Sunday, November 30, 2008

How To Raise Money Better, In Your Region...Even In Tough Times

Since the economic downturn, I've posted general fundraising advice, in Seeking Grant Money Today, besides this blog's main topic du jour; grant writing advice, information, and tips. I've looked at these as free consultations, as if you and I were working together on your organization's needs. Guessing that most nonprofits could use all of the free excellent advice that they can get right now; we're on it!

Good for all nonprofits, from start up to an established older organization; our most recent posts, designed also as free consultations to help out in these tough times, were: A Few Excellent Suggestions For Nonprofits To Survive These Uncertain Economic Times; What Can We Nonprofits Do In This Uncertain Economy?; Write An Annual Appeal Letter To Raise Relatively Quick Funds; Getting Major Donors To Donate Large Regular Donations Can Stabilize Cash Flow; Another Free Nonprofit Fundraising Consultation To Help During These Tough Economic Times; Top Ten Ways To Take That Nonprofit's Fundraising To The Next Level; and Free Nonprofit Fundraising, Software, And Outreach Options.

Like any for-profit business, all nonprofits must reach current and likely consumers, or supporters such as: members, donors, volunteers, excellent staff hires, etc. The only way that any entity effectively reaches the most likely candidates to get active with their organization is by knowing and understanding one's community, the community's current need of your organization, and how the need can best be met.

Nonprofits who raise funds well, even in difficult times, know that the key remains not just listening, but hearing one's donors, clients, volunteers, staff, and other key constituents. While not everyone knows what's best for the nonprofit, the mission statement should be able to clarify between a community's current needs and an organization's resources' limits (e.g. especially during a tough economy) leading to the basis of where the organization should go right now (today), to achieve its organizational goals (also called a strategic plan). The community's needs must be met well, according to the mission statement, by running an effective, efficient (very important in a down economy), transparent, honest, and successful organization. An organization's leadership may not know what to do in such tough times, as these, but it should know its organization's mission statement. That's a very good place to begin.

The best way to understand what one's community needs right now is to hear them. The best way to get information from them is to consider what geographic region your organization serves, and for that population (or those benefactors of your organization's work): read recent press that is pertinent to your organization's cause, read the very latest in your field of work, listen to colleagues at other organizations who work in the same cause after asking what they're working on and hearing, survey the clientele or scientifically poll the benefactor of your organization's work and formatting a survey that gathers the information that your organization wants to know without biasing or skewing the data results (which may require a bit of research into what to do and what to avoid when creating an effective survey, and learning online), and research the latest census or research in your region by going to the nearest public library and asking the Reference desk where the latest studies and results are located to anything pertinent to your organization's work (and its goals).

By being focused on the region that your organization serves and THAT population or benefactor of your nonprofit's work; your organization is getting current, is relevant to the intended beneficiaries, is keeping up on the latest in your field of work; and all of this is not just good for your organization's programs, research, and/or services. In being relevant, current, and in touch your organization will be more successful at its mission. The value of an organization's success can not be understated. Every nonprofit that is providing a new program, an old program, or is just starting must share any and all successes pertinent to its mission statement's work with its community. One of the finest and most successful ways to raise new and larger donations is to demonstrate (not just say - but actually do) success. What person who cares about your organization's cause would not want to invest in a nonprofit that is successful and well run?

It is important to also remain in touch with current and potential donors (new and old). If you live in a region that is very badly hit by this economic downturn - then your organization must devise ways to raise money while being mindful and respectful of the local economic reality. Mail out a few more appeal letter solicitations this year than usual and ask donors to give, each time, what they can instead of asking for a specific dollar amount. No nonprofit (I don't care who it is or how big it is) can afford to snub even a $1 donation. Remember; someone may be testing your organization's dedication to the people who support it and give a $100 gift next time. Also, some people give at young ages, stick with causes that concern them, and give in larger amounts as they age and their income and giving ability increases. Remind each letter recipient of your organization's recent achievements and successes, share your agency's plans to deal with the economic slowdown and share your organization's plans and vision for its future. Make it clear that your organization values their contribution because they aren't just giving a donation; they are investing in the cause that your group works for.

If your region is not badly hit, yet, but there's more local economic fall-out to come probably; get sponsorships, in kind donations, local businesses' donations, and other larger gifts today. Even if all that your nonprofit can get is a promise of a gift to be given in the near future - that's good enough. Keep in touch with the donors who promise or bequest without hounding them. Be a good neighbor who is reminding them that they care about the cause your group serves, and then clarify for them why your organization is THE nonprofit that they should support given their care for the issue. Again; (even if you are repeating a message from a recent past solicitation) state your organization's recent successes and goals achieved, clarify how your organization is planning to survive this recession, and share your group's vision of its future. Give any potential investor a clear and hopeful vision of your group to demonstrate what they and your agency's leadership can do for the mission statement, together!

All nonprofits, in an economic downturn or not, can do the following to improve their fundraising:

__ Take note of what other nonprofits in the region are doing to raise money and try not to over saturate the market with the same fundraiser. If a lot of organizations, right now, are doing can drives - don't also do a can drive. Instead, come up with another way to get the food stuff donations that your organization needs.

