who've returned home, consider contacting your federal representatives to request that the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Hospitals receive better funding and support now and in the future.

Maya Norton, author of The New Jew: Blogging Jewish Philanthropy is hosting the November 2007 Giving Carnival, a virtual discussion about philanthropy, that we'd love to have you join. All of the details are available on her post, "Announcing November's Carnival of Giving..." Check it out, join us, check back to read our colleagues' responses, and respond to one of them. Be a part of the virtual philanthropy community and discussion. This month Maya asks us to consider what business practices nonprofits should adopt to save agency resources.

Her question happens to relate to a discussion that I had with a friend this weekend.

My husband and I were at a fundraiser (as supporters) and per chance sat at a table with one of the organization's board members. During polite discussion everyone shared what they did professionally. My husband mentioned that I am a grant writer. The board member responded that I should contact their organization. She eagerly shared that they've been without a grant writer for a few months, and they provide their grant writers with a commission from each grant received.

We live in a small town. We moved here from Seattle. My nonprofit career began in Seattle where there is a tremendous focus on professionalism in the nonprofit sector. Excellent, professional, nonprofit affiliations abound there, with focuses on recent study results, best practices, ethics, continuing education, conferences, and dialogue between anyone and all involved in philanthropy. See my post, "Talking Is Good" , "Yes, Grant Writers Should Talk Amongst Themselves..." , and "This Past Week A Group of Grant Writers Networked..." When we moved here I, admittedly naively, struggled with the difference in not for profit professionalism between where I'd come from and here. Despite my ridiculous expectations, the reality in this small town is that the well meaning nonprofit professionals here have not and do not have exposure to strong, current, and effective modern nonprofit management practices. The problem is - if you're operating a nonprofit as 'business as usual' and don't proactively research and learn about modern management paradigms, you're operating your organization perhaps less ethically and perhaps less effectively. Actually, probably so.

I mentioned, before, a discussion I had with a friend.

After the fundraising dinner we sat with a friend who was also at our table. My husband was explaining to him that it is considered unethical in American professional fundraising for a grant writer to accept a commission from grants. Our friend did not understand why it should be so.

You've read, here, in some of my other posts the litany of reasons why it is unethical for a grant writer to accept a portion of a grant. Let me reiterate them:

- Grants are not raised by the grant writer. While the grant writer must be knowledgeable, successful, and talented, today, grants are donated based on the nonprofit's track record, effectiveness, mission-success, need in the community, innovation, collaboration/relationships with other nonprofits, etc. Providing grant writers with commissions from grants suggests that it's up to the grant writer whether a grant is given. It is not.

- Those who donate grants are not doing so to pay for a grant writer's services. The grant is given to address the need, and support the effort, described in the grant proposal. Giving any money from a grant to any entity other than the expenses specifically accounted for and described in the proposal is lying to a donor, and frankly, poor nonprofit management. There's a better way. See my post, "What Is A Well Run Nonprofit?"

- Your organization should be managing its resources responsibly. All money that is raised should be going in most part (at least 70% is generally accepted) to your programs. If you are spending portions of donations on overhead or operational expenses other than what you told the donor you would spend it on - why would they ever give to your organization again? Also, why wouldn't they share with other donors who would potentially give to your organization that you've deceived them when they donated? Your organization's reputation is on the line. See my post, "Your Track Record Is Out There"

- It is incumbent on your nonprofit that it be aware of and responsible for each of all of its operational expenses. See my post, "The Word 'Gets" Is in 'Budgets'" Your organization should plan out its annual development (fundraising) plan for this year, and for the long term (i.e. 3-5 years) based on the organization's need today and planned future growth. Your organization should responsibly and ethically follow through with your development plan to raise money as needed, should spend wisely, and save. See my post, "Fundraising Isn't Optional, Nonprofits..." If you know that you need a grant writer today or in one year - plan on paying for their service. See my post, "How Do We Afford Grant Writing?" Raise that extra money needed. Save it for when the expense begins. Grant writers are often staff members, but can also be hired as contractors. Either way - the cost to your organization is overhead if they are working on more than one program's fiscal needs, and should be accounted for as overhead costs. If your organization is utilizing a grant writer for one program's finances, and you plan on paying them from the grants you raise for that program, you better have listed the grant writer expense in the grant proposal budget and expressed it in in writing in your proposal. Grant donors usually do not like to pay for overhead unless they state that they do in their giving guidelines. Always be honest with any potential donor. See my post, "About Grant Guidelines"

- Grant writers should build their relationship with the nonprofit that they work for. Nonprofit organizations should be building relationships with potential donors, including grant donors. Providing grant writers with commissions from grants removes the nonprofit organization's importance in the relationship between donor and recipient and places the grant writer in the key relationship position (as if it's up to the grant writer whether a grant is given). Nonprofits should foster relationships with all interested potential donors. If a potential donor does not donate a grant to your organization - it should be an organizational concern - not an indication as to whether the grant writer is doing their job or not. The grant writer did their job. Your organization, must, now. In other words, if your organization does not receive a grant, call the potential grant donor and ask why. See my post, "The Declined Grant Request" If the potential grant donor you applied to, for instance, states that the proposal was great, they love your mission, and your track record, but are concerned that it appears that there's not enough community interest in the project; your nonprofit can develop community interest (if it is truly there), demonstrate it (i.e. share with them the other grants issued for the project, individual donations raised, major donor donations raised, etc.), and apply again for the grant during the next giving cycle. The grant writer did their job. Your organization still has some work to do to get that grant - but you can!

