Monday, April 23, 2007

Upping the Odds In Getting Any Grant, Or Do We Compete With Each Other for Grants?

When I had enough experience to know that I really enjoyed grant writing I was a staff grant writer. I loved the 'hands-on' experience that I was getting at work but decided that I'd get more exposure if I worked with other organizations, too. I went to my then Executive Director, told him that I was considering starting a grant writing consulting business, and that I wanted to know how he felt about that. He supported my plan with one caveat. He said that he was fine with me doing the consulting on the side as long as I didn't write grant proposals for any organizations working for the same cause as ours', Multiple Sclerosis. I agreed and the rest is history.

While I was glad to get my boss' support in my new endeavor, I had wondered it before, but wondered then, too, whether various grant-seeking non profits compete with one another; even different agencies who work for the same cause.

Yes, I know that when there are limited resources and 'unlimited' needs - competition ensues. This is of course the premise of Capitalism. But, let's break down what is really happening in the grant seeking process...it's not quite this scenario entirely. Your organization has more control over its grant raising success than you may know.

Each non profit organization operates without profit. Even still they are businesses and need to operate smoothly, all the while growing and meeting needs in our communities. Growth, business overhead, and meeting a mission statement requires staff, money, people's time, and more. Every non profit faces this very scenario. Even those with endowments, dedicated funding, or other 'guarantees' never know 100% that they need not ever worry about resources.

No donor has unlimited resources to give everything needed to all agencies that they care about. All donors are giving money, support, or requested items for some reason. Usually those reasons are altruistic, but as you've read in this blog and elsewhere, the modern donor is more involved, educated, and thought out than ever before. So, to be clear, let's not portray today's donor as well wishing and detached. They are concerned, interested, getting involved by providing support, and like non profits, working to meet a need in our world.

Grant writers serve a specific fundraising need and write grant proposals based on the non profit's need, its successes, the relationship that the non profit has with grant donors, and what the money is needed for. We know that when we're applying for a grant that it's to support a project, program, building, or other necessity to, in part, meet a need in our community.

As you know, the process that leads to a grant being donated to a non profit agency is a series of steps. A grant donor announces that they're accepting letters of inquiry or proposals for a newly available grant. Non profits who are within the range of interests and geographic locations that the grant donor serves apply for the grant (if they are requesting grants for a project/program/thing that the grant donor would want to support). After receiving all of the requests for grants, the grant donor pours over the applications and decides of the many, ultimately, which few will receive the grant(s). We know that having a good strong relationship with the grant donor, a great reputation as an agency, and meeting a need really well all help our odds in getting the grant, but we're not naive. We know, too, that politics, favoritism, misunderstandings, unforeseen unavoidable errors, and other unknown variables can and do play a critical role in receiving or not receiving a grant. I tend to look at these variables as 'out of everyones' hands who is applying for a grant, at any one time', because they are. Besides, what goes around comes around. These two points level that portion of the playing field.

So, I have come to the decision that competition exists for any organization applying for a grant, to the extent that any grant seeking organization's work is not reputable; that the project isn't really needed; that the grant application isn't complete, clear, succinct, and truthful; and other variables that you CAN control when going after grants. In other words, the stronger that your organization is, the more that grant donors know about your organization and its excellent/successful work, and if your application is the strongest it can be - you are eliminating competition and greatly improving your chances to receive that grant. For each grant donor, when you know how they tend to give, what they prefer/like, and how they operate you also up those odds in your favor. In fact, this paragraph sums up why I write this blog weekly. Grant writing is a skill and it takes experience, but this paragraph points out the goal and frankly, it isn't difficult to achieve. Remember grants are donated to non profits every day.

So, I guess that yes, there is competition among agencies who are seeking out grant money, but only to the extent that any one of those non profits allows others to be the better organization. If your organization is doing great work, is successful in its mission, knows its potential grant donors, submits strong grant applications, is managed really well, and is looking to provide a program/project/or other that is much needed in the community - then you really don't have much, if any, competition for that next grant. You really are in control of the likelihood of getting the grant.

Please let me know if you see it differently.

RFP for Marine Conservation Grant

From The Foundation Center...

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ocean Fund Offers Support for Marine Conservation

Call 305-539-6574 to ask when the funding requests are due.

Open Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. ( http://www.royalcaribbean.com/ ), which operates Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises, established the Ocean Fund in 1996 to support marine conservation organizations working to preserve the world's oceans. Ocean Fund grants are made to a variety of nonprofit groups and institutions conducting activities (e.g., research, education, and innovative technologies) directly related to marine conservation. Grants will average between $25,000 and $50,000 each, although there is no absolute maximum, and applicants must provide proof of their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status. The company will review funding requests by June 30, and will invite select organizations to submit a formal application by September 30. Grant recipients will be announced the following January.

