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 ( ) 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:

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:
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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.

Grants To Scholars' and Professionals' Contributions To Understanding Ethics & Responsibility In Public Communication

From The Foundation Center...

Page and Johnson Legacy Scholar Competition Grants to Foster Study of Integrity in Public Communications

Deadline: March 6, 2009 The Arthur W. Page Center ( at the Penn State College of Communications has announced its fifth Page and Johnson Legacy Scholar competition for the study of integrity in public communication.

The center will award up to $75,000 in total grants of $1,000 to $25,000 each to support scholars and professionals making important contributions to knowledge, practice, or public understanding of ethics and responsibility in public communication.

The center seeks to foster a modern understanding and application of the Page Principles and the Johnson & Johnson Credo by supporting innovative research, educational, or public service projects in a wide variety of academic disciplines and professional fields. Last year, eleven academics and professionals were awarded a total of $54,500 in grants.

The themes for this year's call for proposals are ethics in public communication; ethics of environmental communication; how company credos and codes of ethics affect corporate behavior; the role of public relations in fostering corporate responsibility; curriculum development in and pedagogical approaches to ethics in public relations; and other areas of Page's or Johnson's legacy, including political communication, public opinion formation and attitude change, history of public relations, health communication, and international broadcasting.

RFP Link:>

New Orleans Nonprofits Challenged To Build Endowments In Part Through Matching Funds

[If you aren't sure what matching grant or matching funds programs are, read my post, "What Are Matching Grants? I'll Explain..."]

From The Foundation Center...

New Orleans Nonprofit Organizations Invited to Take Freeman Challenge to Build Endowments

Deadline: November 17, 2008 The Richard West Freeman Endowment Challenge through the Greater New Orleans Foundation ( ) is designed to assist nonprofit organizations within the Greater New Orleans area looking to create an endowment for the first time or build on an existing one.

An endowed fund is one where the principal is kept intact and invested, with only a certain portion of the investment income distributed back to nonprofits for their general use. Often, nonprofits will see their endowments grow by reinvesting earnings and by adding additional contributions from donors.

The Freeman Challenge will match one dollar for every two dollars raised by nonprofits up to $15,000. Nonprofits will have the opportunity to select a preference for one of three matching categories: 1) the nonprofit raises $10,000, the Freeman Challenge matches $5,000; 2) the nonprofit raises $20,000, the Freeman Challenge matches $10,000; and 3) the nonprofit raises $30,000, the Freeman Challenge matches $15,000.

Nonprofit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) organizations are eligible to apply, as are organizations that have a fiscal agent relationship with a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Visit the GNOF Web site for complete program information and an application form.

RFP Link:>

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Write An Annual Appeal Letter To Raise Relatively Quick Funds

Raising grants is not a fast fundraising method. Since our economy is tough right now, I am going to provide your with a free fundraising method consultation, right here. Convio just released a survey that discovered that 70% of Americans are planning on donating this holiday season. Mailing out letters to raise donations is a fast and effective way to raise money. I suggest that whether your organization has before, or not, you use an annual appeal mailing to raise a bit of cash this quarter. An annual appeal letter is a written request for a donation that is usually sent once a year, at the same time every year, to people, families, and local businesses who have donated to your organization before AND to households and businesses who haven't given yet, but are likely to donate to it. Traditionally these letters are sent by thousands of American nonprofits to its donors (and to potential donors) in the final quarter of the year. We are in the first month of the final quarter, right now. Whether your organization has sent an annual appeal letter before or not, it is something that you can do to raise money in these tough times, and again, year to year, when our economy rebounds. It is one of many ways that any nonprofit can raise money.

Annual appeal letters come in many different voices, styles, and messages. For instance, some nonprofits send annual appeal requests that are many pages long. Others send an annual appeal letter with the message "update your annual membership now" or "annual appeal (for the coming year)" on the envelope. Some letters tell the donor/letter recipients about the dire situations that our community faces but explain how, through your donation, the situation can be bettered. Other letters provide the recipient with a list of the nonprofit's
accomplishments for the year, and then they explain their goals for the coming year (thereby describing where the donor's donation was spent last year and where it will be spent if they give, now, for the coming year).