- Grant writers are providing a professional service just as your social workers, scientists, lawyer, bookkeeper, etc. do. They should be paid a regular fee or salary for their work, not only a payment for "success". Grant writers are not making a sale. They're writing potential donors about why your organization should have their interest and support. Their pay, if based on commission, puts the responsibility of raising grants on them (rather than the organization) and best practices can fall by the wayside in the interest of earning a living. You can not risk ruining your organization's reputation as an honest and well run operation.

- Raising grants is a long term relationship building practice. Success can not be measured simply by whether a grant is issued. Success should be based on how close your organization is with potential grant donors interested in your organization. Having a relationship with them strengthens the likelihood to receive their grant now and others later. For instance, some grant donors employ a standard that an organization must apply at least three times before even being considered for a grant. Why? They may want to see that the nonprofit that they donate to is dedicated to the program or project that they're applying for, and can support the program despite not receiving a grant that they applied for. If your organization follows through and complies with this donor's protocol while demonstrating your organization's operational excellence, successes, and the need in your community for your program - why wouldn't your organization receive the grant now AND then in the future. Grant writing relationship building's goal is not to get one grant now. The goal is to develop relations with potential donors so that support is raised now and in the future.

The best business practice that any nonprofit could adopt to serve its organization's resources is to keep up with and learn modern, effective, ethical management. Implementing demonstrated effective best practices in your organization's operations, as appropriate, will save your organization money, time, and its reputation. When operational issues arise don't continue to do what's broken, or reinvent the wheel, when you can take up what someone else has found to be successful. Find out what's the latest and best.

Technology Grants for N. American K-12, Two, and Four Year Colleges and Universities

From The Foundation Center...

HP Technology for Teaching Grant Guidelines Now Available

Deadline: February 14, 2008

The HP ( http://www.hp.com/ ) Technology for Teaching Grant Initiative is designed to support the innovative use of mobile technology in K-16 education, and to help identify K-12 public schools and two- and four-year colleges and universities that HP might support with future grants.

In 2008, HP will award a total of nearly $7 million in cash and equipment to K-12 schools in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and to colleges and universities throughout North America (Canada, Puerto Rico, and the U.S.).

K-12 Schools: HP will grant awards to K-12 public schools that are using a collaborative, team-based approach to implementing technology integration projects. The activities of the project must be focused on using technology to teach, rather than on teaching students to use technology. The value of the grant award to each school is approximately $40,000. The grant program is targeted to K-12 public schools in the United States, including Puerto Rico. HP will select teams of five teachers from approximately 110 schools to receive the equipment and professional development support they need to effectively integrate technology into their instruction. Preference will be given to projects that address mathematics and/or science. Preference will also be given to schools that serve a high proportion of low-income students, relative to their district or state's free and reduced-price lunch percentages.

Colleges and Universities: The HP Technology for Teaching Higher Education Grant Initiative will select approximately 44 campuses from throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada. The program is open to all two- or four-year, public or private, colleges or universities and will be awarded on a competitive basis. The higher education grant award is valued at approximately $77,000, and includes a $20,000 cash grant for the principal investigator to use to support the work of the project. To be considered for a 2008 HP Technology for Teaching Higher Education Grant, a project proposal must propose a course redesign project for one or more undergraduate courses, where at least one course is focused on one of the following eligible disciplines: Mathematics; Science (physical, environmental, computer); Engineering (electrical, computer, mechanical, environmental, materials); and Information Systems/Information Technology.

Requests for Proposals, with specific details about the grant goals and application process, are available now at the HP Web site. The online application process will begin on January 8, 2008.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10009746/hp

Grants for African American Museums, Colleges, and Universities

From The Foundation Center...

Guidelines Available for Institute of Museum and Library Services Grants for African American Museums

Deadline: January 15, 2008

The Institute of Museum and Library Services ( http://www.imls.gov/ ) has announced the availability of guidelines for the 2008 Museum Grants for African American History and Culture.

This grant program is designed to increase the institutional capacity and sustainability of the country's African American museums by building the knowledge, skills, and abilities of staff members and volunteers. Successful proposals will focus on one or more of the following three goals: 1) developing or strengthening knowledge, skills, and other expertise of current staff at African American museums; 2) attracting and retaining professionals with the skills needed to strengthen African American museums; and 3) attracting new staff to African American museum practice and providing them with the expertise needed to sustain them in the museum field.

Eligible applicants include museums whose primary purpose is African American life, art, history, and/or culture encompassing the period of slavery, the era of reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights movement, and/or other periods of the African Diaspora. Public or private nonprofit organizations whose primary purpose is to support museums identified above may also apply. Historically Black Colleges or Universities are also eligible.

