Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Puget Sound Grantwriters Association's 2007 Conference, and Grant(s) Available to Attending Orgs

The Puget Sound Grantwriters Association, along with the King County Library System, is holding its annual professional conference, Changing the World One Grant at a Time, on Wednesday, October 3rd, in Seattle, at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center, this year.

I've attended this conference three different years and it was always informative, a great opportunity to network, and helpful in learning what's the latest with various grant funders. Experience levels vary between the sessions from Beginner to Advanced and each session description lists the appropriate experience level.

Various professional speakers will teach sessions, lead discussions, or answer questions between 9am to 4pm. Registration and the Welcome Address are between 7:45am and 9:00am.

The conference's brochure including the schedule, location, cost, registration form, and details are available as an Adobe Reader .PDF file at: http://www.grantwriters.org/events/Documents/Conf_2007_Brochure_Web.pdf

Attendees choose between three courses, per session. There are three sessions and the day ends with a Funders Panel including Heather Dwyer with 4 Culture; Audrey Haberman with Pride Foundation; Nan McKay with The Russell Family Foundation; and Washington Women's Foundation will provide a representative. The Funders Panel members will discuss how grantmakers "really make funding decisions". They will comment on applications submitted by attendee organizations and a recipient (or recipients) will be chosen by the panel, on the spot, receiving up to $2,500 in grant(s) from the Puget Sound Grantwriters Association! Grant applicants can be submitted no later than August 31, 2007 and the grant application guidelines are available at: http://www.grantwriters.org/events/Documents/PSGA_2007_grant_guidelines.doc

Lunch is included in the cost of admission and vegetarian meals are available, upon request. The early registration deadline is September 14th. The final registration deadline is September 28th. Prepayment is required. Attendance is $115 for non members, and $80 for members; if payment is made before September 14th. After September 14th, attendance is $140 for non members, and $105 for members. Memberships and conference attendance can be purchased at once. See the brochure for details. All PSGA memberships run from August to July, annually.

Call (206)367-8704, or email psga at grantwriters dot org to ask questions about the conference or the grant.

Community Grants from Hamburger Helper's My Hometown Helper Community Project Grants Program

Hamburger Helper's My Hometown Helper Community Project Grants

Grant Application Deadline: August 30, 2007

Hamburger Helper's My Hometown Helper is a nationwide initiative that helps local groups make a difference in their own community.

Local community groups can go to www.myhometownhelper.com to learn about My Hometown Helper's grants. Funds will be awarded based on the merit of the project, including its impact on, and support within, the community. Award amounts will range from $500 to $15,000 and all requests for funding must be sponsored by a municipal or civic organization or a public school. This grant is available for all 501(c)(4) organizations, including municipal and civic organizations, public schools and veterans organizations. Recipients have to be located within the United States. Apply between August 1 and September 30. Applicants can submit an essay of 250 words or less describing how the grant would help with their community project. Applicants are encouraged to share their "My Hometown Helper"grant entry project page with friends, neighbors and family, who can post comments on the My Hometown Helper website showing support for the project.

Grant applicants are encouraged to visit www.myHometownHelper.com on November 15, to see whether they were awarded a grant.

During the current round, applicants may submit grant applications between August 1st, 2007 and September 30th, 2007.

Completed applications need to be submitted to the website. The web page to submit the application will be on the My Hometown Helper website as of August 1, 2007.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Burn Out and Its Effect On Your Fundraising....Humane Society of Central Oregon and Your Donors, Here's Some Free Advice

I've written in this blog about my concern that the American non profit sector does not take burn out seriously enough, especially as it can be more serious, even dangerous, when it's a non profit sector issue. See my post, What Is A Well Run Non Profit Agency? I'll Tell You...

If your organization has even one burned out, fatigued, or worn down staff member who interfaces with your client population (or the constituency of your mission statement work) - then yes, all of your organization's fundraising IS effected. How is this?

For example...

If a child welfare non profit organization has a social worker on staff who began their job with stellar references, performed well, and had strong annual reviews is now allegedly putting client children at risk; this is a cry for thorough, honest, unbiased, independent investigation into the allegation.

Or...

If a non profit organization that provides coursework materials, sweaters, parkas, and shoes to low income communities has an executive director, who is compassionate and has a stellar record of assistance and success; but begins to describe being worn down and asks for reduced hours per week, it is important to take her/him seriously. Take this valued and committed employee at their word and see the burn out as something that they can get beyond if it's faced and dealt with.

Or...

If a local Humane Society has a programs director that requires people dropping animals off at their facility (for adoption or safe haven) to sign a 'kill order' (leaving the Humane Society's option to terminate the animal open) because he claims that they don't have enough room for all animals being brought into the facility (despite their mission statement); give him paid leave and research how other reputable animal welfare organizations deal with overflow. Instead of killing animals, he/she could increase the number of foster homes in the community, and grow the foster care program creating more locations to place animals in overlfow situations.

If this last example sounds as if I'm perturbed about something, I am.

Bend, Oregon's weekly The Source wrote "Licensed To Kill: Critics Say Humane Society Inflates Adoption Rates At Animals Expense" (May 10, 2007 issue) alleging that the Humane Society of Central Oregon was killing animals indiscriminately. In response to the article, their Animal Welfare Director was accused of "compassion fatigue", burn out where welfare workers' compassion turns to harm. Neither the Humane Society of Central Oregon (HSCO) board members, the executive director, nor staff responded to the allegation publicly. One HSCO volunteer wrote a follow up Op Ed piece in The Source claiming that the program manager does his best, and uses other options to deal with animal overflow, such as driving animals to another shelter.

I'll use this real life allegation as an example to make my point.

