Sunday, December 21, 2008

Nonprofit Professionals Will Get Us Through This; That's You and Me

Have a Merry Kwanzaa, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, and a Happy Winter Solstice! We wish everyone best wishes in 2009!

It has been an exceptional year in many many ways. Without a doubt, 2008 has presented the most difficult economy for nonprofits to operate in, during my career. The downside, of course, is that many nonprofits across the United States, are being forced to reduce services, merge, or (sadly) close permanently. Nonprofits fill all kinds of voids such as complacency, indifference, lack of access, little research, poor or no funding, lack of public knowledge, lack of expertise, infringements on legal oversight, etc. Nonprofits are often a last hope for many. As nonprofit organizations, ours' is an extended hand and it is staggering to think that many of those hands will be removed from our communities. Amid most governments' budget cuts, reduced donating, financial instability, financial scandals, and an uncertain economic outlook - we're all sort of sitting up a little more straight in the chair, and gripping the sides of the seat.

The up side to this kind of adversity is that we're all going through this together. Adversity can unite and unify and has already begun to. In the face of a challenge Americans, historically, have risen to the struggle innovating, pulling together, and sticking in the fight. This economy has forced the very same amongst nonprofits, across the United States. Professional nonprofit affiliations are hosting all kinds of nonprofit forums to provide a public commons for us nonprofit professionals come together for an hour or two to discuss the financial issues we, individually, are facing at each of our organizations, and to then share or brainstorm solutions. Out of adversity comes exceptional leaps forward in theory, method, and best practices. Despite how concerned I am for this country's nonprofit sector, I look forward to learning about your innovation, new methods, and learning about what you 'invented' and shared, in effect, adding to our sector's best practices. Yes, I'm looking at you. Where else does this unification, brainstorming, trial and error, innovation, and discovery come from? I'm standing right next to you, on this front line, doing my work to move us all forward, too.

Despite these difficulties, we must keep the very inspiration, passion, or whatever the flame is, inside you, that brought you to the nonprofit sector alive in ourselves and one another. We've attempted to be there for you and your organization by providing our 'free consultations' series, these past months, on this blog. It isn't a time to horde knowledge or expertise. Our communities' weakest, most under-represented, or disenfranchised are at risk. If your local United Way or just some unofficial but sincere group of nonprofit leaders, in your community, is getting nonprofit representatives together to discuss the challenges of this economy - consider joining that talk. Be there for that brown bag lunch. Make time after work, that evening. Move that meeting, or whatever you need to do to be a part of the solution making. You may think that you have nothing new or innovative to contribute; but who knows, before they discover or innovate something new that they were about to? In a discussion with our professional colleagues, you'll likely learn something new that you and your organization could use in these tough times; and listening to others who also live and work in your community may stimulate ideas or resources that you just haven't thought of (yet), on your own. Despite a common misconception that we are all competing for the exact same single donation dollar; we can come together, as professionals in the same sector, to share. The truth is that donors give to different causes, in different geographic locations, for different reasons. We are not all competing for one donor's single dollar. Also, donors give to what they are passionate about and often that's more than one cause or issue. We are all developing donors interested in our organization's single cause and the work that our organization succeeds at. Be confident in your constituency's dedication and open up to the community, for the sake of each and all of our organizations' missions.

It's a difficult time, but we can be there for one another, even as professionals. Your organization, the organization down the street, and my organization benefits when you and I show up for the 'fight'. In 2009 keep your eyes on the horizon. Watch for the innovation and new professional nonprofit best practices that comes out of this tough economy.

Jenny's Heroes Grants for Tangible, Lasting Community Projects In Smaller Communities

[Please help us. We at The Grant Plant, LLC want to understand what nonprofits need from the services that they hire, today, given the economy; so please take our short survey. We will use the results to retool how we work with organizations and also publish a white paper with the results. Click on: Nonprofit Needs Survey. We are grateful for your time. Thank you.]

From The Foundation Center...

Former Talk Show Host Jenny Jones Announces Continuation of Community Grant Program

Deadline: Open

Talk show host and philanthropist Jenny Jones has announced that she will donate an additional $1 million to continue her Jenny's Heroes ( http://www.jennysheroes.com/ ) community grant
program.

The Jenny's Heroes program awards grants to individuals who submit the best ideas for tangible, lasting community projects.

Jenny's Heroes provides grants of up to $25,000 each to fund projects that promise long-term community benefits. Through the fifty grant recipients so far, funds have been used to provide
items and services such as library books, school computers, firefighting gear, nursing home upgrades, sports equipment, free dental services, wheelchairs, coats for children in domestic violence shelters, and a running track at a women's prison. The program's focus is primarily on smaller communities where fundraising can be difficult. For more information on Jenny's Heroes and grant guidelines, visit the program's Web site.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15016232/jennysheroes

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Basic Grant Writing 101 Information and Other Ideas To Survive This Tough Economy, Nonprofits...

In this post we are going to sort of provide a Top 10 List of the most recent critical posts that were written to help nonprofits during this exceptional economy. One of my greatest nonprofit employers just closed this week, having merged with a similar nonprofit in Seattle. While the decision was made in a tough economy and as an option to continue to support their mission; it is an example of what real nonprofits (of all sizes and fundraising abilities) are facing today. We are very sensitive to these times and are eager to help...

For help getting educated in best practices, nonprofit professionalism, standards, etc. see:

The Foundation Center Now Offers Free Website That Teaches How To Do Grant Writing

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


Some Free Resources

We Need Money For Our 501(c)(3) What Is the Grant Seeking Process?


Our most recent posts, designed 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.


Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Students for '09 - '10 Undergraduate or Graduate School Year

[Please help us. We at The Grant Plant, LLC want to understand what nonprofits need from the services that they hire, today, given the economy; so please take our short survey. We will use the results to retool how we work with organizations and also publish a white paper with the results. Click on: Nonprofit Needs Survey. We are grateful for your time. Thank you.]

From The Foundation Center...

Point Foundation Offers Higher Education Scholarships for Gay
and Lesbian Students

Deadline: February 9, 2009

The Point Foundation ( http://pointfoundation.org/ ), a scholar-
ship-granting organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans-
gender students of merit, has announced the opening of its 2009
application season. Students who will be enrolled in undergraduate
or graduate programs for the 2009-10 school year are eligible to
apply for the multiyear scholarships.

The scholarship program's selection criteria include academic
excellence, leadership skills, community involvement, and finan-
cial need. Particular attention is paid to students who have
lost the financial and social support of their families and/or
communities as a result of revealing their sexual orientation,
gender identity, or gender expression.

On average, a Point Scholarship awards $13,200 in direct finan-
cial support, in addition to leadership training and mentoring.
The average amount of annual support devoted to each scholar is
between $26,000 and $31,000. In return, Point Scholars agree to
maintain a high level of academic performance and to give back
to the LGBT community through the completion of an individual
community service project each year. In addition, scholars are
matched with mentors from the professional world who lend their
expertise and career guidance and serve as role models.

For further information and application guidelines, visit the
Point Foundation Web site.

RFP Link:
http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15016126/pointfdn

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Learn From Others' Mistakes To Improve Your Nonprofit

Allegations that the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angles, California has operated at a deficit for 75% of the time, during the last eight years swarmed the philanthropy media, at the end of last week. From time to time I share these kinds of news stories with our readers because they are excellent cautionary tales that should be taken by donors and those working for nonprofits, alike, as examples of what not to do and also what not to invest in.

The museum's endowment has reportedly shrunk from almost $50 million, in 1999, to about $6 million, today. The California attorney general's office is now, due to these potential legal discrepancies, auditing the Museum of Contemporary Art. In question is whether laws that protect donors' restricted donations were broken (such that the donors' wishes for their contribution's use were not followed; which is illegal. All restricted donations must be spent according to the donor's wishes or kindly returned to them). [Soaring In Art, Museum Trips Over Finances by Edward Wyatt and Jori Finkel, December 4, 2008]

According to Charity Navigator, a well known and trusted website providing information on nonprofits to inform anyone about any nonprofit's finances and spending, among other individual organizational traits. While Charity Navigator gives the Museum of Contemporary Art a four star rating, overall, it's highest rating; and while Charity Navigator can only report (and measure a nonprpofit) on what any given nonprofit reports about its operations and accounting, publicly; it does list that based on the (public IRS tax record) Fiscal Year End 2006/2007 Income Statement: 75.4% of every dollar raised is spent on its programs (art); $24.1 million in revenue and $21.1 in expenses, resulting in a $3 million deficit; but their assets are valued at $37.4. So, you can see that the value, spending (it is not unusual for a nonprofit to run at a deficit, assuming it is running legally, is planning for the deficit and can pay that out in the coming new fiscal year), and expenses are not terribly out of line; nor very telling about the organization (a good lesson for all of us who donate to organizations - look under the hood and kick the tires). If we look at Museum of Contemporary Arts' history on Charity Navigator, we see that their net assets (either entirely or at least partly comprised of the organization's endowment) has waned and then decreased from 2005 through 2007 (as reported). Charity Navigator needs to be including this tracking in its estimations of nonprofit organizations! Something else that is interesting is liabilities over these three years increased, while the organization's "working capital" stayed the same. This, too, can indicate that the organization is not operating with easy cash flow. But, we are just reading a report...

The museum's patrons, donors, local artists, and former board members are publicly requesting that the Director, Jeremy Strick and the board both resign. They will also settle for just the board or Strick leaving, too, reportedly.

Reportedly, the museum's leadership believe this will all be behind them by the end of the year. There have been rumors of a potential merger with the Los Angeles County Museum; but the Museum of Contemporary Art's official position is that it will remain its own organization, individually. The philanthropist Eli Broad offered a $30 million contribution, in November, if the museum could raise matching donations. Unfortunately, as of December 4, there were no known takers.

It is very important that any and all nonprofits, from the smallest newest start up organization, to the largest most prolific nonprofits operate as professional places of business. Where is it written that if an organization isn't a for-profit business; standards, professionalism, best practices, real world successful experience, skills, and knowledge are not necessary? The best intentions launch most nonprofits, yet at least half of the work will be raising money, which is really raising buy in and investors. No nonprofit wants a donation from a donor, once. The aim is to raise donors who give to your organization over and over again. Without a well functioning, legal, successful, efficient organization, though; who will want to invest in your organization? Know what the organization is legally responsible to do and report. Be certain that board members know their job descriptions and roles, their legally bound fiscal, policy setting, and oversight responsibilities. Know how to run an excellent nonprofit and how to fundraise well; and if you don't today, that's fine. Learn, then! The lesson in these unfortunate nonprofit news stories is that no matter how much money an organization raises, the size of its building, how old the agency is, or what it used to be; if a nonprofit does not run professionally, today, it may be listing to one side for a legal, financial, oversight or other failure. Donors and the community beware!

For help getting educated in best practices, nonprofit professionalism, standards, etc. see:

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


Some Free Resources

We Need Money For Our 501(c)(3) What Is the Grant Seeking Process?

Grants For Exceptional Out of School and After School Programs

[Please help us. We, at The Grant Plant, LLC, want to understand what nonprofits need from services that they hire, today, given the economy; so please take our short survey. We will use the results to retool how we work with organizations and also publish a white paper with the results. Click on: Nonprofit Needs Survey. We are grateful for your time. Thank you.]

From The Foundation Center:

Coming Up Taller Awards Program Invites Nominations of Arts Programs for Under Served Children and Youth

Deadline: January 30, 2009

The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities
( http://www.pcah.gov/ ) invites nominations for the 2009
Coming Up Taller Awards ( http://www.cominguptaller.org/ ).

In partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library
Services ( http://www.imls.gov/ ), the National Endowment for the
Arts ( http://www.arts.gov/ ), and the National Endowment for
the Humanities ( http://www.neh.gov/ ), PCAH is embarking on
the twelfth year of the awards, which recognize the accomplishments
of exceptional arts and humanities after school and out-of-school
programs. Programs initiated by museums, libraries, performing
arts organizations, universities, colleges, arts centers, community
service organizations, schools, businesses, and eligible government
entities are encouraged to participate.

To be eligible, nominated programs must operate as a program for
children and youth outside the school day. However, preschool,
after school, weekend, and/or summer programs may have a
school-based component or use school space. Programs must concentrate
on children and youth who live in family and community circum-
stances that limit their opportunities, and must involve
those children and youth as active participants in the arts or
humanities experience. (Cultural programs in which children
function only as an audience are not eligible.) Programs must
provide participants with regularly scheduled sessions on an
ongoing basis; one-time or occasional programs will not be
considered.

Programs must have been operational since January 2005 and
must be administered by a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3)
organization, unit of state or local government, or federally
recognized tribal community or tribe.

Coming Up Taller finalists each receive $10,000, an
individualized plaque, and an invitation to attend the Coming Up
Taller Leadership Enhancement Conference.

Visit the Coming Up Taller Web site for complete program
guidelines.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15016065/cominguptaller