Grants will range from $5,000 to $150,000 each for periods of up to two years. Grant guidelines, application instructions, and details on up- coming technical assistance audio-conference calls are available at the IMLS Web site.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10009733/imls

Monday, November 05, 2007

What Matters? A Rock Star, (Red), Consumerism, Or Fundraising?

On About.com this morning, Joanne Fritz, professional fundraising blogger, wrote "Website Takes On Our Lust for Stuff" about global AIDS relief. Grant writing aside for a moment, the (Red) Campaign just turned one year old and the proof of that is none other than Brian Williams interviewed spokesman/Irish band lead singer, U2's, Bono about the project's progress on Friday's evening's news. When we're watching Bono on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, he's either making a bench mark in global debt relief or African AIDS relief.

Fritz explains in her post that in contrast to the (Red) Campaign's goal to attract donors through retail (a portion of every (Red) item is given to AIDS relief organization, The Global Fund ), BuyLessCrap.com, is a website that encourages people to give directly to The Global Fund rather than buying items to do so. In direct response to (Red) Campaign, the Buylesscrap.com site mimics the (Red) Campaign logo parenthesises, and The Gap's logo font (one of the retailers who sell (Red) products), for its own look.

In addition to AIDS relief, Buylesscrap.com recommends over ten other nonprofit organizations that one could give to. These other causes range from breast cancer research to providing dairy cattle to impoverished third world families. The listed charities are recommended by visitors to Buylesscrap.com. Unlike the (Red) Campaign, the Buylesscrap.com site does not explicitly focus on global AIDS relief.

buylesscrap.com's mission statement is available on their site, but I can not provide a direct link as their are no individual web pages or page URL's on their site; darn Flash. In their mission they state that giving donations directly to the charity of one's choice is more efficient than buying products to donate. [How they know this and what their research findings data source is not provided. It would help as their whole point is based on this.] They also encourage individuals to not consume so much. They state that their organization's goal is to raise consumer awareness and provoke discussion. [These are two other goals besides getting people to give donations directly to be efficient.] They suggest that consumer awareness and discussion about the issue will lead to: "explicit transparency standards", "the adoption of best practices for all cause-related marketing efforts", and will lead "to greater consumer confidence and more assured revenue streams for charity." [It only takes awareness and discussion for these to occur?]

You may feel that Bono working with Oprah to promote (Red) is The Gap's wet dream, not to mention it's a bit pretentious. One could wonder, 'why don't Bono and Oprah just give a portion of their millions to the organization and leave us to sing "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" while watching Oprah's 10 Favorite Things?'

And Buylesscrap.com wants us to giving donations directly, buy less, discuss consumerism, and they tell us that these happenings will lead to adoption of best practices, greater consumer confidence, and assured nonprofit revenue streams. I love idealism.

But, we still have this need on our planet. In particular, per Joanne Fritz's post, today, we're considering AIDS relief.

The Global Fund is a legal 501(c)(3) nonprofit that does operate under explicit transparent standards and best practices. On their website they provide, under "Performance", their Monitoring, Results, and Independent Evaluations findings. In addition, look up their federal tax return (which is public information and so, yes, you can on Guidestar.org) and research their finances, spending, ratio of money raised vs. spent on programs, their board of directors, etc. In 2005 they reported taking in $1.4 million and paid out $1.5 million in grants for their programs' beneficiaries, while holding between $2.6 million to $3 million, net, in savings/assets. Neither the board of directors nor the staff were paid. Oprah and Bono were not on the board. Contractors were paid for services such as hotel, agent fees, and accounting. According to their reporting, their rate of funding their relief programs is at a minimum 99%. That is excellent.

People with AIDS are receiving support and funding from this nonprofit that claims that it does so. The Global Fund practically passed all donations received onto those who its mission claims to serve, in 2005, - this is exceptional operations and best practices.

As professional fundraisers, we need to determine how to reach a constituency for our nonprofit agencies; in the best interest of both the nonprofit and the potential donor, volunteer, collaborator, etc. See my post, "Fundraising, Mission-Success, Community Building: It's All the Same". We know that some donors, for instance, like to give to an annual appeal letter one time a year. Others prefer to give through the quarterly newsletter's envelope. Some whipper-snappers like to give through websites, and others prefer to give upon death through a bequest. I just donated to a relative's favorite charity, after he passed on.

As professional fundraisers, it's our responsibility to see donors as individuals choosing to support our organization's cause, in whichever way they prefer. If there is a relationship that your organization can form with a potential constituent, that the donor may prefer, you can offer it to them. The donor always has the right to say 'no'. The donor always has the right to ask for a nonprofit's official documentation, financials, by laws, list of the board of directors, etc. The donor has the right to research nonprofits that they are considering giving to, in order to choose the best possible recipient of their support (whether it be volunteering or donating).

If a donor wants to buy a red t-shirt from The Gap and wear it while using a red cell phone; they have the right to choose to do so and their contributing this way is no less 'helpful' in the fight against AIDS, than any other fundraising method; IF our goal is to help the people with AIDS.

If, though, our goal is to lessen consumerism; or if our goal is to sell khakis then how the funds are raised matters.