Sunday, May 25, 2008

Helpful Tips To Raise Corporate Grants

There are many different kinds of foundations; corporate, family, community, private, etc.

Corporate foundations are typically the community or charity arm of a corporation. Many corporations have them such as Home Depot, Coke a Cola, Microsoft, and others. Usually, if a corporation has a foundation you can locate information about it on the company's website, under maybe their "About Us", "Community Involvement", "Corporate Information", "Foundation", or another similar heading.

Companies provide grants and in kind donations (donations that are items rather than dollars) to contribute to the communities they do business in, to further their employees' volunteer work in the community, to address a need that exists in tandem with or is similar to the company's own work or mission statement, etc. While it's easy to cynically typify all corporations as only providing community assistance to simply increase their bottom line; it isn't always the case. Yes, companies who provide donations improve their brand recognition and corporate image, they receive sponsor recognition such as having their name and/or logo placed on materials associated with whatever they donated towards, and they ingratiate themselves to the communities they serve through their foundations. I do not see how these are negatives, in response to the cynicism, and in fact, it is good for nonprofits that corporations benefit in this way. Corporations' motivation is their financial bottom line, and if they can benefit in these ways to better their revenue, it only ensures that corporations will continue to give to nonprofits in the future. As long as no ethical, legal, or ratified rules, bylaws, or laws are broken by the nonprofit or the donor - it is good that the donor 'wins' from donating, just as the community does.

If you understand and accept that corporations give for some altruistic reasons and also for some fiscal motivations, you begin to up the chances and amounts you can raise from corporate foundations because you begin to understand what they want in order to give.

Here are ten tips to help you raise corporate foundations' support:

10. Approach a corporate foundation as you would a family or community foundation; do your research to be sure that the corporate foundation you're applying to gives to the cause your nonprofit serves, be sure that they give to organizations that serve the geographic location that your agency serves, and be sure that they give to whichever program, project, item, etc. that your organization needs money for. You can find all of this out by looking at the foundation's giving guidelines. If you don't know what giving guidelines are, click on the link.

9. Follow the corporate foundation's giving guidelines. If, for instance, they state in their giving guidelines that they only donate grants to nonprofits who submit their application to their corporation's local stores' managers; then follow this direction and only submit your application to the manager at your local outlet of their store.

8. Corporate foundations like to give to nonprofits where their employees (or retirees) volunteer. So, track who each of your volunteers are by not simply asking them for their contact information. Be proactive for your nonprofit's fundraising by requesting the employer's name and human resources department contact information from each of your volunteers. Some of your employees will be retired - that's OK! Ask them which organization they retired from, and if it's a corporation that has a foundation (or granting program), you'll probably find that the retiree's former employer's foundation will honor its retirees volunteerism as they do their current employees.

7. Check your volunteers' employers' human resources policies and look into whether they match employees' (and retirees') volunteer hours and/or donations with a matching donation. Many do! Often the only way to get the matching donation is to submit the corporation's form (found at human resources) indicating that you received a donation from their employee/retiree.

6. Check whether your volunteers' employers (or retirees' employers) offer their employees/retirees regular giving fund deductions from payroll (or benefits). For instance, large employers, such as Boeing, offer their employees the opportunity to donate some regular amount of their choice (that is deducted from the employee's paycheck, regularly) to the charity of their choice, as often as they'd like. If you aren't sure if your nonprofit is on one of your volunteer's employer's giving program nonprofits list; call the employer's human resources department and ask how you can add your nonprofit (official 501(c)(3)) to their list (so that any one of their employees, not just the ones volunteering with you, can choose to give to your organization regularly, on an ongoing basis). If it is the case, be sure to share that you have employees or former employees volunteering with your organization.

5. Corporations will often only give in the communities where they have stores, or where their employees live, or only where they do business. Be sure you check their giving guidelines and understand to whom, where, and what kinds of organizations and funding goals they give to.

4. When you apply to a corporate foundation, let them know (succinctly, honestly, and in total) how many of their employees volunteer with your organization; or if you serve some of their employees, state how many; or if their local store has a strong history with your organization and you must submit your grant application to a national office address - tell the corporate office about this existing relationship. Always let a corporation know how they have ties to your organization, if any recent ties exist. Never give names unless a volunteer or any person has given authorization to do so.

3. Your nonprofit may have many connections to any given corporation. If you don't create a protocol where each of your nonprofits volunteers are asked to provide their employer or the employer's name that they retired from (and to keep that info up to date with you), how can you know what ties your organization has? You need to manage this information because it leads to different kinds of assistance, including grants (it's well worth taking the time to do this administrative work). You may have board members who work for or who retired from a given corporation. You may have regular volunteers who drive clients around, or do office work, or you may have a regular group of local retirees who builds wheelchair ramps for your organization's clients, etc. Really scour all of your affiliations, connections, contacts, etc. and think about who all works for your organization on a volunteer basis. Then...ask who employs/employed them.

2. Track volunteers' work hours by asking them to do so, always, on the honor system. Create a form or easy online form and help them get into the habit of always reporting their volunteer hours. When you write a grant proposal, you want to be able to say, for instance, to the Coke A Cola Corporation, we have 25 Coke A Cola employees who regularly volunteer with us. In the previous fiscal year, the 25 Coke employees donated 2,400 hours, total, to (and then list which projects and programs). It is very powerful for the corporation to understand its ties to your nonprofit but it's equally as powerful for them to see that your nonprofit values its volunteers' contributions enough to track even this kind of donation (time and energy).

1. Think of any approach to a corporate foundation as an opportunity to create a 'strategic alliance' in your community, or a partner. It's also always a public relations opportunity. If someone at a corporation in your community hasn't heard of your organization, or doesn't know what you folks do - at the very least, a grant application is an opportunity to tell them! Tell them what your organization does, but also share your successes, your track record, and demonstrate the quality, not just successes of your nonprofit.

If you go about raising grants from corporate foundations by understanding and accepting their needs; while stating your organization's own; the relationship could be long lasting and very powerful for your cause.

Grants for Redwood Forests Education

From The Foundation Center...

Save-the-Redwoods League Accepting Education Grant Applications

Deadline: June 30, 2008

The Save-the-Redwoods League ( http://www.savetheredwoods.org/ ) has announced the availability of education grant funds to schools, park cooperating associations, and other qualified nonprofits engaged in quality redwood education.

Since 2000, Save-the-Redwoods League has awarded more than a hundred and fifty grants to dedicated educators who provide high-quality redwood forest education both in and out of the classroom. The grant program seeks to foster a deeper understanding of redwood forests through personal visits and educational experiences among a broad, diverse audience. The program funds projects that provide engaging, firsthand experiences of redwood forests for children and/or adults using traditional and non-traditional approaches. The league is particularly interested in projects that are created, designed, and implemented by K-12 students and use current or emerging technologies to make the redwood forest even more accessible to today's youth. Grant awards typically range from $500 to $3,000 each; exceptional projects may be awarded up to $5,000.

Visit the Save-the-Redwoods League Web site for complete program information and list of previous grant recipients. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15013191/savetheredwoods

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Results of Foundation Center Study on America's Foundations' Level of Granting Given Today's Tough Financial Times

This Thursday I sat in on a Foundation Center "Outlook On Foundation Giving" webinar given by Steven Lawrence, the Senior Director of Research at The Foundation Center.

The Foundation Center conducts studies on various aspects of philanthropy, throughout the year, annually, and provides the findings in published reports, such as the Foundations Today Series.

Thursday afternoon's webinar was based on The Foundation Center's Foundation Growth And Giving Estimates Current Outlook 2008 Edition.

The good news is that according to their findings, The Foundation Center reported that:

"Although the economic outlook has worsened in 2008, findings from the Foundation Center's annual "Foundation Giving Forecast Survey" suggest that foundation giving will continue to grow in the current year. Overall, more than half of respondents expect to increase their giving, with the biggest foundations being most likely to expect increased giving." [The Foundation Center's Foundation Growth And Giving Estimates Current Outlook 2008 Edition, Key Findings page]

According to survey responses, in 2007, American community foundations increased their giving the most of all types of private foundations (other types include: family foundations, corporate foundations, etc.). Community foundations gave nearly 14% (13.9% estimated unadjusted for inflation) more donations, in the 2006 - 2007 fiscal year, compared to the previous fiscal year. [The Foundation Center's Foundation Growth And Giving Estimates Current Outlook 2008 Edition, Page 7]

Their findings indicate that foundations are increasing their donations (grant making).

Lawrence shared in the webinar that foundations determine their fiscal year's grants budget based on a rolling average of their assets over various numbers of previous fiscal years. Half of the respondents projected their grant giving based on the previous year's asset performance. One third based their giving on their assets' performance over the past two years, and the largest foundations based their grant budget on their assets' performance over more than previous two years (e.g. 2.5 years or more).

Finally, it was interesting to learn that while The Foundation Center, over its years of studying giving trends, has found that American foundations do not decrease their giving during years later to be determined national recessions; they do decrease their giving a year or two after a year of inflation, nationally. This may be good information to inform your grant raising strategy for your upcoming fundraising (or development) plan for fiscal budget goals to come.

If, later, 2008 is deemed a year of national fiscal recession (as we can suspect), the findings indicate that foundation's grant making will not decline, and in fact, will increase.



Grants for American or Chinese Nonprofits Working On Regional Renewable or Efficient Energy

From The Foundation Center...

Energy Foundation Offers Funding for Policy Programs to Address Energy Problems

Deadline: Open

The Energy Foundation ( http://www.ef.org/ ) is a partnership of major donors interested in solving the world's energy problems. The foundation's mission is to advance energy efficiency and renewable energy -- essential components of a clean energy future. The foundation's primary role is as a grantmaker, providing resources to the institutions that most effectively leverage change. The foundation also takes direct action, such as commissioning papers or convening meetings, to address unmet needs.

The foundation's geographic focus is the United States and China, with special emphasis on regional initiatives. The foundation makes grants in the areas of Power, Building, Transportation, and Climate. Generally, the foundation makes grants to nonprofit organizations classified as 501(c)(3) public charities. The foundation is unable to make grants directly to individuals does not support local projects, unless they have been consciously designed for further replication or have broad regional or national implications. The foundation also is unable to fund the research and development of technology (e.g., funds to develop hybrid automobiles or commercialization of an invention).

The foundation's board of directors meets three times a year (the first week of March, the third week of June, and the first week of November). The foundation accepts proposals on a continuous basis. There are no specific deadlines. In order to consider a proposal for inclusion in a specific docket, the foundation needs to receive proposals approximately twelve weeks in advance of the next board meeting.

Visit the Energy Foundation Web site for specific information on the foundation's funding priorities and application procedures.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15013060/energyfdn

Award for Individual Contributing to Improving World's Poor Children's Nutrition

From The Foundation Center...

Global Child Nutrition Foundation Invites Nominations for Child Nutrition Lifetime Achievement Award

Deadline: November 15, 2008

The Global Child Nutrition Foundation ( http://www.schoolnutrition.org/ ) has opened the nomination process for the 2009 Gene White Lifetime Achievement Award for Child Nutrition. This prestigious award is presented each March to an individual who has contributed in an exemplary way through their lifetime achievements toward helping the world's poorest children receive adequate nutrition, thrive, and reach their full potential.

The award was established to recognize individuals whose life- time achievements have contributed in a major way, through sustainable programs and/or policies, toward expanding opportunities for the world's children to receive adequate nutrition for learning and achieving their potential. Any individual, private, or public organization, governmental agency, or academic institution may submit a nomination for the award. The award is based solely on achievement without regard to race, religion, gender, nationality, ethnicity, or political beliefs.

Visit the Global Child Nutrition Foundation Web site for complete program information.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15013056/schoolnutrition

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Descriptions of Different Grant Proposal Documents' Formats

Do you know the different document formats that you will need when applying for grants? Maybe you aren't sure what a LOI is. Do you know when you should format your grant proposal as a business letter, instead of in a report format?

The way that you determine which format to use for your document will depend upon what stage in the grant seeking process you're in, what the document is for, what the foundation prefers that you're applying to, and to some degree what style you prefer.

Always keep in mind that each foundation is different and wants/requests different information, and prefers not to receive other information or items. Always format each grant request to the specific foundation you're applying to. How? Get their giving guidelines and follow them religiously. In doing this you're helping the foundation select your proposal to grant to. Don't know what guidelines are? Read my post, About Grant Guidelines...

When you first approach a foundation for a grant you will want to contact them however they prefer that contact is initiated (and you should be able to find this out on their website or in their giving guidelines). Some foundations want any nonprofit who is going to approach them for a grant to begin everything by phoning or emailing them. Then again, some foundations never want phone calls. You have to research what each foundation that you're going to apply to; and know what they prefer. Do as they request and do not do what they state they do not like (e.g. maybe they state they do not want photos or videos submitted with proposals, no phone calls, etc.). For a further discussion on the foundation's limitations, read Insert Photos? Fancy paper? Professional binding?

Traditionally, the first method to contact a foundation is to submit a Letter of Inquiry (LOI). It is usually a very small (one or two page) letter formatted version of the full grant proposal. It is often easiest to create after the full proposal has been written. It is concise, to the point, clear, and only the first step; remember, you'll likely submit a full grant proposal in the next step in applying for a grant. The LOI is just an opportunity to tell them what you're asking for a grant for, about your organization, its track record, and a bit about the project/program/item you need.

IF a foundation invites you to apply for a grant or if, in their giving guidelines, they state that they accept unsolicited grant proposals (and if they do not state that you must send a LOI, first), then send a full grant proposal. This can also be called a case, grant application, or expanded grant proposal. These can be as short as two pages (if the foundation limits the number of pages that can be submitted) or as long as ten pages (if the foundation requests this much information in the document). You'll want to submit the longest possible document they'll accept because you'll want to take advantage of the opportunity to state your request fully. Usually grant proposals are between 3 and 8 pages long. Again, check the foundation's giving guidelines; keep the number of pages in your document to their page limit, include the information they request, cut the information that isn't necessary, and make sure it's a concise, honest, legible, informative document. The proposal can be in a 'report' format as long as it will be sent under cover of a letter (one page and usually no more than four or five paragraphs - keep it short).

Sometimes foundations ask that you first go through a 'test' on their website which is usually an interview, no more than ten questions long, with one or two word answers to be answered or submitted online. When they do this the foundation wants to be certain that whatever you're seeking a grant for is something that they might fund. If it's outside the scope of their giving (as outlined in their giving guidelines), they will tell you - and they will have saved your nonprofit and their organization time and resources. This is why they do this.

Sometimes foundations ask that you fill out a specific grant application form (something similar, usually, to a job application) and it can be online or something you should print out and type on. Some foundations use a nearby community foundation's standard grant application form (because it meets their needs), or they develop their own. They're usually no more than three pages, and often one page.

When you do submit a full proposal, if you are mailing it through the United States Postal Service and if the foundation's giving guidelines do not say otherwise, you can: fill out the grant application (if it's required), write a cover letter, write a report style grant proposal, and include attachments. Should you staple them together? Should you not staple? Should you include five copies of the document? I don't know, but you can find out by following the application directions in the foundation's giving guidelines. Make copies of everything that you're sending and put it into the foundation's file in your office. The actual package should go into the envelope in that order, and be certain that everything is completed and signed with ink. Seal it and mail it with confidence.

If you are given a grant, thank the foundation. If you are not awarded a grant, thank the foundation. In a week or two (when they'll have time) call the foundation, if you did not get the grant ,and professionally and openly ask why your grant request was denied, what you can change or do differently the next time you apply; and listen to them. They're telling you how you can get the grant! Make their suggested changes, and apply again (when their giving guidelines state that you can). If you'd like to read more about denials, read The Declined Grant Request

Some foundations require an update report while the grant is being used on your project or program. You will want to send them a letter formatted document stating what their money has been spent on, what it's done, and what the expected outcome and future plan is. Thank them, again. This is usually no more than three pages long. Only send this if it's requested.

Whether or not a foundation requests it, it is a good idea to submit and end of grant report (one to two pages) that lists what exactly the grant was spent on, who benefited, the outcome, and any other pertinent information (e.g. forty low income, single parent, mothers were given two new professional outfits to wear to job interviews, etc.). It is usually formatted as a business letter. Again thank them. For more information read Reporting to Grant Donor After End of Project

When to use which format can depend upon your best judgement, too. If you are not told in giving guidelines which format a foundation prefers for a specific document, you may email or call them and ask (if it's OK to do this); or you can look up the traditionally accepted format in The Foundation Center's Guide to Proposal Writing. It's an excellent resource.

Cash Prize for Projects Ready to Launch That Will End Modern Day Slavery

From The Foundation Center...

Ashoka's Changemakers Announces Ending Global Slavery Competition

Deadline: June 11, 2008

Humanity United ( http://www.humanityunited.org/ ), an independent grantmaking organization committed to building a world where modern-day slavery and mass atrocities are no longer possible, and Ashoka's Changemakers ( http://changemakers.net/ ) have launched "Ending Global Slavery: Everyday Heroes Leading the Way," a global online competition to identify innovative approaches to exposing, confronting, and ending modern-day slavery. The Changemakers Web site provides an online, interactive forum that encourages collaboration and discussion, along with competition, to draw out the most effective ideas.

Organizations and individuals are invited to propose ways to end this worldwide crisis and create a universal standard of human dignity. The competition seeks ideas for projects that, when scaled-up, have the potential of ending modern-day slavery. Submitted proposals must be beyond the stage of idea, concept, or research, and, at a minimum, be at the demonstration stage and indicate success.

The competition is open to all types of organizations (charitable organizations, private companies, or public entities) and individuals from all countries.

Changemaker community members will be invited to vote for three winners from the twelve finalists who will be selected by the Changemakers' panel of judges, a group of leaders in the field of solutions to modern-day slavery.

The three finalists that receive the most votes will each receive a cash prize of $5,000.

For information on entering and the online review and voting process, visit the Changemakers Web site. RFP Link:
http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15012907/changemakers

Food Service Equipment & Food Service Scholarships Available

Excell Foundation provides much-needed food service equipment supplies to nonprofits, and they’re looking for wish lists.

The Excell Food Service Dealer Network, a national group of industry vendors and dealers, created the foundation. The Foundation’s board reviews the nominations and utilizes Excell membership as partners in securing, shipping ,and installing the equipment. It’s a great opportunity for summer camps, homeless shelters, etc.

Excell also provides scholarships to people who want training in the industry.

If you wish, please go to http://theexcellfoundation.org/ for more information.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

We Need Money For Our 501(c)(3) etc. Organization - What Is The Grant Seeking Process?

These are tough times and your nonprofit probably needs as much financial support as it can raise. So, now, you're considering applying for grants. Read on!

Perhaps, though, your organization has never gone after grants. So to diversify how many methods and which methods your organization uses to raise funds, your organization is committing to raising grants. Very smart. Maybe you're all ready to get to work, but you don't know what the process is.
The grant seeking process is:
1. Commit to the process. Raising grants successfully requires a commitment to the process.
2. Gather: your organization's incorporation documentation (e.g. IRS Letter of Determination), your organization and program's budget, draft on paper a thorough and honest description of the program/project/item that you need a grant for, a history of your organization, etc.
3. Plan. Give yourself and your organization enough time to be successful at raising grants. Grant donors usually take a quarter (three months) on average to determine who they will donate grants to (this varies foundation to foundation - it can be shorter or longer). Plan out the project timeline, who will do what, how all of the money will be raised, budget for the project, etc. Give yourself enough time to find potential grant donors who may really give to your organization - don't waste your organization's time and resources on sending requests to foundations who do not give to your cause, or do not give to organizations serving the geographic location that yours' does, or does not fund the kind of program/project/item that you need money for. Give yourself enough time to write a thorough, professional, and strong grant proposal. Do not assume that just writing anything will get your organization a grant. Grant writing is a skill.
Some grant donors give emergency grants (meaning they will grant right away in an emergent situation) BUT the situation must truly be an emergency that was previously unforeseeable by your organization. Do not count on raising an emergency grant. Attempt to raise one if you are truly experiencing an emergency, but don't expect that will be all you'll need to do. Plan.
4. Learn. Learn what the grant seeking process is, how to do it so that you'll be successful, learn about writing a grant proposal and its components (e.g. program budget), and invest in the process. If you learn grant writing now you'll know it for your current needs, and your organization's future needs. Read the posts on this blog tagged "How To". It's free! If you do not have time to do the grant writing, hire a professional, experienced, and successful grant writer. This is an investment in your organization's future, success, ability to deliver its mission's goal, and in your organization's ability to ramp up. A final thought on educating yourself about grant writing; if you do hire a grant writer, you still need to learn about the process to be sure you've hired someone who truly is good at what they do, but also so that you're able to proceed without your grant writer having to completely educate you through the process. They've been hired to do the grant writing, not provide you with courses on grant writing!
5. Prospect, or research which grant donors will give to your organization. Look for foundations who are interested in the cause you serve, who give towards the kind of project/program/item that you're seeking grants for, and who fund organizations serving the location that your organization serves. Research foundations on The Foundation Center's website, or Guidestar.org Each are comprehensive listings of grant donors from all over the U.S. and each are also very up to date. Read each site's directions on how to research foundations - they are each free. The Foundation Center charges to search their foundation database (Guidestar does not). Guidestar provides various donors' IRS form 990 which greatly helps nonprofits locate foundations who will likely give to them. The Foundation Center provides its Foundation Collection (foundation database) for free at various public libraries around the nation. To find out if one of these Cooperating Collections is in a library near you look at: http://foundationcenter.org/collections/
6. Write. Grant writing is not the worst thing to learn, especially being affiliated with a nonprofit! Learn about it before you sit down to do it. The Foundation Center also has great free educational modules teaching how to write grant proposals on their site (look under Education and Tools). To the right, on this web page, I have hand selected the best books in the professional nonprofit sector and placed them in my Amazon web store.  I highly recommend any of those books.  They are standards in the field.  Read The Foundation Center's Guide to Proposal Writing. It's excellent. After you've written, edit, re-write a second draft, get others to proof read it and make suggestions, and hone the proposal into a winning document.
7. Submit the proposals (or letters of inquiry (LOI)) according to each foundation's giving guidelines that you are going to send an application to. Tailor a proposal for each foundation. Provide each foundation with what they request in their guidelines, and do not send what they state they do not want to receive.
8. Be patient. I know - you need the money. This is a process and you've done everything that you can do. Let the process follow through. Be confident. Your organization does important work for your community. If you don't get the first grant you apply for, keep at it. Commit to the process. Every nonprofit gets turned down. Keep at it.
9. Don't stop applying for grants after this need is satisfied. Continue the process. It's a great viable fundraising method.

I read this week in The Chronicle of Philanthropy that foundations understand the current economic difficulties impacting nonprofits so well that they are taking on the burden of the lesser valued dollar, the cost of overhead such as gas, and the impact on the work of nonprofits' mission statements. One third of American foundations are giving more right now. The Chronicle further reports that 37% more plan to increase their giving next year, according to a study conducted by the Council on Foundations.

Also in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, this week, William O'Keefe, Senior Director of Advocacy of Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore is quoted as encouraging nonprofits to do three things, in particular, during this slowing economy:
1. "Stay focused on major donors, since they are less likely to be affected by economic woes."
2. "Include messages in appeals that demonstrate a sensitivity to the state of the economy."
3. "Seek support from a diverse array of sources."
These are tough times, but the resources are bolstering themselves to assist nonprofits. Your nonprofit can't afford to leave the potential to get their assistance, on the table.

Grants for Programs Improving Your Community Open to the U.S.

MARKHAM VINEYARDS ANNOUNCES MARK OF DISTINCTION GRANTS PROGRAM
A Winery with Deep Community Roots Supports Those Planting Seeds for Positive Change

NAPA VALLEY, CA – April 8, 2008 – Markham Vineyards, a pioneering Napa Valley winery with a proud history of community involvement, today announced a call for applicants for the Mark of Distinction, a program designed to empower individuals to make positive, tangible change across America. This nationwide initiative will award $25,000 grants to individuals to help complete community projects.

Markham is searching for local leaders who are dedicated to improving their neighborhoods, cities or towns. Passionate, inspiring candidates with a project that could make a lasting change in their community can enter at www.MarkhamMarkofDistinction.com. On July 10 finalists and their dream projects will be selected and posted on the Web site. The public will then vote to determine two winners, who will be awarded $25,000 each to make a lasting local change – a “Mark of Distinction” – in their communities.

“Markham Vineyards could not have become the success it is today without the support of the local people,” said Markham Vineyards President and Napa Valley native Bryan Del Bondio. “We are excited to give others the opportunity to give back, and look forward to discovering and supporting exceptional individuals in improving their community through the Mark of Distinction program.”

Mark of Distinction seeks applicants throughout the country and from all walks of life. Any project that would result in a lasting, material community improvement – ranging from park refurbishment to the establishment of a community center to construction of a public pool – is viable. “We’ve all had a moment, in our neighborhood or city, where we’ve seen something that needed work or could be made better and thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if?’” Del Bondio said. “Mark of Distinction will empower people who have the leadership, skill and perseverance to turn those ‘what ifs’ into reality.”

The inspiration for the Mark of Distinction can be found in the history of the winery itself. Founded in 1879, Markham Vineyards has achieved great success through an unwavering devotion to the Napa Valley community, in which it has deep roots. Markham owns more than 230 acres of Napa Valley vineyards and purchases grapes from established local growers, many of whom have worked with the winery for years – including Ted Laurent, grandson of Markham winery founder Jean Laurent.

Markham Vineyards regularly gives back at local and national levels. It has long been a supporter of the Northern California-based Milagro Foundation, and of the renowned Napa Valley Vintners’ annual auction. Around the country, Markham has supported the Catch 22 Foundation, the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund and the Chicago Lighthouse for the blind. To continue in the tradition of community involvement, this spring, a portion of proceeds from each Markham wine purchase will be donated to Hurricane Katrina rebuilding efforts in New Orleans.

Markham Vineyards offers a diverse range of award-winning varietals, including Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Reserve Merlot and Petite Syrah. For more information about the winery, please visit www.markhamvineyards.com.

CONTACT: Jessica Elker, Marina Maher Communications, 212-485-6842, jelker at mahercomm dot com or Amy Grosheider, Marina Maher Communications, 212-485-6895, agrosheider at mahercomm dot com