The costs associated with using an annual appeal letter to raise money are the following:
__ Volunteer or staff member who will write the letter (time, skills, experience)
__ Word processing software or a typewriter to write the master draft on
__ Nonprofit's letterhead to copy the master draft of the annual appeal onto
__ Nonprofit's letterhead envelopes
__ A mode to get donors' names and addresses onto the envelopes (either printing each envelope, printing mailing labels and peeling and sticking them onto the envelopes, or hand writing each recipient's name and address onto the envelopes)
__ Folding and stuffing each letter into each envelope (including sealing the letters)
__ Postage
__ Dropping the mailing at the Post Office or a mailing service
__ Software, such an Access Database, an Excel file, or recipe cards, etc. to record and track all donations received. This IS really important. Donors are a critical asset to any nonprofit - and any who gives to your nonprofit at all, ever (including people or companies who give items) should be noted and considered valuable. Track which fundraiser a specific donor gives to and any other preferences that they share or request and follow through with them. These folks are demonstrating their interest and support in YOUR organization when they give. Approach them, again, next year via the fundraiser they gave to this year, at the very least. These folks are your nonprofit's investors. Any donor may give more next year than they give this year. Treat them VERY well (no matter the value (high or low) of the contribution they make). What organization can afford to pick and choose its donors? None.
__ Thank all donors (providing a legal receipt to the donors for their tax records) Again, this isn't' optional - this is critical. In order for a donor to give again, they must be recognized and they must be asked to contribute, again, at least annually. This is the nonprofit's minimum fundraising job in its relationship with any donor. You may send each donor a thank you e-mail (which is cheaper in office supplies and more environmental) but only works if you have the donor's current e-mail address. You can phone donors to thank them but this can be time consuming and costly if your donors are long distance. Traditionally a letter is sent and this will require more letterhead paper and envelopes; someone's time, and more postage. These costs can be considered investment in future donations received. All thanks should be sent to any donor right after the donation is received. Do not fail to acknowledge any and all support that your organization receives - it is one small way to increase the chances that the donor will give again to your nonprofit.

__ Donation remittance envelopes (with the nonprofit's name and address pre-printed onto the envelope). Some include postage on the remittance envelope, for the donor's convenience, and some do not. The donation remittance envelope goes into the envelope with the letter for the donor to send the contribution in.
__ Official Nonprofit Postal Permit from the United States Postal Service (which is a reduced price for bulk postage and any 501(c)(3) nonprofit can apply for). If yours' is an official nonprofit and you do not have a permit, yet, and your organization sends bulk mailings (more than a minimum number of pieces of mail at once) apply for one. It saves money!
__ Printing service that will receive the final draft of the annual appeal letter and will print the letter, onto your organization's letterhead (including your envelopes), and do everything from printing the letters to also printing the envelopes, folding and stuffing the envelopes, including a remittance envelope, sealing all envelopes, stamping all envelopes, and getting the mailing into the mail, itself.

