Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nonprofit Professionals Will Get Us Through This; That's You and Me

Have a Merry Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and a Happy Winter Solstice! We wish everyone best wishes in 2009!

It has been an exceptional year in many many ways. Without a doubt, 2008 has presented the most difficult economy for nonprofits to operate in, during my career. The downside, of course, is that many nonprofits across the United States, are being forced to reduce services, merge, or (sadly) close permanently. Nonprofits fill all kinds of voids such as complacency, indifference, lack of access, little research, poor or no funding, lack of public knowledge, lack of expertise, infringements on legal oversight, etc. Nonprofits are often a last hope for many. As nonprofit organizations, ours' is an extended hand and it is staggering to think that many of those hands will be removed from our communities. Amid most governments' budget cuts, reduced donating, financial instability, financial scandals, and an uncertain economic outlook - we're all sort of sitting up a little more straight in the chair, and gripping the sides of the seat.

The up side to this kind of adversity is that we're all going through this together. Adversity can unite and unify and has already begun to. In the face of a challenge Americans, historically, have risen to the struggle innovating, pulling together, and sticking in the fight. This economy has forced the very same amongst nonprofits, across the United States. Professional nonprofit affiliations are hosting all kinds of nonprofit forums to provide a public commons for us nonprofit professionals come together for an hour or two to discuss the financial issues we, individually, are facing at each of our organizations, and to then share or brainstorm solutions. Out of adversity comes exceptional leaps forward in theory, method, and best practices. Despite how concerned I am for this country's nonprofit sector, I look forward to learning about your innovation, new methods, and learning about what you 'invented' and shared, in effect, adding to our sector's best practices. Yes, I'm looking at you. Where else does this unification, brainstorming, trial and error, innovation, and discovery come from? I'm standing right next to you, on this front line, doing my work to move us all forward, too.

Despite these difficulties, we must keep the very inspiration, passion, or whatever the flame is, inside you, that brought you to the nonprofit sector alive in ourselves and one another. We've attempted to be there for you and your organization by providing our 'free consultations' series, these past months, on this blog. It isn't a time to horde knowledge or expertise. Our communities' weakest, most under-represented, or disenfranchised are at risk. If your local United Way or just some unofficial but sincere group of nonprofit leaders, in your community, is getting nonprofit representatives together to discuss the challenges of this economy - consider joining that talk. Be there for that brown bag lunch. Make time after work, that evening. Move that meeting, or whatever you need to do to be a part of the solution making. You may think that you have nothing new or innovative to contribute; but who knows, before they discover or innovate something new that they were about to? In a discussion with our professional colleagues, you'll likely learn something new that you and your organization could use in these tough times; and listening to others who also live and work in your community may stimulate ideas or resources that you just haven't thought of (yet), on your own. Despite a common misconception that we are all competing for the exact same single donation dollar; we can come together, as professionals in the same sector, to share. The truth is that donors give to different causes, in different geographic locations, for different reasons. We are not all competing for one donor's single dollar. Also, donors give to what they are passionate about and often that's more than one cause or issue. We are all developing donors interested in our organization's single cause and the work that our organization succeeds at. Be confident in your constituency's dedication and open up to the community, for the sake of each and all of our organizations' missions.

It's a difficult time, but we can be there for one another, even as professionals. Your organization, the organization down the street, and my organization benefits when you and I show up for the 'fight'. In 2009 keep your eyes on the horizon. Watch for the innovation and new professional nonprofit best practices that comes out of this tough economy.

Jenny's Heroes Grants for Tangible, Lasting Community Projects In Smaller Communities

[Please help us. We at The Grant Plant, LLC want to understand what nonprofits need from the services that they hire, today, given the economy; so please take our short survey. We will use the results to retool how we work with organizations and also publish a white paper with the results. Click on: Nonprofit Needs Survey. We are grateful for your time. Thank you.]

From The Foundation Center...

Former Talk Show Host Jenny Jones Announces Continuation of Community Grant Program

Deadline: Open

Talk show host and philanthropist Jenny Jones has announced that she will donate an additional $1 million to continue her Jenny's Heroes ( http://www.jennysheroes.com/ ) community grant
program.

The Jenny's Heroes program awards grants to individuals who submit the best ideas for tangible, lasting community projects.

Jenny's Heroes provides grants of up to $25,000 each to fund projects that promise long-term community benefits. Through the fifty grant recipients so far, funds have been used to provide
items and services such as library books, school computers, firefighting gear, nursing home upgrades, sports equipment, free dental services, wheelchairs, coats for children in domestic violence shelters, and a running track at a women's prison. The program's focus is primarily on smaller communities where fundraising can be difficult. For more information on Jenny's Heroes and grant guidelines, visit the program's Web site.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15016232/jennysheroes

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Basic Grant Writing 101 Information and Other Ideas To Survive This Tough Economy, Nonprofits...

In this post we are going to sort of provide a Top 10 List of the most recent critical posts that were written to help nonprofits during this exceptional economy. One of my greatest nonprofit employers just closed this week, having merged with a similar nonprofit in Seattle. While the decision was made in a tough economy and as an option to continue to support their mission; it is an example of what real nonprofits (of all sizes and fundraising abilities) are facing today. We are very sensitive to these times and are eager to help...

For help getting educated in best practices, nonprofit professionalism, standards, etc. see:

The Foundation Center Now Offers Free Website That Teaches How To Do Grant Writing

Places, Resources, And Ways To Learn Everything From Fundraising to Other Nonprofit Operations (Some Are Free)


Some Free Resources

We Need Money For Our 501(c)(3) What Is the Grant Seeking Process?


Our most recent posts, designed as free consultations to help out in these tough times, were:

A Few Excellent Suggestions For Nonprofits To Survive These Uncertain Economic Times;

What Can We Nonprofits Do In This Uncertain Economy?;

Write An Annual Appeal Letter To Raise Relatively Quick Funds;

Getting Major Donors To Donate Large Regular Donations Can Stabilize Cash Flow;

Another Free Nonprofit Fundraising Consultation To Help During These Tough Economic Times;

Top Ten Ways To Take That Nonprofit's Fundraising To The Next Level; and

Free Nonprofit Fundraising, Software, And Outreach Options.


Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students for '09 - '10 Undergraduate or Graduate School Year

[Please help us. We at The Grant Plant, LLC want to understand what nonprofits need from the services that they hire, today, given the economy; so please take our short survey. We will use the results to retool how we work with organizations and also publish a white paper with the results. Click on: Nonprofit Needs Survey. We are grateful for your time. Thank you.]

From The Foundation Center...

Point Foundation Offers Higher Education Scholarships for Gay
and Lesbian Students

Deadline: February 9, 2009

The Point Foundation ( http://pointfoundation.org/ ), a scholar-
ship-granting organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-
gender students of merit, has announced the opening of its 2009
application season. Students who will be enrolled in undergraduate
or graduate programs for the 2009-10 school year are eligible to
apply for the multiyear scholarships.

The scholarship program's selection criteria include academic
excellence, leadership skills, community involvement, and finan-
cial need. Particular attention is paid to students who have
lost the financial and social support of their families and/or
communities as a result of revealing their sexual orientation,
gender identity, or gender expression.

On average, a Point Scholarship awards $13,200 in direct finan-
cial support, in addition to leadership training and mentoring.
The average amount of annual support devoted to each scholar is
between $26,000 and $31,000. In return, Point Scholars agree to
maintain a high level of academic performance and to give back
to the LGBT community through the completion of an individual
community service project each year. In addition, scholars are
matched with mentors from the professional world who lend their
expertise and career guidance and serve as role models.

For further information and application guidelines, visit the
Point Foundation Web site.

RFP Link:
http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15016126/pointfdn

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Learn From Others' Mistakes To Improve Your Nonprofit

Allegations that the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angles, California has operated at a deficit for 75% of the time, during the last eight years swarmed the philanthropy media, at the end of last week. From time to time I share these kinds of news stories with our readers because they are excellent cautionary tales that should be taken by donors and those working for nonprofits, alike, as examples of what not to do and also what not to invest in.

The museum's endowment has reportedly shrunk from almost $50 million, in 1999, to about $6 million, today. The California attorney general's office is now, due to these potential legal discrepancies, auditing the Museum of Contemporary Art. In question is whether laws that protect donors' restricted donations were broken (such that the donors' wishes for their contribution's use were not followed; which is illegal. All restricted donations must be spent according to the donor's wishes or kindly returned to them). [Soaring In Art, Museum Trips Over Finances by Edward Wyatt and Jori Finkel, December 4, 2008]

According to Charity Navigator, a well known and trusted website providing information on nonprofits to inform anyone about any nonprofit's finances and spending, among other individual organizational traits. While Charity Navigator gives the Museum of Contemporary Art a four star rating, overall, it's highest rating; and while Charity Navigator can only report (and measure a nonprpofit) on what any given nonprofit reports about its operations and accounting, publicly; it does list that based on the (public IRS tax record) Fiscal Year End 2006/2007 Income Statement: 75.4% of every dollar raised is spent on its programs (art); $24.1 million in revenue and $21.1 in expenses, resulting in a $3 million deficit; but their assets are valued at $37.4. So, you can see that the value, spending (it is not unusual for a nonprofit to run at a deficit, assuming it is running legally, is planning for the deficit and can pay that out in the coming new fiscal year), and expenses are not terribly out of line; nor very telling about the organization (a good lesson for all of us who donate to organizations - look under the hood and kick the tires). If we look at Museum of Contemporary Arts' history on Charity Navigator, we see that their net assets (either entirely or at least partly comprised of the organization's endowment) has waned and then decreased from 2005 through 2007 (as reported). Charity Navigator needs to be including this tracking in its estimations of nonprofit organizations! Something else that is interesting is liabilities over these three years increased, while the organization's "working capital" stayed the same. This, too, can indicate that the organization is not operating with easy cash flow. But, we are just reading a report...

The museum's patrons, donors, local artists, and former board members are publicly requesting that the Director, Jeremy Strick and the board both resign. They will also settle for just the board or Strick leaving, too, reportedly.

Reportedly, the museum's leadership believe this will all be behind them by the end of the year. There have been rumors of a potential merger with the Los Angeles County Museum; but the Museum of Contemporary Art's official position is that it will remain its own organization, individually. The philanthropist Eli Broad offered a $30 million contribution, in November, if the museum could raise matching donations. Unfortunately, as of December 4, there were no known takers.

It is very important that any and all nonprofits, from the smallest newest start up organization, to the largest most prolific nonprofits operate as professional places of business. Where is it written that if an organization isn't a for-profit business; standards, professionalism, best practices, real world successful experience, skills, and knowledge are not necessary? The best intentions launch most nonprofits, yet at least half of the work will be raising money, which is really raising buy in and investors. No nonprofit wants a donation from a donor, once. The aim is to raise donors who give to your organization over and over again. Without a well functioning, legal, successful, efficient organization, though; who will want to invest in your organization? Know what the organization is legally responsible to do and report. Be certain that board members know their job descriptions and roles, their legally bound fiscal, policy setting, and oversight responsibilities. Know how to run an excellent nonprofit and how to fundraise well; and if you don't today, that's fine. Learn, then! The lesson in these unfortunate nonprofit news stories is that no matter how much money an organization raises, the size of its building, how old the agency is, or what it used to be; if a nonprofit does not run professionally, today, it may be listing to one side for a legal, financial, oversight or other failure. Donors and the community beware!

For help getting educated in best practices, nonprofit professionalism, standards, etc. see:

Places, Resources, And Ways To Learn Everything From Fundraising to Other Nonprofit Operations (Some Are Free)


Some Free Resources

We Need Money For Our 501(c)(3) What Is the Grant Seeking Process?

Grants For Exceptional Out of School and After School Programs

[Please help us. We, at The Grant Plant, LLC, want to understand what nonprofits need from services that they hire, today, given the economy; so please take our short survey. We will use the results to retool how we work with organizations and also publish a white paper with the results. Click on: Nonprofit Needs Survey. We are grateful for your time. Thank you.]

From The Foundation Center:

Coming Up Taller Awards Program Invites Nominations of Arts Programs for Under Served Children and Youth

Deadline: January 30, 2009

The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
( http://www.pcah.gov/ ) invites nominations for the 2009
Coming Up Taller Awards ( http://www.cominguptaller.org/ ).

In partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library
Services ( http://www.imls.gov/ ), the National Endowment for the
Arts ( http://www.arts.gov/ ), and the National Endowment for
the Humanities ( http://www.neh.gov/ ), PCAH is embarking on
the twelfth year of the awards, which recognize the accomplishments
of exceptional arts and humanities after school and out-of-school
programs. Programs initiated by museums, libraries, performing
arts organizations, universities, colleges, arts centers, community
service organizations, schools, businesses, and eligible government
entities are encouraged to participate.

To be eligible, nominated programs must operate as a program for
children and youth outside the school day. However, preschool,
after school, weekend, and/or summer programs may have a
school-based component or use school space. Programs must concentrate
on children and youth who live in family and community circum-
stances that limit their opportunities, and must involve
those children and youth as active participants in the arts or
humanities experience. (Cultural programs in which children
function only as an audience are not eligible.) Programs must
provide participants with regularly scheduled sessions on an
ongoing basis; one-time or occasional programs will not be
considered.

Programs must have been operational since January 2005 and
must be administered by a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3)
organization, unit of state or local government, or federally
recognized tribal community or tribe.

Coming Up Taller finalists each receive $10,000, an
individualized plaque, and an invitation to attend the Coming Up
Taller Leadership Enhancement Conference.

Visit the Coming Up Taller Web site for complete program
guidelines.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15016065/cominguptaller

Sunday, November 30, 2008

How To Raise Money Better, In Your Region...Even In Tough Times

Since the economic downturn, I've posted general fundraising advice, in Seeking Grant Money Today, besides this blog's main topic du jour; grant writing advice, information, and tips. I've looked at these as free consultations, as if you and I were working together on your organization's needs. Guessing that most nonprofits could use all of the free excellent advice that they can get right now; we're on it!

Good for all nonprofits, from start up to an established older organization; our most recent posts, designed also as free consultations to help out in these tough times, were: A Few Excellent Suggestions For Nonprofits To Survive These Uncertain Economic Times; What Can We Nonprofits Do In This Uncertain Economy?; Write An Annual Appeal Letter To Raise Relatively Quick Funds; Getting Major Donors To Donate Large Regular Donations Can Stabilize Cash Flow; Another Free Nonprofit Fundraising Consultation To Help During These Tough Economic Times; Top Ten Ways To Take That Nonprofit's Fundraising To The Next Level; and Free Nonprofit Fundraising, Software, And Outreach Options.

Like any for-profit business, all nonprofits must reach current and likely consumers, or supporters such as: members, donors, volunteers, excellent staff hires, etc. The only way that any entity effectively reaches the most likely candidates to get active with their organization is by knowing and understanding one's community, the community's current need of your organization, and how the need can best be met.

Nonprofits who raise funds well, even in difficult times, know that the key remains not just listening, but hearing one's donors, clients, volunteers, staff, and other key constituents. While not everyone knows what's best for the nonprofit, the mission statement should be able to clarify between a community's current needs and an organization's resources' limits (e.g. especially during a tough economy) leading to the basis of where the organization should go right now (today), to achieve its organizational goals (also called a strategic plan). The community's needs must be met well, according to the mission statement, by running an effective, efficient (very important in a down economy), transparent, honest, and successful organization. An organization's leadership may not know what to do in such tough times, as these, but it should know its organization's mission statement. That's a very good place to begin.

The best way to understand what one's community needs right now is to hear them. The best way to get information from them is to consider what geographic region your organization serves, and for that population (or those benefactors of your organization's work): read recent press that is pertinent to your organization's cause, read the very latest in your field of work, listen to colleagues at other organizations who work in the same cause after asking what they're working on and hearing, survey the clientele or scientifically poll the benefactor of your organization's work and formatting a survey that gathers the information that your organization wants to know without biasing or skewing the data results (which may require a bit of research into what to do and what to avoid when creating an effective survey, and learning online), and research the latest census or research in your region by going to the nearest public library and asking the Reference desk where the latest studies and results are located to anything pertinent to your organization's work (and its goals).

By being focused on the region that your organization serves and THAT population or benefactor of your nonprofit's work; your organization is getting current, is relevant to the intended beneficiaries, is keeping up on the latest in your field of work; and all of this is not just good for your organization's programs, research, and/or services. In being relevant, current, and in touch your organization will be more successful at its mission. The value of an organization's success can not be understated. Every nonprofit that is providing a new program, an old program, or is just starting must share any and all successes pertinent to its mission statement's work with its community. One of the finest and most successful ways to raise new and larger donations is to demonstrate (not just say - but actually do) success. What person who cares about your organization's cause would not want to invest in a nonprofit that is successful and well run?

It is important to also remain in touch with current and potential donors (new and old). If you live in a region that is very badly hit by this economic downturn - then your organization must devise ways to raise money while being mindful and respectful of the local economic reality. Mail out a few more appeal letter solicitations this year than usual and ask donors to give, each time, what they can instead of asking for a specific dollar amount. No nonprofit (I don't care who it is or how big it is) can afford to snub even a $1 donation. Remember; someone may be testing your organization's dedication to the people who support it and give a $100 gift next time. Also, some people give at young ages, stick with causes that concern them, and give in larger amounts as they age and their income and giving ability increases. Remind each letter recipient of your organization's recent achievements and successes, share your agency's plans to deal with the economic slowdown and share your organization's plans and vision for its future. Make it clear that your organization values their contribution because they aren't just giving a donation; they are investing in the cause that your group works for.

If your region is not badly hit, yet, but there's more local economic fall-out to come probably; get sponsorships, in kind donations, local businesses' donations, and other larger gifts today. Even if all that your nonprofit can get is a promise of a gift to be given in the near future - that's good enough. Keep in touch with the donors who promise or bequest without hounding them. Be a good neighbor who is reminding them that they care about the cause your group serves, and then clarify for them why your organization is THE nonprofit that they should support given their care for the issue. Again; (even if you are repeating a message from a recent past solicitation) state your organization's recent successes and goals achieved, clarify how your organization is planning to survive this recession, and share your group's vision of its future. Give any potential investor a clear and hopeful vision of your group to demonstrate what they and your agency's leadership can do for the mission statement, together!

All nonprofits, in an economic downturn or not, can do the following to improve their fundraising:

__ Take note of what other nonprofits in the region are doing to raise money and try not to over saturate the market with the same fundraiser. If a lot of organizations, right now, are doing can drives - don't also do a can drive. Instead, come up with another way to get the food stuff donations that your organization needs.

__ If your organization has a website, let the site raise some money for your organization besides its donation page; have the nonprofit become an affiliate and sell books, for instance, about the cause or issue that your nonprofit works for (e.g. you could go to amazon.com and learn about their affiliate sales program). Affiliate programs are sales commissions for sales made (for whichever vendor or store your organization chooses and signs up with through that company's affiliate marketing program - usually found on companies' websites). Let potential buyers know that a proceed of their purchase goes to your organization if they buy it through your nonprofit site. Anything can be sold, these days, online via affiliate programs. If your agency would rather sell holiday decorations, or supplies pertinent to your cause, or anything really - these days you can find a good vendor with a good affiliate program to do that with. Be sure to let clients, volunteers, staff, and donors know that they can purchase X or Z on your group's site. Drive viewers to the affiliate links, when possible. Don't shrug at it - affiliates can make a lot of money.

__ Get into the local press with your agency's recent successes and heart-warming stories. Don't take these happenstances lightly or quietly! If your nonprofit does not share its successes with current and potential or future supporters - how will anyone know your group is successful (and worth investing in; either as a donor or as a volunteer)?