Visit the program's Web site for application information and a list of previous grant recipients.

RFP Link: http://fconline.fdncenter.org/pnd/10007024/royalcaribbean

$100,000 For Renewable Energy Tech That Advances Wildlife Conservation

From The Foundation Center...

Entries Invited for Budweiser Renewable Energy and Wildlife Conservation Research Prize

Deadline: June 29, 2007

Anheuser-Busch ( http://www.anheuser-busch.com/ ) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation ( http://www.nfwf.org/ ) are accepting applications for the Budweiser Renewable Energy and Wildlife Conservation Research Prize. The prize, which is new, will be awarded through a competitive process and will recognize and support a single innovative project that advances new technologies or practices that contribute to making renewable energy a practical energy alternative. The $100,000 prize will be awarded in consideration of a project's ability to develop or evaluate new cost-effective renewable energy technologies or practices for industrial applications and demonstrate the measurable benefits such practices may have in advancing wildlife conservation.

Eligibility for the research prize is limited to accredited post- secondary academic institutions, with preference given to those working collaboratively among different departments within an institution(s) and with public agencies and nonprofit organiza- tions.

The Request for Proposal is available at the NFWF Web site. RFP Link: http://fconline.fdncenter.org/pnd/10007023/nfwf

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It's Like I Keep Writing: Guidestar.org's "Paper Thin Transparency" Non Profit Survey Results

Over and over again, in this blog, I explain how important it is for a non profit organization to maintain its accountability, transparency, integrity, honesty, and more. Non profits work in partnership with their donors, whether they realize it or not. Donors invest in our work and organizations, so they are (legally) allowed to look at our finances. Donors determine how good of a job are we doing running our non profit and meeting the need in our community. They also decide whether they want to continue donating to your organization or not. Knowing how to provide potential and current donors with the information that they need, so that they want to give, is of the utmost importance.

Guidestar.org posted a transparency question on their website, in March, for non profits to respond to. The results are really interesting. How does your organization compare?

The story and results are available on the Guidestar.org website at

http://www.guidestar.org/DisplayArticle.do?articleId=1122

That Darn First Paragraph In Your Grant Proposal

Perhaps you've recently sat down to write a grant proposal and you got stumped when you tried to begin the application. You've written the statement of need, you have the project's budget, and you have most of the body of the proposal pulled together. The thing is, you're just not sure how to start the proposal.

As is true with most writing, it is good to provide a peek into what will come in the document. It is here that you introduce the reader (in our case, the potential grant donor) to your organization, explain why you are writing (a grant proposal or application), what you'd like ($X), and why (let's say that we're writing the opening paragraph for a grant application to pay for a new playground).

The opening paragraph should be more than these facts, though.

The opening paragraph is an opportunity for you to demonstrate to the potential grant donor how you perceive your organization's place in your community, your wanting to partner with the grant donor - not just take their money, that your organization has a long standing strong and honest record, and that the proposed project (i.e. our playground) is needed and a great solution.

When formatting, the opening paragraph should contain all of the above information and qualities, AND also be clear and succinct. It shouldn't be necessary for an opening paragraph to be more than five sentences and probably no less than two. This format can vary, for instance, if a foundation asks for a lengthy opening paragraph in their application process.

An example opening paragraph might read like the following:

"Please accept this grant application requesting $50,000 from the Murphy Family Foundation. We are hoping that the Murphy Family Foundation will partner with Every Child's Play Place to provide the children of Olympia with a safe, athletic, free, and community-based place to play. While we have many parks, none offer Olympia's children with a playground. We are working with the City of Olympia and have, after a feasibility study, determined that building will begin summer, 2008."

The above paragraph doesn't just provide the requisite information. For instance, it indicates that we, Every Child's Play Place, work in partnerships in our community. Grant donors like to see non profits work in tandem with others because experience, expertise, are increased while repetition and costs are lowered.

We also explain that we've conducted a feasibility study. Our non profit isn't just cooking up projects that aren't really needed or able to be completed. We've researched the viability and amount of need in the community.

We ask the potential grant donor to partner in our efforts. We aren't simply holding our hand out for the money, disinterested in developing a relationship. We want the donor to be involved in the needed playground. We also indicate that a team is already forming (with the City). The Murphy Foundation may look at this partnership and think 'well, if the city is working with them, this must be a great non profit with a very important project under way'.