__ If your organization has a website, let the site raise some money for your organization besides its donation page; have the nonprofit become an affiliate and sell books, for instance, about the cause or issue that your nonprofit works for (e.g. you could go to amazon.com and learn about their affiliate sales program). Affiliate programs are sales commissions for sales made (for whichever vendor or store your organization chooses and signs up with through that company's affiliate marketing program - usually found on companies' websites). Let potential buyers know that a proceed of their purchase goes to your organization if they buy it through your nonprofit site. Anything can be sold, these days, online via affiliate programs. If your agency would rather sell holiday decorations, or supplies pertinent to your cause, or anything really - these days you can find a good vendor with a good affiliate program to do that with. Be sure to let clients, volunteers, staff, and donors know that they can purchase X or Z on your group's site. Drive viewers to the affiliate links, when possible. Don't shrug at it - affiliates can make a lot of money.

__ Get into the local press with your agency's recent successes and heart-warming stories. Don't take these happenstances lightly or quietly! If your nonprofit does not share its successes with current and potential or future supporters - how will anyone know your group is successful (and worth investing in; either as a donor or as a volunteer)?

__ Connect with the people who live in the region that your organization serves. It is not enough to expect that people will learn about your organization through friends or family; or that they'll happen onto your group's website! If you aren't making the connection with local (or pertinent) people - how will they connect with your group? Marketing, public relations, and development are each and all critical to success - but none of these are necessary to effectively connect with people in the region! Connecting doesn't always have to be about asking for something. Sometimes just saying thank you is very powerful...especially when people have been supportive but may have less to give right now. Keeping your donors, volunteers, and clients connected with your group will keep them with it through this recession. You'll need to do that.

As always, we're so happy to receive any ideas, suggestions, or successful tools or methods that other nonprofits have found that work lately! If you'd like to share, please do so, below, by "Commenting". Thank you!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Free Nonprofit Fundraising, Software, and Outreach Options...

In the spirit of the holiday this week, I want to give to you and your nonprofit. The following are several free resources that will help your nonprofit raise funds, acquire items that it needs, and operate more efficiently; all for free. Happy Thanksgiving! If you haven't already...

__ Need something for free or does your nonprofit (or even you!) need to get rid of something that is perfectly re-usable (e.g. everything from a wheelchair, to packing peanuts, to sewing machines, to computers, bikes, clothes, furniture, etc.); or does your organization need something that can have been previously used? Go online to www.freecycle.org and find a freecycle program near your region. All items are offered for free. All of them. Create an account and follow your local freecycle.org's rules (e.g. usually users must take something before it can put something up on the list to be picked up from you). Freecycle users are anonymous, can request "serious inquiries only" or "interested parties who will pick item up, themselves, only", etc. It's a great way to clear your organization's office of unwanted items in good quality and avoiding putting it in the dump; but it's also a great way to acquire a free fax machine, free computer, etc. Most local chapters allow users to post "Wanted" items, too.

__ Optimize your organization's administration by using better and faster free office products. For the computer: www.ubuntu.com is a free, tested, and much adored operating system (that could replace Windows or Mac OS, for instance with like office software products) if your organization is having difficulties with its operating systems. Similarly, you may want to install Mozilla's Firefox web browser if the nonprofits' staff or volunteers are having difficulties with the latest versions of the current web browser (perhaps Internet Explorer). It is also free, well used, and highly regarded. If your organization has phone conferences or meetings, you can use Google's suite of 'cloud computing' software. Google offers free (just create a Google account at www.google.com) office software equivalents (that we all know, such as Excel and Word) for free. They also offer a calendar that can be used as your organization's official 'internal' calendar providing everything from 'days off' on the calendar to all events, fundraisers, classes, services, board meetings, etc. posted on the calendar on the days and at the times that they will occur. The thing about their office suite is that it can be used by multiple people at one time, in real time, for instance during work meetings. Google allows users to also save, keep, and go back to the documents they've created, plus any and all docs can be shared with whomever the doc creator indicates (in the application) it should be. There are many free software options, today, for nonprofits that are excellent products. If there's something that your organization needs, do a search in any search engine for the product and the word "free" or "freeware" (which means free software).

__ Create an account for your organization on www.idealist.org. Idealist is a respected, long standing, informative portal for nonprofits. Once your organization registers and creates an account on idealist.org the general public can learn about or learn more about your group. It is a place that nonprofits, people who work for nonprofits, etc. go to search for organizations. On your Idealist.org account you can add upcoming events, donation information, and more. It is a free offer that only adds to your organization's presence on the web.

__ Create an account on www.missionfish.org; the donation arm of www.ebay.com. When you create an account on missionfish, as people buy or sell on ebay.com they can select your organization to receive a portion of the sale as a donation. Be sure to let your clients, volunteers, staff, and donors about your organization being listed there, now - so that when they use ebay, they can contribute to your group.