__ Connect with the people who live in the region that your organization serves. It is not enough to expect that people will learn about your organization through friends or family; or that they'll happen onto your group's website! If you aren't making the connection with local (or pertinent) people - how will they connect with your group? Marketing, public relations, and development are each and all critical to success - but none of these are necessary to effectively connect with people in the region! Connecting doesn't always have to be about asking for something. Sometimes just saying thank you is very powerful...especially when people have been supportive but may have less to give right now. Keeping your donors, volunteers, and clients connected with your group will keep them with it through this recession. You'll need to do that.

As always, we're so happy to receive any ideas, suggestions, or successful tools or methods that other nonprofits have found that work lately! If you'd like to share, please do so, below, by "Commenting". Thank you!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Free Nonprofit Fundraising, Software, and Outreach Options...

In the spirit of the holiday this week, I want to give to you and your nonprofit. The following are several free resources that will help your nonprofit raise funds, acquire items that it needs, and operate more efficiently; all for free. Happy Thanksgiving! If you haven't already...

__ Need something for free or does your nonprofit (or even you!) need to get rid of something that is perfectly re-usable (e.g. everything from a wheelchair, to packing peanuts, to sewing machines, to computers, bikes, clothes, furniture, etc.); or does your organization need something that can have been previously used? Go online to www.freecycle.org and find a freecycle program near your region. All items are offered for free. All of them. Create an account and follow your local freecycle.org's rules (e.g. usually users must take something before it can put something up on the list to be picked up from you). Freecycle users are anonymous, can request "serious inquiries only" or "interested parties who will pick item up, themselves, only", etc. It's a great way to clear your organization's office of unwanted items in good quality and avoiding putting it in the dump; but it's also a great way to acquire a free fax machine, free computer, etc. Most local chapters allow users to post "Wanted" items, too.

__ Optimize your organization's administration by using better and faster free office products. For the computer: www.ubuntu.com is a free, tested, and much adored operating system (that could replace Windows or Mac OS, for instance with like office software products) if your organization is having difficulties with its operating systems. Similarly, you may want to install Mozilla's Firefox web browser if the nonprofits' staff or volunteers are having difficulties with the latest versions of the current web browser (perhaps Internet Explorer). It is also free, well used, and highly regarded. If your organization has phone conferences or meetings, you can use Google's suite of 'cloud computing' software. Google offers free (just create a Google account at www.google.com) office software equivalents (that we all know, such as Excel and Word) for free. They also offer a calendar that can be used as your organization's official 'internal' calendar providing everything from 'days off' on the calendar to all events, fundraisers, classes, services, board meetings, etc. posted on the calendar on the days and at the times that they will occur. The thing about their office suite is that it can be used by multiple people at one time, in real time, for instance during work meetings. Google allows users to also save, keep, and go back to the documents they've created, plus any and all docs can be shared with whomever the doc creator indicates (in the application) it should be. There are many free software options, today, for nonprofits that are excellent products. If there's something that your organization needs, do a search in any search engine for the product and the word "free" or "freeware" (which means free software).

__ Create an account for your organization on www.idealist.org. Idealist is a respected, long standing, informative portal for nonprofits. Once your organization registers and creates an account on idealist.org the general public can learn about or learn more about your group. It is a place that nonprofits, people who work for nonprofits, etc. go to search for organizations. On your Idealist.org account you can add upcoming events, donation information, and more. It is a free offer that only adds to your organization's presence on the web.

__ Create an account on www.missionfish.org; the donation arm of www.ebay.com. When you create an account on missionfish, as people buy or sell on ebay.com they can select your organization to receive a portion of the sale as a donation. Be sure to let your clients, volunteers, staff, and donors about your organization being listed there, now - so that when they use ebay, they can contribute to your group.

__ Create a wish list for the items that your nonprofit needs (either items for your clientele, or maybe research work, and even office supplies, for instance). Go to www.amazon.com; create an account for the nonprofit (and keep record of its log in, on amazon, and its password). Then, using the "search" feature enter the first item that your organization may need. For instance, let's say that we need reams of copy paper; search for 'copy paper' and select the product your office prefers. Then, on the right hand side of the item, instead of clicking 'purchase this item', find and click the 'Add to Wishlist' prompt. The first item that you go to add will cause amazon to prompt 'no wish list exist for this account, yet; do you wish to create one?' and acknowledge that yes, you do. This first item will now be in your organization's wish list on amazon. Continue to search for, after, and and add any and all items that your organization would like to receive (that amazon sells, of course - but they sell a lot). When you're done, (and you can always return to add new items, later; or delete items later), click on "Wish List" in the upper right hand side of any amazon web page (while you're logged on in the organization's account) and give priority to the items that your organization really wants by going down its wish list and providing the level of need in the right hand side prompt of each item (low, medium, high, and highest). For each item, select its priority level, and then click 'save' right under the priority level prompt. Finally, notice that on the left hand side you can click 'give more information about your interests to help friends/family shop for gifts for you'. Even though yours' is an organization, click this feature. Make sure that the delivery address is correct (in the middle of the profile page); list your organization's mission statement in the 'personal interests prompt'; make sure that the wish list is public and accessible to all amazon users; and finally, at the very bottom of the profile page click the 'this wish list is for a nonprofit' check box, and provide your organization's Federal ID number (or 501(c)(3) tax number) and its website address; then save. Go back to the account's home page, and on the left hand side notice that you can e-mail your organization's wish list. If you wish, you could copy and paste, there, the e-mail addresses of your organization's donors and or sponsors and send it to them.

__ Use your community's local media to reach out to potential new volunteers and donors. How? Don't go to them when your organization is in crisis with the 'save us or we'll disintegrate' disaster message (it demonstrates why donors shouldn't give to your organization anymore - you can't manage and run a healthy organization). Instead, go to the public while your organization is meeting its mission statement goals (and give reasons why potential volunteers and donors should invest in your successful, efficient organization). For instance, you could share whether your organization doing something new? Is your organization offering a new service or class? Did your group just make a new discovery in its research? Maybe your organization is holding a Kwanzaa or Hanukkah gift exchange for those in need this year? Let the community know! Create press releases for any and each these kind of unique or new happenstances occur at the organization; and disseminate the release to all media that reaches the people your organization serves (you can e-mail a press release, fax it, or snail mail it). The list should include local radio stations, newspapers, television stations, magazines, relevent regional list serves, blogs, etc. and your organization's own website. Send the press releases "attention: community events" at each contact. Create a short and clear press release (search in any search engine if you aren't sure how to create a professional press release and look for what seems the best) and be sure to include the: who, what, where, when, how, and why of whatever you're informing the press about. Always remember to include your organization's name, a succinct (short but clear) phrase stating what it does (which does not have to be your group's mission statement) AND always provide where people can learn more (or volunteer for or donate to) your agency.

If you have a great 'free' tip for my readers and I, please post it as a "Comment" below. Thank you!

Best wishes this Thanksgiving!

Grants For Nonprofits Who Are Benefitting From Youth Getting Invovled In Their Community

From The Foundation Center...

Young Community Volunteers Invited to Apply for Do Something Awards

Deadline: March 1, 2009

The Do Something Awards, formerly the Brick Awards, are
designed to provide recognition and funding for young community
volunteers.

Do Something Award Winners receive a community grant,
participation in a special award ceremony, media coverage, and
continued support from Do Something ( http://www.dosomething.org/).

In the 2009 program, five winners will receive a minimum
of $10,000 in community grants and scholarships. (Only
winners 18 and under are eligible for a scholarship of $5,000 and a
$5,000 community grant; winners between the ages of 19 and 25
will receive their entire award in the form of a community grant.) Of
the five winners, one will be selected as the grand-prize winner
and will receive a total of $100,000 in community grants, paid
directly to the nonprofit of his or her choice.

Do Something Award applications go through two stages. First,
the Do Something Award Academy (comprised of former winners)
reads through all the applications and selects the finalists. Finalists are
then flown to New York City for interviews with > representatives
from the Do Something Award Selection Committee.

The five Do Something Award winners will be announced in the
spring of 2009. The grand-prize winner will be announced in the
summer of 2009.

Visit the Do Something Web site for complete program
guidelines.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15015936/dosomething

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tough Decision Made In The Best Interest Of Constituents May Be A Good Solution In This Economy

Keeping with the difficult economy that nonprofits are facing we are taking a temporary break from discussing grant writing, specifically, in Seeking Grant Money Today, to provide nonprofits with what we're calling "free consultations" right now.

This week - we want to list for nonprofits who are in tight spots some options and alternatives to operating as normal.

Any nonprofit always faces doing the following, so this list of remedies is not just posted for nonprofits that are sliding in this tough economy. In operating any nonprofit well, its leadership holds themselves accountable and keeps the organization's mission first and foremost always. So, sometimes extremely tough decisions are necessary and in the best interest of serving an organization's mission statement (and the benefiting constituency) at any time; during a rough economy, or not.

It is always OK to consider all options and discuss them, freely with colleagues.

Each of the following address either increasing income, saving more money, or cutting back costs. These three strategies are the key to any organization's survival in any economy. Decisions do not have to be about the economy. The best decisions are about constiuents and the beneficiaries of our organizations' mission statements.

Some options are:

__ Retooling the organization's budget and different programs' budgets: cutting back, spending freezes, increasing income, finding savings by ordering bulk or working with new cheaper vendors, etc.

__ Getting your entire nonprofit absorbed by another (similar and successful) nonprofit thereby making your nonprofit a new program (or an extension of an existing program) under the other organization.

__ Cutting back all paid employees' hours/pay by hypothetically five or ten hours a week, across the board, thereby reducing spending but not laying anyone off.

__ Temporarily closing shop for a specific and limited amount of time to cut spending for some time but not close the operation.

__ Collaborating with another similar organization (another nonprofit, a school, corporation, research facility, government, Tribe, etc.) to provide your organization's services, products, research, etc. yet share costs (and successes).

__ Increasing donations and expanding the number of revenue streams - if you currently only hold three fundraisers a year - consider holding six this year (e.g. finding new sponsors to sponsor more of your organization's work, implementing annual appeal letters, raising more and new major individual donors, a new special event, etc.)

__ Folding and closing shop permanently which can be devastating yet it can be for the best. If your organization's constituency (whatever or whomever it serves) would be better off if another similar nonprofit were the only game in town (for a myriad of possible reasons: everything from fundraising consolidation to clarifying where to go for information and referrals, etc.) then it is worth considering this option for their sake (and their sake is key, when considering a nonprofit's future, not your own).

__ Implementing sliding scale fees for services and products which may or may not be required of all clients or customers.

__ Reorganizing your agency and through restructuring its operations, staff, procedures, and all aspects of business to cut the "fat" resulting in a leaner, more efficient, 'heads up', productive, and effective organization.

__ Downsizing/Lay Offs which is another dreaded option for those nonprofits who hire staff. Perhaps staff could be hired back when the organization recovers. Always let staff go with the most advance notice, possible; and with the very best severance package that the organization can afford.

__ Freeze all management raises, bonuses, and incentive pay and ask for their patience and understanding. This may be where the organization learns who is a team player and who is focused on the best for the organization's mission statement; and who is not.

Always weigh which option is best for the nonprofit by keeping its mission statement first and foremost; forecasting the organization's abilities, budget, and income; monitoring how well needs are being met in your community and weigh these findings against the organization's expected outcomes; note how well similar organizations working in the same field or on the same cause are doing; network and be open - talk with colleagues doing similar work elsewhere and listen to them; share your organization's situation with your regional community foundation and listen to what they suggest; talk with your local municipalities and let representatives know where your organization is, what it's considering to solve its situation, and listen to their ideas or suggestions; let your donors know what is going on and ask them for 'extra' if they can offer it (either as volunteers, by giving needed items, or by increasing their donations for the year); keep clients and volunteers up to date on what is happening; stay a team - do not get divided by difficulties and stress; listen to one another; research options; learn what can be done; and plan.

Sadly, there will be many organization who read this because they are facing the most difficult times and therefore the most difficult decisions that your organization has ever had to do. Work together, within your organization; use your community's assets, right now; learn and educate yourselves and your organization's leadership; see where your organization is right now, do a needs assessment, and recommend solutions; plan; and roll up your sleeves. I know that they were already rolled up, but hang in there. Also, take good care of yourselves, right now, as best as you can. We're in this together.

I would appreciate hearing what your organization is doing to solve any one of its difficulties during this tough economy. Please share them by commenting, below, here. We all need each other and any effective ingenuity right now. Thank you in advance.

Award for Individual Or Nonprofit Who Has Improved Rights, Dignity, and Access To Justice for Disabled

From The Foundation Center...

American Bar Association Invites Nominations for Disability Rights Award

Deadline: April 1, 2009

The American Bar Association's ( http://www.abanet.org/ ) Hearne Award honors the work of Paul G. Hearne, a lawyer and leading disability rights advocate who founded the first legal services office in New York for people with disabilities, authored the first national legal handbook on disability rights, and helped draft the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Sponsored by the American Bar Association's Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law, the award will be presented to an individual who has performed exemplary service in increasing access to justice for people with disabilities, or an organization or group that furthers the goal of full participation for people with disabilities in society.

The program invites nominations of an individual or an organization that has made significant contributions to improving the rights, dignity, and access to justice for people with disabilities. Examples of eligible organizations include disability advocacy organizations, law firms or practices, state or local bar associations, nonprofit legal services programs, law school clinics or academic-affiliated programs, or law-related programs providing representation for people with disabilities. Self- nominations are not eligible.

For program details and the application, visit the ABA Web site.
RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15015814/abanetgrants

Grants for International Nonprofits Fighting for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bi Sexual, Etc. Human Rights

From The Foundation Center...

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice Accepting Applications for International Fund for Sexual Minorities

Deadline:February 2, 2009

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice ( http://www.astraea.org/ ) works for social, racial, and economic justice in the U.S. and abroad.

Astraea's International Fund for Sexual Minorities supports groups, projects, and organizations that are led by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex communities and directly address oppression based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression.

Eligible organizations and projects must be based in Africa, Asia/the Pacific, Eastern Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States, Latin America/the Caribbean, or the Middle East. Applicants must also be nongovernmental organizations, not-for-profit groups, or the equivalent, and have organizational budgets of $500,000 or less. Non-LGBTI-led groups must demonstrate how they address LGBTI human rights issues and how they involve LGBTIs in organizational and programmatic decision-making. Applicants must be doing work toward social change on issues affecting LGBTI people and/or people who are penalized, persecuted, or harassed for their gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation.

The maximum individual grant from Astraea's International Fund is $10,000. In the past, the average grant size has ranged from $2,000 to $6,000 each. Groups may apply for general or project support.

Visit the Astraea Web site for complete program guidelines.
RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15015812/astraeagrants

Monday, November 10, 2008

Top 10 Ways To Take That Nonprofit's Fundraising To The Next Level

Top ten ways to get your nonprofit onto the next stage to grow its fundraising:

10. Hold yourself accountable. If YOU (not the executive director, the board president, or that key volunteer) don't know how to do any of of the specialized, professional, and unique operations tasks to run a nonprofit, fundraise, write the bylaws, run a board, create a new fundraising method, etc. that is fine. It's not 'fine', though, to simply assume that 'oh...we're small so...' or 'I've been doing this for a while, now, so...', or 'I've been a success in the for profit world...' '...we don't need to know the latest best practices in professional nonprofit operations or skills'. If you haven't spent at least two successful professional years working for a well run, established, successful nonprofit - consider yourself primed to learn.

9. Get organized. If you don't know how this nonprofit has (insert operation, here) conducted a specific regular annual fundraiser, developed the board and staff relationship, recruited volunteers, etc. then research within the nonprofit. Talk with former volunteers and staff, talk with current volunteers and staff, research meeting minutes and files or notebooks, ask others in the community what they know about the organization and listen. If no one knows anything then it's a huge hint that you need to both instigate internal protocols and systems that work, and your organization needs to make it clear to its community what its name is, what it does, and why.

8. Evaluate. If you hold any fundraising event or use any fundraising method (e.g. a golf tournament or donation remittance envelopes), research and learn a way to check every year (or whenever you hold the fundraiser) how the fundraiser is doing. Is it raising money? Is it reaching new people each year while retaining former donors? Is it making it clear what your organization does, for whom, how, and why? Is it a cost effective method to raise money? If you don't check each time you use the method or hold the event, then how can you guarantee your volunteers and donors that their time and money is going towards the cause that your mission serves? Learn modern, professional, effective nonprofit evaluation methods that work and use them not just in your grant proposals (to evaluate new programs or projects) but in your fundraising, too.

7. Market your organization. How? Just insert into your current organization pamphlet, your website, on your volunteer applications, or anywhere that the public learns about your organization the organization's: name, mission statement, recent mission based work success rates (e.g. program stats), your current 2 - 5 year goals, and any other big recent successes. Keep this current and update it every six months or so. Make it clear to any kind of potential investor (either a current or future donor, or a current or future volunteer) why they should work for your nonprofit; and because it succeeds at meeting its mission goal; because your organization runs well and plans its future (setting realistic goals that your organization is investing in).

6. Be certain that all of the nonprofit's leadership (e.g. volunteer and staff such as the executive director, all of the board members, trustees, etc. and even key major donors) have an elevator speech. What's an elevator speech? It's the sentence or two that anyone uses to respond when someone in the nonprofit's community asks, 'why do you volunteer for, work for, or donate to (insert your organization's name, here)?' When anyone asks about the nonprofit it is an OPPORTUNITY to be certain that the correct message gets out to the public about the organization. For instance, take time in a staff, volunteers', or board meeting to find out what each person who represents the nonprofit (in any way) says when asked this question (or the question 'I've never heard of that nonprofit. What do you folks do?'). Listen to one another's elevator speeches. Then, together, talk about what is true about them and what could be clarified or improved. No one needs to memorize a cold, single description that is repeated like some robot's message. Everyone, when speaking about the organization, should be encouraged to talk from the heart (there are not salesly schmoozey goals here). The elevator speech should be no more than a few sentences. But, every time anyone asks about the organization, all representatives of it should take that as an opportunity to get the organization, its work, and its successes into one more community member's mind. You never know: you may be talking to a future donor, future volunteer, or a potential major donor!

5. I usually encourage all leaders of any nonprofit (including the executive director and the board and other key volunteers) to accept that at least half of their job is to raise funds. I know that no one gets into a nonprofit to fundraise. People become active in the nonprofit sector because they're passionate about an issue, cause, art, etc. The fact is, though, that if ALL of the organization's leadership (and administrative staff or volunteers) do not each and all work together to raise money, every day, every month, year to year; cash flow will not become steady, nor will it grow. Nonprofits operate on donations and the lifeblood of a growing organization is a committed, educated, practiced group of volunteers (and staff) who are actively always fundraising.

4. Be certain that the organization has an annual fundraising plan (also called a Development Plan) that is conducted, evaluated, improved, and grown year to year. The key to investing in anything (for future benefit) is to diversify. It is no different in fundraising. If your organization only has one or three fundraisers, each year, and isn't growing the fundraising; how will your organization increase it's 'income'? Successful nonprofits know that, year to year, some fundraisers may wane, and other fundraising events will become popular. Do not assume that you know which will be which. Hedge your organization's risks and diversify where money comes from and in what manner. Also, listen to donors and potential donors. If the organization's been holding some fundraiser, annually, for five years and people aren't enjoying it anymore - then listen, plan a new event, and move on!

3. The nonprofit is the thing. The mission statement, the bylaws, the organization's goals, and the growth and future of the nonprofit are the most important aspects of working for any nonprofit. Your ego, your insecurities, your circle of friends or family, your professional goals, etc. are not the thing. All decision making should be made (by leaders and key staff) with the mission statement, the beneficiary(ies) of the organization's work, and the organization's health and growth in mind. Always do what is best for the organization, based on its mission statement. Don't talk yourself or anyone else into serving the organization but really put something else first (e.g. your insecurities, your need to control, wanting to avoid working with a complete and not-family, not-friends board, etc.).

2. Be professional. Nonprofits require specialized, unique, and modern skills. No one just knows how to run a nonprofit. Time and money are saved when key leaders take it upon themselves to learn the best and latest. Also, treat anyone who comes into contact with the nonprofit (in whatever manner or location; a brochure, a walk in, at a conference, etc.) with courtesy, respect, and listen to them. ALWAYS be polite to volunteers, staff, donors, potential volunteers, and potential donors. How will you know who's who? You don't! That's the point. Everyone representing your organization must be trained and held accountable for how they represent the nonprofit (including inter-personal interaction). Do not assume that everyone is treating donors well, for instance. Be certain they are by training and implementing specific guidelines and professional standards.

1. Listen. Above all, the number one way to learn what is going on 'right now' in any aspect of the nonprofit's operations, future, evaluations, etc. is to listen. If you ask for feedback or if you conduct a survey amongst your clients; your organization has an opportunity to learn and improve what it's doing. Listening doesn't just improve programs, it saves money and time.

Grant For American or Canadian Youth Under 19 Who Are Using Music To Solve Community Issue

From The Foundation Center...

Do Something and Grammy Foundation Invite Young People to Use
Music to Improve Communities

Deadline: December 15, 2008

Do Something ( http://www.dosomething.org ) and the Grammy Foun- dation ( http://www.grammyfoundation.com ) are offering a total of $25,000 in Key Change Grants to young people who have an idea or existing project that uses music to make a difference in their local and/or global community.

To be eligible, the applicant must be 19 years of age or under, and must be a U.S. or Canadian citizen. The project must be youth- -led and -driven, creative, and demonstrate an original idea for solving problems and creating change. Projects must also strive toward tangible results and measurable impact, focus on problems in communities, and -- whether one-time event or ongoing program
-- must promote diversity and seek to make lasting change in the target community.

Five Grand Prize Winners will receive a $3,000 community action grant and an all-expense paid trip to the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on February 8, 2009. Twenty first prize winners will re- ceive community action grants of $500 each.

See the Do Something Web site for complete program guidelines.

RFP Link:
http://www.dosomething.org/grants/keychange

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What Does Obama's Administration Mean For Nonprofits?

Seeking Grant Money Today likes to keep you up to date on not just the 'how to's' of various nonprofit management, operations, and fundraising methods; but also current events in the American nonprofit sector. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, on November 6, 2008; posted Peter Panepento's great article, "Charities Can Expect New Regulations And Increased Giving In An Obama Administration" and it does a good job of describing how President Elect Obama's administration could benefit American nonprofits, especially given the current economic downturn. Another good attribute of this article? The speculation is based on a study.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Another Free Nonprofit Fundraising Consultation To Help During These Tough Times

During the last month and a half I have provided readers with free fundraising method consultations, in Seeking Grant Money Today, to help your fundraising work in these tough economic times. So far, they have been: "A Few Excellent Suggestions For Nonprofits To Survive These Uncertain Economic Times", "What Can Nonprofits Do In This Uncertain Economy?", "Write An Annual Appeal Letter To Raise Relatively Quick Funds", and "Getting Major Donors To Contribute Large Regular Donations Can Stabilize Cash Flow".

You may have brought in your leftover Halloween candy to "share" with the office, this morning (read "get out of my easy reach, at home" for "share"); and you are probably feeling very strongly about who should win the election (as most fellow Americans are, no matter which candidate you are voting for); and, let's be honest...you either know where you are going to be for Thanksgiving or you are working on that - which often means dealing with family "stuff". So, given just these few current common American events, and even without the economy's slowdown, we all need a hug, right about today. Please accept another free fundraising consultation, here, as a 'hug'!

In this post, I encourage you and the leadership of the nonprofit that you work for to also consider how well the organization is understood in the community(ies) it serves. Such marketing and public relations tools as the organization's: brochures, newsletters, website, the executive director and board members' elevator speech to others in the community about why they work for/volunteer with the nonprofit, donation remittance envelope, e-mails sent clients or donors, and any and all other times that your organization communicates with someone in the community are just as much important to the success of the group's fundraising as it is to the organization's programs.

If the community that the nonprofit serves does not understand some of your nonprofit's services or fee scales for programs that your organization provides; or if the community maybe doesn't recognize the name of your group, or even if local people know the name of your agency but don't know what your organization does - it is very difficult to raise new donors (even just individual household or local business donations); let alone increase/make better the service you're doing to achieve the mission statement's goals.

There is no nonprofit that couldn't use more donations. So, thinking about a nonprofit's need for more donations; larger donations; volunteers; strong, effective, experienced future board members (who could contribute and be effective at leadership); and any manner of all things that a strong, growing, and well run nonprofit requires to operate are 'raised' for the nonprofit through being sure that the community knows: who your organization is, what it does, who it is set up to serve, what it could use to help it run better, and your organization's success records. The way to be sure that the 'right' message is getting to people in the organization's community is by being proactive about marketing the nonprofit. Hoping that a local reporter calls your group to write a public interest piece, or assuming that your webmaster will put on your website that your organization just achieved its service benchmark for the year isn't going to get good effective marketing done for your agency. You can, though!

No organization ('for profit' or nonprofit) is ever done with its marketing. Marketing is never completed. Your organization always something coming or going on: a new program being started, a new benchmark achieved, a large contribution received, and other positive messages to make sure that your community knows about because it doesn't just get your organization's name 'out there'. When you market proactively, you are telling THE people who your organization is set up to both serve and receive from (the community that the organization serves (national or local)) what the organization's successes are, its strengths, and its capabilities. Giving people a reason to donate or volunteer with your nonprofit is one of the most effective, honest, and cheapest ways to raise contributions and volunteer support.

If your nonprofit, though, only goes to the local press when your organization is in dire straights and needs something, for instance, maybe the nonprofit's leadership did not plan or fund raise enough, and now it's in the hole $10,000 and may not be able to provide its annual program, so you go to the press to 'raise' the money; then your organization is actually demonstrating to current donors and potential (or future) donors why their money would be better donated to another nonprofit that operates and conducts its business more effectively. I know that old axiom, 'any press is good press' but my point is that your organization must be in control of its operations in order for anyone to want to invest in its programs. If it isn't, why shouldn't a donor who wants to support the organization's mission statement give to another nonprofit down the road who is working on the same issue or cause; but doing it well?! They should!! Proactive marketing is not a 'luxury' or 'someday, when we have more operations money' option. It is a powerful and cheaper fundraising and growth tool. Even if your organization does not yet have a marketing budget; it is worth the cost because on average, over time, the cost of proactively marketing makes more money, than is spent, incrementally, year to year.

How to begin a nonprofit marketing program:

__ Make a list of EVERYTHING that goes from the organization out to people, in the community it serves. This will include your agency's website, brochure, newsletter, etc. but it will also include the organization's clients (if they can speak or write), volunteers, staff, executive director, and board members. Again, as I've encouraged in this blog before, remembering that people will account for a lot of your organization's marketing byway of word of mouth, (whether you realize it or not) is critical to controlling the message that the community receives about the nonprofit. This is yet another reason why you must operate the nonprofit as the professional place of business that it is and treat everyone who comes through the door (so to speak) professionally and courteously. Just because, for instance your organization, is the only animal shelter in town, doesn't mean that you don't have to worry about what anyone says about your organization because local animals lovers only have one place to donate to; or because everyone already knows about your agency. They could give to the American Humane Society (a national organization) or wait to donate to your organization when it's demonstrated that it's being run better, maybe in a couple of years. No nonprofit can afford this.

__ Research local costs (e.g. advertising in local media, printing your organization's newsletter annually, etc.) within the community(ies) that the organization serves (spend money 'at home' and let donors and potential donors that "every dollar received is spent in our community" - again, market). Then project (a fair but rough) estimation of the number of people in the community could be reached (either letting them know for the first time what your group does, or clarifying a common misconception). Next, through research that can be done at your local library's reference desk determine the nonprofit's potential increase in donors, donation amounts, and future strong board members and other volunteers. Use population growth estimates for your region, conduct surveys in the community at large (beyond your current supporters), and research demographics such as median income per household and average donated annually, etc.. Complete a cost/benefit analysis for the three coming years. Be fair and honest, but error on the conservative side in your estimates and dollar amounts. Also, see if current or soon to be marketing costs can't be cut, or if spending could be reduced by a better price or if something couldn't get donated (as long as you aren't lessening the goal or losing quality).

__ Gather board members, relevant staff, and volunteers and form a marketing committee that will conduct further research, learn modern effective nonprofit marketing methods, plan, and then implement a new marketing program (that will live on, indefinitely). This committee, in its planning, will determine your organization's niche and how to benefit from and reach the pertinent market, include a marketing program budget, a three year plan, include goals and benchmarks, develop an evaluation method to check the marketing program's effectiveness and weigh results against the goals and benchmarks. All planning will be done again, year to year for the coming year. Anytime the committee finds a better way to do something, or a goal that isn't being achieved, there will be appropriate improvements made to the marketing program. So, then, over time it will become a strong and effective mode of marketing the organization (again to not just benefit programs and services, but to increase donors, donation amounts, and the quality of future board members).

__ Provide the marketing committee with the inventory of all current marketing materials and your cost/benefit analysis (and corresponding research), and then if you aren't on the committee back off and let them decide (after they've learned modern nonprofit marketing methods): the goal in the marketing plan; who will be responsible for what work; a timeline and deadlines; what resources, expertise, and supplies they will need; etc. Allow them to do their work. Trust in their abilities and in the lessons you'll learn along the way.

__ Remain open to the new program while keeping internal lines of communications open, allowing a dialogue to surround the new program, but keep true to the budget, timeline, and benchmarks set to keep the program underway. If according to the nonprofit's bylaws, all committees' plans must be ratified by the board before they begin - fine. Of course you must stick to your organization's bylaws and set procedures. Don't allow this to 'die on the vine', though. Discuss, respectfully disagree, listen to one another, and talk some more. Be open to the process that a new program's birth, or a new year of an established program entails.

__ Ask colleagues working at other nonprofits whether they are conducting a marketing program, and if so, what they would recommend, what they suggest, how they conduct their marketing, and what lessons they've learned. This is important as, across the U.S., community to community some localities react differently to different marketing methods and tools.

__ Read a recent, respected, nonprofit marketing book (on the right hand side of this page is my Amazon Store's box.  I hand selected each book in it because each are standards in the professional nonprofit sector and well regarded); take a recommended nonprofit marketing course (they aren't just in person, anymore, but many are held online, now) and find out if the instructor has strong successful experience; research what other, maybe larger nonprofits are doing - how they market; and learn. Be sure to hold yourself accountable to be knowledgeable, current, professional, and effective in marketing (as all operations and functions of the organization). Don't just put the results on the committee. Their job is to head up the program, design, goals, implementation, and evaluations. Your job, and the job of everyone else on staff (paid or volunteer) is to work with them, do the work that they design, believe in the prospects, and be proactive!

Do not feel like a braggart or over-zealous if your organization shares with the community its strengths and success such as:

__ any and all mission successes
__ program increases
__ a large donation received
__ new staff, executive director, or board member to the organization
__ a position on a current issue (often as an expert on the topic or field of work)
__ a wish list of items that would help provide a new program
__ celebrity appearances, talks, etc. that have to do with your organization
__ launching a new newsletter, a new agency website, etc.
__ any collaborative programs, projects, services, etc. that your group is doing with another agency (for profit or nonprofit)
__ coming in 'under budget' on a successful major campaign or a main program or service
__ and anything else that demonstrates your organization's successes, capabilities, expertise, capabilities, or any other strengths

Marketing a nonprofit may seem like a luxury, but it is actually a very critical and powerful way to raise awareness about your organization's mission statement, its programs, its successes, and more. By proactively marketing you are making the case before potential donors, current donors, future board members, and other potential volunteers why supporting your nonprofit is a strong and effective investment in a cause that they may hold very dearly (but aren't connected to, yet, because they don't know about your group or misunderstand something about it). Don't fault the public if they misunderstand something about your organization or if they don't know about it. It is your organization's job to get the word out about not just your cause, but about why supporting your agency is such an effective way to make things better. Control the message by being the 'who' that is doing the talking about your organization. Even clients', board members' messages, or the messages from whomever that has experience with the organization can be controlled by the agency, by its (your nonprofit) being the 'who' that is doing the talking about your organization; by treating everyone who comes into contact with it professionally, politely, and efficiently. All volunteers, staff, leaders, etc. anyone who represents your organization in any way must be trained and held accountable to treat all contacts (even someone who donates $2) graciously and professionally. Nonprofits are places of business (no matter how small, long standing, or new) as they interact with people not involved in the organization, itself. The people who don't know about your organization or misunderstand it are an opportunity to raise more support for your organization. Be sure they hear about it and know its successes and strengths.

Follow up on this post by reading my other posts: "Why Is Marketing Important In Grant Writing?", "Received Press After You've Mailed A Few Grant Requests? Here's What To Do...", and "How Your Nonprofit's Website Can Increase The Grants Your Organization Raises"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Take That Nonprofit's Grant Writing To The Next Level

Grant writing is a long term, larger donation pay-out, lengthy fundraising method. Any organization who has been raising grants (or any nonprofit considering beginning grant writing) is investing in its mission statement, organizational plans (and potential), and also its ability to successfully raise grant money. It's an excellent investment.

There are no guarantees in life, and as this old axiom states, there are also no guarantees in fundraising. You and I both know this. The key to successful fundraising of any kind: grant writing, mailing appeal letters, a major donor campaign, etc. is to learn and know what the fundraising method entails, how a successful version of that type of fundraising method is conducted, how to plan for it (before the fundraising method, in this case grant writing, is started), what a program should cost your size agency, etc. Who is doing what part of each of the organization's work is really key, too. Once the leadership at any nonprofit has learned how any one of all fundraising methods is properly conducted (e.g. effective, efficient, professional, ethical, modern fundraising methods, paradigms, and tips) a committee of board members can begin to plan to implement the new fundraising method (before it is started). Every fundraising requires time to successfully raise more money than it will cost to put it on. On average, American professional nonprofit fundraisers agree that it takes 2 - 5 years of repeatedly conducting the fundraiser, annually, (whether it be a special event, such as a golf tournament; or grant writing) to net more money in donations than was spent to put it on. Plan on the initial years of 'loss' to achieve a successful and profitable fundraiser. If any fundraiser is planned for, conducted, reviewed, and improved year to year, it will pay out all costs, later, and then begin to make more and more money. There aren't really any bad traditional fundraising methods; there are poor fundraisers, though. Create a plan, when implementing your new fundraising method, that begins at least six month from the beginning of the actual fundraiser (to allow for: planning, necessary hiring, purchasing of necessary supplies or equipment, etc.). Also finish your plan at least three years into the future of this new fundraising method (to account for maybe two or three years of initial 'loss' that will be recuperated once the event makes money; our goal is then that it escalates in money raised over the years). To successfully raise enough money for any nonprofit to have enough cash flow for its operations today and for its growth (in new or expanded programs, hiring, etc.) in the future; money, the organization's leadership's time, and planning are necessary. It takes resources to raise resources. The planning will include: a complete timeline (including the date the start of the process will begin); an action items list; corresponding benchmarks (for each action item) throughout the entire timeline (thus, listing everything that will be done and when); a list of who (the board, other key fundraising volunteers or staff, and the executive director) will be responsible for what specific action items (and be certain that those responsible know what their various benchmark due dates are, and what the overall plan and timeline is); a budget for this fundraiser; the expected outcomes; and evaluation method to review cost/benefit outcomes that should inform a review meeting that results in changes being made to the fundraiser, as needed, to improve its outcome and help it achieve the organization's goal in implementing it; etc. After initial planning, it should be clear who the organization has on hand with appropriate successful experience, knowledge, and ability and who it needs to either hire or consult with.

[The Chronicle of Philanthropy is hosting a free online live discussion October 28, 2008 at 12pm, noon, eastern time, called "Inspiring Your Board Members To Raise Money" . If you want a specific question answered, click on the talk's title (link in the previous sentence) and post your question at their prompt.]

Grant writing is not a 'quick' fundraising method. Since our economy has really taken a stumble over the past month, my most recent four posts, "A Few Excellent Suggestions For Nonprofits To Survive These Uncertain Economic Times", "What Can Nonprofits Do In This Uncertain Economy?", "Write An Annual Appeal Letter To Raise Relatively Quick Funds", "Getting Major Donors To Contribute Large Regular Donations Can Stabilize Cash Flow", were written because grant writing is not a short term fundraising solution. I know that my readers work for organization who may need an extra injection of cash is needed because of the economic downturn.

While a new or extra 'quicker' or shorter term fundraising method may be necessary this fiscal year (to cover any unexpected shortfalls in receipts) - it is great to recognize this and do the necessary work to make up for the loss. It is also important to recognize the need to grow and therefore the need to implement more and probably new fundraising methods in the annual operations calendar to come.

Remember, half of any nonprofit leader's job in any nonprofit organization is to raise funds. The board of directors are, according to law, supposed to oversee organizational policy, organizational planning, and they are supposed to provide fiscal oversight. Modern nonprofits insist that their board also fundraise (or contribute) and the executive director is usually overseeing daily office operations and part time raising funds. Volunteer office help or staff are responsible to conduct their respective tasks; and they should be supporting the board and executive director in their fundraising work. In other words, fundraising is every one's job in any nonprofit and the leadership are expected to be the most effective fundraisers for the organization.

Nonprofits are meant to be run as professional places of business because they are. The federal government (and some states) as well as modern donors are requiring that nonprofits report more about their income, spending, operations, planning, and successes more often now, than ever before. Transparency means that the successful nonprofit, today, operates, keeps its books, and regularly reports to its donors (or potential donors) and all jurisdictions thoroughly, honestly, in full. In order to do this, nonprofits must be operated professionally and in modern methods that have been successful and more efficient than older ways of doing things. Gone are the days of operating a nonprofit as if it's a club or a pet project (even one based on the best intentioned passion for a cause or issue). Nonprofits, today, must be well run professional places of business, too.

No one begins a nonprofit to raise funds. There is no doubt about this. Nonprofits are started by people who have a passion and the fire to do something for or about the cause, issue, art, etc. As long as any new nonprofit is run according to modern nonprofit methods and paradigms (including who it selects for its board, how effective board and volunteers are, what goals are being met and aren't, if the organization is successfully serving its mission, how well its operated, etc.) it will succeed. The only way to grow a successful nonprofit, in other words, is to learn how to run an excellent nonprofit. This means that operating a nonprofit is different than operating a 'for profit' business, though both do require professionalism, ethics, know - how, etc. Everyone involved in the strong nonprofit, from the board of directors, to the executive director, volunteers, and staff must be accountable for what they are supposed to be doing for the nonprofit. If you are a new board member for a nonprofit, and you've never served as a board member before, that is OK. What is really critical, though, is that you recognize your lack of expertise, knowledge, and know - how and learn from excellent resources how to do what the nonprofit is going to require of you (for the sake of the nonprofit's success). In order to learn where to begin your education read my post, "Places, Resources, And Ways To Learn Everything From Fundraising To Other Nonprofit Operations (Some Are Free)..."

To take grant writing (or any fundraising method) to the next level, a nonprofit must know what its doing. In order to do that it must have educated leadership knowledgeable about how a modern professional version of the fundraising method is run, today. It also must have volunteers, board, , and staff who hold themselves accountable. It is not enough to blame, point fingers, or bury one's head in the sand during tough or challenging times. If no one holds themselves accountable to know what they should, learn what they don't know, and work hard - the organization's mission statement, the absolute most important aspect of any and all nonprofits, is sinking; and if the cause and the mission statement aren't the foremost consideration in all aspects of running the nonprofit...the writing is on the wall.

Sundance Accepting U.S. and International Documentary Entries

From The Foundation Center...

Sundance Institute Accepting Entries for Documentary Fund

Deadline: February 9, 2009

The Sundance Institute ( http://www.sundance.org/ ) Documentary Fund is dedicated to supporting U.S. and international documentary films that focus on current human rights issues, freedom of expression, social justice, civil liberties, and exploring the critical issues of our time.

Proposals are evaluated on artful storytelling, stylistic innovation, subject relevance, and potential for social engagement.

Initial proposals are considered in two categories:

1) Development grants provide seed funds to filmmakers whose projects are in the early research or pre-production stage. Grant awards will range up to $20,000, and a previous directing sample is required. (If no directing sample is available, a creative visual work indicating the director's artistic point of view and storytelling ability is required.)

2) Production and Post-Production grants provide funds to film- makers in various stages of the production and post-production stages. Applications should include at least twenty minutes of continuously edited material. Longer cuts and fine cuts can be submitted if available.

There are two deadlines each year. February 9, 2009, is the next deadline for both Development as well as Production/Post- production proposals. U.S. and international filmmakers may submit anytime before the deadline.

Visit the Sundance Institute Web site for complete program information.

RFP Link:
http://www.sundance.org/press_subgen.html?articleID=4&colorCode=green

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Free "Preparing for the New Form 990" Class - Nonprofits, You'll Be Filing This Tax Form

Watch: November's LIVE (free) Webcast program
When: Tuesday, November 4, 2008, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm ET

Topic: "Preparing for the New Form 990"

CPE Program Level: Overview
1 CPE Credit Recommended; NO prerequisites or advance preparation CTEC Course #: 3022-CE-0059 ELMS Course #: 22891

Program Content:
It's been 30 years since the IRS made major changes to Form 990 and when many tax-exempt organizations file their 2008 tax year returns, they will confront a radically redesigned form. Because the revised Form 990 is so different from previous years', IRS and tax-exempt sector experts will discuss the redesigned 990; make sure you know what parts of the forms to complete and answer your questions to help you become familiar with and prepare for the changes now.

Learning Objectives:
The primary learning objective is to maintain or increase competency of tax practitioners through expert discussion, explanation and interactive questioning. The programs are designed for learners (tax professionals) to exercise a practical understanding of new and current tax policies, as well as the latest changes, in a complex and continually changing industry.

This Month's Expert Panel:
To learn more about the program and expert panelists, go to:
http://www.taxtalktoday.tv/index.cfm?page=8.778

Avoid Delays: Log in 20 - 40 minutes early!

Questions for our panel? Don't wait.
Send them now to: Questions@TaxTalkToday.tv

CPE credits can be purchased through our "store", go to:
http://www.taxtalktoday.tv/index.cfm?page=20.0

Please forward this email to your colleagues that may be interested in this topic.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Getting Major Donors To Contribute Large Regular Donations Can Stabilize Cash Flow

Due to the economic slow down, Seeking Grant Money Today's past three posts have provided fundraising suggestions beyond grant writing, because raising grant money isn't a quick way to raise funds. Here, I provide you with another 'free' consultation. I recommend that your nonprofit consider developing stronger relationships with its donors who give or could give in large amounts. Developing these particular contributors into regular contributors who give more each year, is called a major donor campaign, so those who do or could give in larger amounts are called major donors. The goal of the major donor campaign is to raise larger amount contributions, that are given regularly (more often), year to year. Your organization's key leadership should create real, mutually beneficial, honest relationships with potential major donors (and current major donors) because these people are or can be pillars to your organization. When they donate, are really investors in your organization.

Maybe you feel squeamish thinking 'ooo...I don't want to ask anyone to give us a larger donation'. It's normal and common to feel this way. It is also very important to keep in mind two things when imagining asking someone for a larger donation; everyone always has the right to say no but the only way they'll give in larger amounts is if they're asked (if you don't ask you won't get the larger amount donations); and remember that your organization is providing the community with something that no other nonprofit is providing. This is invaluable and worth the potential donor being asked, and it is worth your asking potential donors for larger amounts.

You may think, 'we would love to have donors who give in large amounts, but we don't', or 'we don't know where to find them', or 'we have never received a large donation from an individual or family'. Your organization is not immune to major donor contributions and all major donors are created, in effect, they do not just appear. This is a larger increment donation that you can raise, perhaps easier than grants, because these will be people who give on their own (without requiring an application process, etc. as grant donors do).

Major donors are usually people; they are not foundations, corporations, or other entities who offer and donate grants, sponsorships, etc.. They may offer these types of contributions, too, but the major donor is usually operating from their own individual household budget and interests. Major donors are typically individuals, families, or even family trusts who live or operate in your community. The key in being successful in beginning and growing a major donor campaign is taking the time to do everything necessary in order to be successful. Half of any nonprofit leader's work (executive director, board members, etc.) is fundraising. No nonprofit operates on passive or wishful fundraising. So, truly, all and any fundraising method requires taking the time to do everything necessary that will lead to success.

The steps to a successful major donor campaign are:

__ Education
__ Planning
__ Organizational Analysis
__ Community Research
__ Donor Research
__ Practice
__ Planning Approach and Ask for Each Potential Major Donor
__ Outreach
__ Direct Communication
__ Listening and Following Through
__ Record Keeping
__ Direct Communication Again
__ Repeat this process at regular intervals annually

Major donor campaigns are best conducted by a committee or several board members along with key staff or office volunteers. As always, if you don't know anything other than what you'll learn in this post; educate yourself. To learn about what standard, respected, and excellent resources are out there for nonprofit leaders, read two of my other posts, "Places, Resources, and Ways to Learn Everything From Fundraising To Other Nonprofit Operations (Some Are Free)..." and "Some Free Resources" These posts list books, websites, and other tools to help you find good resources to learn from. Research major donor campaigns, and ask colleagues volunteering or working for other nonprofits how they conduct their major donors program.

Based on what you learn and what you know about the organization that you work for, plan the major donor campaign with the key participants. Work through and finalize: the budgetary goal, the campaign's timeline, the budget to put the campaign on, who will do what, benchmarks, how all of the steps will be conducted. Follow up, after the campaign's end, each year by asking for feedback, reviewing results verses goals and what went well and what needs improvement, and then improve the campaign, year to year. Be willing to learn and grow this fundraising method.

After the plan has been put into place, research the donations that your organization has received. Review what, over the past year or two, the average contribution amount has been (and if your organization receives memberships dues, sponsor donations, pledges, bequests, or employee giving donations I'd only review the contributions other than these kinds of donations, for our purpose here, otherwise your data will be skewed). Include all types of donors who give from their own wallets (e.g. individuals, families, and maybe small local businesses). To find the average, add up the total amount of donations received, and then count how many donations, total, were received. Divide the total amount received by the number of total donations received. Maybe the average amount contributed to our organization is $20, for instance. Now we must decide what is a large donation, for our organization. In other words, what contribution amount (or higher) causes whoever opens the donation envelopes at our agency to yell "wa hoo!"? Each nonprofit has to arrive at what it considers a large amount donation because each nonprofit is different. Returning to our hypothetical analysis, if the average contribution received over the past two years has been $20, we, let's say, also know that occasionally we receive $50 and sometimes $100 donations. We've established our average receipt and now we're trying to be fair and realistic but not overly conservative in determining a range of larger donations received. You can do this mathematically, as well, of course; but I find that whomever at your organization receives and enters donations to your donor database will have a good sense of what larger donation amount occasionally (every month or so) arrives, without the donor having been asked for a larger than usual sum. Let's say, hypothetically, that we decided that a regular larger donation amount that we receive is $100.

One thing that you could implement as regular operations, from now on, is acknowledging an unsolicited larger donation (based on whatever is determined to be the minimum 'large donation' for your organization; here we've found it's $100). So if this month we received 30 donations that were below $100 (and these people should each and all be thanked no matter what amount they gave - there are no 'bad' or 'cheap' donations); and we received two donations that were $100 or more - we should thank these donors, too, of course but we can begin to implement adding a special touch to not just thank them but demonstrate that we noticed their larger commitment and investment in the nonprofit. These can be simple but meaningful acknowledgements. You could do something as simple as printing out their thank you letters (tax receipts), as normal, but taking the two larger amount thank you letters to the executive director and ask him/her to write a short but personalized thank you note (in pen in their handwriting) on the formal letter. Major donors can be acknowledged in other ways, too. Some options are: a thank the major donor annual special event, instead of writing on the formal thank you letter print and send the letter and have a board member or the executive director call the donor to personally thank them in tandem with sending the letter, creating giving levels and listing donors accordingly in a newsletter or annual report that lists all larger amount donors, etc. This is an agency decision as there are costs associated with this extra acknowledgement process. This kind of relationship development is an investment in larger donations now and in the future. These new procedures' costs should be included in the major donor campaign budget (see the planning step, above). This work that I've described here is a part of major donor development. By setting a standard and then acknowledging those who unprompted contribute at this level or higher, you are encouraging them to give again in larger amounts. Combined with the following major donor campaign work - this all increases the chances in not just getting another donation from the donor but hopefully, increasing how much they give the next time, and from then on.

Turn from inward, organizational research (of the donations received) to outward looking research. Research who are the major donors who give to other nonprofits in the geographic region that your organization serves (in order for your organization's request to be relevant to potential donors). The way to 'find' major donors is to first develop the donors already giving to your organization, but to also then research and find who is giving to organizations doing similar work as yours or to organizations working on the same cause. These people and families are indicating (through their contribution to these other similar nonprofits) that they care about the cause and the work that your organization does, too. I need to caution you that no donor who gives to another nonprofit should be hunted down to give to your group too, or disparaged for not giving to your organization also, or anything so unprofessional. It is really important to realize that these people donate to nonprofits, give to a good cause, and may have a good reason for not giving to your nonprofit. Without contacting them or any other unethical or unprofessional behavior - it is your organization's job to determine how these people can be brought on board to give to your organization, too. They should never be told 'don't give to that other nonprofit' or anything to this effect. You are only responsible to raise donations for your organization. That's it. A donor's relationship with all of the other nonprofits that they give to is their business - not yours'. Meanwhile, you must remember that how you act and how you treat a potential donor reflects on the nonprofit that YOU work for and your actions reflect on how it operates. Be professional. Finally, keep in mind too that major donors can afford to give to several organizations and if a potential major donor gives to a nonprofit doing work like your own organization's; approach that potential donor understanding that they could give to your organization, in addition to everyone else that they are donating to. Your job is to raise money and develop a professional, ethical, effective, and positive relationship with potential donors (and this means encouraging them to do any good that they see fit to do - whether this involves your nonprofit (yet) or not).

How do you find out who is giving to similar nonprofits? There are lists that a nonprofit can buy (often offered through marketing or sales list companies) but I do not believe this is a necessary investment. If you locate just one or two other nonprofits who are doing similar work as your organization's in the region that your organization serves, and look over their list of donors - you can compare those names to your organization's donor list. Nonprofits usually list donors in their newsletters, in their annual report, or other places. Anyone who is giving to them, particularly above your organization's large donation amount threshold that you've determined or higher, and hasn't given to your organization yet; should be noted. Again, these people are not anything other than potential donors to your organization - treat them with respect, but be discreet, be professional and do nothing to disparage anyone or any other nonprofit. You may wonder if looking over like nonprofits' donor lists is 'fair' or 'OK', but keep in mind that turn about is fair play and it is very likely that other organizations have taken note of your organization's donors, too (and that's OK - have confidence in your donors' connection to the nonprofit that you work for). Note, too, that no other nonprofit is trying to "steal" your donors. Professionalism is key.

It's really key to understand that donors give not for tax breaks (studies show) but because they care so deeply about a cause or issue that they want to contribute to the solution. Donors look into which nonprofit does the work that they believe will best address the issue and is successful at it (and are well run, honest, transparent, professional nonprofits). Your donors, in effect, are voting for your organization's mission statement, record in the community, successes, and capabilities when they give to your agency. Be confident in their assessment and their "vote". Developing them helps them stay on board.

There are many key points in this post. Another really important key to remember is it is not natural or easy to ask another person for money. Fundraising is asking others for money, and major donor campaigns often include the unique and unusual task of asking a potential donor for money face to face. I empathize - it feels awkward imagining you, yourself, asking someone else for money. If you, your board, your staff, or your executive director are anxious about or have avoided implementing a major donor campaign because they don't want to ask others for money - it's normal, it's understandable, and most successful major donor campaigns at other nonprofits are conducted by people who got beyond these natural anxieties. I've been there, myself.

Any fundraising that involved raising single large amounts should be conducted by all relevant staff but the actual interaction should always be what's called 'peer to peer'. In other words, relevant staff (the executive director, development assistant, bookkeeper, fundraising manager, board) should all be doing their part, but the only people who should be talking with potential larger amount donors (or their representatives) on the phone, or in meetings, face to face, should be leaders of the nonprofit (the executive director and/or board members).

The first contact ("outreach" action item, above) should be through a formal letter explaining who our organization is, what we do, our successes and service statistics, ask for a meeting with them, and state what the meeting is for. If they do not respond, you can follow up once but no more. Do not harass anyone. Be good neighbors in the community to everyone; other nonprofits, potential donors, former donors; everyone. If they request to be removed from the mailing list - remove them and take that as a 'no' to the request to meet with them. Always treat people professionally. This is our outreach and it is the initial step of contact. Remember how important first impressions are. The letter should be short, to the point, clear, and informative.

Major donor discussions can be held with more than one of your organization's leaders (e.g. at a meeting); so the executive director and a board member, maybe, could take a potential major donor out to lunch, for instance. Or, just one of the key leaders could meet with a major donor. Meet when and where it is convenient for the potential donor. Your organization must demonstrate to all potential major donors that they are valued enough for the organization to give them the time of its leaders (peer to peer interaction). After all, major donors are leaders in their own way; they are demonstrating how and how much can be and should be given to your organization. They deserve to meet with your group's leaders.  Does your leadership have jitters or anxiety at the thought of face to face requests?  This is normal.  Read How To Make Requests A Donation Face to Face From A Major Donor Easier.

The next action item in initiating our major donor campaign is to practice. Everyone who will be meeting with potential major donors should practice (and more than once or twice) or role play being both the person asking for a contribution and also the potential major donor being asked for the donation. No one has to sell any potential donor on anything (in any of your fundraising, ever). No one has to be schmoozey or slick (ever). Pre-arrange a script that the asker with use, rehearse the script, and practice both acquiring the larger donation and also being told 'no', in response, or being told 'no, not now, maybe later'. Just be sure that the askers speak from their heart. Know, too, how the organization will follow through with those people who do give major donations after these asks. If one of your organization's leaders holds a meeting with a potential major donor do and don't do the following: get to the point, be clear, be honest, speak about why you are involved with THIS nonprofit honestly, provide the organization's recent successes, ask why they are involved in the cause, and if they'd like to be more involved with the organization. Do not get negative, do not get pushy, and be sure to ALWAYS (as with any and all of your donors) to listen. If they ask questions and you don't know the answer, that's fine; say so. But be CERTAIN to get back to them after the meeting in a timely fashion with the answer. Be grateful to them for their leadership in the community at large, whether they donate or not. Remember, some people want to be courted more than others so some people may say 'no' but give later. A 'no' is not the end of the world. If though, (like with any and all donors) they request to be removed from your solicitation list or wish to no longer be contacted - that is OK - they are allowed to do this. Again, thank them and quickly and completely comply with their request. There are always more fish in the sea! Treating people well, no matter what their interaction with your organization, may impress them so much that they wind up giving! Remember, how your organization and its representatives treats everyone truly reflects on the organization. Being professional and polite in all situations (as best as one can) will leave the door open for any possibilities. Being rude, taking things personally, holding a grudge, or any other non-professional behavior can ruin the chances of anyone giving to your organization again. Always leave the door open for possibilities. Never stop rehearsing asking major donors for a large contribution, even if you've done it a few times. It is a great way to desensitize those who are going to do the asking, plus it allows everyone to experience the ask from the donor's perspective.

Individualize your approaches, next. We will take the script that we've developed and have been rehearsing; and we'll fine tune and streamline it by tweaking it, individualizing the script to each person that will be asked, according to what we know they like or don't like. Let's say that we work with a board of nine people who have each taken three potential major donors to develop. We've learned major donor campaigns, we're practicing asking people for larger donations, and now we must individualize our ask for each of the board members' three potential major donors. Let' take one of our board members' list of three. Let's look at board member, Sara Smith's list. Sara has Rick Brown, Denise Miller, and the Annie and Matt Davenport family on her list, and Sara is good friends with Denise. Denise, it turns out, volunteers for another separate nonprofit and has asked Denise to contribute to that organization. Sara did and she knows that Denise will probably be happy to support an organization that she is working for and believes in (to reciprocate). This is really common among friends of board members who share phinlanthropic or community interests, so personal board connections should be added to any major donor campaign's potential donor list. Sara doesn't know anything about Mr. Brown or the Davenport family, though, so she works with the Major Donor Campaign Committee to research each of them a bit to try to learn anything that may help us increase the chances of raising a donation from them. Let's say that a couple volunteers research each and have found the following to assist Sara: the Davenport family is a long established local family who made their wealth in the local industry and are big fans of sporting events. Let's say we also learned that Mr. Brown regularly gives to our cause in larger amounts, but also to two other different causes. Sara can then tweak or personalize her ask to the Davenport family by speaking about the local community, during the meeting, and tying our organization's successes in our local community to the importance of their contribution. She can also chit chat comfortably with the Davenports about recent sporting events knowing that this will probably help ease them, too (as it is one of their interests). Sara can talk to Mr. Brown about how wonderful his committment and dedication to the community has been (ala all of the causes that he supports) and she can: ask him if he would like to learn more about our organization, and ask what connects him to the causes that he currently gives to. It is really important that during the meeting Sara (and all leaders who are going to ask a potential major donor for a contribution) takes very good notes. These notes should be returned to the Major Donor Campaign Committee, filed into each respective major donor's file (along with the findings from the Committee's initial research), and kept to help inform the next communication with them. All contact (including notes or letters) to major donors (or potential major donors) should be personalized. Do not use information, though, that you aren't certain is accurate or current. Press clippings about potential donors are great for information. Any information that we learn about our major donors or potential major donors should be noted and kept handy to be used later.

During the ask meeting Sara will speak honestly from her personal experience why she volunteers for our organization. She will answer all questions, as best she can, honestly. She will also listen. It is really important to truly understand where this potential donor is, where they are coming from, how they connect with the cause, what they know of our organization, and even what motivates them. Make it easy for the donor to give - listen to them, follow through with them in a timely manner, and meet them where they are. If, for instance, a potential donor asks about whether they could volunteer with the organization - invite them to do so. No one should give their nonprofit away for a large donation, but no one should restrict a potential donor's involvement in a nonprofit. Getting them more involved may develop into a powerful opportunity for the organization and its future.

If the potential major donor requests time to think about whether they want to contribute, or if they ask for financials to think about it, etc. give them what they request, after the meeting, in a timely manner; and give them time to process what they need to. Then, contact them again, in a timely manner, to professionally but clearly follow up. If they seem interested but don't give (and they don't state 'do not contact me again' or other request to not be contacted) be sure to approach them again maybe in six months or a year. Reapproaches should be a part of the campaign's plan (the second action item, above). Conduct this campaign every year. It is likely that it will raise more and more money as years pass. Track the successes and failures in this campaign; revisit how everything is going, regularly; make appropriate changes or imporvements; and keep at it. Work at whatever your organization has invested in.

Major donors are often interested in your cause, but perhaps they aren't aware of your organization, or don't know your organization's successes. Help them by informing them, clearly asking them for support, and give them a chance to be a major pillar to your organization. If you don't ask - they can't support at that level.