We explain the need (because Olympia does not have playgrounds in its parks, only on its school grounds) and we describe in short order what the playground is supposed to provide the community with (safety, community building, a place for children to play for free, etc.).

Finally, we provide the potential donor with a quick time line. Building is scheduled to begin in the summer of next year.

They can read the opening paragraph and know much more than the who, what, why, when, and where if the opening paragraph is used to its full potential.

Most importantly, this paragraph is short. While it has a lot of information and gets right to the point, it is only four sentences long. We do not yet provide our mission statement or the statement of need, budget, feasibility study results, full project description, etc. The opening paragraph simply brings the reader into our situation. It is the opening. There's no need to hit someone over the head with all of the information you'll be providing in the body of the proposal.

The opening paragraph of a grant application must include some basic information, but it is also an opportunity to indicate more. You can share with the potential donor how your organization prefers to work with its donors, that your project is valued in the community, that there is a need for your project, and more.

Monday, April 09, 2007

First Increase In U.S. Grantmaking In Double Digit Growth Since You Know When

In 2001, I had recently began my fundraising career. 9/11 changed our lives, our perception of the world, and like other industries, it impacted American fundraising directly. Most Americans donated to needy victims' families and first responders' groups. The American Red Cross received a large percentage of donations, even at the expense of other non profits and their causes. I'll never forget a volunteer board member who I met at a fundraising conference, shortly after 2001, saying to me, 'you new fundraisers learning today will have an exciting career - you have nowhere to go but up'! After 9/11, for the first time in the history of American philanthropy, giving dropped. It had never happened before. The volunteer that I met was right; we were down from where we had been donating and fundraising. Up was the only way to go.

So, it is with great enthusiasm and relief that I read that a 2007 Foundation Center report found that this is "...the first time U.S. foundations have reported consecutive years of double-digit growth in giving since 1996-01."

The Foundation Center (http://www.foundationcenter.org/) summarized the Center's recent publication Foundation Growth and Giving Estimates: Current Outlook (Foundation Center Press Release 4/03/07) in their weekly "Philanthropy News Digest" April 3, 2007; Vol. 13, Issue 14. The findings are from the responses from 875 mid to large sized American foundations.

Other Current Outlook Estimates include:

- 71,000 U.S. grantmaking foundations' giving rose to an estimated $40.7 billion in 2006; an 11.7 percent increase from 2005

- 90% of all U.S. foundations are family foundations which increased their giving 10.3% in 2006

- Corporate foundations' giving grew 6% in 2006, after giving 16.5% more in 2005

- Community foundations' giving grew the most at 13.2%

- Overall, American foundations' assets grew by 10 - 12%

- Nearly 60% of those foundations surveyed expect their giving to increase: "and overall funding is likely to continue to grow at a double-digit pace."

Interestingly, the respondents attributed their increases to higher stock market earnings, newer foundations started in the early 2000's, elevated pay out rates, and the existence of pharmaceutical manufacturers' foundations. "New analyses show that twelve pharmaceutical foundations established in the 1990s and early 2000s to distribute medications to patients with financial hardships accounted for close to 9 percent of 2005 foundation giving."

"The foundation community is both larger and more diverse than was true in the past, which makes its giving less predictable," said Foundation Center president Sara Engelhardt. "Neither stock market performance, a single wealthy donor, nor one type of foundation alone drives current trends." "Foundation Giving Continued Double-Digit Growth in 2006."

Foundation Center Press Release 4/03/07.

http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10006783/story

This kind of news allows us grant writers to estimate how much can likely be raised, annually, in grants by the non profit that we work for. Giving is up. We who are fortunate enough to work for well run, honest, effective, successful, and strong non profits can expect that for each of our new programs there will be a health interest in collaboration (i.e. grant giving) from our communities. Our experience is looking up!

RFP for Grants for Alzheimer's Day Programs

From The Foundation Center...

Brookdale Foundation Group Issues RFP for Start-Up Dementia Day Programs

Deadline: July 6, 2007

The Brookdale Foundation Group ( http://brookdalefoundation.org/ ) has issued a Request For Proposals for start-up social model group respite programs for people with Alzheimer's disease and their family caregivers.

In November 2007 the foundation will award up to fifteen seed grants for the development of dementia-specific group respite programs and up to five seed grants for the development of specialized programs for people with early memory loss.

The seed grants are $7,500 each for the first year, with an opportunity for a second year grant of $3,000.

Funds may be requested by private nonprofit 501(c)(3) or public agencies to develop a new dementia-specific social model program. Funds may not be used to support or expand the hours, days, or service capacity of existing social, health, or medical model programs. Sponsoring organization must provide a 100 percent match of hard dollars and/or substantive in-kind support.