__ Create a wish list for the items that your nonprofit needs (either items for your clientele, or maybe research work, and even office supplies, for instance). Go to www.amazon.com; create an account for the nonprofit (and keep record of its log in, on amazon, and its password). Then, using the "search" feature enter the first item that your organization may need. For instance, let's say that we need reams of copy paper; search for 'copy paper' and select the product your office prefers. Then, on the right hand side of the item, instead of clicking 'purchase this item', find and click the 'Add to Wishlist' prompt. The first item that you go to add will cause amazon to prompt 'no wish list exist for this account, yet; do you wish to create one?' and acknowledge that yes, you do. This first item will now be in your organization's wish list on amazon. Continue to search for, after, and and add any and all items that your organization would like to receive (that amazon sells, of course - but they sell a lot). When you're done, (and you can always return to add new items, later; or delete items later), click on "Wish List" in the upper right hand side of any amazon web page (while you're logged on in the organization's account) and give priority to the items that your organization really wants by going down its wish list and providing the level of need in the right hand side prompt of each item (low, medium, high, and highest). For each item, select its priority level, and then click 'save' right under the priority level prompt. Finally, notice that on the left hand side you can click 'give more information about your interests to help friends/family shop for gifts for you'. Even though yours' is an organization, click this feature. Make sure that the delivery address is correct (in the middle of the profile page); list your organization's mission statement in the 'personal interests prompt'; make sure that the wish list is public and accessible to all amazon users; and finally, at the very bottom of the profile page click the 'this wish list is for a nonprofit' check box, and provide your organization's Federal ID number (or 501(c)(3) tax number) and its website address; then save. Go back to the account's home page, and on the left hand side notice that you can e-mail your organization's wish list. If you wish, you could copy and paste, there, the e-mail addresses of your organization's donors and or sponsors and send it to them.

__ Use your community's local media to reach out to potential new volunteers and donors. How? Don't go to them when your organization is in crisis with the 'save us or we'll disintegrate' disaster message (it demonstrates why donors shouldn't give to your organization anymore - you can't manage and run a healthy organization). Instead, go to the public while your organization is meeting its mission statement goals (and give reasons why potential volunteers and donors should invest in your successful, efficient organization). For instance, you could share whether your organization doing something new? Is your organization offering a new service or class? Did your group just make a new discovery in its research? Maybe your organization is holding a Kwanzaa or Hanukkah gift exchange for those in need this year? Let the community know! Create press releases for any and each these kind of unique or new happenstances occur at the organization; and disseminate the release to all media that reaches the people your organization serves (you can e-mail a press release, fax it, or snail mail it). The list should include local radio stations, newspapers, television stations, magazines, relevent regional list serves, blogs, etc. and your organization's own website. Send the press releases "attention: community events" at each contact. Create a short and clear press release (search in any search engine if you aren't sure how to create a professional press release and look for what seems the best) and be sure to include the: who, what, where, when, how, and why of whatever you're informing the press about. Always remember to include your organization's name, a succinct (short but clear) phrase stating what it does (which does not have to be your group's mission statement) AND always provide where people can learn more (or volunteer for or donate to) your agency.

If you have a great 'free' tip for my readers and I, please post it as a "Comment" below. Thank you!

Best wishes this Thanksgiving!

Grants For Nonprofits Who Are Benefitting From Youth Getting Invovled In Their Community

From The Foundation Center...

Young Community Volunteers Invited to Apply for Do Something Awards

Deadline: March 1, 2009

The Do Something Awards, formerly the Brick Awards, are
designed to provide recognition and funding for young community
volunteers.

Do Something Award Winners receive a community grant,
participation in a special award ceremony, media coverage, and
continued support from Do Something ( http://www.dosomething.org/).

In the 2009 program, five winners will receive a minimum
of $10,000 in community grants and scholarships. (Only
winners 18 and under are eligible for a scholarship of $5,000 and a
$5,000 community grant; winners between the ages of 19 and 25
will receive their entire award in the form of a community grant.) Of
the five winners, one will be selected as the grand-prize winner
and will receive a total of $100,000 in community grants, paid
directly to the nonprofit of his or her choice.

Do Something Award applications go through two stages. First,
the Do Something Award Academy (comprised of former winners)
reads through all the applications and selects the finalists. Finalists are
then flown to New York City for interviews with > representatives
from the Do Something Award Selection Committee.

The five Do Something Award winners will be announced in the
spring of 2009. The grand-prize winner will be announced in the
summer of 2009.

Visit the Do Something Web site for complete program
guidelines.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15015936/dosomething

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tough Decision Made In The Best Interest Of Constituents May Be A Good Solution In This Economy

Keeping with the difficult economy that nonprofits are facing we are taking a temporary break from discussing grant writing, specifically, in Seeking Grant Money Today, to provide nonprofits with what we're calling "free consultations" right now.

This week - we want to list for nonprofits who are in tight spots some options and alternatives to operating as normal.

Any nonprofit always faces doing the following, so this list of remedies is not just posted for nonprofits that are sliding in this tough economy. In operating any nonprofit well, its leadership holds themselves accountable and keeps the organization's mission first and foremost always. So, sometimes extremely tough decisions are necessary and in the best interest of serving an organization's mission statement (and the benefiting constituency) at any time; during a rough economy, or not.

It is always OK to consider all options and discuss them, freely with colleagues.

Each of the following address either increasing income, saving more money, or cutting back costs. These three strategies are the key to any organization's survival in any economy. Decisions do not have to be about the economy. The best decisions are about constiuents and the beneficiaries of our organizations' mission statements.

Some options are:

__ Retooling the organization's budget and different programs' budgets: cutting back, spending freezes, increasing income, finding savings by ordering bulk or working with new cheaper vendors, etc.

__ Getting your entire nonprofit absorbed by another (similar and successful) nonprofit thereby making your nonprofit a new program (or an extension of an existing program) under the other organization.

__ Cutting back all paid employees' hours/pay by hypothetically five or ten hours a week, across the board, thereby reducing spending but not laying anyone off.

__ Temporarily closing shop for a specific and limited amount of time to cut spending for some time but not close the operation.

__ Collaborating with another similar organization (another nonprofit, a school, corporation, research facility, government, Tribe, etc.) to provide your organization's services, products, research, etc. yet share costs (and successes).

__ Increasing donations and expanding the number of revenue streams - if you currently only hold three fundraisers a year - consider holding six this year (e.g. finding new sponsors to sponsor more of your organization's work, implementing annual appeal letters, raising more and new major individual donors, a new special event, etc.)

__ Folding and closing shop permanently which can be devastating yet it can be for the best. If your organization's constituency (whatever or whomever it serves) would be better off if another similar nonprofit were the only game in town (for a myriad of possible reasons: everything from fundraising consolidation to clarifying where to go for information and referrals, etc.) then it is worth considering this option for their sake (and their sake is key, when considering a nonprofit's future, not your own).

__ Implementing sliding scale fees for services and products which may or may not be required of all clients or customers.

__ Reorganizing your agency and through restructuring its operations, staff, procedures, and all aspects of business to cut the "fat" resulting in a leaner, more efficient, 'heads up', productive, and effective organization.

__ Downsizing/Lay Offs which is another dreaded option for those nonprofits who hire staff. Perhaps staff could be hired back when the organization recovers. Always let staff go with the most advance notice, possible; and with the very best severance package that the organization can afford.

__ Freeze all management raises, bonuses, and incentive pay and ask for their patience and understanding. This may be where the organization learns who is a team player and who is focused on the best for the organization's mission statement; and who is not.

Always weigh which option is best for the nonprofit by keeping its mission statement first and foremost; forecasting the organization's abilities, budget, and income; monitoring how well needs are being met in your community and weigh these findings against the organization's expected outcomes; note how well similar organizations working in the same field or on the same cause are doing; network and be open - talk with colleagues doing similar work elsewhere and listen to them; share your organization's situation with your regional community foundation and listen to what they suggest; talk with your local municipalities and let representatives know where your organization is, what it's considering to solve its situation, and listen to their ideas or suggestions; let your donors know what is going on and ask them for 'extra' if they can offer it (either as volunteers, by giving needed items, or by increasing their donations for the year); keep clients and volunteers up to date on what is happening; stay a team - do not get divided by difficulties and stress; listen to one another; research options; learn what can be done; and plan.

Sadly, there will be many organization who read this because they are facing the most difficult times and therefore the most difficult decisions that your organization has ever had to do. Work together, within your organization; use your community's assets, right now; learn and educate yourselves and your organization's leadership; see where your organization is right now, do a needs assessment, and recommend solutions; plan; and roll up your sleeves. I know that they were already rolled up, but hang in there. Also, take good care of yourselves, right now, as best as you can. We're in this together.

I would appreciate hearing what your organization is doing to solve any one of its difficulties during this tough economy. Please share them by commenting, below, here. We all need each other and any effective ingenuity right now. Thank you in advance.

Award for Individual Or Nonprofit Who Has Improved Rights, Dignity, and Access To Justice for Disabled

From The Foundation Center...

American Bar Association Invites Nominations for Disability Rights Award

Deadline: April 1, 2009

The American Bar Association's ( http://www.abanet.org/ ) Hearne Award honors the work of Paul G. Hearne, a lawyer and leading disability rights advocate who founded the first legal services office in New York for people with disabilities, authored the first national legal handbook on disability rights, and helped draft the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Sponsored by the American Bar Association's Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law, the award will be presented to an individual who has performed exemplary service in increasing access to justice for people with disabilities, or an organization or group that furthers the goal of full participation for people with disabilities in society.

The program invites nominations of an individual or an organization that has made significant contributions to improving the rights, dignity, and access to justice for people with disabilities. Examples of eligible organizations include disability advocacy organizations, law firms or practices, state or local bar associations, nonprofit legal services programs, law school clinics or academic-affiliated programs, or law-related programs providing representation for people with disabilities. Self- nominations are not eligible.

For program details and the application, visit the ABA Web site.
RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15015814/abanetgrants

Grants for International Nonprofits Fighting for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bi Sexual, Etc. Human Rights

From The Foundation Center...

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice Accepting Applications for International Fund for Sexual Minorities

Deadline:February 2, 2009

Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice ( http://www.astraea.org/ ) works for social, racial, and economic justice in the U.S. and abroad.

Astraea's International Fund for Sexual Minorities supports groups, projects, and organizations that are led by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex communities and directly address oppression based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity/expression.

Eligible organizations and projects must be based in Africa, Asia/the Pacific, Eastern Europe/Commonwealth of Independent States, Latin America/the Caribbean, or the Middle East. Applicants must also be nongovernmental organizations, not-for-profit groups, or the equivalent, and have organizational budgets of $500,000 or less. Non-LGBTI-led groups must demonstrate how they address LGBTI human rights issues and how they involve LGBTIs in organizational and programmatic decision-making. Applicants must be doing work toward social change on issues affecting LGBTI people and/or people who are penalized, persecuted, or harassed for their gender identity, gender expression, and/or sexual orientation.

The maximum individual grant from Astraea's International Fund is $10,000. In the past, the average grant size has ranged from $2,000 to $6,000 each. Groups may apply for general or project support.

Visit the Astraea Web site for complete program guidelines.
RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15015812/astraeagrants

Monday, November 10, 2008

Top 10 Ways To Take That Nonprofit's Fundraising To The Next Level

Top ten ways to get your nonprofit onto the next stage to grow its fundraising:

10. Hold yourself accountable. If YOU (not the executive director, the board president, or that key volunteer) don't know how to do any of of the specialized, professional, and unique operations tasks to run a nonprofit, fundraise, write the bylaws, run a board, create a new fundraising method, etc. that is fine. It's not 'fine', though, to simply assume that 'oh...we're small so...' or 'I've been doing this for a while, now, so...', or 'I've been a success in the for profit world...' '...we don't need to know the latest best practices in professional nonprofit operations or skills'. If you haven't spent at least two successful professional years working for a well run, established, successful nonprofit - consider yourself primed to learn.

9. Get organized. If you don't know how this nonprofit has (insert operation, here) conducted a specific regular annual fundraiser, developed the board and staff relationship, recruited volunteers, etc. then research within the nonprofit. Talk with former volunteers and staff, talk with current volunteers and staff, research meeting minutes and files or notebooks, ask others in the community what they know about the organization and listen. If no one knows anything then it's a huge hint that you need to both instigate internal protocols and systems that work, and your organization needs to make it clear to its community what its name is, what it does, and why.

8. Evaluate. If you hold any fundraising event or use any fundraising method (e.g. a golf tournament or donation remittance envelopes), research and learn a way to check every year (or whenever you hold the fundraiser) how the fundraiser is doing. Is it raising money? Is it reaching new people each year while retaining former donors? Is it making it clear what your organization does, for whom, how, and why? Is it a cost effective method to raise money? If you don't check each time you use the method or hold the event, then how can you guarantee your volunteers and donors that their time and money is going towards the cause that your mission serves? Learn modern, professional, effective nonprofit evaluation methods that work and use them not just in your grant proposals (to evaluate new programs or projects) but in your fundraising, too.

7. Market your organization. How? Just insert into your current organization pamphlet, your website, on your volunteer applications, or anywhere that the public learns about your organization the organization's: name, mission statement, recent mission based work success rates (e.g. program stats), your current 2 - 5 year goals, and any other big recent successes. Keep this current and update it every six months or so. Make it clear to any kind of potential investor (either a current or future donor, or a current or future volunteer) why they should work for your nonprofit; and because it succeeds at meeting its mission goal; because your organization runs well and plans its future (setting realistic goals that your organization is investing in).

6. Be certain that all of the nonprofit's leadership (e.g. volunteer and staff such as the executive director, all of the board members, trustees, etc. and even key major donors) have an elevator speech. What's an elevator speech? It's the sentence or two that anyone uses to respond when someone in the nonprofit's community asks, 'why do you volunteer for, work for, or donate to (insert your organization's name, here)?' When anyone asks about the nonprofit it is an OPPORTUNITY to be certain that the correct message gets out to the public about the organization. For instance, take time in a staff, volunteers', or board meeting to find out what each person who represents the nonprofit (in any way) says when asked this question (or the question 'I've never heard of that nonprofit. What do you folks do?'). Listen to one another's elevator speeches. Then, together, talk about what is true about them and what could be clarified or improved. No one needs to memorize a cold, single description that is repeated like some robot's message. Everyone, when speaking about the organization, should be encouraged to talk from the heart (there are not salesly schmoozey goals here). The elevator speech should be no more than a few sentences. But, every time anyone asks about the organization, all representatives of it should take that as an opportunity to get the organization, its work, and its successes into one more community member's mind. You never know: you may be talking to a future donor, future volunteer, or a potential major donor!

5. I usually encourage all leaders of any nonprofit (including the executive director and the board and other key volunteers) to accept that at least half of their job is to raise funds. I know that no one gets into a nonprofit to fundraise. People become active in the nonprofit sector because they're passionate about an issue, cause, art, etc. The fact is, though, that if ALL of the organization's leadership (and administrative staff or volunteers) do not each and all work together to raise money, every day, every month, year to year; cash flow will not become steady, nor will it grow. Nonprofits operate on donations and the lifeblood of a growing organization is a committed, educated, practiced group of volunteers (and staff) who are actively always fundraising.

4. Be certain that the organization has an annual fundraising plan (also called a Development Plan) that is conducted, evaluated, improved, and grown year to year. The key to investing in anything (for future benefit) is to diversify. It is no different in fundraising. If your organization only has one or three fundraisers, each year, and isn't growing the fundraising; how will your organization increase it's 'income'? Successful nonprofits know that, year to year, some fundraisers may wane, and other fundraising events will become popular. Do not assume that you know which will be which. Hedge your organization's risks and diversify where money comes from and in what manner. Also, listen to donors and potential donors. If the organization's been holding some fundraiser, annually, for five years and people aren't enjoying it anymore - then listen, plan a new event, and move on!

3. The nonprofit is the thing. The mission statement, the bylaws, the organization's goals, and the growth and future of the nonprofit are the most important aspects of working for any nonprofit. Your ego, your insecurities, your circle of friends or family, your professional goals, etc. are not the thing. All decision making should be made (by leaders and key staff) with the mission statement, the beneficiary(ies) of the organization's work, and the organization's health and growth in mind. Always do what is best for the organization, based on its mission statement. Don't talk yourself or anyone else into serving the organization but really put something else first (e.g. your insecurities, your need to control, wanting to avoid working with a complete and not-family, not-friends board, etc.).

2. Be professional. Nonprofits require specialized, unique, and modern skills. No one just knows how to run a nonprofit. Time and money are saved when key leaders take it upon themselves to learn the best and latest. Also, treat anyone who comes into contact with the nonprofit (in whatever manner or location; a brochure, a walk in, at a conference, etc.) with courtesy, respect, and listen to them. ALWAYS be polite to volunteers, staff, donors, potential volunteers, and potential donors. How will you know who's who? You don't! That's the point. Everyone representing your organization must be trained and held accountable for how they represent the nonprofit (including inter-personal interaction). Do not assume that everyone is treating donors well, for instance. Be certain they are by training and implementing specific guidelines and professional standards.

1. Listen. Above all, the number one way to learn what is going on 'right now' in any aspect of the nonprofit's operations, future, evaluations, etc. is to listen. If you ask for feedback or if you conduct a survey amongst your clients; your organization has an opportunity to learn and improve what it's doing. Listening doesn't just improve programs, it saves money and time.

Grant For American or Canadian Youth Under 19 Who Are Using Music To Solve Community Issue

From The Foundation Center...

Do Something and Grammy Foundation Invite Young People to Use
Music to Improve Communities

Deadline: December 15, 2008

Do Something ( http://www.dosomething.org ) and the Grammy Foun- dation ( http://www.grammyfoundation.com ) are offering a total of $25,000 in Key Change Grants to young people who have an idea or existing project that uses music to make a difference in their local and/or global community.

To be eligible, the applicant must be 19 years of age or under, and must be a U.S. or Canadian citizen. The project must be youth- -led and -driven, creative, and demonstrate an original idea for solving problems and creating change. Projects must also strive toward tangible results and measurable impact, focus on problems in communities, and -- whether one-time event or ongoing program
-- must promote diversity and seek to make lasting change in the target community.

Five Grand Prize Winners will receive a $3,000 community action grant and an all-expense paid trip to the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles on February 8, 2009. Twenty first prize winners will re- ceive community action grants of $500 each.

See the Do Something Web site for complete program guidelines.

RFP Link:
http://www.dosomething.org/grants/keychange

Thursday, November 06, 2008

What Does Obama's Administration Mean For Nonprofits?

Seeking Grant Money Today likes to keep you up to date on not just the 'how to's' of various nonprofit management, operations, and fundraising methods; but also current events in the American nonprofit sector. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, on November 6, 2008; posted Peter Panepento's great article, "Charities Can Expect New Regulations And Increased Giving In An Obama Administration" and it does a good job of describing how President Elect Obama's administration could benefit American nonprofits, especially given the current economic downturn. Another good attribute of this article? The speculation is based on a study.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Another Free Nonprofit Fundraising Consultation To Help During These Tough Times

During the last month and a half I have provided readers with free fundraising method consultations, in Seeking Grant Money Today, to help your fundraising work in these tough economic times. So far, they have been: "A Few Excellent Suggestions For Nonprofits To Survive These Uncertain Economic Times", "What Can Nonprofits Do In This Uncertain Economy?", "Write An Annual Appeal Letter To Raise Relatively Quick Funds", and "Getting Major Donors To Contribute Large Regular Donations Can Stabilize Cash Flow".

You may have brought in your leftover Halloween candy to "share" with the office, this morning (read "get out of my easy reach, at home" for "share"); and you are probably feeling very strongly about who should win the election (as most fellow Americans are, no matter which candidate you are voting for); and, let's be honest...you either know where you are going to be for Thanksgiving or you are working on that - which often means dealing with family "stuff". So, given just these few current common American events, and even without the economy's slowdown, we all need a hug, right about today. Please accept another free fundraising consultation, here, as a 'hug'!

In this post, I encourage you and the leadership of the nonprofit that you work for to also consider how well the organization is understood in the community(ies) it serves. Such marketing and public relations tools as the organization's: brochures, newsletters, website, the executive director and board members' elevator speech to others in the community about why they work for/volunteer with the nonprofit, donation remittance envelope, e-mails sent clients or donors, and any and all other times that your organization communicates with someone in the community are just as much important to the success of the group's fundraising as it is to the organization's programs.

If the community that the nonprofit serves does not understand some of your nonprofit's services or fee scales for programs that your organization provides; or if the community maybe doesn't recognize the name of your group, or even if local people know the name of your agency but don't know what your organization does - it is very difficult to raise new donors (even just individual household or local business donations); let alone increase/make better the service you're doing to achieve the mission statement's goals.

There is no nonprofit that couldn't use more donations. So, thinking about a nonprofit's need for more donations; larger donations; volunteers; strong, effective, experienced future board members (who could contribute and be effective at leadership); and any manner of all things that a strong, growing, and well run nonprofit requires to operate are 'raised' for the nonprofit through being sure that the community knows: who your organization is, what it does, who it is set up to serve, what it could use to help it run better, and your organization's success records. The way to be sure that the 'right' message is getting to people in the organization's community is by being proactive about marketing the nonprofit. Hoping that a local reporter calls your group to write a public interest piece, or assuming that your webmaster will put on your website that your organization just achieved its service benchmark for the year isn't going to get good effective marketing done for your agency. You can, though!

No organization ('for profit' or nonprofit) is ever done with its marketing. Marketing is never completed. Your organization always something coming or going on: a new program being started, a new benchmark achieved, a large contribution received, and other positive messages to make sure that your community knows about because it doesn't just get your organization's name 'out there'. When you market proactively, you are telling THE people who your organization is set up to both serve and receive from (the community that the organization serves (national or local)) what the organization's successes are, its strengths, and its capabilities. Giving people a reason to donate or volunteer with your nonprofit is one of the most effective, honest, and cheapest ways to raise contributions and volunteer support.

If your nonprofit, though, only goes to the local press when your organization is in dire straights and needs something, for instance, maybe the nonprofit's leadership did not plan or fund raise enough, and now it's in the hole $10,000 and may not be able to provide its annual program, so you go to the press to 'raise' the money; then your organization is actually demonstrating to current donors and potential (or future) donors why their money would be better donated to another nonprofit that operates and conducts its business more effectively. I know that old axiom, 'any press is good press' but my point is that your organization must be in control of its operations in order for anyone to want to invest in its programs. If it isn't, why shouldn't a donor who wants to support the organization's mission statement give to another nonprofit down the road who is working on the same issue or cause; but doing it well?! They should!! Proactive marketing is not a 'luxury' or 'someday, when we have more operations money' option. It is a powerful and cheaper fundraising and growth tool. Even if your organization does not yet have a marketing budget; it is worth the cost because on average, over time, the cost of proactively marketing makes more money, than is spent, incrementally, year to year.

How to begin a nonprofit marketing program:

__ Make a list of EVERYTHING that goes from the organization out to people, in the community it serves. This will include your agency's website, brochure, newsletter, etc. but it will also include the organization's clients (if they can speak or write), volunteers, staff, executive director, and board members. Again, as I've encouraged in this blog before, remembering that people will account for a lot of your organization's marketing byway of word of mouth, (whether you realize it or not) is critical to controlling the message that the community receives about the nonprofit. This is yet another reason why you must operate the nonprofit as the professional place of business that it is and treat everyone who comes through the door (so to speak) professionally and courteously. Just because, for instance your organization, is the only animal shelter in town, doesn't mean that you don't have to worry about what anyone says about your organization because local animals lovers only have one place to donate to; or because everyone already knows about your agency. They could give to the American Humane Society (a national organization) or wait to donate to your organization when it's demonstrated that it's being run better, maybe in a couple of years. No nonprofit can afford this.

__ Research local costs (e.g. advertising in local media, printing your organization's newsletter annually, etc.) within the community(ies) that the organization serves (spend money 'at home' and let donors and potential donors that "every dollar received is spent in our community" - again, market). Then project (a fair but rough) estimation of the number of people in the community could be reached (either letting them know for the first time what your group does, or clarifying a common misconception). Next, through research that can be done at your local library's reference desk determine the nonprofit's potential increase in donors, donation amounts, and future strong board members and other volunteers. Use population growth estimates for your region, conduct surveys in the community at large (beyond your current supporters), and research demographics such as median income per household and average donated annually, etc.. Complete a cost/benefit analysis for the three coming years. Be fair and honest, but error on the conservative side in your estimates and dollar amounts. Also, see if current or soon to be marketing costs can't be cut, or if spending could be reduced by a better price or if something couldn't get donated (as long as you aren't lessening the goal or losing quality).

__ Gather board members, relevant staff, and volunteers and form a marketing committee that will conduct further research, learn modern effective nonprofit marketing methods, plan, and then implement a new marketing program (that will live on, indefinitely). This committee, in its planning, will determine your organization's niche and how to benefit from and reach the pertinent market, include a marketing program budget, a three year plan, include goals and benchmarks, develop an evaluation method to check the marketing program's effectiveness and weigh results against the goals and benchmarks. All planning will be done again, year to year for the coming year. Anytime the committee finds a better way to do something, or a goal that isn't being achieved, there will be appropriate improvements made to the marketing program. So, then, over time it will become a strong and effective mode of marketing the organization (again to not just benefit programs and services, but to increase donors, donation amounts, and the quality of future board members).

__ Provide the marketing committee with the inventory of all current marketing materials and your cost/benefit analysis (and corresponding research), and then if you aren't on the committee back off and let them decide (after they've learned modern nonprofit marketing methods): the goal in the marketing plan; who will be responsible for what work; a timeline and deadlines; what resources, expertise, and supplies they will need; etc. Allow them to do their work. Trust in their abilities and in the lessons you'll learn along the way.

__ Remain open to the new program while keeping internal lines of communications open, allowing a dialogue to surround the new program, but keep true to the budget, timeline, and benchmarks set to keep the program underway. If according to the nonprofit's bylaws, all committees' plans must be ratified by the board before they begin - fine. Of course you must stick to your organization's bylaws and set procedures. Don't allow this to 'die on the vine', though. Discuss, respectfully disagree, listen to one another, and talk some more. Be open to the process that a new program's birth, or a new year of an established program entails.

__ Ask colleagues working at other nonprofits whether they are conducting a marketing program, and if so, what they would recommend, what they suggest, how they conduct their marketing, and what lessons they've learned. This is important as, across the U.S., community to community some localities react differently to different marketing methods and tools.

__ Read a recent, respected, nonprofit marketing book (on the right hand side of this page is my Amazon Store's box.  I hand selected each book in it because each are standards in the professional nonprofit sector and well regarded); take a recommended nonprofit marketing course (they aren't just in person, anymore, but many are held online, now) and find out if the instructor has strong successful experience; research what other, maybe larger nonprofits are doing - how they market; and learn. Be sure to hold yourself accountable to be knowledgeable, current, professional, and effective in marketing (as all operations and functions of the organization). Don't just put the results on the committee. Their job is to head up the program, design, goals, implementation, and evaluations. Your job, and the job of everyone else on staff (paid or volunteer) is to work with them, do the work that they design, believe in the prospects, and be proactive!

Do not feel like a braggart or over-zealous if your organization shares with the community its strengths and success such as:

__ any and all mission successes
__ program increases
__ a large donation received
__ new staff, executive director, or board member to the organization
__ a position on a current issue (often as an expert on the topic or field of work)
__ a wish list of items that would help provide a new program
__ celebrity appearances, talks, etc. that have to do with your organization
__ launching a new newsletter, a new agency website, etc.
__ any collaborative programs, projects, services, etc. that your group is doing with another agency (for profit or nonprofit)
__ coming in 'under budget' on a successful major campaign or a main program or service
__ and anything else that demonstrates your organization's successes, capabilities, expertise, capabilities, or any other strengths

Marketing a nonprofit may seem like a luxury, but it is actually a very critical and powerful way to raise awareness about your organization's mission statement, its programs, its successes, and more. By proactively marketing you are making the case before potential donors, current donors, future board members, and other potential volunteers why supporting your nonprofit is a strong and effective investment in a cause that they may hold very dearly (but aren't connected to, yet, because they don't know about your group or misunderstand something about it). Don't fault the public if they misunderstand something about your organization or if they don't know about it. It is your organization's job to get the word out about not just your cause, but about why supporting your agency is such an effective way to make things better. Control the message by being the 'who' that is doing the talking about your organization. Even clients', board members' messages, or the messages from whomever that has experience with the organization can be controlled by the agency, by its (your nonprofit) being the 'who' that is doing the talking about your organization; by treating everyone who comes into contact with it professionally, politely, and efficiently. All volunteers, staff, leaders, etc. anyone who represents your organization in any way must be trained and held accountable to treat all contacts (even someone who donates $2) graciously and professionally. Nonprofits are places of business (no matter how small, long standing, or new) as they interact with people not involved in the organization, itself. The people who don't know about your organization or misunderstand it are an opportunity to raise more support for your organization. Be sure they hear about it and know its successes and strengths.

Follow up on this post by reading my other posts: "Why Is Marketing Important In Grant Writing?", "Received Press After You've Mailed A Few Grant Requests? Here's What To Do...", and "How Your Nonprofit's Website Can Increase The Grants Your Organization Raises"