I used to donate food (in kind donations), shop at their second hand store (supporting their for profit fundraising), donate our household goods and used clothes to their second hand store (in kind donations), and I gave cash donations to the HSCO.

I won't give to them again.

Why? Like others in our community who read the article, but then did not hear any HSCO leadership's concern for the issue in response; I am concerned that they are operating their non profit outside the goal and scope of their mission statement. The fact that it's unclear what's going on there is not good. I won't risk my dollars on an organization that MAY be hurting animals. Instead, like others, I will donate to another non profit animal welfare organization that demonstrates its professionalism, transparency, commitment, achievement, and success in assisting and protecting animals. Why wouldn't I?! I'd be getting confirmation that my donation is doing the work that I believe is needed in my community; more for my buck!

No non profit raises money in a void. Non profits must inherently work in partnership with its community members. Raising maximum support requires transparency, communication, public relations, honesty, effective organizational management, professionalism, etc. When an allegation is made, professionalism requires an honest independent investigation, openness, and making hard choices when necessary. It takes leadership.

Grant donors live in our community and read our local press. They want to achieve non profits' mission statements' goals. This is why they give their dollars. They believe in the intention of the grant recipient's mission statement work. There are other local causes that could use the grant money that may have been considered for the HSCO. No one has to support a non profit. Even 'just an allegation' could turn your support off. Today's donors do not simply write checks. They expect effective results for their donation; if a grant donor gets a reputation for blindly donating grants to organizations that are not fulfilling their missions, they risk losing their donors.

Volunteer and staff burn out is a serious issue. Even just the allegation of it is serious. If you are aware of it happening in your organization, or if there's a concern that there's burn out, it could put your organization's clientele in jeopardy. This is devastating in and of itself, but burn out or just the question of its existence, puts your non profit's achievements and the organizational vision of your mission statement in question.

If you know it exists in your organization, what can you do? Admit that the situation is at hand. Talk with staff leadership and board members. Deal with the worn down staff or volunteer member by sharing your concern with them, and discuss with them options to alleviate their perceived distress (i.e. lessen work hours, share work load, require that they take unused vacation time, give them paid leave, hire another staff member, bring in a professional on a volunteer basis, etc.). Not sure if it exists? Share your leadership's acknowledgement of the issue, investigate the allegation, and if appropriate share with your donor base and the public what your organization is doing to deal with this situation. The situation will not improve if left untreated.

Leaving burn out, or the possibility of it, to fester in your organization is dangerous, and it is the kiss of death for your fundraising; grant writing, included.

Compassion Fatigue Strikes Family, Even Animal Caregivers

To follow up the discussion about today's donors read my blog post, A Shift In Giving: Proactive Philanthropists Instead of Passive Donors

Grants for Arts for Oregon Communities

From The Foundation Center

Oregon Arts Commission Invites Proposals for Arts Build Communities

Grants Deadline: October 2, 2007

The Oregon Arts Commission ( http://www.oregonartscommission.org/ ) is accepting applications for Arts Build Communities grants, which recognize and support the use of the arts as a tool for building and strengthening Oregon communities. Arts Build Communities grants support both the arts in local communities and the involvement of the arts and artists in community development. The program recognizes the expanding role that arts organizations are taking in the broader, cultural, social, educational, and economic areas of community life. The program's goal is to better connect local arts and cultural resources with issues or opportunities facing communities.

Projects can support the integration of the arts and artists with community goals and may include new initiatives, new program development, or the expansion of an existing arts and community development project. ABC proposals from communities that are under served by arts services will receive funding priority. Under served communities include communities whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.

Applicants must have nonprofit 501(c)(3) status or be a unit of local government (including libraries, schools, and tribal governments). Grants will generally range from $3,000 to $7,000 each. Grants must be matched at least dollar-for-dollar.

Guidelines are available at the Oregon Arts Commission Web site. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10008196/oregonartscommission

Grants for American Humane Association Animal Welfare Current Agency Member Organizations

From The Foundation Center...

American Humane Announces Expansion of Second Chance Fund Grant Program for Animal Welfare Agency Members

Deadline: Open

Through its Second Chance Fund, the American Humane Association ( http://www.americanhumane.org/ ) provides financial assistance, in select cases, to animal welfare organizations and breed- specific rescue groups responsible for the temporary care of animals as they are prepared for adoption into permanent homes. The program provides animal victims of abuse or neglect with a second chance at life.

Due to the overwhelming number of abuse cases nationwide, the Second Chance Fund is offered only to organizations that are current agency members of the American Humane Association, and only in select cases of animal abuse or neglect.

Individuals, businesses, corporations, and non-member organizations are not eligible. Funding to any one agency is limited to $2,000 per fiscal year. For the remainder of 2007 and in 2008, American Humane will be doubling the total financial assistance provided. This additional grant funding is a result of American Humane's partnership with Pedigree Food for Dogs ( http://www.pedigree.com/ ).

More information about Second Chance Fund grants, including stories of animals who have benefited from getting a second chance, can be found at the American Humane Association Web site.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10008193/americanhumane

Grants for Native Americans or Tribes Working On Tribal Language Who Were Visited by Lewis & Clark

From The Foundation Center:

Native Voices Endowment Offers Funding for Work on Indigenous Languages of North America

Deadline: October 15, 2007

The Native Voices Endowment: A Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Legacy Project has been created within the Endangered Language Fund ( http://www.endangeredlanguagefund.org/ ) for the purpose of revitalizing and perpetuating the aboriginal languages of the American Indian Nations whose ancestors encountered the 1803-06 Lewis & Clark Expedition.

The endowment money comes from the Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Council ( http://lewisandclark200.org/ ), which received the revenues from the U.S. Mint's sale of the Lewis and Clark 2004 Commemorative Coin. The $1.6 million endowment is expected to generate $75,000 in interest annually, which will fund the annual grant program.

Proposals will be accepted only from individuals who are enrolled tribal members, tribal government language programs, tribal community language programs, and tribal schools and colleges of the federally recognized tribal nations along the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, whose ancestors experienced contact with the Lewis & Clark Expedition or whose ancestral homelands were traversed by the Lewis & Clark Expedition or whose tribal customs or languages were recorded by the Lewis & Clark Expedition.

Proposals will be accepted for Native American language education programs, individual study by Native American language students, and research efforts to document and record Native American languages for future preservation and education. Grants will range from $2,500 to $25,000 each, and will be awarded for a period of one to three years. Grants must be matched by the recipient on a 1:1 basis. The match can be in cash or in-kind goods or services.

The complete Request for Proposals and a list of eligible tribes are available at the Endangered Language Fund's Web site. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10008195/endangeredlanguagefund

Grants for Uninsured Children's Health, Rehab; or Public School Programs's Inclusion of Disabled Kids

From The Foundation Center...

CVS Caremark Community Grants to Support Children With Disabilities and Healthcare for the Uninsured

Deadline: October 31, 2007

CVS Caremark Community Grants target effective and innovative programs that align with the company's philanthropic values and criteria. The 2007 Community Grants Program will focus on these two key areas: Programs targeting children under the age of 18 that address any of the following:
1) Health and Rehabilitation Services -- grants to support programs that promote independence among children with disabilities, including physical and occupational therapies, speech and hearing therapies, assistive technology, and recreational therapies;

2) Public schools promoting a greater level of inclusion in student activities and extracurricular programs -- proposed programs must be fully inclusive insofar as children with disabilities are full participants in early childhood, adolescent, or teenage programs alongside their typically developing peers;

3) Creating opportunities or facilities that give greater access to physical movement and play -- proposed programs may include either physical activities or play opportunities and should address the specific needs of the population served.

Healthcare service for uninsured people: The CVS Caremark Community Grants Program assures that more uninsured people receive needed care, that the care received is of higher quality, and that the uninsured are served by providers who participate in accountable community healthcare programs. There is no age limit on proposed programs that create greater access to healthcare services. To be eligible for funding, a CVS/pharmacy store must be located within the state where the applicant organization resides.

Visit the CVS Web site for program information and an online eligibility quiz. Nonprofit organizations applying for a Community Grant for children with disabilities or for healthcare for uninsured people are required to provide their EIN number before they can begin the eligibility quiz. Public schools applying for children with disabilities are not required to provide an EIN number.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10008198/cvs

Monday, July 23, 2007

Seed Money for Southern State Organizations Addressing Social Change Through Organizing

Fund for Southern Communities Offers Support for Social Change Groups in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina

Deadline: September 1, 2007

The Fund for Southern Communities ( http://www.fundforsouth.org/ ) is a public foundation that supports and unites organizations and donors working to create just and sustainable communities that are free of oppression and that embrace and celebrate all people. Through grantmaking and related activities, the fund seeks to foster social change initiated by community-based groups in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.

FSC supports small community groups working against racism and for environmental justice, women's rights, youth development, LGBTQ rights, worker's rights, civil and disability rights, and other issues that address social change through community organizing. The fund provides seed grants to new projects or general or project support to small organizations with organizational budgets of $150,000 or less.

The fund does not make grants for direct services, social services, or special events. Applications must include a copy of the applicant organization's tax-exempt determination letter or fiscal sponsor's letter. Grants range from $1,000 to $5,000 each.

Complete program information and grant application are available at the FSC Web site. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10008101/fundforsouth

International and National Grants for Childrens' Health Or Well Being

From The Foundation Center...

Ronald McDonald House Charities Offers Support for Global or National Nonprofits Helping Children

Deadline: August 31, 2007 (Letters of Inquiry)

Ronald McDonald House Charities ( http://rmhc.com/rmhc/ ) and its global network of local chapters provides funding for programs or projects that are national or global in scope and which directly improve the health and well-being of children.

RMHC funding has enabled organizations in communities around the world to help children read, provide nutritious afterschool meals, offer life- changing surgeries, or help prevent life-threatening disease.

Organizations seeking funding should have a specific program that directly improves the health and well-being of children (from newborns up to age 21); addresses a significant funding gap or critical opportunity; has long-term impact in terms of replica- tion or reach; and produces measurable results.

To be considered for funding, an applicant must be designated as a not-for-profit, tax-exempt charitable organization. U.S.-based charities must have a current 501(c)(3) tax-exempt letter of determination on file with the Internal Revenue Service.

Letters of Inquiry must be submitted by August 31, 2007, to be eligible for consideration at the December 2007 board meeting. Visit the RMHC Web site for complete program information and application procedures.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10008100/rmhc

What Are Grant Donors Looking For? Capacity Building and Getting More Bang For the Grant Buck...

Would you like to know what you can do to position your non profit organization to receive more grant money support? Then, understand what grant donors' latest thinking is. The James Irvine Foundation just published a paper to advise grant donors how to effect better and more change in our communities. Grant donors, "...too want to leverage their philanthropic dollars and believe that strong nonprofit organizations lead to strong programs and, ultimately, greater social impact." [Page 2, "Why Invest In Capacity Building?", The James Irvine Foundation TCC Briefing Paper, "Deeper Capacity Building for Greater Impact", April 2007]

The James Irvine Foundation 's "Deeper Capacity Building for Greater Impact" [28 page free PDF file] explains the "...inherent value of [grant recipient non profit organizations'] capacity building..." based on the foundation's past decade's worth of work so that "...the foundation achieves economies of scale and also provides additional benefits to participating grantees." [Foreward, The James Irvine Foundation TCC Briefing Paper, "Deeper Capacity Building for Greater Impact", April 2007]

To quote the Vice President for The James Irvine Foundation's Programs, Martha Campbell, the briefing paper has been published "...to provide tangible examples of design options, best practices, and common challenges of [Long Term Capacity Building (LTCB)] initiatives. We hope that the paper will stimulate thinking about issues with this approach to capacity building and inform your own decision-making in designing and managing any LTCB initiative...". [Foreward, The James Irvine Foundation TCC Briefing Paper, "Deeper Capacity Building for Greater Impact", April 2007]

"Long-term capacity-building (LTCB) initiatives represent one way in which Irvine has organized such assistance. Through LTCB initiatives, a foundation directs support to a cohort of organizations over a defined time period to address specific capacity-building needs. By working across multiple organizations and sites, the foundation achieves economies of scale and also provides additional benefits to participating grantees by linking them through meetings, peer exchange, and training opportunities. LTCB initiatives, however, introduce greater complexity into the underlying grantmaking processes because of the need for a longer time horizon, multiple sites, issues of confidentiality, and movement beyond project-based support that such efforts entail." [Foreward, The James Irvine Foundation TCC Briefing Paper, "Deeper Capacity Building for Greater Impact", April 2007]

Exhibit 1 on page 4 of the document has a great graphic depicting what capacity building is and how to's. Exhibit 2 on page 6 quickly depcits how to design a capacity building initiative (here, intended for the grant donor to work in concert with the grant recipient) including decisions and options to consider. As grant writers, this graphic depcits for us what the grant donor is considering in attempting to grow their donation and our mission statement's work. Page 12 and 13 feature a table that lists many real world examples of using the LTCB initiative and their plans.

But, take note of the next exhibit! "Exhibit 6: Checklist to Determine Readiness of a Nonprofit Organization to Participate in a Long-term Capacity-Building Initiative" is on page 17. It lists the very qualities that they recommend grant donors look for in potential grant recipients. Very telling.

It is always good to know what those who grant donations are reading and considering to bolster their donation and goal.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Chronicle of Philanthropy's "Marketers Encourage Charities to Build Movements, Not Brands"

http://philanthropy.com/news/updates/2683/marketers-encourage-charities-to-build-movements-not-brands

Sue Hoye wrote a great article for The Chronicle of Philanthropy (July 13, 2007; web)!

Clients Who Don't Follow Through On Their Grant Writing Plan: Grant Writers, I'm Talking To You

I don't understand it.

We all know that non profit organizations do not have a ton of resources available to them.

So, why do non profit organizations take the time to research grant writers, call them, interview them, collectively formulate a plan to go after grant money - AND THEN FALL OFF THE WAGON?

This has happened twice to me.

Last year I was interviewed by the Executive Director and the board President of one organization, and they each seemed to be very interested in raising grant money. In this particular incident, when they went to their board with the idea to hire me, their board did not share their understanding of fundraising/grantsmanship, nor did they have their level of interest. To this day, this organization raises money primarily through grants, through applications written by their President. She is articulate and bright, of course, but she has many other tasks to do (besides having a business of her own). This board should be concerned that their President (who is the workhorse of all the volunteers for this org) is going to burn out. Who could blame her?

The first time I had a client flee the roost, though....

I was hired by a non profit group that was growing. They were making inroads with other organizations doing similar work and working well with them. They were growing programming and planning on applying for grants to bolster their development plan. I was hired, I began my work, and when it came time for their staff to collaborate with me (and grant writing is always collaborative work) - I waited a day or two, called, and I was told their Executive Director would get right back to me. It became a week. Then, a little over a week I called again. She would get back to me, and she was so sorry that it was taking so long. After two weeks, I respectfully declined the contract. What was I waiting for? I needed her to look over my first draft of the grant proposal case for fact checking, whether I had their organization's history and timeline correct, and the like. How long was the document she was supposed to review, mark up, and return to me? It was less than six pages long. I was waiting for a staff member to do maybe ten minute's work and get back to me.

The commitment to start a grant writing program, as part of a non profit's development plan, is apparently less difficult than to follow through with it. I really find this hard to believe.

As grant writers, we must be certain that the clients that we take on are committed to the process. During the interview with the first client, I made it clear at different times that grant writing is a group effort, that it would require about five hours of their staff time, a week. I would need them to either show me where to find, or give me, financials, official organizational documents, the board list, etc. I would also need their involvement in proof reading. During the conversations, the Executive Director understood, agreed, and was eager to get started.

I now make certain that the potential client understands but also guarantees that they have that time available for the grant writing process.

I do not want to get paid for waiting around. I want to assist organizations to achieve their mission statement goals, by helping them raise grant money. I want to be successful in my work, and help non profits be successful in theirs'.

There is no free ride. If non profit organizations believe that they can hire a grant writer, and that the grant writer will independently all on their own make grant dollars appear - they're wrong. Grant writers work independently. They often need quiet, time, and a little space to be able to absorb information and write out great proposals. BUT grant writers are not, as Tony Poderis (excellent fundraising guru) says of us, "lone wolves". We may be treated that way by our office mates or fundraising colleagues (as Tony describes), but it isn't really how to successfully raise grant money.

When I work with a client I learn about their organization, its work, and its mission. I will write a draft or two, hand it off to a few staff members for feedback, get the mark ups back, and write a next draft. We might go back and forth another draft or two. Different grant donors need different information; so this is ongoing. There has to be team work, give and take, open lines of frequent communication, and a commitment.

Yup. Really. It isn't fundraising in a vacuum. It is grant writing.

[Tony Poderis' great fundraising website is located at http://www.raise-funds.com/ ]

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Transparency...Four Letter Word Or Wave of the Future?

Recently, the NAACP 's budget shortfalls and need for improved leadership and fundraising is big news. The United States federal government is redesigning the federal tax return form for required 501 (c)(3) non profit organization's tax filings because Congress is not comfortable with the current form's ability to provide them with an accurate picture of a given non profit's fundraising, operational expense, and spending. At question is how much is being spent on salaries compared to programs. Case in point: Congress discovered that executives at the Smithsonian Institute (where 70% of its funding is from national tax payers) were receiving exceptional salaries. One can imagine these exceptional salaries were at the expense of the museums' programs.(Smithsonian Salary Cap Passes Panel by Jaqueline Trescott; May 11, 2006; Washington Post) These issues are not unique to these two great organizations.

Transparency, or the need for it has been all over the news.

I've discussed a few times, in Seeking Grant Money Today how critical it is for fundraisers (grant writers, included) to understand that today's donors are more like investors, rather than ATM's. A Shift In Giving: Proactive Philanthropists Instead of Passive Donors

Less and less, grant donors, major donors, or foundations are going to give to an organization that does not disclose its budget, expenses, income, fundraising plan, and financials. Even if these documents are disclosed but do not 'add up' - modern donors will not give. Congress, included!

As Captain Jack from "Pirates of the Caribbean" would ask, "Savvy?"

If you're not, you may wonder why is it that non profits continue to operate as if they aren't going to be asked for the true accounting, the true snap shot of their agency's health, how it's managed, and where money is (and isn't) being spent?

Non profits can operate as if they are beholden to no one, or as if the donor is simply a necessary resource without any real importance. These organizations are not necessarily mission-driven and in fact are often off message internally, confusing their volunteers and staff (who should be concerned about the mission), and leaving their donors in the dark (to keep a perceived 'control' over the agency). This is an old 'top-down' business paradigm where donors are seen as replaceable (i.e. if one leaves another will come along), or only important if they're a major donor, or as a necessary evil that can be difficult. If a donor sniffs out your inability to be transparent, honest, or work for your mission's goal - and they bring it to other donors' attention or the press; they've done the future of your organization a favor (maybe unbeknownst to you).

Is your organization one of these?

It is generally accepted in professional fundraising that 75% - 80% of a non profit's revenues should be spent on core programs. If this isn't the case, but you're portraying that your org doesn't spend most of its money on programs in your financials, budgets, and agency reporting - fine. You could raise more money if you put more of your revenue into your mission statement goals, but fine. At least you're being forthright with your constituents, clients, volunteers, staff, and donors. It's their job, then to be informed, educated, and frankly responsible to your mission, when you aren't.

But, if you are not portraying the real picture of your agency's income and spending...it really is just a matter of time before this begins to make your public image, fundraising, and all agency efforts difficult, if not null and void.

Even grant writers must accept that we have a responsibility to transparency in our profession.

I know, I know.

You may say, "Arlene, you're real idyllic and that's nice, but it's expensive to research our programs' statistics and results. We don't have time to meet after a new program ends to ask what was successful and what needs retuning. It costs money to correct our financials. It will be a headache for our board to take a class or two on basic fundraising, how to read financials, and for them to understand their legal, fiscal, and organizational responsibilities (i.e. fulfilling your non profit's ratified policies). Besides, I don't want our board to know that much. I don't need them to have more control that they already do,"

I understand. Yes, idyllic me understands. I challenge you to continue to read on. Just humor me.

Your board members do have legal and fiscal responsibilities (liabilities) - even if they do not realize that. They can be held legally responsible for the accounting oversight and ratified articles of your non profit. You would remove your liability exposure and your organization's if you let them know this. You might also suggest that they find out what they are, and properly educate themselves. You, as staff or fellow board members, do not want to be sued for their ignorance.

Control. We all want more or maybe just some. You are not alone. I know that board -executive director, board-staff, board-volunteers, board-day to day operations, and more can be nightmarish. From having to deal with personalities, to dealing with micro-managers, from no-show board members, to board members who want to revamp the entire articles of incorporation and mission statement (yipes) - it is tough to work with a board (or, on the other side of the fence, the staff). The fact is, group dynamics are tough in professional settings. Yet, you are working for an organization that is inherently, without question, to be run and overseen by various bodies of people. This is the form of a non profit, my friend. Learn about group dynamics, how to work with boards (or staff), or any other myriad group dynamic issues that we ALL have to learn how to deal with (eventually). Take a course at your local non profit or fundraising professional affiliation, or community college. Take responsibility for what your job requires of you. Tell your ego it will be better after you take responsibility. Besides, especially if you think that you have control over your organization, you're kidding yourself. Think I'm wrong? Time will tell.

Finally, it is not expensive to be transparent if you consider that doing this work is helpful to your fundraising and public relations success. Revenue and public perception will increase. Transparent reporting will be prime material to develop potential donors, volunteers, board members, staff, major donors, grant donors, public relations, and even clients. Colleagues at other non profits who do similar work as your organization's will be able to work with your org or staff better, because your message and work will be clearly defined. More importantly, your success rate at meeting the goal of your mission (or the need in your community that your non profit meets) will be out there. Clearly getting your success rate out into your community is invaluable. Track the cost benefit ratio over three years (of an honestly started and well run campaign (fundraising, PR, etc.)) after you've begun to report your organization in full transparency, and get back to me if it really isn't beneficial. You're already required to honestly account and report your financials and operations to appropriate government agencies. You're already tabulating this information.

If you get that transparency is valuable to your organization, begin to get your volunteer leadership, staff, volunteers, and even clients on board with the necessary work. Learn more about the paradigm and learn how to achieve organizational transparency.

If you don't get it, think about it and keep watching the news.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Grant for Programs Working for Freedoms/Non Discrimination, and Contemporary Societal Issues

From The Foundation Center...

Herb Block Foundation Accepting Applications for Defending Basic Freedoms Program

Deadline: October 10, 2007 (Letters of Inquiry)

The Herb Block Foundation's ( http://www.herbblockfoundation.org/ ) Defending Basic Freedoms grant program seeks proposals to safeguard the basic freedoms guaranteed in America's Bill of Rights, to help eliminate all forms of prejudice and discrimination, and to assist government agencies to be more accountable to the public. Anti discrimination projects that involve joint efforts of two or more organizations are encouraged. The foundation will also consider funding for programs to address contemporary societal issues that may arise.

Applicants must be nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations located in the United States. Grants in the range of $5,000 to $25,000 each will be considered for one year's funding.

Grants will not be made for capital or endowment programs, or for sectarian religious purposes. Grants cannot be used for lobbying or other partisan purposes.

Visit the Herb Block Foundation Web site for further information. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10007920/herbblockfoundation

Federal Grants for Whale Protection from Fishing Gear and Ship Strikes

From The Foundation Center...

National Whale Conservation Fund Releases Request for Proposals

Deadline: August 8, 2007

The National Whale Conservation Fund was established to support research, management, conservation, and education/outreach activities related to the conservation, and recovery of whales (cetaceans). The NWCF is a special project of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation ( http://www.nfwf.org ) in conjunction with the NOAA Protected Resources ( http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr ), the Marine Mammal Commission ( http://www.mmc.gov ), and the Ocean Foundation ( http://www.oceanfdn.org ).

Applications will be accepted from U.S. or international nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, privately-owned companies, and government agencies (except U.S. federal agencies). U.S. federal agencies are encouraged to work collaboratively with non-federal project partners. The NWCF supports conservation efforts for the great whale species that migrate through or reside within U.S. waters from shore to 200 nautical miles off the U.S. coasts. Projects taking place outside U.S. waters or working on non-great whale species may be considered if there are direct conservation outcomes to U.S. great whale populations.

The priorities for the 2007 grant cycle have been developed to strategically address two of the most damaging anthropogenic impacts to the great whale species along the U.S. Coasts. Propos- als must address one of the following priorities: 1) Fishing Gear Interactions / Entanglement -- To reduce negative impacts to whales from fishing gear, including entanglement, and to conduct large whale biological research to support the management of large whale entanglements; and 2) Ship Strikes -- To address the mounting issue of whale-ship collisions with the end goal of understanding why these interactions occur and reducing their frequency.

Approximately $450,000 in total funding is available for the 2007 calendar year. Grants are expected to fall between $50,000 and $200,000 each. Matching funds are required for this program. The complete Request for Proposal is available at the NFWF Web site. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10007913/nfwf

Grant Writing...Grant Writers...What's the Hubbub? My 100th Post!

This my 100th post and I'm taking stock of this business, the work itself, and our clients or employers.

Grant writing is a specialized skill. You must know, as a grant writer, how to be organized, communicate, listen, write a compelling case, be succinct but clear and informative, and how to keep deadlines and schedules; among other skills. You must know grant donors; who they are, what they are interested in donating towards, how long they take to decide who will receive a grant in a given cycle, etc.

Grant writers are a specific group of professionals. Of course there are scientists, social workers, doctors, museum directors, and many others who are first one profession, but second grant writers due to their programs' and organizations' needs. I'm going to lump these professionals in with 'us grant writers', too. Of course we must truly be good at grant writing if we're pursuing these jobs. We should have strong experience, a good amount of success, and probably enjoy grant writing. We professionals must adhere to ethics to maintain the trust and health of our relationships with our bosses, clients, and the grant donors that we apply to. We also must follow ethics to keep our strong standing in our local communities. Other non profit staff talk about other non profits; and grant donors discuss potential grant recipients with each other. You must work hard to maintain your organization's reputation; so work ethically.

As a group of professionals who work for non profit organizations (i.e. 501(c)(3) organization, as defined by the IRS; governments, Tribes, religious affiliations, research organizations, schools, and many other not for profit entities) we are often trying to walk a fine line. We must both develop our clients and also garner the wage we deserve given our abilities, experience, and what the local market pays grant writers.

We grant writers are often in the position of both educating our non profit client or employer (i.e. processes, ethics, funders, etc.) and writing proposals. Professinal non profit organizations understand that grant writing is a specialized professional skill that does cost money. It is something that should be planned out (just like all other aspects of the agency's fundraising). It must be budgeted for. Every non profit must pay for its fundraising. Grant writing is a part of the fundraising practice. Just like one pays a CPA or a lawyer for their specialization, knowledge, and advice; one pays a professional grant writer a fee or wage.

No non profit should ever pay a grant writer a portion of grants received. It is unethical, unprofessional and no grant writer should accept those terms of employment. You do not want a reputation for either paying out or accepting part of a grant that was intended to pay for playground equipment for the handicapped, for instance, as payment. You may think 'well, I'll just call paying a grant writer, from this grant, 'overhead cost' for that particular project'. If the grant donor saw in the budget that you submitted with your grant proposal that you were going to pay out a portion of the grant to the grant writer - and they were OK with that - then fine. I'm willing to bet a large sum of money that if the potential grant donor saw that you're paying a portion of your grant to the grant writer - they would not donate a grant to your group. They want to connect with your community, via its needs, through your mission statement's goal. Grant donors (like other donors) don't want to pay for your overhead (unless they specifically state in their guidelines that they cover overhead costs - which is not common). Operations cost is the responsibilitiy of the non profit organization. If you can not manage your organization well enough to pay your overhead (i.e. rent, electricity, office supplies, wages, taxes, etc.) why should donors invest in your organization?

Grant writers have modernized. We appreciate the relationships that we have with each other. Colleagues in any profession benefit from professional conferences; continuing education in their field on the latest paradigms and practices; and learning about other non profits, grant donors, and happenstance that may be good to know but is not popularly disseminated (i.e. that a grant donor is promising grants that they can't pay out, etc.). We do not ask for meager wages but for the fees that we deserve based on our years of experience and professional abilities. We are members of well known, large, local, or national professional affiliations today. We maintain our relationships with our clients and we assist our clients in forging strong and lasting relationships with potential and past grant donors.

Grant donors expect the truth, success, and full grant accounting and reporting. They are much more educated about the causes they care about; and about how to donate to achieve success in their causes. They do not tolerate unprofessional non profit organizations, nor unprofessional grant writers or fundraisers. They shouldn't. Community foundations are often extending their work for the local community, nowadays, by offering not just community grants, but a donor education program, as well. Community foundations understand that the community benefits if donors and non profits are managed well, honest, and successful. Modern donors no longer just write a check and hope for the best. They ask for results and want to know what happened with their money.

The Internet has advanced grant donations and grant application processes by making communication, such as getting the grant donor's giving guidelines, easy. Grant donors no longer have to spend money on printing and postage. Grant applications may be accepted online; also lower the same expenses for non profits.

Here, at my 100th post, there's a lot to be impressed by and to take stock of.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Wells Fargo Housing Foundation Offering Home Ownership Programs Grants

From The Foundation Center...

Wells Fargo Housing Foundation Accepting Applications for Home Ownership Grant Program

Deadline: August 1, 2007

The Wells Fargo Housing Foundation ( https://www.wellsfargo.com/about/wfhf_oview ), a philanthropic organization of Wells Fargo & Company ( https://wellsfargo.com/ ), provides financial resources to nonprofit organizations to help meet the home ownership needs of low- to moderate-income people in communities where the company does business.

The foundation provides development and pre-development funding for the construction or rehab of homes for low- to moderate- income home buyers; funding for home buyer education and counseling as well as post-purchase counseling and foreclosure prevention; funding for down payment and closing-cost assistance; and funding to nonprofit housing organizations that help low- to moderate- income homeowners make small home repairs.

Grants are made for one-time non-recurring expenses, such as the purchase of new office technology, and for costs associated with programs or projects specific to its area of interest. WFHF does not fund general operating costs such as rents, administrative salaries, etc. WFHF provides funding to nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations but not to private foundations.

The foundation does not make grants to individuals.

Organizations seeking support from WFHF must have completed two years of successful operation; be fiscally sound (no operating deficits); be located in a community where Wells Fargo provides products or services; and use any grant support provided by WFHF for low- to moderate-income home ownership initiatives. The average grant size is $10,000.

Visit the WFHF Web site for complete program guidelines and a map of the Wells Fargo service area. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10007856/wellsfargo

IRS Will Discuss the Non Profit Tax Form 990 Revision on 7/18 & 7/19 - IRS Wants Your Feedback On New Tax Form!

Again, I must share my glee upon learning that the IRS wants to know what I think about a tax form that I will help file for the non profit organizations that I work for! How often does this happen?

I must go buy a lottery ticket.

Though they are taking comments from the public through September 14th, on July 18th and on July 19th the IRS will be hosting a telephone forum discussing the, to quote the IRS site, "draft of a redesigned Form 990, Return of Organizations Exempt from Income Tax, filed by many public charities and other exempt organizations. The discussion draft constitutes a significant redesign of the form, which has been revised only on a piecemeal basis since 1979. The IRS anticipates using the form for the 2008 tax year (returns filed in 2009). The proposed redesign does not affect the other forms in the IRS Form 990 series; however, through this process, we are requesting comments on filing thresholds with respect to some of these forms. "

" The 60-minute forums will include a presentation of the changes (and the thinking behind the changes) reflected on this draft form that is currently open for public comment. Comments and questions on the redesigned form will be solicited from the registrants and addressed during the forums.

"The forums are being offered at no charge to participants, although space is limited and will be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis. Organizations with multiple representatives interested in participating are encouraged to call in as a group, rather than individually.
The session on July 18, 2007, is now closed. There are still openings for the July 19 session.. The session on July 19, 2007, is scheduled for 1:00-2:00 p.m. (Eastern Daylight Savings Time). To attend the July 19 session, please register at AT&T Teleconference Services. The access code for this conference is 473752. You will be assigned a Personal Identification Number (PIN) that you will need in order to enter the session on July 19.

"Participants who have not previously used the AT&T Teleconference Service will need to create a user profile, including user name and password, in order to register. The IRS will send additional information on the phone forum via the registrant's email address.
If you have any questions, please email us at Form990Revision@irs.gov" [From the IRS website]

"Questions concerning the redesigned form and instructions should be e-mailed to the IRS at Form990Revision@irs.gov; or mailed to Form 990 Redesign, ATTN: SE:T:EO, 1111 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20224. Comments are due no later than September 14, 2007.

"The redesign of Form 990 is based on three guiding principles: enhancing transparency, promoting tax compliance, and minimizing the burden on the filing organization.
Enhancing transparency means providing the IRS and its stakeholders with a realistic picture of the organization and its operations, along with the basis for comparing the organization to similar organizations.

"Promoting compliance means the form must accurately reflect the organization’s operations and use of assets, so the IRS may efficiently assess the risk of noncompliance.
Minimizing the burden on filing organizations means asking questions in a manner that makes it relatively easy to fill out the form, and that do not impose unwarranted additional record keeping or information gathering burdens to obtain and substantiate the reported information." [Taken from the IRS website]

Core Proposed Draft IRS Tax Form 990

Draft Redesigned Form 990 with Schedules and Instructions

I've put the link to the revised 990 form web page under my "Links" section of this blog's home page for your handy-dandy access, so you may give your feedback.

Here are two posts about IRS tax form 990 and how they help fundraisers and grant writers:

The Grant Writer's Little Helper: IRS Tax Form 990 Post 1 of 2

The Grant Writer's Little Helper: IRS Tax Form 990 Post 2 of 2

Monday, July 02, 2007

Pricing Grant Writers - What Should We Pay for A Grant Writer?

I've written several posts (their links are listed at the end of this post) about how to hire and begin working with a grant writer.

The next question is: what is fair compensation for a grant writer?

First of all, I've said it before, here, and I'll say it again. Never pay a grant writer a portion of a grant that your organization receives after they write the proposal for it. This is called 'contingency pay', and it is unethical in American fundraising. The most reputable/established professional affiliations in the United States revoke memberships if members are found to be taking pay from grants received. (For example The Association of Fundraising Professionals ) Why shouldn't your organization pay a percentage of each grant that your writer wrote and you guys received? It jeopardizes your relationship with the grant donor because they expect their grant (donation) will pay for what you said you were requesting the money for; not for your overhead costs (cost of the grant writer). Grant writers' hourly rates or salaries are fundraising and overhead expenses - they are not programs/project expenses. If grant donors learn that you're spending their donation on costs other than what you said you'd spend the money on - they won't give to your organization, again; and they'll let other grantors know that your organization did this to them.

Second, grant writing is only successful when your organization has a strong healthy reputation, when the program that you are requesting the money for is meeting a real need in your community well, and when your organization's reputation among the non profit and grant donors' communities is strong. In other words, whether a grant is received or not is not only based on whether the grant writer is good enough - it is mostly based on whether your organization is in a strong position to receive grants. Having a talented, knowledgeable, experienced, and successful grant writer IS important; but successfully raising grants is a team effort between the grant writer and the organization (as is true of all operations of your organization, not just fundraising). Good grant writers are professionals with expertise that you seek - so you pay them for their work. It's just like when you hire a CPA, or lawyer. You are investing in the future of your organization; increasing its assets, increasing the number of strong relationships with donors, increasing the potential success of your projects/programs, and in the end achieving your mission statement's work.

First, budget for a grant writer. Ask colleagues at other non profit agencies who have worked with grant writers that they're really happy with what they spent on their grant writer. Did the grant writer charge by the hour or did they hire them as staff? If the fee was hourly, what was it? How much experience did their grant writer have? Ask colleagues at a few different sized non profit agencies how much they spent on their grant writer and how much experience each had. You'll begin to get a picture of how much you should expect to pay for various experience levels in your region.

Next, contact local or regional professional fundraising and grant writing affiliations. Ask them if they can indicate what the going rate is for professional grant writers (at various experience levels). If they are not sure, ask them if an area non profit or community foundation/organization has recently conducted a fundraising professionals' salaries survey. Many communities do. If so, get a hold of it and look up what the going rate/pay is for various experience levels.

Decide how long you will need this grant writer. If you know that you have a large capital campaign that you're beginning a year from now - plan on having hired the grant writer at least six months prior to the beginning of the capital project's beginnings. Why? Various grant donors meet at different times to decide who they'll give grants to. Your grant writer will need time to write a strong proposal before the grant donor's deadline - and also allow for the grant donor's decision making time. If the campaign will last three years - you'll need to budget for a grant writer for at least two and a half years (this may vary). If you need to get a grant to pay for a grant writer for three years, there are grant donors who offer grants specifically for overhead or fundraising costs - but they are few and far between. If, though, you can raise the money for the grant writer through grants - do it. Just don't pay any portion of any grant to an expense that you did not tell the grant donor you'd be paying for with their donation.

In Seattle in 2005, for instance, the two or three most reputable contract grant writers also had the longest careers. Their hourly fees ran between $100 - $120 an hour. They were the exception. Most professional contract grant writers in Seattle at that time (who had 5 - 10 years' experience and were good at what they did) received an hourly rate between $40/hour - $90/hour (depending on expertise). The Seattle non profit sector is mostly open, educated, and up on the latest paradigms. Seattle non profits mostly understand that for quality one must hire an experienced professional and be willing to invest resources, team work, and time in the best for their mission's work.

Do not lessen the amount of time you hire a grant writer for, based on the grant writer's cost. Invest in the grant writing process, as much as your organization is investing in grant writing as a fundraising method. Be dedicated to this effort because it takes time, resources, and team work.

Lastly, while interviewing various candidates, consider whether they value themselves. In other words, if they have twelve years of successful grant writing experience but charge very little - be a bit leery. Get references and check them.

Conversely, when hiring a grant writer always remember that successful grant writing is as contingent on the organization applying for grants as the grant writer's abilities. For instance, if a grant writer is excellent at what they do, but the non profit organization that they worked for mismanaged assets - the non profit may not have received grants because of the organization - not because of the grant writer's abilities.

Here are more blog posts that will help you if you're about to hire a grant writer (contractor or staff):

How Do We Afford Grant Writing?

What Are the Steps to Hiring A Grant Writer?

Grant Writers On Commission

Your Agency's First Grant Writer Starts Work Monday

Why Some Grant Writers Suck...