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.


Anonymous said...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

To the Federal Committee on financial bailout monies.

I am just one of millions of American citizens that have and am still being victimized by rip-off credit card companies. They are just like these mortgage companies that gave unjustified loans to people whom they absolutely knew could not afford an adjustable rate on home loans.

I am a handicapped individual and also a disabled Vietnam Veteran that is trying to maintain a life style just 1 point homeless and these credit card companies send me a card with a $500.00 limit at 5 or 6 %. They already know I have had financial problems in the past but bend over backwards to give me and get me to use one of there cards. When medical issues come up and am unable to pay a payment the interest rate climbs to 29.99 percent and then I am really unable to make the payment for a few months. When I call them they just mark my account default, then a few months when I can get some money available and call to try to catch up they say the card is sent out for collection. Now the debt of $500.00 has risen to over $5,000.00 to $20,000.00 depending on what ever small print they have changed and sent one of those small fliers out every month or so changing everything on the original agreement.

I want the federal Government to also bail me out so my life can maintain my 1 point above homelessness and stop the card companies from putting judgments against my home and property that I have had to build and make myself because of the bad remarks from the credit card companies.
Right now I have one judgment for $25,000.00 and Capital One is trying for another lean for $12,000.00 to $20,000.00 depending on what the lawyer and judge can pull off.

If you really want to help Americans stop this madness with these credit card companies and give us bottom feeders a chance or just write us off and start a debtors prison system. At least that way we won’t have to live hot, cold, hungry and sick.

Yours truly

James A. Schimpf Jr.
Fredericksburg, Texas 78624

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Dear Mr. Schimpf,
As is evident by recent press, many fellow Americans are in dire situations, as well. Some, like you have served their country and then had difficulties with Veterans Affairs. Others, have sadly lost their major assets in Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, etc. Meanwhile, we're all very hard hit by the current Wall Street bail outs and the declining housing market.

I heartly encourage anyone who is going through exceptional difficulties to seek the immediate assistance that they can (e.g. Veterans Affairs in your situation; a subscriber's insurance company in the case of hurricane damage, etc.) AND also contact pertinent nonprofits serving the cause that you are personally effected by. In the United States there is a nonprofit for every cause and issue. You could call your local United Way to find out who, in your local community could help you, or you could search for organizations in Google by placing the cause or issue you are dealing with, and the word "nonprofit" in the search prompt. This will list all sorts of nonprofits across the United States. It is fine to call an organization outside of your immedicate region. They may have leads for you! You can tighten your search up to your region, if you would prefer, by placing the search terms above along with the city and state that you live in.

So, for example, Mr. Schimpf, I encourage you to contact National Coalition for Homeless Veterans at 800-VET-HELP. Their website is at: They are set up to assist veterans in your situation and have expertise doing so. Also, they are a nonprofit, separate of the government; and will be able to offer you services that you perhaps can not currently get. You could also contact Homes For Our Troops. They provide handicap - safe housing for veterans at no cost. Their number is 866-7-TROOPS and their site is at: and again, they are not affiliated with the federal government.

I'd contact your local United Way for immediate medical, food, or housing emergencies anyone reading this may have.

Help is out there and the critical step is locating the organization who may truly and completely assist you. Do your research and find help because sometimes our government with its best intentions is bogged and miered down by its size and beauracracy. In those times - know that other help is out there and locate it.

My very best wishes to you, Mr. Schimpf.

Unknown said...

ya! lose your house to those thief's No problem we will put you up in a homeless Oh and thanks for your service to us. The next time you fight for something it will be to protect the Constitution from those who took it from us. Our own government or just the one's in place now.