Weigh the annual appeal fundraiser cost/benefit ratio; what will the costs be to your organization and how much could you realisticly raise using this method? In other words, if you add up what it would really cost for your organization to send an annual appeal letter to every local individual, family, and business who's contributed to your agency over the last two years plus others who are likely to give but haven't yet, let's say; and then estimate how much would be raised (it is usually safe to expect a 5% - 10% response rate from a letter request - depending on how often your organization has used the fundraiser in the past). A fundraising method that is repeated annually, and includes the people who contributed to it last year; will likely increase revenue year to year after the third year, or so; on average. There is an upfront cost to beginning a new fundraiser which is fine as long as that cost is expected and paid for, in three years, when the event or method will begin to raise a net profit. So, hypothetically for instance, let's say that we're going to mail 100 letters because we have the names and addresses of 50 local people, families, and businesses who have donated to our organization in the past; plus you and I came up with 50 other local businesses and households who we think cares about the cause that our organization serves; so we're going to add them to our mailing. Let's say, too, that we have estimated that it will cost $50, total, to create a 100 count annual appeal mailing (this means we're mailing 100 annual appeal letters); and we expect a 5% return rate because we've never used an annual appeal before to raise money (and the 5% return rate is a conservative but fair response rate estimate), then we will receive 20 donation responses to the mailing (5% of 100 donation requests (letters)= 20 donations received in response). You may react to receiving 20 donations as "nothing" or "not worth writing an annual appeal letter' but stick with me. Let's do some more math. We haven't figured out the "benefit" of our "cost/benefit analysis" yet. To figure out the benefit of our hypothetical mailing, let's estimate that 5% of the responses will be $5 donations or less, that 10% of the donations will be $100 or more, and 85% of the donations will be between $20 and $50; we will raise ( 5% of 20 response donations =1 donation in response; so we'll just estimate $5) +(10% of 20 responses = 2 donations; so we'll estimate 2 x 100 = $200) + (85% of 20 donations in response = 17; so we'll estimate 17 x $20 = $340) our hypothetical "benefit" of mailing out an annual appeal is that we've estimated that we will likely raise at least $5 + $200 + $340 = $545! Now...we have estimated a fair and realistic cost/benefit ratio for our hypothetical 100 pieces annual appeal mailing; we estimated that the nonprofit would spend $50 and we have conservatively estimated that we'd raise $545! Could we receive more $5 donations than we estimated, and less $20 donations than we have guessed? Of course. We could also raise more $100 donations and less $20 ones, than we estimated, too. It would be worth investing the $50 to raise a likely $545, and find out! Remember, too, that as long as the nonprofit sends another annual appeal letter this time, next year, and again the following years; we'll likely increase what we raise, year to year. Let's write and mail our organization's first annual appeal letter...

For everyone who has written annual appeal letters before there is a different way to write one. My advice is as follows:

__ Write a one page letter that is easy to read and easy to scan. Imagine that the recipient just picked up their mail after a long day at work. Imagine the recipient opens the envelope and just scans your annual appeal letter for content (because he/she is tired). This means, when you can use less paragraphs to list accomplishments, for instance, and list accomplishments as bullet points or highlight accomplishments stated in paragraphs by bolding them, etc. Set the critical information off from the other type.

__ Be clear, succinct, and informative. If you write a first draft and took a paragraph to say 'we have decreased costs and increased services during 2008' then cut the paragraph and get to the point by replacing the paragraph with a short sentence or phrase in a paragraph or in a bullet list.

__ Use visuals if you can. Excel allows equations or tables to be converted into pie charts that can be copied and pasted into Word documents (or letters). Charts of any kind, if data is entered to them correctly, can be very informative and easy to learn from, in a small space.

__ Tell the truth. If your organization has accomplished two out of three of its goals for the year - discuss the two successes. If your organization is threatened with being closed because of the economy - tell your donors. These folks can dig deeper into their wallets, this year, if they believe in your organization and support the work that it does. If they aren't told the truth they can't support your organization's true financial situation.

__ Tell a short, clear, honest story that demonstrates how your organization achieved its mission statement's goal this year. It is absolutely fine to use a current client's success story (as long as you either get their permission from the client to divulge what you are going to, or change their name to protect one's privacy). You could also simply list all successes in bullet points format. Just be honest but don't be afraid to share successes. Donors are investors, in effect, and should be told how their money achieved success in the community!

__ I am of the mind, and others will differ with me here, that in this economy especially it will be better to make a request based on your organization's: recent and current successes, goals for the coming year, and the clear explanation of what the nonprofit uniquely does and serves in the community that no other nonprofit does. Provide all three points to the potential donor. I do not think that more "the sky is falling" predictions, or dire negative predictions about the cause your organization serves makes the case why a donor should give, well at all, but this year especially. Americans are worn down by the economy, the split in the nation by politics, and the dire warnings about climate change. What Americans need is a positive message. For instance, if yours' is an animal welfare group and it sends an annual appeal request asking for donations because "1,000 dogs and cats will starve to death in our city in 2009 if you don't give" - it may be true, but the donor can be asked to assist those 1,000 animals in a less bullying or dire way. For instance, the message could be turned around to speak to the organization's successes and its unique capabilities by stating in this hypothetical letter, "Our Town for Animals is the only nonprofit in our city that increased how many dogs and cats were saved from starvation during 2008. In 2009 Our Town for Animals has planned and budgeted to save the number of cats and dogs that we did in 2008 PLUS another 1,000 cats and dogs, at least. Your contribution will be spent to provide this life saving program for our community's dogs and cats." As long as what you state is true, you are giving your donors something specific to expect, plus you're providing the excellent track record, and you're sharing that there has been planning and budgeting for this program. You are raising donors who can clearly expect specific outcomes for 2009, from whatever they contribute now.

__ Close the letter with a clear request for a contribution. You can suggest a donation amount but if you do, be certain that it is a reasonable but higher amount that the donor gave last time, and also realistic for the particular recipient. If you can't personalize each letter that will get printed, it is best to not request a certain amount because the donor may have had a larger amount to contribute in mind until they read that you suggested giving $20. Let the donor decide the amount, if you can't include a suggested, personalized, donation amount that is reasonably higher than what the donor gave recently.

__ Say "thank you". Whether or not the recipient of the letter gives or not, you want to convey to them that your organization appreciates them considering your nonprofit's request. Leave a door open by using the basics that your parents taught you; be polite.

__ I am not going to say that you have to include a remittance envelope, that you have to have the whole mailing printed by professional printers, or that the envelopes must be addressed by a computer/printer or with mailing labels. They're nice touches, but not one of them are necessary to be successful at raising donations through an annual appeal letter.

__ Plan out this fundraiser. You may think 'well, this isn't a golf tournament that we're doing, here' meaning this isn't a lavish event which requires planning; but it is a fundraiser, nonetheless. If you aren't clear about the involved expense, the estimated net earnings, the timeline, who is responsible for what and when, and if you don't track results; your nonprofit won't be able to review lessons learned and make appropriate changes to be even more successful next year. Help yourself, the organization, and the donors by giving this and each fundraiser the necessary (professional) due diligence, tracking, and responses that each should receive.

__ Plan to have the mailing done and into the mail by a specific date. The earlier that your organization can reach potential donors, the better. The end of the year is the time that nonprofits send annual appeals because it's when Americans are considering the write offs they'd like to be able to claim on their tax filings. Said another way, Americans receive a lot of annual appeals at the end of the year. This is OK because everyone supports different causes and different nonprofits. Still, it's all the more reason to set your organization apart and clearly state why the donor should give to your organization at all, by providing its successes, unique capabilities, and the reason that it deserves the donor's support; and to get your request out early. If your organization can get its annual appeal mailing into the mail before November 12th, this year, for instance; the letter will get to recipients earlier than many other organizations'.

You can see that the annual appeal is intended to be a one time a year fundraising method that injects the organization with a single large amount of money. Can you mail your potential donors and regular donors other letters requesting money, again, during the year? Of course you can - it's important though that each of all of the fundraising methods that your organization uses is clearly different so that donors don't feel overwhelmed, like just an AMT to your organization, or like they're being worked over. So, if you want to send another letter requesting a donation in six months, let's say - just be clear that it's another campaign such as your nonprofit's annual "help a child" campaign (if your organization serves children, for instance); or the annual "seed the birdcage" fundraiser if your organization assists birds or animals. If a nonprofit diversifies and increases the number of fundraising methods that it uses in a single year, each different fundraiser will reach various individual donors differently. You want to reach all different potential donors as they wish to be asked for a contribution. For instance, perhaps Mrs. Smith prefers to give to the annual dinner your nonprofit holds; but Mr. Jones like to give to the annual appeal letter each year. Each fundraiser (in this case, the annual dinner or the annual appeal letter) are equally viable and good methods. There are all kinds of donors (and potential donors) in your community who will have different tastes. If, hypothetically, Mrs. Smith enjoys the dinner that your organization holds because she and her family go each year with their next door neighbors; and Mr. Jones likes giving to the annual appeal letter each year because his schedule is too busy to be able to attend a social event (and give in that manner), he can rely upon being asked for a contribution (to a cause that he holds dear and from the nonprofit that he believes serves the cause the best (your nonprofit)) regularly and annually - he knows your annual appeal letter will keep him up to date in his contributions, year to year, but won't require his attendance at an event that he doesn't have time to go to.

The annual appeal letter is a relatively easy fundraising method that can raise a larger net donation amount quicker, the same time each year, than many other fundraising methods. In these tough times, easier and cheaper fundraising methods are going to be key to any nonprofit's survival.

Grants Available to Camps, Schools, or Other Nonprofits Introducing Youth to Manufacturing And Engineering Careers

From The Foundation Center...

Grants Available to Support Summer Camps to Introduce Young People to Careers in Manufacturing and Engineering

Deadline: December 12, 2008

Through a collaborative effort between the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association Foundation ( ) and the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation ( ), grants ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 are available to not-for-profit organizations and educational institutions capable of offering overnight or day-camp experiences in summer 2009 that introduce young people to careers in manufacturing and engineering.

The Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation is dedicated to introducing young people to the joys of tinkering, inspiring the next generation of skilled manual artists, engineers, and inventors. The FMA Foundation is an educational, research, and charitable organization that promotes metal forming and fabricating technology in manufacturing.

The purpose of the manufacturing camps is to provide a positive, hands-on experience so young people will consider manufacturing as a future career option. Camps must target young people between the ages of 12 and 16. Preference will be given to organizations serving minority populations.

Grant funds may be used for expenses related to curriculum development and instruction, as well as direct expenses such as housing, meals, transportation, and supplies.

Further information and the grant application are available at the FMA Foundation Web site.

RFP Link:

Sunday, October 05, 2008

What Can We Nonprofits Do In This Uncertain Economy?

Without a doubt the way a nonprofit best survives a tough economy is to have already worked out and have ready an effective, viable, and all-encompassing organizational stressed-budget contingency plan to deal with financial crises; such as our difficult economy today.

I know, though, if we think about your operations a year or two years ago, that it would not have been easy to prepare or operate on foresight when expenses mounted 'today'. Investments in contingency plans or tomorrow, for some organizations are just too expensive (in particular, for small or start up nonprofits).

In tough economies we all need to save more, spend less, bring in more income that we have been. For some specific suggestions from other nonprofit leaders detailing how to survive these times read my post, "A Few Excellent Suggestions For Nonprofits To Survive These Uncertain Economic Times"; "Your Nonprofit Needs Money During This Economic Pinch? Read On..."; "Want to Spend Less on Your Non Profit's Fundraising? Here's How...". [If you'd like to know more or if you're curious about other aspects of fundraising, grant writing, nonprofit operations, or management search for the term by placing it in the box in the upper left hand side of this web page and then click the "Search Blog" button to the box's right.]

But, especially being nonprofits, even in crises or tough economies we must keep the mission of our organizations front and center, in mind, each step of the way. The people who volunteer or work for your nonprofit are not what is the most important - what is crucial to each and every nonprofit is your nonprofit's mission statement and the need your organization meets in the community (or the work that the organization does to serve your mission statement). The mission statement is the nonprofit's reason for existence; it differentiates your organization from all others, even those working in the same cause or issue; it guides or should guide each and every leadership decision made for the organization; it is why and how your organization received its official 501(c)... designation from the federal government to raise money; it is why your organization is given the benefit of tax free income ala the federal government; and it is the key that your organization's leadership uses to focus, clarify, and hone down what the organization does (e.g. new programs), how the agency does it, and for whom. All decision making must be viewed through the lens of the mission.

On Friday Congress passed a Wall Street bailout bill and the President indicates that he will sign it on Monday. Everyone in Congress who has spoken before the press, including the President himself, have said and reiterated that we just don't know what will happen next. The bailout will be used to strengthen weak markets so, hopefully, banks will begin to issue loans again to those who truly and really qualify for them. Once the economy's machinery moves again - the economy should regain strength and then grow.

So, in a way, your organization is being given an opportunity. Do you enjoy a good challenge? This economy and what may be coming is exactly where your organization is and what it will face next. Rise to the challenge this presents. Plan. If your organization is wildly making cuts to the fiscal budget, in reaction, or if your organization is attempting to raise money from a brand new fundraising event (on average it, takes three to five contiguous years of holding the same event before it breaks even and then begins to make money for your organization) - the nonprofit is grasping desperately at straws. Instead of putting energy where resources will just get used up and may not pay returns, yet; learn modern nonprofit best practices and operations and figure out how best to fundraise tomorrow in a planned out less expensive way; implement more effective operations and planning; sit down with key leaders and create a contingency plan; and instead of freaking out and reacting plan how your organization will save (even just a bit each month), and where you can lessen costs (e.g. buying in bulk, collaborating with a similar organization in providing programs to share expenses, shopping office supplies and buy where you truly pay less, talk with any major donor and ask if they can pay for any one of your larger expense for the year, utilize volunteers and train them well to be able to work special events or even pitch in with office administration, etc.).

Do not put your nonprofit in a position where it's left to react. Learn. If you don't know professional, modern, nonprofit best practices it's OK. What's not OK is ignoring that you are a novice or not familiar with what to do for the organization in certain situations. Learn. The nonprofit sector is no less a professional business sector than the technology sector, the retail sector, or the service industry. There are very specialized skills and knowledge necessary to run a strong, effective, and growing nonprofit. So, learn. Also, turn to your organization's community. These times are when you need to ask your nonprofit's community for a bit more. Ask donors for a bit more, ask volunteers what more they may be able to provide, locate a few more sponsors or in kind donors than your operations raised last year, talk with your major donors and share the true situation and ask what they may be able to do to help, pull your organization's leadership together and plan.

Where can you learn? Read my posts: "Places, Resources, and Ways to Learn Everything From Fundraising To Other Nonprofit Operations (Some Are Free)..." and "Some Free Resources..." for good suggestions that are standards in the nonprofit sector.

Grants for 50 Elementary Schools' Programs and Projects

From The Foundation Center...

Goody's Family Clothing Offers Funding for School Needs

Deadline: November 1, 2008

A philanthropic program of Goody's Family Clothing> ( ), Good Deeds for Schools is a grant program designed to help local schools pay for the things they need but cannot afford through regular education funding.

Through the program, Goody's will award $10,000 each to fifty schools in communities where Goody's stores are located. Grants may be used to fund projects and programs such as a new computer lab, updated textbooks, an arts enrichment program, or any other project that will improve the recipient school's educational environment.

Grants will be awarded based on criteria, including a compelling need, an executable plan, and a wise use of resources. Any elementary or secondary school -- public or private -- is invited to submit an application. Anyone with a vested interest in a school -- students, parents, and teachers -- is allowed to participate in the grant application process.

Students are also encouraged to help make the case as to why their school deserves the funding. All completed applications must be signed by a school administrator and hand-delivered to an associate at a Goody's store by the deadline. Each Goody's store will select one nominee from among the applications received. That nominee will be forwarded to the Good Deeds Board for the final competition, in which fifty schools will be selected to receive a $10,000 grant. Visit the program's Web site for complete program guidelines.

RFP Link: For additional RFPs in Education, visit: