Sunday, August 24, 2008

How To Increase the Number of New Donors

Whether we're talking about the nonprofit that you work for needing to locate new individual donors, new corporate sponsors, or new foundations to approach for grants; it's all the same. In addition to the usual or recent donors, your organization is hoping to grow and to grow you must increase cash flow.

Never forget that while the nonprofit provides for the community, and is granted tax free dollars because it does; it is a business. A nonprofit is an organized entity working to achieve a goal (and is now going to be held more accountable than ever by the federal government (besides your donors) to achieve goals; see the new nonprofit tax form). Every nonprofit must work on its programs or services AND its business operations, every day, if the organization is to survive and grow. Nonprofit business operations include board oversight and legal compliance, program planning, budgeting, fundraising planning, raising more money than this year or the year before, achieving benchmarks and goals, etc.

In a viable nonprofit, on average, half of each business day is spent on business operations and the other half is spent on the work of the mission statement. Of course this is easier done by organizations that either have more dedicated and competent volunteers and/or staff. Nevertheless, the formula is make or break; either nonprofit leadership dedicates itself, in a good part, to the business operations, or the organization will falter. The question is: are you doing enough, today?

Donors are no longer a 'write a check and just hand it over' group of people who fund anything and gladly do so. Donors, today, are more savvy than ever. They research the causes that they wish to fund to find the recipient who does the job best. They donate to connect with a nonprofit close to the solution or that is very good at its search for a solution to the issue that they are passionate about. They are looking for nonprofits who do not just work on their (the donor's) pet cause but are successful at their work, who are honest and transparent in their operations and reporting (including tax filings and bookkeeping), and who demonstrate that they are a great investment into the issue's solution. Donors are searching for organizations to give to who are serious, current - aware of the issue and the latest in that field, and who are the best likely candidate to do the work the organization is setting out to do. The quality and reputations of not just the organization, but the organization's: accomplishments, the organization's staff and volunteers, and the collaborations and partnerships that the nonprofit makes to get itself into strategic and more effective positions, for the cause do not just happen by chance. Educate yourself on modern nonprofit best practices, plan, and begin the work to operate and interact with your public as good as possible. Implement the processes that a nonprofit who raises more donors than the month before, or the year before; regularly plans for, works towards, and completes. Donors give to a nonprofit not for the tax benefit, many recent studies have found, but rather to contribute, get involved in the effort, and to help create the best possible outcome. Donors, today, see themselves as important partners in the nonprofit's work. They view themselves as investors who, like those who invest in stocks, expect excellent strong performance, growth in successes, achievements, and they expect honest and regular reporting. Today's donors aren't just satisfied with a newsletter or occasional donation request that lists the organization's recent achievements. Today's donor (especially grant makers) can expect to be shown: a program design, the program's expected outcomes, the evaluation method that will be employed to determine successes AND where attention is needed, the budget, staffing, the participant population's demographics or statistics, where the program will occur, for how long, etc. After the program, today's donor (especially grant donors) expects an honest, succinct, but thorough and comprehensive follow up report including; evaluation method used and results, lessons learned and changes being made to improve the program, expenses and income, any changes that were made, and they want to be shown how the result relates to the success of your organization's mission statement (or the work that your organization does).

Any nonprofit that wishes to increase its numbers of donors and to continue to increase numbers, over the years must first reflect on itself: its operations, its work, its programs, its staffing, its successes and reputation, etc. honestly. It must consider the difficult considerations such as where are the 'weak links' in the chain that is your organization's potential success. Moreover, leadership must not just be willing and able to take the difficult honest look at oneself and one's work; they must be able to do the necessary work to rectify anything needing attention. Every nonprofit is as powerful as its weakest planning, program, volunteer, or staff. Set the bar higher, today.

The organization looking to increase donors and to continue to do so over time, after doing self analyses and making improvements, must open up to its potential donors (and potential volunteers). Nonprofits must be accessible and easily researched, today. If a potential volunteer or donor asks for your most recent annual report, your most recently audited financials, or a copy of your bylaws; can you provide those? Would you share them? If you wouldn't, why wouldn't you? Being proud of your organization's operations and wanting to encourage partnerships and investments leads to transparent nonprofits; ones that share their operations, successes, and where they need help or growth.

Put into place internal organization-wide mechanisms, processes, and requirements that regularly and comprehensively provide your leadership, fundraisers, marketers, and other staff or volunteers who are working to raise donations, increase awareness of your organization, and are making needed alliances in your community. Gather information such as numbers of services or products provided, successes, lessons learned, who attends or benefits from your programs, break the benefiting population's demographics down (e.g. maybe you serve people, so the demographics to track could be: adults, teens, children, sexes, income levels, etc.), and so on. Provide real data about all of your work. Your new federal tax return will require these of your organization, now, anyway. You might as well do the due diligence, now, to provide what you'll need from now on to not just correctly and completely report in tax filings but will increase donations. All of this information may seem like "over kill" or "labor intensive" or "expensive" for your organization; but I challenge you to do the cost/benefit analysis. Imagine the new and extra money that you could raise if you provide today's modern donors with the connection, transparency, confidence in your organization's capabilities and operations that they demand. If you show someone who wants to donate to the cause you serve, that your organization is successful in its work, honest, well run, and tackling the future; why shouldn't they give to your agency? You and I keenly know that the donor decides to either give to your group or they pass and move onto another nonprofit. Place your organization in a position to raise more, now. Having this kind of real time comprehensive data about your organization, its successes and its work, will pay off if its used to market and fundraise. It will.

If there was a donation application on Facebook, or a fundraising letter, or a grant donor that could make all of the money that your organization needs pour through the door; you would've heard about it, already. Trust me. The fact is that a nonprofit's business operations, such as fundraising, is half of its work, every single business day. To provide services and products today and then provide more, tomorrow, nonprofits must have cash flow and also increases to each year's cash flow. That's why raising money and other day to day operations is half of your work.

Grants for Arts Writers' Individual Article

From The Foundation Center...

Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program to Fund Work on Contemporary Visual Art

Deadline: September 22, 2008

The Creative Capital/Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant is an initiative of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts( ) as part of its broader Arts Writing Initiative ( ) and is administered by Creative Capital ( ).

Dedicated to supporting a wide range of writing on contemporary visual art -- from general-audience to scholarly -- the program awards project-based grants to individual authors. In its 2008 cycle, the program will fund approximately 20 projects, in amounts ranging from $3,000 to $50,000 each, in the following categories: books; articles; short-form writing; and blogs/new and alternative media. To be eligible, an arts writer must be: an individual; an art historian, artist, critic, curator, journalist, or practitioner in an outside field who is strongly engaged with the contemporary visual arts; a U.S. citizen, permanent resident of the United States, or possessor of an O-1 visa; at least 25 years old; and a published author (specific publication requirements vary depending on grant category). Please note: Writers wishing to apply for book projects must first submit a Letter of Inquiry. The 2008 deadline for the Book LOI has already passed. Applicants who advanced to panel in previous years are eligible to apply without submitting an LOI. The program is no longer accepting applications for article series, only for individual articles. Visit the program's Web site for complete program guidelines and application procedures. RFP Link:

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

IRS Finalizes The New And Updated Nonprofit Tax Form

The new tax form that nonprofits will be responsible to file annually has been finalized. The final version of the updated IRS Tax Form 990 (the form that nonprofits file annually at tax time) and its directions have been released by the IRS.

While creating the new 990 the IRS conducted studies (background papers are available on the IRS website), reviewed commonly used loopholes, and asked those effected by the changes (nonprofits, etc.) for their input.

Some nonprofits are concerned that the reporting required of the new form will cost more time and resources than the previous version, but my guess is the required reporting may wind up offsetting its expense to any nonprofit because having to track successes, report on how much of a donor's dollar is spent on the organization's programming or services, and other operations results will not only provide the level of a given nonprofit's transparency and compliance; those numbers and data can be used to promote any nonprofit. Increased required reporting will mean those data your organization tracks annually, from now on, can be used in your nonprofit's marketing materials, donation requests (results, results, results), program development considerations, and in other ways that will potentially increase donations and volunteers.

