Monday, September 29, 2008

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

In my post on Friday, "All Of Us Are Wondering How The Economic Downturn Effects Nonprofits and Philanthropy", I empathized with you, your colleagues, and others who work on behalf of nonprofit organizations across the United States.

Since the House did not pass the bail out bill proposed by the President's administration, today; and the stock market closed very down, I am listing what nonprofits can do in this tough economy.

In the most recent issue, or The Chronicle Of Philanthropy's September 18, 2008 issue, a special report reviewed what various American nonprofits are doing to deal with the economic uncertainties.

On page 7 of the issue Brennen Jensen lists five "Survival Strategies", in his article, which include: "Focus on providing services that meet a critical community need. Build a board comprised solely of members willing to commit both time and money to the cause. Develop an image and culture emphasizing hard work and frugality, to build trust with donors. Show donors where and how money is being spent, and where it is still needed. Seek donations outside of a struggling community; build relationships with wealthy or prominent townspeople who have moved away."

On page 16, Jensen quotes the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Flint, Jamie Gaskin, to clarify why this kind of nonprofit accounting, operations transparency, and communication with donors will help raise funds. ""Donors are more protective than they were 20 or 30 years ago, when organization just kept getting checks," Mr. Gaskin says. "Now they want to see something tangible. We bring donors in here to let them see it is clean and well supervised."" Gaskin and other leaders in their organization learned the value of developing relationships. Even in Flint, Michigan where the economy was hard hit before the rest of the nation, and continues to struggle; Gaskin and other leaders decided to reach out to the wealthy community members asking them to invest in ""the future of Flint"". The campaign is working and they are raising some of the largest donations that they ever have, yet, in this economy.

On page 17 of the same issue of The Chronicle Eric Frazier shares three "Survival Strategies", via his story, on page 17. They are: "Plan aggressively for the long term, to position the charity favorably for bad times. Prod all board members, not just the development committee, to help with fundraising. Don't just ask for money; look for mutually beneficial relationships with donors." Frazier's point is well made. Board members' roles vary, organization to organization, as all nonprofits run under their own bylaws and articles of incorporation. Nonetheless, all board members of official nonprofits (per the IRS), must oversee their organizations according to the letter of the law, are responsible for the organization's bookkeeping and reporting, and have taken on a role of leadership. As such, they are in the best position to raise support of all kinds for the nonprofit, including donations (including dollar donations, their own financial contributions, and in kind donations (or donations of items or goods)).

Cassie J. Moore shares her own piece's "Survival Strategies" on page 10, "Save money, and let donors know about it. Raise funds from a variety of sources; don't rely on that one big grant or foundation. Capitalize on timely topics by reaching out to new sources of revenue for support or "hot" issues. Tell stories [sic. in your fundraising and outreach] about the people you help, and avoid jargon when speaking to donors. Find ways to reduce staff turnover, to reduce time and money spent on hiring new employees."

Alison Stein Wellner, in her article, shares three "Survival Strategies" on page 12: "Seek a fiscal sponsor - an established nonprofit group that can accept tax-deductible gifts on a fledgling organization's behalf. Ask for noncash support, and be prepared to maintain a close relationship with the donors who give it. Collaborate with other organizations, and make the most of existing local resources to meet clients' needs."

Finally, in Lee Burnett's piece two social services organizations merge to solve their financial concerns. "Survival Strategies - "Consider a merger to improve service or efficiency when an organization is in good health. Begin planning before financial conditions reach the crisis stage. Go slow, and build trust with potential collaborators before deciding on a full merger. Continue to mesh organization cultures after the merger."

Please share with Seeking Grant Money Today's readers any tested and true methods that your organization is using to maintain operations in this tough economy; and post your success stories as a "Comment" below. Thank you!

Friday, September 26, 2008

All Of Us Are Wondering How The Economic Downturn Effects Nonprofits and Philanthropy

Not unlike your last water cooler discussion, the news, and most everyone; the economy has been a topic of discussion between me, my associates, and my clients. You may be aware that since World War II American philanthropists have increased total giving year to year. This may be the first series of years where total American philanthropy either stays the same as the previous year, or declines.

Tonight's Presidential debates and subsequent debates will impact the national outlook on philanthropy. But, without a doubt, today's (or the next few days') forthcoming news on what legislation Congress agrees upon and then puts into place to effect the liquidity of the United States' banking market, the national economy, and ultimately the global economy will be of paramount importance to all sectors, including the American nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. Like you, I will have my eyes on the news, read multiple perspectives on these happenings' effects on the nonprofit world, in the press. Gather information and then make your own assessment.

Rick Cohen authored "What The Financial Sector Meltdown Really Means For Nonprofit And Philanthropy" for the Nonprofit Quarterly [September 23, 2008].

To quote Cohen, "The significance of the financial sector in U.S. philanthropy is huge. According to Conference Board statistics published in the Financial Services Roundtable’s most recent Factbook, banks were the second largest corporate givers to U.S. groups and beneficiaries in 2006, ranking behind pharmaceuticals. Insurance companies ranked 11th and financial firms (other than banks and insurers) ranked 15th. Because a huge proportion of drug companies’ philanthropy is in the form of cost write downs on prescription drugs and donations of surplus drug supplies, as cash donors, the banks could well top the list.

"If the banking sector (plus securities firms and diversified financials) are in disarray, prompting this past week’s announcement of the Federal Reserve’s likely half trillion dollar intervention to stabilize the markets, the ripple through philanthropy will be visible and painful."

Cohen wraps his post by surmising, " What should be clear is that the sector that accounted for as much as one-third of the nation’s corporate profits in recent years is hardly likely to post numbers in the black, forget about much profit-making. Just looking at the potential losses of a very generous segment of corporate America omits the impact on private foundation endowments and on private donors’ assets as the commercial and investment bankers drag down the Dow Jones and Standard & Poor’s indexes. But nonprofits accustomed to generous grants from banks and financial services firms, especially those in housing and community development fields, should all be prepared for some long, hard efforts to make up for some potentially prolonged fundraising shortfalls."

My concerns regarding the banking industry are: how will donor advised funds be effected by the banking industry's crunch, such as family funds or foundations directed by community foundations? These donor advised funds may own any of these banks' stocks, certificates, or bonds so assets will be lowered (along with all non-liquid assets, right now). How will these funds donate as 'individuals', through grants, and as sponsors, among other donation methods? What about bequests to nonprofits that will come from assets such as the sale of an estate (e.g. housing sale, 401k or other retirement distributions, etc.)? How will American nonprofits' endowments will be impacted?

The failure of the banking industry is, like in all other professional American sectors, hard for our sector; but, perhaps uniquely, it is that the nonprofit sector is providing services, information, referrals, assistance, studies, and other assets, assistance, and work that neither the government nor the private sector provide. Causes, issues, people, and other beneficiaries who may be the least represented in our world, and most vulnerable, could be impacted without other options. Philanthropy's hard hit could be devastating for those served by American nonprofits. Without question, American nonprofits' leaders must work together to innovate and develop tactics to: survey and account for all of the potential damage, develop solutions for losses, and implement the best of the best of responses. We nonprofits will be wise to listen to our colleagues, discuss the situation and ideas, innovate ourselves, and contribute by sharing what you discover works for your organization. You and I have our work cut out for ourselves.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

You, Too, Can Raise Major Donations And Here's Some Help...

In order to raise single large amount donations at one time you will need to develop relationships with the potential major donors who already do, or would buy into your organization. In order to do this, it is helpful to know what inspires wealthy donors to give in large amounts.

In the September 11, 2008 "News Updates" post on The Chronicle of Philanthropy's site, in her article, New Study Sheds Light on What Wealthy Donors Care About; Many Say They Will Support Operating Costs, Holly Hall summarizes "I'm Not Rockefeller" a survey conducted by the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for High Impact Philanthropy. The Center interviewed 33 donors who, donated an average of 1.5million each year. Click the study's name (in this paragraph, above) to access the study findings report.

To quote Hall, the survey " was aimed at providing insight into how the nation’s wealthiest donors choose the charities they support, how they obtain information on those organizations, how they assess the impact of their gifts, and the roles they see themselves playing in nonprofit organizations."

To quote the Executive Summary of the findings, "What we found were a set of diverse and evolving practices, a predominant reliance on peers for information, a narrow and negative view of evaluation (despite a strong desire to make a difference), and difficulty with exiting established relationships with nonprofits, perhaps because the transaction costs of “breaking up” seem too high. To our surprise, we also found that nearly a third of the study participants do not think of themselves as “philanthropists,” despite giving an average of nearly $1 million annually." [Page i]

The Executive Summary wraps up by commenting on the reason for the study; the Center for High Impact Philanthropy wants to understand what today's major donors needs are, in order to determine how the Center can gather, package, and disseminate the information that donors need. To again quote the Executive Summary, "Many [donors] expressed a reluctance to investigate the effectiveness of potential recipients for fear of inviting unwanted solicitations or appearing distrustful or overly demanding of the nonprofits with which they already had relationships. Most did not know about or refer to the myriad academic and nonprofit resources in their areas of interest." [Page i] So, the study was fruitful and the Center now has its work cut out for itself. We, who work for nonprofits, can consider the same task before each of us. We need to make it easy for the wealthy, who would potentially give in larger amounts, to give to the nonprofits we work for. The way to do this is to listen to the donors and also learn.

I know that you know this; you've heard it over and over. Relationships are REALLY how to raise larger donation amounts. To quote the study, "HNWP participants indicated that their criteria for philanthropic giving were deeply informed by their social capital. The criteria they most frequently cited – apart from an interest in or passion for a subject – were personal involvement with an organization (or the involvement of someone known to them) and the ability to influence a tangible program or project related to a passion or interest. These factors were especially important at the time of an initial gift. Some HNWPs told us that their involvement in an organization was an absolute precondition to donating what they considered larger gifts. Others were comfortable giving a larger amount if someone they knew well was personally involved in an organization. Few HNWP participants made a practice of giving large gifts in situations where they had simply heard of and/or read about an organization." [Section 1:9, Page 13]

What nonprofit does not need money to fund its overhead, or operating costs today? It is so often thought (or assumed) that donors (grant donors, major donors, etc.) won't or don't fund operating or overhead costs. This is simply not true. The study even found that major donors expect to help pay for these costs. To quote one of the surveyed participants "“ [S]omebody needs to pay for the overhead in order for them to provide their services, so why shouldn’t it be us? And if we believe in the organization, why shouldn’t we pay for their overhead?”" [Section 1:10, Page 14] Talk with your major donors or develop your more wealthy regular donors; they are not necessarily adverse at all to assisting the organization with its operating costs. Many participants in the study understood that these costs exist as much as programmatic costs.

As I've said repeatedly in this blog, "The most common trajectory is a transition from early hands-off donations to more focused giving.5 Increased focus is most typically associated with greater involvement in an organization." [Section 1;19, Page 23 of 32] Nonprofits who do not think they have access to wealthy donors or potential major donors; or who do not choose to develop their wealthier donors are simply leaving money on the table, and which nonprofit can afford to do that? We, especially as fundraisers, need to listen to our donors (and potential donors and volunteers); and learn. Studies like these are a wealth of information. I have definitely learned new information from this study, as I know that you will, as well.

The URL for the study's findings (report) is: http://www.impact.upenn.edu/UPenn_CHIP_HNWP_Study.pdf

Maddie's Fund Grants Available to Animal Shelters Who Have Created Successful "Hard To Place Dogs and Cats" Placement

From The Foundation Center...

Maddie's Fund Invites Petfinder.com Shelters to "Hard to Place" Marketing Competition

Deadline: October 31, 2008

Maddie's Fund ( http://www.maddiesfund.org/ ) and Petfinder.com ( http://www.petfinder.com/ ) have announced a $300,000 marketing competition for Petfinder.com member shelters and rescues.

Animal organizations that have created successful strategies to find homes for hard to place dogs and cats are invited to apply. "Hard to place" includes elderly, blind, deaf, disfigured, black, shy, or plain pets, or cats and dogs that require in-home, medical, or behavioral care. The program seeks quantifiable measures of success, including percent and total numbers of hard-to-place animals adopted.

Winners will receive $500 to $25,000 each. Last year's program presented cash awards to more than a hundred organizations. See Maddie's Fund Web site for complete program guidelines.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15015093/maddiesfund

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Here's The New Tax Form You'll File For 2008 Reporting

The IRS released the new nonprofit tax form, 990-EZ tax return this week, on September 11. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-tege/f990rez.pdf


All American nonprofits (in one of many forms, as defined by the IRS; e.g. a 501(c)(3), a 501(c)(4), etc.) for the fiscal year of 2008 and after, that earned receipts in the amounts of $25,000 or more; will be required to file either an IRS form 990 (or 990N) or IRS form 990EZ. The minimum receipts requirements to file and the forms are new. Be sure to review the IRS code that describes which organizations must file which forms and which organizations are exempt. Maybe in previous years the organization that you work for did not have to file a tax return? Starting with the 2008 fiscal year and on, the organization may now be required to. Review the nonprofit tax forms and publications information in the IRS' "charities" section of its website to get the new information and to be prepared.

Why? "The Pension Protection Act of 2006 requires the IRS to revoke the tax exemption of any nonprofit that fails to file a return for three years in a row for tax years beginning January 1, 2007. Thus, in May 2010, nonprofits that have failed to file Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-PF, or 990-N for three consecutive years will begin losing their tax-exempt status." [2007; Coffman, Suzanne E. http://www.guidestar.org/DisplayArticle.do?articleId=1125 ]

If you lay the tax form required for nonprofits for 2007 fiscal year and prior, on a table next to this new form - you will not only notice the new information required of each nonprofit that earned $25,000 in receipts, or more; you will be able to infer why the document has been changed. In Seeking Grant Money Today I wrote "The New Tax Form You'll Have To File..." and in that post I explained that, "The IRS developed this new tax form because the previous one, created in the late 1970's, was outdated. Congress has dealt with more than one or two nonprofits, in recent years, who receive federal grants but seem to also pay their leadership exorbitant amounts and benefits. These kinds of operations were only discovered after Congress investigated the organizations. This situation was indicative of a real issue: the reporting required via federal tax filings was not informative enough for the government (and others) to SEE what a given nonprofit does/doesn't do with its money for its mission statement. The IRS asked for public commentary as they developed the new form. In its final state, the form reflects the government's and responding American nonprofit organizations' suggestions, goals, issues, and concerns."

Page 3 of the IRS' new tax form 990EZ's instructions explains, "Some members of the public rely on Form 990, or Form 990-EZ, as the primary or sole source of information about a particular organization. How the public perceives an organization in such cases may be determined by the information presented on its return. Therefore, the return must be complete, accurate, and fully describe the organization’s programs and accomplishments." It also states, "
An organization’s completed Form 990, or Form 990-EZ, is available for public inspection as
required by section 6104. Schedule B, Schedule of Contributors, is open for public inspection for
section 527 organizations filing Form 990 or Form 990-EZ. For other organizations that file Form 990 or Form 990-EZ, parts of Schedule B may be open to public inspection. See the Instructions for Schedule B for more details."

Grant writers, for example regularly use grant donors' filed tax form 990's to determine which potential grant donors are most likely to give to the organizations that they are working for. To learn more about how a filed tax form 990 can be useful when seeking grant money read, "The Grant Writer's Little Helper: IRS Tax Form 990 Part 1 of 2" and also be sure to read "The Grant Writer's Little Helper:...Part 2 of 2" .

In reviewing the new 990 EZ form, you'll notice that now the "Contributions, gifts, grants, and similar amounts received" line item is the first accounting requested on the form. Further, page 2 of the new 990 EZ is dedicated, now, to not just stating what the tax exempt organization's primary exempt purpose is, but it also requires nonprofits to describe achievements in carrying out the purpose specifically requesting "a description of the services provided, the number of persons who benefited, or other relevant information for each program..."

As I explained in Seeking Grant Money Today's former post, "Transparency...Four Letter Word Or Wave of the Future?" donors today (including the governments who have jurisdiction to oversee any American nonprofit's tax exempt work and its financial reporting) request information to provide potential donors (and the community) with insight into what the nonprofit does with its money and resources; if it is effective, efficient, current, and consistent in the work of its mission statement; how well the organization operates (e.g. does it follow its own bylaws, does it retain an effective board that knows and utilizes modern professional nonprofit best practices); and other important insights. You see, not only fundraisers use the nonprofit's 990 tax return. Potential donors to your nonprofit look up your organization's record, by researching your organization's 990 filings, to decide 'is this organization worth my investment (volunteer time and/or financial) in this nonprofit?'. Sometimes donors find less than what they'd hope for and decide to research another nonprofit's operations who does the same work as the first nonprofit's but hopefully better. Organizational operations and accounting transparency; accountability to a nonprofit's cause, constituency, donors, and work; and honest self reporting are modern day nonprofit operations best practices. Nonprofits who still try to hide their foibles or errors are going to find they will also lose donors, volunteers, potential community collaborators, and perhaps even their legal nonprofit status (see my quote of Coffman's article for Guidestar.org, above). There is no nonprofit that does not have its share of challenges. It is how the nonprofit chooses to acknowledge, fix, and report their challenges that demonstrates either a modern, open, but confident nonprofit; or one of old practices that does not know it can ask for help to right its operations, and proudly demonstrate to its constituency that it has met its own challenges and succeeded.

As I explain in "How To Increase The Number of New Donors" the government is doing us nonprofits a favor. They're pulling us: some kicking, screaming, and fighting it, into the modern era of accountability to our current and even future supporters' benefit.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Your Nonprofit Needs Cash Flow. That Means Your Nonprofit Needs Your Individual Donors. Take Great Care Of Each One...

In such a tough economy, we're all doing what we know best to retain the donors that have given to us already. Donor care, also known as "relationship building" and "donor maintenance", is a powerful way to sustain your nonprofit in tough times.

Nonprofits that plan regularly and on an ongoing basis, that create organizational and program budgets, save money where they can, and put a little away at regular intervals are doing damn good. This is the type of economy that reminds us that we need to spend less, save more, do more through a few extra sponsors' contributions, call on our major donors for a bit more assistance, and rally our volunteers - anything more that they may be able to give is a huge help.

We individual nonprofits, tiny or large, do not want to lose the resource that is American nonprofits' single largest donation source; individual donors. More donations are given to any American nonprofit by individuals and families than any other donation source.

Individual donors are your donors who send a ten dollar check when they can, the local family who runs the store that donates doughnuts and coffee for each of your board meetings, the family who sends a memorial to your nonprofit commemorating a family friend who recently passed. The individual donor may not lavish your organization with tens of thousands of dollars each time that they give, but they give regularly, they are committed to your organization (not just the cause you serve); and their connection to your organization is your nonprofit's lifeblood.

Individual donors respond to your newsletter donation remittance envelopes. They sent a check to your agency years ago, sent a check last year, and will likely send a check this year in response to your annual appeal letter. They may be members of your organization, but they give beyond the membership, and every so often. They've given to your organization for an extended amount of time; maybe years. Their level of commitment to support your organization is worth more than the amount of the check that they write when they do give. Why? Individual donors provide regular cash flow. Do they give in amounts that we dream of raising? Hopefully, but more likely they don't. Lamenting that money doesn't grow on trees aside; there is no greater support any nonprofit can raise than retaining donor who gave yesterday, gave today, and we are pretty sure they'll give tomorrow. It's this last phrase that I'm getting at, in this post. Help make sure that your donors give again. Take good care of each and every one of them.

If we have a commitment from any donor, as a nonprofit, we are getting a guarantee. Can something change, do crises happen, are their misunderstandings, even accidents? Unfortunately, of course. So, we never know without a doubt that a commitment will be kept; but we can up the odds. We can also up the chances that our individual donors will give tomorrow. Healthy nonprofits operate via cash flow. The only way any organization raises regular, reliable, consistent cash flow is by developing their regular (or individual) donors.

Maybe your nonprofit raises mostly grants and only sends an annual appeal to local individuals, families, and small businesses once a year. That's fine. I'm willing to bet, though, that raising grants isn't sustaining cash flow enough that your organization is growing (providing new services in addition to the services you've been providing while maintaining good consistent cash flow). So, to you I suggest that you look over that list of the local people, families, and business owners who have given, and realize that year to year, month to month, through tough times and good growth - they are always there to support your organization (much more often and quickly than any grant donor who has given to your agency). Grant writing is not a quick way to raise funds and grant donors do not necessarily give again in the short term, if they ever do again.

Keeping donors happy involves some basics that are not too expensive for any nonprofit to learn about, instigate as regular operating procedures for the organization, and then maintain (all the while you and pertinent staff should be learning what more could be done for your donors, year to year).

Donors can be kept happy and connected to your organization in a healthy and strong relationship by doing the following:

__ If you haven't been, start recording who you receive donations from. Any and every donor should be recorded (your organization could do so in Excel, in a custom made Access database, in a donor database software system, or even just on recipe cards filed into a recipe box). Every time you receive a donation: note their names (do not just address everything to one individual if the donation is coming from a couple or an entire family - treat people as people - not as ATM's). Note their mailing address, phone number, and the date, amount donated, what they gave for (some will give in response to annual appeal letters, some may give to a specific fundraiser, etc.), and any other information that you know (for certain) about them that might lead to a stronger relationship between them and the nonprofit. For instance, if the Smith family donates $100 in response to your golf tournament and you happen to know for certain that the Smith's own the local hardware store - note it. Some donors give over and over and you'll pull their note card every time that they do, note the pertinent information, and you'll also begin to know the names of the people who are most committed to your agency. If you should receive a call from Mrs. Smith, you could pull the recipe card with their information and while you speak to her - you have information on hand so that you could indicate that your organization knows who she is - she isn't just a cash source, you are aware of their work in the community (besides supporting your nonprofit). Also, be sure to thank her for all of her support over the years. Some donors' giving history will run on for months and then years - these are people demonstrating their commitment to your organization. They are critical to your organization's abilities. Maybe they give $5 each time or maybe they give $2,000 every time. I don't care - they are equal because they are demonstrating a consistent commitment to your organization that it can not do without. Your task could be to increase how much each donor gives but the key is that your constituency is healthy and active.

__ Thank your donors. I am still stunned when my family and I contribute to a nonprofit and no one at the nonprofit has the professionalism, manners, or foresight to thank us. I guarantee you that I know who those organization are and I will never give to them, again. They probably won't know that I am not giving again, but they also don't care much, either. Start a protocol and for each and every donation acknowledge the donor's contribution and interest in your organization. Nonprofits who value the people in their communities who support them (they may give money, volunteer work, in kind donations, etc.) are going to do just fine. It may be expensive to mail thank you letters, but then thank every donor through e-mail, or a phone call. Maybe you feel that only people who give $25 or more should receive letters - fine. But, be sure to acknowledge the retired woman who can only give $5 but gave it to YOUR nonprofit. You need her. Really. Thank all donors somehow. Letters are best as donors need record if they are going to claim the donation for tax deduction purposes, but the most critical and perhaps the simplest maintenance is to take the time and resources to thank your donors. Also, if you run into Mrs. Smith at the grocery store and you know who she is and what she looks like - thank her, then, too. Never give a donor a reason to not give again.

__ Never give a donor (or volunteer, etc.) any reason to not support your organization. If, for instance, your organization mails newsletters, regularly, and Mrs. Smith phones and requests that your nonprofit not send her newsletters anymore as she wants to do all she can to reduce paper use, and reads it online; BE CERTAIN that your organization notes that (on your mailing list). She (and whomever else has requested such) should really and truly no longer receive newsletters. You must provide each donor with customer service - you must follow through. If they are happy they will give again and if you are developing them to do so, they may give more. Your regular (individual) donors are your nonprofit's "customers" and your organization (and everyone in it, representing it, etc.) MUST treat everyone in your community professionally, graciously, openly, and accommodate people. They are your nonprofit's people! Initiate and require excellent customer service (provide training regularly) of your volunteers and staff. Your volunteers and staff must make room for and help everyone who wants to support your organization. No nonprofit can afford to pick and choose who will receive excellent care. Not one. We've all heard the urban myth story of the old gentleman who gave a local nonprofit $5 each and every month for years; and when he passed on, he left the organization $10 million. These things happen. All I can say: he must have been treated really well by the organization's volunteers and staff for his consistent dedication to the nonprofit. Imagine if there was a time when all the organization needed was $250 more that month to make budget; $5 goes a long way.

__ Listen to your donors. Pay attention to what they are donating to and in larger or smaller amounts compared to recent years. If they are demonstrating through their giving patterns that there is no interest in that five year old special event that your nonprofit does annually, you would be wise to research why people aren't attending it. If they aren't interested in the special event, you'd do well to find out what they would enjoy and provide them with it. All things being equal, you must account for costs, viability, etc. but if your donors want to attend, for instance, a 1950's style Bunny Hop and your organization's been holding a formal black tie ball - that change isn't difficult to provide them with.

__ Analyze your donations, your donors' giving history, what events raise what amounts, what time of year you raise the largest and smallest amounts, etc. and make changes as necessary. Run analysis regularly every year. Compare, year to year. For instance, if you have regular donors who give in larger amounts, they're indicating a certain amount of dedication and giving ability. These folks could be now (or become) your organization's major donors. Learn what a major donor program is and how to develop these people into consistent donors who happily give at larger amounts. Remember, donors give for a reason. They are connecting with the issue that concerns them and have chosen your nonprofit as a solution that they support. Ask them what they are concerned about (relating to the issue), and ask them how they came to know about your nonprofit. Ask if they'd like to get more involved. Remember, if you ask them for $50,000 for the new program two years away - they always have the right to say 'no'; but if you don't ask, they won't give.

__ Learn. If you don't know how to build better relationships between your organization and its individual donors, or how to do something, would like to achieve some donor threshold goal, or fundraising goal, or how to do X, or when to do Y - LEARN. There is no point in your career that you know it all or are 'done' with needing to know the latest and best practices. Always learn.

I often place caveats in my post, and this one has one, too. I need to be sure to state clearly that no nonprofit should give any one donor carte blanche. If your organization has decided to, for instance, build a new building and give naming rights to the major donors who contribute to it (e.g. Mr. and Mrs. Smith gave $500,000 and want the library to be named The Smith Library) that is fine IF your organization's bylaws, articles of incorporation, current leadership, and perhaps even your lawyer are OK with it. If your organization, for instance, is a public school that is pushing nutrition and has decided and initiated that no sugar drinks or junk food will be made available in vending machines; you may have an established policy stating that your organization will not accept any donation (no matter how large) from any donor that requires that your school place their sugar laden or junk food products in your cafeterias in order to receive their $500,000 grant. Having boundaries is paramount, even for nonprofits. Your organization exists to achieve its mission statement - not to serve any one person or peoples' desires.

Donors are any nonprofit's lifeblood. The source of the most of any American nonprofits' donations is individual donors. Be sure to retain them as they already have 'buy in' to your organization - you can't afford to lose them. Take good care of them.

Grants for Cat Health Research

From The Foundation Center...

Winn Feline Foundation Invites Applications for Cat Health Research

Deadline: December 8, 2008

The Winn Feline Foundation ( http://www.winnfelinehealth.org/ )is a nonprofit organization that funds research into medical problems affecting cats. During the fiscal year ending April 30, 2008, Winn funded ten grants totaling $118,131 in areas such as feline infectious peritonitis, renal & liver diseases, mammary and oral cancers, genetics, and drug therapies. The maximum grant amount is $15,000. The foundation does not fund the salaries of principal investigators, major equipment expenditures, travel, or indirect costs. Studies applicable to all cats are encouraged. The foundation is also interested in projects that address problems in individual breeds. The foundation is interested in all areas of feline health, but also has dedicated funds for research into mediastinal lymphoma, feline infectious peritonitis, and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Applicants may be faculty veterinarians, post-doctoral fellows, practicing veterinarians, or veterinary students. Application guidelines and instructions are available at the foundation's Web site. RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15014890/felinehealth

Monday, September 01, 2008

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

The key to successful fundraising is educating yourself: if you don't know how to, if you haven't done it in a while, and even if you're a successful professional fundraiser of thirty years. Many good resources offer excellent information for free. As with any profession, keeping up on the latest best practices will save your organization money, keep you in touch with innovations that your organization won't have to re-discover (as others already discovered it), and you'll be exposed to what donors expect, RIGHT NOW, of their benefactors. By knowing this, you can up the chances in receiving donations (including grants). It's back to school, fellow fundraisers!

This back to school post in Seeking Grant Money Today comes with this time of year. The kiddos are heading back to school, autumn is starting to appear, and there could be a chill in your organization's cash flow similar to the recently appearing frosts. Do not fret over the challenge. Improve your fundraising and increase it by arming yourself with knowledge, capability, the latest best practices, and save your organization time, money, and additional cash flow loss.

Who amongst us, no matter their experience or success levels, couldn't use: information teaching us how to conduct the fundraising methods our organization isn't currently using (perhaps we haven't started a major donors fundraising campaign before); or couldn't be brought up to speed on how to conduct a feasibility study in the cheapest most efficient methods possible (based on the latest findings in our sector); or the opportunity to share our own organization's successes and better practices findings? We professionals need to learn, keep up on the latest, share our best findings, and network with one another (Even volunteers are professional nonprofit staff when they work on behalf of any nonprofit that works towards its mission-based goals expecting to be successful). The amount of time that we invest in learning the basics, to keeping up on the latest will save our organizations' resources such as time and money.

The following are the Top Seven Professional Nonprofit Fundraising (and Grant Writing) Education Resources That The Grant Plant Recommends:

7. The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is the preeminent professional nonprofit fundraising affiliation in the United States and it is highly respected. They provide many free resources on their website such as example documents, webinars (held online - attendees view via web connection for topics such as 'how to' classes or forum discussions to explain where donors are today), and articles describing how to conduct different fundraising methods (e.g. such as a major donors campaign).

6. The Foundation Center is an extremely reputable, respected, up to date, and helpful website for you to either learn about or keep up with. Review their Getting Started section, first. It describes what they offer and provide (for free, too). They not only offer free: resources, courses, and learning tools on their site, but they have offices all over the U.S. They provide courses on various topics (everything from grant proposal writing to advanced grant seeking) all over the United States several times a year. You can check their course schedule. Keep up on the sector via their Gain Knowledge section. Their PND Talk Message Board forum is an excellent place to post questions that may be answered often by seasoned professionals. Also, look over their Store for reputable up to date references.

5. If you live near or don't mind occasionally driving to the nearest professional nonprofit affiliation it will most likely be well worth the membership fee to join and your time to attend their classes or programs. Research in Google, look through your local phone book, ask colleagues at other nonprofits in your town, or visit the Reference Desk at your local public library and find out what affiliation is nearby for nonprofit professionals. A nonprofit professionals organization (affiliation) will not just be a great place for you to network with your counterparts in other organization also living in your region (volunteers and staffers); but it will offer you courses (everything from the basics and how to begin courses in fundraising, management, or operations); conferences; and forums where you can listen to representatives working for grantmakers who give grants in your region talk about what they are hoping to fund (causes, kinds of organizations, types of programs or items that they fund, etc.). For examples, the following professional nonprofit affiliations exist in Seattle: the Northwest Development Officers Association, the Puget Sound Grantwriters Association, and the Executive Alliance. Look over what these organizations offer their members (and nonmembers, too) to see what you could gain from such a membership.

4. Look into what your local community college offers. For instance, many community colleges (or even universities) offer community programs to the regional population so that people can take classes without having to apply to the school to attend courses. Look into whether the school offers classes in topics that you're hoping to learn more about (e.g. grant writing, fundraising, organizational management, etc.). Don't stop there, though. Once you've found a course or two that you or one of your colleagues might attend - research the course and the instructor. Are they any good? Are they recommended? Does the instructor have a lot of successes and experience in the work they're teaching?

3. Look over a list of books considered standards and the best references in American nonprofit work, today. I have hand picked each book included in the Amazon Store (the store or box is on the right side of this web page).  These books, that I selected, are standards in the professional nonprofit sector.  See that list of excellent, reputable, effective resources.  Start up organizations should be sure to look over the last in the list; Kim Klein's Chardon Press. She's written on many aspects of grassroots or start up nonprofit operations. I understand that you may not have the money to buy stacks of books. If this is your situation, jot down the titles that interest you and their authors' names and request that your local public library to purchase these books. They'll be invaluable to many organizations in your region. Sign up with the library to be notified when it comes available.

2. Volunteer with or intern with a nonprofit or consulting firm in your area who does what you need to learn about very well. Ask if you'll be able to work directly with the volunteer or staff who has the experience and knowledge that you seek. You'll be helping them in their workload, but you must benefit, too. Make sure that the organization is a reputable one, successful, and that they'll really and truly provide you with the education and real world experience that you need. Get the volunteer or intern work details, what will be expected of you, your expected outcomes, and your goals down on paper. Agree with the organization what the timeline will be and what you will learn and provide. Make sure that everyone understands the details and expectations and then you and the organization's legal representative should sign the agreement.

1. Hire a reputable professional consultant who conducts the work that you need to complete, who can either simply review your final documents (e.g. a fundraising letter, grant proposal, or feasibility study plan), consult with your organization how to do the work, or actually hire them to do the work, itself. Your local professional nonprofit affiliations (for that work, e.g grantwriters) will likely have lists of consultants who work in your geographic region. Also, you can look for good ethical professionals available across the U.S. at: http://www.afpnet.org/ConsultantDirectory/Search.cfm?folder_id=940 Hiring any consultant is no different than hiring a staff member; be sure to interview more than one, find out what the going rate is for differing experience levels in your region, and ask for professional references AND follow up with them. Remember, too, that any consultant that you hire to teach your board how to conduct strategic planning, for instance; or grant writing; can teach your staff how to do what you're hiring them to do. If you ask to be educated during their work, you or another volunteer or staff member at your organization can eventually take over their work, maybe after doing one or two real world exercises under the consultant's direction.

Oh, and I would humbly recommend that your review this blog, Seeking Grant Money Today and the index of the topics that we've written about (or "tags") under Archives (on the left hand side of this blog). We've written about many different 'how to' or 'where do we find' lessons on various nonprofit operations and fundraising. You can learn, here, and other reputable professional blogs for free.

The time that you take to either learn or remain up to date on the latest best practices is an investment into your professional abilities AND the organization's abilities, successes, and resources.

Most, if not all of the above websites offer visitors the opportunity to sign up for a free newsletter or list serve. If you want to be kept in the professional nonprofit world's loop - sign up with the organizations who offer education in the methods or work that you want to be kept up on.

Grants for Projects Creating Or Improving Measurement of Classroom Quality

From The Foundation Center...

William T. Grant and Spencer Foundations Seek Proposals for the Development and Improvement of the Measurement of Classroom Quality

Deadline: November 3, 2008 (Letters of Inquiry)

The William T. Grant Foundation ( http://wtgrantfoundation.org/ )and the Spencer Foundation ( http://www.spencer.org/ ) have announced their joint 2009 Request for Proposals for the Development and Improvement of the Measurement of Classroom Quality. This RFP is part of the foundations' broader effort to build theory and evidence about how classrooms affect youth and how to improve those effects.

The foundations will support a small group of research projects, one to three years in duration, with award amounts ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 each, including all direct and indirect costs. The foundations will consider several types of proposals: a) new, stand-alone measurement development studies; b) add-on studies in which new measurement development work supplements an existing field study; and c) further analysis of existing data to improve measurement. The foundations anticipate that the third category, further analysis studies, will have budgets at the lower end of the award range, add-on studies will have budgets at the middle of the range, and new stand-alone studies will have budgets toward the upper end of the range. Applicants must be employed at a nonprofit institution, either in the United States or abroad. Complete program information is available at the William T.Grant and Spencer Foundation Web sites.

RFP Link:http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15014822/wtgrant