Sunday, July 27, 2008

This Year's Nonprofit Court Cases Du Juor? Nonprofits Not Honoring Donors' Wishes...

After a donor dies (or bequeaths a donation through their will), it is often the states who must see that donations are being spent by the recipient nonprofit ('s board) as the donor desired. States' Attorneys General have been alerted, in recent years, by community members who begin to suspect that a local community member's donation restriction is not being met. For instance, if your local museum was supposed to receive a new wing because Mr. Peterman, after passing on, left a $1 million donation in his will; and six years later all the local community sees is a building falling into disrepair and the museum's board allocating money elsewhere (while the $1million is being spent down, per the financials); something appears very wrong. These community members should call their State Attorney General. This is a fictional example based on a real case that was heavily monitored by nonprofit leaders across the United States. The Montana Supreme Court, in May 2008; declared that the board of the Charles M. Bair Family Museum breached its duty in not spending Alberta M. Bair's 1993 family fortune bequest as stated it must be spent in her will. The court disolved the board. See Court Ousts Board That BreachedDuty in Deciding to Close Museum and Montana Museum Board Breached Duty, Court Says

Any donation that a 501(c)(3) nonprofit receives that also designates where and how the donation should be spent, must be honored. Donations that are given with explicit instruction are called restricted donations and are often given with a specific goal in mind. Not all donations are restricted but those that are, must be honored and followed through on. If a nonprofit accepts a donation (and submits a thank you or response confirming receipt of the donation); it is required that the money be spent as stipulated by the donor. If a nonprofit does not want to spend money in a manner that a donor requests, then a donation can be declined or returned (hopefully graciously, and with a clear and polite explanation).

It has become evident in many recent court cases that boards sometimes allocate restricted donations to costs other than what they were supposed to be spent on. In the situations that have come to light (or gone to court) it was because local communities monitored how donations (often large bequests) were being spent by recipient nonprofits' board. For another example, see my February 26, 2008 post, "One Nonprofit Sues Another Nonprofit for Not Honoring Donor's Wishes - Great Lesson for Us Nonprofits!"

Donors give to nonprofits because they care about the cause, have probably done their research and selected a nonprofit to donate to because it is meeting a real need well, and completes its mission statement's work well; and because the donor can give. They are not just wealthy people, though. The donor who gives in larger amounts is connecting to the solution or the cure to the malady that the nonprofit is working to eradicate. They are not simply writing a check; they are expecting results, a method to check the results (or outcomes) such as evaluation methods; transparency; and they want to see, in the end, that their money did good. For more information on why donors give at all see my posts, "Why Do Foundations Give Grants At All?" and "What Motivates Giving?"

Nonprofits' leaders do not have carte blanche in any aspect of nonprofit operations. Ever. First and foremost nonprofit leaders must consider all decisions from the organization's mission statement's point of view. They must also comply with the law and to do this, they must be diligent and make themselves aware of what laws and jurisdictions they must follow and report to. Board membership is not a position that provides unrestricted access and authority. In fact, the board position is quite the opposite. A board member is beholden to the mission statement, the nonprofit's bylaws, the donors, volunteers, and clients or constituents; and the law.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Nonprofit Professional Affiliations

In keeping in the spirit of pointing out that nonprofits, today, must be professionally run; I thought I'd post about professional affiliations in the nonprofit sector.

Whether you're a teacher, a nurse, an archaeologist, or the executive director of a cancer support nonprofit - there is an organization out there (both local and national affiliations, probably) comprised of a group of professionals working in your field, who gather to maybe discuss current issues (e.g. potential legislation, the latest best practices, or to network); or to take continuing education classes, such as learning a new skill that you could master to use at work; or to attend a forum, conference, or other opportunities that will keep you in touch with others in your profession.

You do not need to be a paid employee to join a professional affiliation that is set up to educate nonprofit workers about how to fundraise, how to market, how to manage volunteers, what the latest paradigms are in strategic organizational planning, etc. Volunteers are welcome to join and participate in professional nonprofit affiliations, too. I've met people who are volunteer board members, volunteer clerical staff, or volunteer caretakers, besides staff, at various nonprofit conferences, forums, and network opportunities.

These affiliations' memberships may seem expensive; but you must run a quick cost analysis to see that you and your organization will probably greatly benefit from what the member will learn; who the member will meet and be able to network with; what resources your organization will be made aware of that you don't know is available to it, yet; what questions you can get answered by experts in the field; what current references you'll gain access to; etc.

Like any membership, it's only as effective as you make time in your schedule for it to be; but it can be very effective - if you make it a reasonable priority in your busy schedule.

Imagine working for a nonprofit that is about to start grant writing for the first time, is needing to conduct a strategic planning session in the next year, and is wondering whether it's worth the money to hire consultants to help your organization with each process. If you attend a "Grant Writing 101" course offered by the affiliation; then attend a 'Coffee With Your Colleagues' professional networking breakfast; and finally go to a "Local Nonprofit Sector Consultants Forum" where you'll get the opportunity to learn from then ask questions of local professionals who provide consultation to nonprofits; you will have had the opportunity to inform yourself, your nonprofit's relevant leadership and staff about what you learn, and you'll have been able to ask people working at other nonprofits in your region if they've done similar work, whether they worked with consultants or did the work on their own, and if so, who they would recommend to work with. You will have gotten all of your questions answered and been able to inform yourself! These opportunities can be worth their weight in gold!

Examples of nonprofit professional affiliations are Northwest Development Officers Association in Seattle; Technical Assistance for Community Services in Portland, Oregon; or the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network in San Francisco. The Association of Fundraising Professionals is a great example of a national affiliation. These are just examples. If you look over their websites you'll see what they charge for membership (and most have 'scholarships' for nonprofit representatives working for smaller or start up nonprofits with little cash flow), what you get with your membership, and most have forums or message boards on their sites where you can post questions and answers to other members.

If you live in a region or state that is not represented in the small list, above, of affiliations - please be sure to research online or in your local phone book what nonprofit professionals' affiliation exists near you. If you still can't locate one after looking around - call your local United Way and ask them. They should know.

These memberships, when utilized regularly, will keep your volunteers, staff, and board educated in the latest professional methods; will keep you networked with your colleagues; and will allow your organization to modernize, improve, and grow.

Grants for Nonprofits Providing Job Skills and Continuing Education to People Re-Entering the Workforce

From The Foundation Center...

Staples Foundation for Learning Supports Job Skills and Education Programs

Deadline: October 24, 2008

The mission of Staples Foundation for Learning ( http://www.staplesfoundation.org/ ) is to provide funding to programs that support or provide job skills and/or education for all people, with a special emphasis on disadvantaged youth.

To be eligible for funding, applicant organizations must have nonprofit tax-exempt classification under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code; and align with the Staples Foundation for Learning's mission and give focus on job skills and education. Please note that the foundation will not make contributions to support public schools without 501(c)(3) status or organizations located in Alaska or Hawaii.

Grant decisions are made three times a year. For the upcoming January 2009 foundation meeting date, proposals must be submitted between October 10 and October 24, 2008.

Visit the Staples Foundation for Learning Web site for complete program information, funding limitations, and list of past grant recipients.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15014281/staplesfdn

Monday, July 14, 2008

City of Redmond Offers to Bail Out Redmond Humane Society Whose Board Allegedly Did No Fundraising...

The city of Redmond is going to try to bail the Redmond Humane Society out of its financial peril.

I've said it before in this blog. If you are a leader of a nonprofit...whether a volunteer leader, such as a board member, or if you are a paid leader, perhaps an executive director; and you are charged (e.g. by law, by your job description, by the nonprofit's bylaws, or by any official rule or direction) to fundraise and oversee the nonprofit you have a job to do as sure as if you were working a 'hundred thousand dollar annual salary plus benefits, nine to five, working all work days except vacations and holidays' job. Again...yes, really and truly.

If you begin to volunteer for, are hired by, or in anyway take a volunteer or paid position with a nonprofit and do not know how to raise funds or how to oversee a nonprofit (e.g. according to the organization's bylaws and federal laws (at a minimum, if not state and county laws, etc.) such as Sarbanes Oxley which requires board members to be accountable to bookkeeping, record keeping, and oversight...then go be proactive and learn modern, effective, transparent nonprofit management, operations, oversight, fundraising, etc. It is your responsibility, so be responsible. Learn, learn, learn; and learn these skills sooner than later.

Just because you are working for a nonprofit, maybe even as a volunteer, does not lessen how responsible you should be to modern and professional nonprofit practices. A job is a job. Every nonprofit operates to succeed at its mission. Today, nonprofits are expected to be good at their work; to be professional, to be successful, to conduct modern practices - not 'that's how we've always done it, so that's how we're going to do it' practices.

In no way is the nonprofit that you're volunteering for or working a paid position for in existence to make you comfortable. It exists to meet a need in our community and its constituents or whomever it serves must be first and foremost in all decision making, professionalism, management, and so on. You are there to work for the cause and be directed by the mission. You are not there to make things comfortable for you. Be responsible to the mission - learn!

Last year BendFilm (another local nonprofit) suddenly didn't have any more money. Why didn't Redmond Humane take their experience as a warning that they, themselves, should get on top of their respective jobs? Check out the lack of expertise, then at Fundraising Isn't Optional, Nonprofits...

I might lump this Redmond Humane story in with the likes of the Bellevue Art Museum's June 2007 embarrassment, "Wow, What A Shock! Another Example of Piss Poor Fundraising..."

Smaller communities may respond to my post by lamenting...'we don't have access to modern fundraising continuing education', or 'I wouldn't know where to find good resources to learn modern nonprofit operations practices'. Well...you need to do some research. You need to talk with managers of well-run nonprofits and ask for recommendations; you need to investigate who the regional nonprofit professional affiliations are in your area and find out what continuing education, forums, and conferences they provide; you need to research modern nonprofit operations on the Internet; etc. Be proactive, and responsible for your role. Perhaps you've begun to, if you're reading this... [My July 6th post,"Some Free Resources", provides information on where to learn the basic 'how to's of nonprofit work for free, how to find the best books on all aspects of nonprofit operations, fundraising, management, and more.]

I'm writing this post (as I have before, see above) based on a local news story that is still playing out. See:

July 3, 2008 Redmond Humane Society Faces Possible Closure
July 12, 2008 Humane Society of Redmond Finances Investigated

There appears to be a lot of resignations, firings, finger pointing, and even phoning the local Sheriff requesting an investigation! The board has allegedly fired the executive director for speaking about the potential closure to the local press (wouldn't folks have noticed when the local animal shelter suddenly closed, anyway?). Staff is sharing the board's job description and failure to fundraise with local press, anonymously, after a reported gag order imposed by the board requesting that the staff not talk with press. Hmmm...

Meanwhile, there are a lot of animals in need in the local community. It's too bad that the Redmond Humane Society's board isn't interested, according to allegations, in professional and current nonprofit management enough to alleviate the current issue, for the animals in need, or for the organization, itself. For our animals and that organization's purpose in our community - I hope that the city is successful, the board each and all resigns, and the executive director (who seems to be most concerned with the organization's work and the animals, of anyone there) is reinstated, and that every manager, there, takes the time and responsibility to learn how to do what it is they are a part of that organization to do, in modern professional terms.

Grants for Capital Improvements to Protect, Restore, or Conserve Cultural, Historic, Etc. Sites to U.S. and Non-U.S. Nonprofits

From The Foundation Center...

Tourism Cares Accepting Letters of Inquiry for Worldwide Grant Program

Deadline: October 1, 2008 (Letters of Inquiry)

Tourism Cares' ( http://www.tourismcares.org/ ) Worldwide Grant Program distributes charitable grants to worthy tourism-related nonprofit organizations worldwide for capital improvements or programs.The program's primary consideration is to fund projects and programs whose goal is capital ("brick-and-mortar") improvements that serve to protect, restore, or conserve sites of exceptional cultural, historic, or natural significance; or the education of local host communities and the traveling public about the conservation and preservation of sites of exceptional cultural, historical, or natural significance.

Program grants average $10,000 each; however, based on availability of funds, grants of up to $100,000 each will be considered. The 2008 Worldwide Grant Program goals call for a balanced distribution of grants to U.S. and non-U.S. recipients. U.S.-based applicant organizations must have nonprofit, tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) status; non-U.S.-based applicant organizations must have status equivalent to the 501(c)(3) designation. Letter of Inquiry packets are available at the Tourism Cares Website.
RFP Link:http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15014146/tourismcares

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Some Free Resources...

Not so surprisingly, being in the grant raising field, we at The Grant Plant, LLC receive email from folks from all over the world asking for assistance. Most everyone who contacts us has a great idea that they want to develop into a viable nonprofit to serve their communities. We wish we could help each and everyone with their unique needs, but sometimes we can't. Knowing this doesn't stop us from trying to point folks into a helpful direction. The following is a list of resources that may include one or two great helpful leads for your funding needs...

1. If you are looking for grants for the first time, ever (As with everything in this blog, this information relates to 501(c)(3) nonprofits...for business funding or financial assistance for individuals...see numbers 2 and 4, below...)

For a comprehensive current database of grants available for all causes all over the U.S. and the world, check The Foundation Center's Foundation Directory tool (on their website at: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/ ) The Foundation Center is a very respected and up to date resource for nonprofits seeking grants. They will often provide anyone new to their tools with a free trial subscription to try it out, if you do not want to buy a subscription. You could search which foundations give to your organization's cause this way.You can also find the same Foundation Center database at several local public libraries around the nation, and those can be used at any time for free. Perhaps there is one near you? To find out, go to: http://foundationcenter.org/collections/

Narrow and firm up who may give to your nonprofit by making sure that the foundations you approach not only give to your agency's cause, but ALSO give to the type of program, project, etc. that your organization is looking to fund with this grant, and ALSO gives to nonprofits that serve the geographic region that your nonprofit serves. Only approach foundations who meet all three criteria for your nonprofit. Need to know how to go about raising grants? Read my post, "We Need Money for Our 501(c)(3)..." You can also learn more about how to seek grants on The Foundation Center's site - they have a lot of great tools and education modules for free. Look under their Learn More and Resources menus.

2. If you need help with anything relating to a for profit business; from writing a business plan, to planning out your company's marketing plan, to accounting, etc. you can work with retired professionals in their respective fields at consult on a variety of business needs/issues for free. The national nonprofit is called SCORE. Their website is http://www.score.org/index.html I believe that they work closely with the Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) who may also be a great resource if you are starting a small business or operate one, and have questions or need help (as I don’t believe they charge for information or assistance, either). If you are looking for funding for your 'for profit' business, read number 4, below, and those posts, too.

3. If you are starting a nonprofit looking for seed money, read the two following posts (click on the links) "Start Up Nonprofit? Need Seed Money? Post 1 of 2" and also read "Start Up Nonprofit? Need Seed Money? Post 2 of 2"

4. If you are an individual (or family) looking for grants to help your financial situation, read the two following posts" "Are The Grants for Individuals?" and "A Bit More for Individuals Looking for Grants"

5. If you are going to start officially forming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, you will need to file your organization with the United States Internal Revenue Service, with the state that you reside in (look under the 'filing a business' or 'registering a nonprofit' menu on your state's 'permits and licenses' website pages or phone one of these departments), and you will want to research whether the county it will reside in requires any kind of registration, licensing, etc. Network with local nonprofit professionals working in the same field as your cause, to build a coalition of colleagues for yourself, to ask them questions when they arise (they've gone through this process), and to get word out about your organization. You'll also want to begin to make a good professional relationship with your nearest community foundation. They will likely know where you should begin to apply for funding (if they, themselves, are not a likely resource - but they very well may be).

6. Where can I research what United States federal government grants are available? Go to www.grants.gov and research your cause, there. They have a wonderful free tutorial that explains how to use their database and search features. Be sure, during your initial research to contact one (or both) of your federal representatives for your state (your federal Congressperson or Senator) if you find a grant or two to apply for. Their office can help your organization apply for the grant (for free) and may be a good advocate for your organization receiving it (as the grants are set annually by the Congress, who determines the next fiscal year federal budget - and this is where these grants come from).

7. I am beginning to volunteer with a nonprofit for the first time, ever; or I have begun working for a nonprofit for the first time, ever; or We have formed a brand new nonprofit and I need to learn the basics about (pick one or all) __ nonprofit fundraising, __ nonprofit operations, __ nonprofit management, __ nonprofit accounting, __ how to create a mission statement, __ how to create our organization's bylaws, __ how to formulate a strategic plan, __ how to serve on a nonprofit board, __ how to work with a nonprofit board, __ etc. (any and all questions about anything relating to nonprofits). I have hand selected each book, based on its reputation (as standards in the profession) in the nonprofit sector, that are included in the Amazon Store to the right, on this web page.  Check it out.  Notice, for start up organizations, Kim Klein's Grassroots series (Chardon Press). If you can't afford to buy these books, but would like to read a few of them, note the name of the book, the author, and the ISBN number and ask your local public library to purchase them for you. These are the best!

8. I need to hire a professional grant writer and do not know where to begin. To find a good grant writer for your 501(c)(3), read my two posts, "What Are the Steps to Hiring A Grant Writer?" and "Top Ten Resources to Find A Good Grant Writer" You may also want to read, "Pricing Grant Writers...What Should We Pay?" and "How Do We Afford Grant Writing?"

9. If you don't know how to apply for grants, for your 501(c)(3), but are about to begin to - you will benefit from my posts, "Top 10 Grant Money Myths...", "Easy Resources for the Grant Writer", "Why Do Donors Give Grants At All?", "How Do I Prepare to Find Foundations Who Will Fund Us?", "What Amount of Money Should I Ask For?", "What Programs, Campaigns, or Items Get Grants?", and "What Does Not Get Funded Well by Grant Money?" If after reading these you'd rather hire a grant writer (!), read my answer number 8, just above.

10. How do I create a budget and what should be in it? If you are freaked out by the idea that you must include a budget with your grant proposal because anything having to do with math or providing financials freaks your beans, read, "The Word "Gets" Is In "Budgets", and "Your New Program or Project Design Must Be Clear Before Applying for Grants"

If you have a question, still, after looking through the above list of free resources; and your questions has to do with 501(c)(3) nonprofits feel free to ask us at admin at thegrantplant dot com. We will do our best to respond to you within the week. (We do not fundraise for individuals or families, so please do not submit questions related to those scenarios, but be sure to read my answer number 4, above, if you haven't. It provides our standard sets of advice and suggested resources for persons and families needing financial assistance.)

Grants for Camps Helping Grieving Children, Teens, & Families

From The Foundation Center...

A Little Hope: The National Foundation for Grieving Children, Teens, and Families Accepting Letters of Inquiry

Deadline: August 31, 2008 (Letters of Inquiry)

A Little Hope: The National Foundation for Grieving Children, Teens, and Families ( http://www.alittlehope.org/ ) is a national not-for-profit public charity which grants funds to organizations that provide bereavement support services and grief counseling to children and teens who have experienced the loss of a parent or loved one, regardless of the circumstances of the death.

The organization funds bereavement programs and camps that offer grieving children and teens many opportunities for sharing and self-expression in healthy and positive ways.

Visit the foundation's Web site for guidelines on how to submit a Letter of Inquiry and for a current list of the foundation's partner organizations.

Grant applications are by invitation only (after the foundation has reviewed LOI's which are openly invited). Grant applicants who are invited to apply will be notified as such.

RFP Link:
http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15014004/alittlehope

Grants for Nonprofits Publishing Nonfiction About Urban Experiences

From The Foundation Center...

Furthermore Program Offers Grants in Nonfiction Publishing

Deadline: September 15, and March 15, Annually

An initiative of the J.M. Kaplan Fund ( http://jmkfund.org/ ), the Furthermore program supports nonfiction book publishing about the urban experience; natural and historic resources; art, architecture, and design; cultural history; and civil liberties and other public issues.
The program seeks work that appeals to an informed general audience; gives evidence of high standards in editing, design, and production; promises a reasonable shelf life; might not otherwise achieve top quality or even come into being; and "represents a contribution without which we would be the poorer."

Applicants must be 501(c)(3) organizations. Grant recipients have included civic and academic institutions, museums, independent and university presses, and professional societies. Trade publishers and public agencies may apply for grants in partnership with an eligible nonprofit sponsor. Applications from individuals are not accepted.

Grants range from $500 to approximately $15,000 each and may support writing, research, editing, design, indexing, photography, illustration, and printing and binding.

See the Furthermore Web site for complete program information and application form.
RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15014003/furthermore