The new tax form will demonstrate the nation's movement from treating nonprofits as 'less than professional organizations who are do-gooders, so we don't need to be concerned about the organization's leadership's level of honesty, quality of oversight of its operations and bookkeeping, or quality of its work'. In other words, all of this talk, today, about nonprofits needing to become professional operations that comply with the law and practice the best practices as it completes its mission work.

I think that as grant writers begin to use the new form when prospecting for potential grant donors, we will appreciate the variety of information reported, the depth of information required, and our ability to ferrite out foundations that perhaps operate less than they could and we may not want to affiliate our nonprofit with.

Be ready to use the new form by checking it out (link above).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

There's No Standardized Path That Leads To Becoming A Grant Writer: Yet...There ARE Several Ways To Break Into The Grant Writing Field

Greetings! My name is Kirsten and I am writing my first guest post as Grant Writing Intern Extraordinaire for The Grant Plant. Grant writing as is often shrouded in mystery and is a best kept secret from the general public. Today I want to share my experience as an aspiring grant writer and some of the challenges that people like myself face in the pursuit of this excellent career.

Not long ago, I was researching the field of Grant Writing as a possible career path. I was surprised when, as a proficient Googler, I had difficulty locating the information I was looking for. There are many sites that offer good general information about how to become a grant writing consultant, but most articles were limited in depth and suspiciously similar in content. My question was simple: how do I become a grant writer? Perhaps this wasn't an actual job that real people do. Perhaps there are little Grant Fairy's working feverishly night and day churning out winning proposals somewhere in the North Pole. Adding to my frustration was that despite reading website after blog after article stating the high demand for this specialized skill, there seemed to be few openings and all of them that I located required extensive grant writing experience.

What I have learned is that there is no standardized path that leads to becoming a grant writer. One of the most profound challenges is that in many cases there are no entry level positions available. I sense this is because of the nature of the work. Grant writing can be costly for nonprofits and spending money that is scarce to begin with on someone without experience may be too risky. It felt very discouraging, this difficult reality where one must have experience get the position, but in order to get experience, you must have experience. Yeah. My head was spinning too. At this point some people might be thinking "Maybe I will just offer to write on commission and only get paid when the grant gets funded so that the nonprofit won't be risking anything." Get that thought out of your head because:

1.You are not a cheesy attorney on afternoon cable television offering to only get paid when you successfully win a lawsuit against Starbucks because your tall nonfat extra hot no foam latte was, in fact, too hot. You, my friend, are more professional than that.
2. You want to someday get a job as a grant writer. Isn't that what all of the research is about? No one wants to hire someone who has violated one of the most basic ethical standards of the industry.

So what are you going to do? How will you ever become a grant writer? Do not despair! I have good news! There are several ways to break into the grant writing field, but probably not in the way you are hoping for. This is because most common paths into grant writing involve either:

A.Working for free
B.Adding work to your already busy job

This isn't necessarily a negative thing if you are genuinely passionate about your goal. If you are at all uncertain about what you want to be when you grow up, however, the extra effort may send you running in another direction.

For those already working in a nonprofit, you have a wonderful opportunity to have a conversation with the people in your agency about grant writing possibilities. I have spoken with people who found that the development department or busy Executive Director was more than willing to hand over some grant writing tasks to employees in other areas of the nonprofit, but in most cases this meant (at least until proven skilled at grant writing) this work was on top of their regular job duties. This is a really great way to end up as a staff grant writer.

The next best way is to volunteer for a nonprofit that needs help. I would personally recommend volunteering for a nonprofit that is already doing grant writing and has someone to work with you because it can lead to frustration when neither you, or the agency has any idea what to do. I suppose it could be done, but it would be a time consuming process. or are good places to find opportunities.The Americorp program is also a good option for college students. Similar to volunteering would be interning with a grant writer, what I am fortunate enough to be doing. Working one on one with a professional is amazing because I am actually doing the job hands on that I want do and getting the whole inside scoop. These opportunities are generally not posted, but are quite possible to make happen through networking. I also recommend checking out for affordable online courses about grant writing that offer a great foundation for gaining specific skills.

Good luck and please leave comments with additional ways to get in on the ground floor as a grant writer.

Grants for Nonprofits Providing Affordable Housing to Very Low to Moderate Income Individuals or Families

From The Foundation Center...

TD Charitable Foundation Offers Support for Affordable

Deadline: September 12, 2008

The TD Charitable Foundation
( ) has announced that it is accepting proposals from housing nonprofits in the communities where Commerce Bank ( ) and TD Banknorth ( ) do business for funding through the 2008 'Housing for Everyone' competition.

The competition will provide support for operational funding for fiscally responsible organizations that have made and continue to make a meaningful difference in the affordable housing land- scape of their community.

Applicant organizations for the 2008 competition must serve communities within Commerce Bank or TD Banknorth's current markets. Organizations must have tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status and must develop or maintain affordable housing, or provide housing- related programs and services to very-low, low-, and moderate- income individuals or families.

A total of $1.5 million will be awarded for applications that best meet the eligibility criteria. Grant guidelines and the online application are available at the Commerce Bank Web site.

RFP Link:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Grant Seeking According To The Various Stages of A Nonprofit's Life

The work to raise grants is similar through each stage of any nonprofit's life cycle (from start up to well established, well known, staffed, stable, well managed, successful, and expert in its field). The nuance, from stage to stage, depends upon the nonprofit's success with fundraising and grant writing in its past. So every day, any nonprofit's work must be successful in its programs and successful in its fundraising.

When a nonprofit is formed (also called a start up) its leadership will make or break the organization. The founder(s) may perceive the organization as its own entity, separate from the founder(s) (and how the federal government sees a given nonprofit) that will thrive, flourish, and grow if they operate it in the best interest of the organization's mission (rather than operating it from one's own ego or neuroses). If the start up nonprofit's leadership understands that unless a person has successful, professional, broad, and contemporary nonprofit experience; each of the nonprofit's leaders (from the board members to the executive director, etc.) must educate themselves. They must take responsibility for what the nonprofit will need of its leaders. It will require professional, ethical, contemporary best practices in everything from creating the organization's bylaws to how to fundraise, to how to expand the number of fundraising programs your organization raises revenue through, annually. Successfully helping the cause that your organization is serving depends upon your organization running well, growing, succeeding, and retaining its best volunteers and donors, while growing its community. The start up nonprofit can raise seed money (grant money that funds new nonprofits, new nonprofits' programs, etc.). They can also raise grants, prior to having their official 501(c)(3) status by locating and forging a formal (legal) relationship with a fiscal sponsor (a nonprofit that already has its 501(c)(3) status who promises to pass 100% of any money your organization raises to your nonprofit (that has yet to receive its official status)). The way that start ups can make the case to potential grant donors that they should receive a grant is to demonstrate the level of expertise, professionalism, and established community members amongst its board. It can also demonstrate the need in the community that the organization will uniquely and successfully meet. It can show that they know the issue, they have experts to execute the work, and they are addressing an issue that isn't being address or maybe isn't being addressed fully.

When a nonprofit becomes what I consider a 'medium sized organization' it has survived its start up stage, thrived, and grown into an organization with success records such as effective leadership, efficient operations, transparent accounting, professional relationships and interactions, and has succeeded at its work towards its mission statement. The mission has driven the major decisions made by most of the organization's past and current board members and other leaders (such as current and past executive directors). The organization has fundraised and raised money well; it's established a few different annual fundraising practices (for example; maybe your organization conducts: donation remittance envelopes in quarterly newsletters, online donation buttons on each web page, annual appeal letters, corporate sponsorships, major donors campaign, a black tie ball, and a golf tournament annually). The successful and stable fundraising calendar (year to year) has provided steady cash flow and allowed the organization's leadership to both budget for the coming year but also plan programmatic growth (for the next three to five years) and build more fundraising or increases in total amounts raised into the nonprofit's fundraising plan (also called a development plan). Perhaps the medium size nonprofit is growing its fundraising by adding grant writing to its fundraising program. Or, maybe the nonprofit has included grant writing in its fundraising work since it started. Either way, this size organization likely has the fundraising and programmatic success to raise grants. It probably makes the case to potential grant donors that they should give to them because they are successful programmatic achievements, or how it builds evaluation methods into its programs to monitor programs' effectiveness and successes (and also uses evaluations to determine what program attributes aren't doing what they were supposed to and need to be changed or ended). Moderately sized nonprofits can demonstrate to potential grant donors that if they contribute a grant to a new program or project, the organization can sustain the program (the program won't 'die on the vine' because the organization can't sustain the new project financially or because of a lack of expertise, etc.). The medium sized organization's board may be new to volunteer leadership but is either learning how to do its job (per the organization's bylaws, state, and federal laws) through maybe board retreats dedicated to board training or by reading seminal books, or taking reputable courses. They are becoming successful expert community leaders, if they aren't already. Staff is in place, and while some or most may only be part time employees, these folks retain the required and necessary credentials, experience, and knowledge to do their jobs; and do them professionally and well.

The long time existing larger nonprofit has reached a 'leader' status in its field of work (and cause). It likely has a well established, connected, experienced board who are able to donate themselves to the organization, in larger amounts, and also have access and influence amongst other community members who contribute at higher amounts, as well. This nonprofit is expert in fundraising. It doesn't just fundraise well, it analyzes fundraising programs for successes and to determine where change or attention is required. It researches potential donors before approaching them and develops potential donors. Its revenue comes from many fundraising methods and each is managed by professional experienced staff, they successfully use donor software (which both greatly improves a nonprofit's relationship with its donors and its capacity to fundraise), and fiscal growth is built into annual development plans and organizational operating budgets. The large established nonprofit knows that half of its work is programmatic and the other half is fundraising. Both must be successful to meet the goals and needs that the mission sets out to address and serve. The big nonprofit's decision making is guided by: the mission (first, and foremost), laws, modern best practices and methods, policy, the bylaws, board development, and contemporary professional nonprofit fundraising methods and nonprofit management best practices. The well established seasoned nonprofit's executive director gets out of the office. He or she is meeting with potential donors and partners of all kinds: foundations; government contacts (e.g. state and federal representatives); colleagues working on the same cause at other nonprofits, at universities, at for-profit companies, and elsewhere; and major donors. The executive director is leaving the programmatic oversight to the Programs Director, and the executive director leaves the day to day fundraising oversight to the Development Director who are each on staff, too. The executive director at the established nonprofit is the 'lead: fundraiser, relationship builder, organizational facilitator', and the lead advocate for the organization and its work. This size organization has been successfully raising grants for years and has established relationships (that it actively acknowledges, manages, and maintains) with most of, if not all, of the potential grant donor entities who work on the same cause as the nonprofit. This organization's strength is int its awareness of its community (donors, potential donors, volunteers, potential volunteers, staff, and potential staff, etc.) and its ability to manage and follow through on its current revenue, programs, operations, accounting, and all other aspects of its operations.

To successfully raise grant money you must make the case to the potential donor and show why they should give (the need) and that they're making a wise investment (the program and nonprofit are going to be around next month and next year and will be successful). Grant writing involves the same steps throughout all phases of a nonprofit's life. You can see how critical it is (for now and posterity) that a nonprofit agency keep organized grant files and records. You can also see that a successful nonprofit focuses always on its mission. The health and success of any nonprofit depends upon the people who manage and lead it (now, and year to year); and their ability to be proactive in their own nonprofit operations education/knowledge, networking, and fundraising. Whether a nonprofit exists year to year depends upon its success at its mission and programs, how well it does its work, how well it markets itself, how well it fundraises for today AND for tomorrow, its leaders' ability to both plan for the future and execute on those plans (programmatic and fundraising), its level of professionalism in all aspects of its operations, and its reputation. Not so surprisingly; potential donors of any kind (grant donors, corporate sponsors, or individuals) give to nonprofits who are succeeding at the very same attributes that are required to be a strong and healthy organization. Who wants to invest in a poorly run, failing nonprofit that is run by leaders who do not think enough of the responsibilty that they took on when they accepted the board position to learn their job and what it takes to be professional and successful at it? No one.

Grants for Educators From K - 12 through Undergraduate Global Climate Change Studies

From The Foundation Center...

NASA Seeks Proposals for Global Climate Change Education

Deadline: August 29, 2008 (Notice of Intent)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration Office of Education ( ), in cooperation with NASA's Science Mission Directorate, is soliciting proposals for the NASA Global Climate Change Education project.

The GCCE project is designed to improve the quality of global climate change and Earth system science education at the elementary, secondary, and undergraduate levels. Each funded proposal is expected to take advantage of NASA's unique contributions in climate science to enhance students' academic experiences and/or to improve educators' abilities to engage and stimulate their students.

The GCCE project considers proposals in three funding categories.
Proposals are invited in the following categories: efforts to improve K-12 teacher competency for global climate change education; efforts that strengthen the teaching and learning about global climate change within formal education systems; and/or efforts that provide opportunities for undergraduate students, pre-service teachers, and/or in-service teachers to actively engage in global climate change science research.

It is anticipated that approximately twenty small awards and four larger awards will be made through this RFP. Small awards may be up to $150,000, in total, dispersed over a period of up to two years. Larger awards may be up to $500,000, in total, dispersed over a period of up to three years.

Proposals will only be accepted from educational institutions or other nonprofit organizations pursuant to the authority of the NASA Grant and Cooperative Agreement Handbook Section 1260.12(c)(2). NASA Centers, Federal Agencies, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, education-related companies, and other institutions may apply through partnership with the lead organization.

See the NASA Office of Education Web site for further information on this and other education funding opportunities.

RFP Link:

Sunday, August 03, 2008

What About That Other Nonprofit, In Town, That's Similar To Us?

Often, it's the case, that no matter what cause your nonprofit is serving, there will be another nonprofit, not too far away, who does similar work as yours'. What about that?

Let's say that you and I work for a nonprofit that is working to protect ten specific species of start fish and those ten species happen to live in the ocean twenty miles from our office. Let's say, too, that Save Northeastern American Starfish, where we work, is a local nonprofit. It was started here, has had its office here, and serves the local starfish community. Our mission is to educate the local community about what it can do to retain our ten local starfish species, now and forever; by avoiding certain household products that harm our local marine life; and what can be done to help them thrive.

Let's say, too, that thirty minutes, across town, there's another nonprofit who also works to preserve star fish. They are Save America's Starfish; a regional or local office of the national nonprofit organization. While they are working to preserve the same ten species as our organization, they are not so singularly focused or 'locally' focused. Save America's Starfish works to preserve all species of starfish that live in or near the United States including Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Alaska. This includes the local starfish, of course, but their scope is vast compared to ours'. Their mission statement makes it clear that they are preserving all starfish populations in and outside of North America and are focused on preserving and cleaning their habitats.

You and I are familiar with our nearby colleagues' work. Their national campaigns are well funded, effective, and the organization's reputation is excellent. do you and I feel about them, their work, their proximity, and how does their existence so near to ours' effect our organization and its work?

If you read Seeking Grant Money Today with some regularity, you may know that I am a proponent of mission statements. Some people are not. I know. The reason why I believe they're important is that when a start up nonprofit is forming, or an organization who is rethinking itself, or modernizing its work needs to clarify, solidify, and pinpoint its reason for existence (e.g. the work it will do to serve the cause that it is about to); the process of developing a mission statement (and it's a long exercise) is extremely valuable. It should be done among the organization's leadership. It forces discussion, allows people to ruminate on ideas, wording, goals, the actual work that will be done, etc. Creating a mission statement is an opportunity for the group of people running an organization to clarify and solidify what the organization will do and achieve.

If two similar nonprofits (or more) exist in a single community, chances are that while they may work on the same cause (or issue), they are likely working on different aspects of the issue, or doing similar work for different populations effected by the cause, etc. The key in similar organization being near oneanother are their differences. For instance, the nonprofit that you and I works for is preserving starfish, like our neighbors, the national organization; but we are solely focused on preserving our region's local starfish. The national organization is working to preserve them, as well, but are also working to preserve all other species in our hemisphere. We are similar but different nonprofits. More to the point; if our nonprofit is thirty years old, and theirs' is twenty-five years old; it's important to note that since both nonprofits have been successful and still exist (and are being supported by our communities), then we are each doing our respective mission statements' work and conducting internal organizational operations in ways that the donors and volunteers perceive as necessary, current, and successful. Our organization and theirs' is meeting a real need and doing each of our respective work well.

Which nonprofits survive over time and who does not is determined, ultimately, by how necessary the work is that the nonprofit is doing; and how effective and transparent the nonprofit's operations are. If the community no longer sees a need for a nonprofit that educated the public about the dangers of not pasteurizing milk, for safety reasons - it is likely because pasteurization is a norm, today, and standard. The issue is now mute. Donations will decline, there will be fewer volunteers, etc. Similarly, if a nonprofit serves people suffering from a particularly aggressive form of cancer, but does not provide an annual operating report to its donors (even when requested); or it spends only 20% of every dollar raised on its programs and work; it will become suspect and ultimately, donors and volunteers will either find other organizations doing similar work to donate to that are run better, or may stop giving to the cause altogether.

To get back to my question, 'how do you and I feel about the nearby noprofit working on a similar cause, their work, their proximity, and how does their existence so near to ours' effect our organization and its work?'...

We may feel competitive with their being similar and so nearby. We may be a bit intimidated by their being a national affiliate as they have larger budgets to spend on everything, and probably have established relationships with major sponsors, foundations, and other donors. We may even be a tad jealous. This is all pretty normal in day to day business - no matter who the colleague may be or work for. The important part of our considering our colleagues is that we must realize who we are, our strengths, what our organization does, and what it has. They're a good organization but so are we. There are benefits to being local. Our local donor base is larger than their local office's is, in our town, because while all of our donors care about starfish, the local folks are concerned for the local species. This isn't' to say that our two organizations don't share some of these donors. Without a doubt we do. My point is that we are local and all of the dollars that we raise stay in our community, here. This is a great point to make to potential donors. It makes our organization distinct in serving the hometown. Some of the local money the national organizaton raises goes to a national market. We know the local business owners, local foundations' leaders, we have a wonderful board mostly made of local folks, and we have strong name and brand recognition within a 100 mile radius. They also have name recognition, but we have learned (via a study) that people 50 miles away from town, or more, do not know that their national organization even has a local office in town. We are very successful at our work (e.g. we set goals for new programs and meet, on average, about 85% of those goals). We are achieving our mission statement's work and its goal. We are transparent and are proud of this excellent internal operating standard and share with potential and current donors that $0.85 of every $1.00 raised goes to programs to save local starfish. We have annual independent professional audits conducted and have passed every one with flying colors. Etc. Their organization is great AND our organization is great.

Just because someone who works on the same cause is nearby, does not mean anything is wrong with our organization or theirs'.

They are working to preserve the starfish communities' environments across the North American hemisphere. We are working to educate the local community how to preserve our ten local species and what can be done locally, to do so. While we both serve starfish, these are two distinct and different mission statements and thereby two distinct nonprofits. Our nonprofit is working to educate the public. Their nonprofit is working to preserve starfish habitats or save the threatened habitats. Their work involves locating and watching starfish populations across the entire hemisphere. Our work involves locating and monitoring local starfish and educating the local public how to preserve and protect them. The two organizations work to protect starfish and each surveys and monitors the species that they serve; but they do not overlap in any other (major) way. This is critical for our nonprofit and theirs' to realize. Our two organizations' work compliments one another, in fact. This is a possible strategic strength.

The differences between us affirm that we each have plenty of work to do and that we are serving different jobs in the community (whether local or national). The differences also demonstrate that we'll don't really compete directly, when each organization fundraises. How is this so? Let's say that both nonprofits send a local woman, Sheila Reilly, a letter requesting a donation in the same week. As long as we do our job and state what we do, what our current programs are, what we have achieved this year, and why we need the money (perhaps for a new education facility including tanks that children can pick up and put down some local species of starfish) and we make the case why this new program is important; we will have made the case for our organization and need. If the other nonprofit requests a donation of Ms. Reilly for a new research project that will remedy a disease that is effecting all starfish across the North American hemisphere; Ms. Reilly could easily donate in response to each request. She may feel strongly that local children who grow up to appreciate their regional starfish will protect them, tomorrow. She may also feel strongly that without knowing how to remedy a disease that is impacting local and all starfish in our part of the planet - we can not hope for future generations to see and enjoy starfish. For more discussion about whether nonprofits compete for donors' dollars read, "Upping the Odds In Getting Any Grant Or Do We Compete..."

The leadership at our nonprofit and the leadership at the other nonprofit would be wise to be confident in their respective organizations, each organization's reputation and capabilities, and think strategically TOGETHER. If the leadership at our two nonprofits truly care about starfish, then they must see that our work compliments one another to the benefit of starfish; the goal!

Many funders, today, (including grant donors, in particular) like to see nonprofits collaborate. Why? It lessens the likelihood that nonprofits will redo each other's work. More progress to the end goal can be made, and quicker. It also increases the likelihood for success for each organization because each will have access to the other's knowledge, experience, and that is often a bit different organization to organization. Collaboration strengthens the likely outcomes for any goal.

It is very common, today, for two nonprofits working on the same cause (or more) to fundraise together, too. If our two nonprofits design a new program together (perhaps a public outreach education campaign) that will benefit both local and national starfish we can approach foundations for grants for the program; and send letters locally and nationally to established donors and sponsors. The key is to know and explain the two nonprofits' strengthens, the differences (which is important because more is being served than what just one nonprofit could do), and the opportunity collaboration presents (more could be done). Perhaps the program is what is called a model program; one that has never been done before but could be replicated by other nonprofits doing similar work. Donors love model programs.

I am of the mind that besides mission statements, collaborations between nonprofits are good, positive, powerful, and modern strengths. I have never seen any good example demonstrating nonprofit collaboration as bad. As long as each organization is clear about what it does and its strengths, is a professional, well run, transparent, and successful organization - their cause could be well served. The community could be strengthened. The potential is there.

Grants for Feature Length Documentary Films That Advance Social Entrepreneurship

From The Foundation Center...

Sundance Documentary Film Program and Skoll Foundation
Announce Stories of Change: Social Entrepreneurship in
Focus Through Documentary

Deadline: August 15, 2008

The Sundance Institute's Documentary Film Program and the Skoll Foundation ( ) have launched Stories of Change, a three-year initiative designed to explore how independent feature-length documentary film can advance knowledge about social entrepreneurship.

As part of this effort, the Stories of Change Fund will consider independent feature-length documentary projects in all categories of development, production, and post-production. Completed films are not eligible. Film projects must be completed by 2010. Grant awards will be made on a case-by-case basis and may range up to $150,000US per film.

Grants will be awarded based on the following criteria: all films must highlight and/or include a contemporary social entrepreneur, his or her organization, and focus on an issue(s) in which the entrepreneur is seeking systemic and positive change; be feature length (over 65 minutes); be independently produced, with creative control held by the producing/directing team; and display directorial vision/aesthetic and have the potential for theatrical release.

Visit the Sundance Institute Web site for complete program information and application procedures.

RFP Link: