Wednesday, November 28, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are three (more likely) fiscal sponsorship relationships:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 26, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 19, 2007

Top 10 Grant Writing Tips from Foundations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From The Foundation Center...

NAMM Foundation Announces New Grant Initiatives for Music Makers and Researchers

Deadline: Different for each grant initiative, below.

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

The foundation is accepting proposals for the following five initiatives:

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

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

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

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

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

Applicants may only apply to one program.

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

Grants for Southern California Victims' Pets' Care

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: Open

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From The Foundation Center...

HP Technology for Teaching Grant Guidelines Now Available

Deadline: February 14, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grants for African American Museums, Colleges, and Universities

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: January 15, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 05, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Capacity Building Services Granted for NY, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle Organizations or Service Areas

From The Foundation Center...

Taproot Foundation Accepting Applications for Capacity-Building Service Grants

Deadline: December 1, 2007

The Taproot Foundation ( http://www.taprootfoundation.org/ ) engages highly skilled business professionals to deliver capacity-building services to nonprofit organizations in New York City, Boston, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, and Seattle.

Unlike traditional foundations that provide cash grants, the Taproot Foundation makes "service grants" to provide nonprofits with critical marketing, technology, and human resources devel- opment services.

A grant from the Taproot Foundation can provide an organization with the tools and resources necessary to achieve specific goals and objectives in their strategic plan, marketing/ communications plan, technology plan, and staffing structure.

Applicants must have a mission that fits within one of the following four categories; education (pre-K and K-12); environment; health; and social services.

To be eligible to apply, an organization must have 501(c)(3) public charity status or operate under the fiscal sponsorship of a 501(c)(3), and must have its headquarters within the foundation's service area and provide direct benefits primarily or entirely to residents of the foundation's service areas.

Visit the foundation's Web site for complete program information. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/10009624/taprootfound