To obtain the 2007 RFP and guidelines, visit the Brookdale Web site. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10006834/brookdalefoundation

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

A New Fundraising Method! Real Estate Rebate Fundraising Programs...

Care 2.com is an activist organizing, California based, non profit that provides subscribers the opportunity to sign Internet petitions or e-mail representatives about current issues that concerns its members. They work on causes such as women's community, animal welfare, health, environment, consumer safety, child protection and more.

Care 2.com, within the last day or two, sent an e-mail to its (free) members describing a new fundraising program called the Home Cash for Charity Program. To quote their e-mail, Care2.com has "...partnered with HomeGift Realty Inc., a national, licensed real estate company..." to offer home buyers and home sellers (the largest asset most Americans will ever own) the opportunity to donate a real estate agent referral fee refund to the charity of their choice (ala this e-mail, Care2.com hopes you'll choose theirs').

This program works when American real estate agents receive a referral, they are required to pay for that referral (the amount is based on the cost of the sale or purchase of the home) out of their commission fees. Their FAQ page explains this further by stating that "Agents willingly reduce their commissions to get your business and the business of thousands of non-profit supporters. We pass these savings on to you in the form of a cash rebate after closing." For buyers, the "found money" is the rebate they will receive to donate or keep. Signing up for this program is free, according to the e-mail, and the process is reportedly "easy". It does appear to be so.

The directions explain that there are simply three easy steps to donate your refunded real estate referral fee or found money. First, you must sign up (it is free to do so). Second, you may hire any real estate agent that you like to sell or buy your home (and you must tell that agent, up front, that you are a member of this program). Third, after closing you receive the refund check. You may keep the money or donate it to the charity of your choice.

Home Gift Realty, Inc., according to Care2.com's Home Cash for Charity Program web page, is reputable and has worked with other non profits, such as Habitat for Humanity and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) to provide this fundraising program.

Care 2.com has a good explanation of this fundraising program on their site. See http://www.homegift.com/realtyrewards/SHG_Pages/default.aspx?npo=care2&z00m=9421993

Their FAQ page explains that this program can not work in conjunction with other real estate refund programs. So, there are other realty companies who work with non profits to provide these rebates (in the hopes of raising the rebates as donations for the non profits).

I think this is a great way for non profits to raise larger donations from any donor (as the home is usually the largest asset Americans own). I do not have any experience with, nor have I heard of the real estate rebate fundraising program until the Care2.com e-mail I received yesterday. If you have experience with this kind of fundraiser, please share your experience in a "Comment" at the end of this post. My readers and I are always interested in the latest in fundraising.

Two Recent Grants Available for Historic Preservation

From The Foundation Center...

The first request for proposals, below, is for American non profits working on the history of their community in partnership with a local school. The second RFP, below, is a challenge grant offering grants (to be matched by federal dollars) to governments or tribes. Note that they stipulate a minimum request allowed. See each RFP's details, below.

1) History Organizations Invited to Partner With Schools and Youth Groups for Save Our History Grant Program

Deadline: June 1, 2007

Each year, the History Channel, through its Save Our History ( http://www.history.com/minisites/saveourhistory ) program, awards $250,000 in total grants of up to $10,000 each to U.S. organizations that partner with schools or youth groups on community preservation projects that engage students in learning about, documenting, and preserving the history of their communities.

Grantees are also eligible to receive an additional $10,000 award at the Save Our History National Honors Event, when the top grant winners are recognized for their outstanding community preservation projects.

To be eligible, applicants must be nonprofit, 501(c)(3) history organizations such as a museum, historical society, preservation organization, historic site, library, archive, or other history organization.

Other eligible applicants include local government agencies such as parks and recreation commissions, historic commissions, departments of local history, or other local government agencies that own and/or operate a historic site or property. Applicant organizations also must be located in one of the fifty states or the District of Columbia, and must partner with a local elementary, middle, or high school, or an organization that provides educational programming for children of similar ages. Applicants may partner with multiple schools or educational organizations.

Visit the Save Our History Web site for complete program information and application procedures. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10006749/history

2. Save America's Treasures Offering Grants for Preservation Activities

Deadline: April 26, 2007

Save America's Treasures is a public-private partnership that includes the National Trust for Historic Preservation ( http://www.nationaltrust.org/ ), the National Park Service ( http://www.nps.gov/ ), the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities ( http://www.pcah.gov/ ), and federal cultural ] agencies. Each year, the partnership awards challenge grants to eligible historic resources for approved preservation activities. The public partners of Save America's Treasures have announced that applications are now available for the fiscal year 2007 federal SAT grant round. These grants help fund preservation and/or conservation work on nationally significant intellectual and cultural artifacts and nationally significant historic structures and sites.

Eligible applicants include nonprofit, tax- exempt, 501(c) organizations, units of state or local government, and federally recognized Indian tribes. Grants are awarded through a competitive process and require a dollar-for-dollar non-federal match. The minimum grant request for collections projects is $25,000 (federal share); the minimum grant request for historic property projects is $125,000 (federal share). The maximum grant request for all projects is $700,000 (federal share).

Visit the Save Americas Treasures Web site for program guidelines and application instructions. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10006750/cr

Several Grants Available for the Arts Or Theatre

From The Foundation Center...

Below, are three grants. Two grants are available for art; one in California and one in art education in the United States. The third grant, below, is available to theatre groups, for travel expense, to non profits or professional theatre staff in either the United States or their counterparts in Russia, Central Europe, or Eastern Europe.

1. California Community Foundation Invites Los Angeles Artists to Apply for Cover Art Award

Deadline: May 4, 2007

The California Community Foundation's ( http://www.calfund.org/ ) Cover Art Award is designed to support an emerging Los Angeles artist working in painting, drawing, or printmaking by purchasing an artwork that best reflects the foundation's annual theme: "Arts and Culture in Diverse Communities." This year's theme embodies CCF's goal to support initiatives that expand access to the arts for low-income populations, recognize non-traditional art forms among various cultures, and leverage the arts as a means of revitalizing neighborhoods. The foundation will feature the winning artwork in its 2007 annual report cover, invitations and other publications, and a limited-edition lithograph. Cover art award guidelines and application instructions are available at the CCF Web site.

2. Theatre Communications Group Offers Travel Grants

Deadline: April 30, 2007

The Theatre Communications Group ( http://www.tcg.org/ ) is inviting applications for TCG/ITI Travel Grants, which support travel in either direction between theater professionals in the U.S. and their counterparts in Russia or Central/Eastern Europe, including Albania, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Herzegovina, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Russia, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia. This grant program was developed by TCG in collaboration with the International Theatre Institute ( http://www.iti-worldwide.org/ ) and is funded by the Trust for Mutual Understanding ( http://www.tmuny.org/ ). Grants of $3,000 will be awarded to theaters and individual theater professionals (artists, administrators, or educators) to cover transportation and living expenses essential to the project, including research materials, communication costs, theater tickets, and/or the services of an interpreter. Theaters applying on behalf of theater professional(s) must be able to demonstrate not-for-profit, tax-exempt status; have a professional orientation and high artistic standards; and employ professional artists and administrators.

Individual theater professionals must be citizens or permanent residents of the U.S. and wish to initiate, continue, or deepen relationships with artists and/or theater companies in Russia and/or Eastern and Central Europe. Theater professionals who are affiliated with a U.S. theater company that will be involved in the international work must be sponsored by that theater and may not apply as an individual.

The application postmark deadline for applicants scheduled to travel between July 1, 2007, and January 31, 2008, is April 30, 2007. Visit the TCG Web site for complete program guidelines and application materials. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10006751/tcg

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10006747/calfund

3. Dana Foundation to Fund Art Education Professional Development Programs in Rural Communities

Deadline: June 4, 2007 (Letter of Intent)

The Dana Foundation ( http://www.dana.org/ ) is accepting Letters of Intent for performing arts education professional development programs in rural communities in the United States. The foundation is interested primarily in training for professional artists teaching performing arts in public schools and in-school arts specialists who teach performing arts in the public schools. In-school arts specialists are teachers who are part of the permanent school staff (full- or part-time) and who teach the performing arts as their primary area of instruction. The foundation's interests include but are not limited to the following: dance, music, or theater based on a specific pedagogy and arts curricula integrated into a school's standard curriculum. Dana supports projects in various stages of development and approach, including pilot programs, evaluated pilot programs ready for expansion locally, and programs ready to be exported to other communities. Please note the foundation does not support programs that focus on direct instruction of school children or direct instruction of classroom teachers. (Proposals may include training for school staff such as classroom teachers, school leadership, and arts administrators who work with artists and/or arts specialists, but the primary training must be for artists or arts specialists.)

Dana does not award grants to individual schools or school districts. Projects funded in the next grant cycle may not begin prior to January 1, 2008, when the 2008 awards will be announced. The foundation will offer one- and two-year grants of up to $50,000 each.

Visit the Dana Foundation Web site for complete program guidelines, funding restrictions, and application procedures. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10006748/dana