Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Few Simple But Powerful Points of View That Can Get Your Nonprofit's Team Together and Motivated

We, here at The Grant Plant, LLC hope that you: had a good holiday season, didn't get too terrible stressed (ha!), and also had some time to decompress and relax. We are easing into the end of 2009 and the start of a new year. Beginnings are good for the opportunities, hope, and potential that they offer. Being this is the case, we have a few suggestions to help you implement a new and fresh point of view among your nonprofit's volunteers, staff, and leaders.

__ Consider the agency's mission statement and the organization's goals that have been set for 2010. Be certain that not only the nonprofit's community in general (its donors, volunteers, and community partners) know about its mission (don't assume that they do), but also be certain that they know about the organization's goals that it's set for itself this coming year (the goals, anticipated achievements, and the reason each of these are needed by the community). Also be certain that the organization's volunteers, staff, and leadership each and all know the mission statement and the organization's goals for 2010. Get the internal team clear, excited about their contributions in 2010 to this goal, and get the entire team onto 'one page' and empowered to meet the challenge of the goal.

__ Value the reason for the mission statement. Open the first staff meeting, the first volunteer meeting, and the first board meeting, in 2010, by suggesting a quick discussion about why and how the nonprofit's mission statement is still current and needed in the community. Suggest that the leadership articulate, discuss, and listen to others among colleagues working at other nonprofits, when meeting with your nonprofit's donors and volunteers, and when working with the staff. Knowing how and why a nonprofit's raison d' etre is relevant, still, today is a message that can easily be inserted when recruiting new board members, when raising funds, when recruiting new volunteers, and when striking up new relationships with other organizations in the community. The reasoning why any nonprofit and its work is needed in a community is very compelling and can help people become not just familiar with your agency's work, but value it and its existence.

__ Put the beneficiary or beneficiaries of your nonprofit's reason for existing first and model, for others with the nonprofit this year, how to value the beneficiaries along with the organization's mission, first and foremost always. In other words, for whom or what does your nonprofit do its work? That or they should be equally of first consideration with the organization's mission statement during any and all decision making on behalf of the nonprofit. If your agency educates youth about film making, or if your nonprofit works to preserve open spaces in formerly logged regions, or if your nonprofit assists those with Diabetes: make the mission statement and those or that which it serves first and foremost and encourage your colleagues at the nonprofit to do so, too.

__ Take pride in work and model that pride in work ethic for your colleagues. When they are hard at work on a project, when they have achieved a personal or staff benchmark, or when they have been challenged but are keeping at it; be sure to pat others on the back and state out loud to them the good work that they're doing.

__ Treat others, in the nonprofit's offices and at all of the functions and events, as you would want to be treated. Be professional, act with courtesy, grace, and gratitude. Encourage others to act professionally and graciously, too. Even in heated conversations, over the course of the new year, remember that reasonable people can disagree reasonably.

__ Take time, over the course of the year, to evaluate progress made on goals; review what worked and what needs to be improved and put those improvements into place; and then review again later. Evaluate your own operations regularly and be open to seeing the reality in evaluation results to the benefit of the agency and its mission statement goal. Don't be about hiding mistakes. Be about facing them and understand that mistakes or errors are really just opportunities to catch them and then make adjustments for the better. No one is perfect but all nonprofits' operations can be improved. It only benefits operations, cost/benefit, and the agency's reputation.

One of the benefits of working in a team is having others to bounce ideas off of, to listen to new ideas, and to support one another. The new year is an opportunity to a better nonprofit and more achievements. Sometimes having a fresh lens through which the team views the end goal through is very powerful.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Some Easy Information From the IRS to Help Nonprofit Organizations Keep Their Status and Remain In Compliance

As reported by Grant Williams, today, in The Chronicle of Philanthropy's web post, "Tax Agency Issues Guidebook for Charities" the IRS has released a booklet for nonprofit leaders that addresses general nonprofit operations, reporting, and tax filing requirements; and that also addresses what can jeopardize a nonprofit's official 'charity' status with the IRS (possibly resulting in the nonprofit losing its 'tax exempt' status).

The IRS booklet, "Compliance Guide for 501(c)(3) Charities" is a free .PDF file available for download. (Click on the booklet's title at the beginning of this sentence to view and download it. If you cannot view the web page after clicking on the link, go to www.adobe.com and download the latest (free) version of Adobe Acrobat Reader (it will be on the adobe.com website's homepage) and then after downloading Acrobat Reader return to the link, click on it, and view the booklet). If you do not have access to read or print online, you may also order the booklet from the IRS, for free, by calling the IRS and requesting the booklet by its name.

Also, very helpful, the IRS has also created a series of nonprofit - specific courses (some of which can be taken online at any time) to help nonprofit leaders keep in compliance with tax reporting. The courses explain what is required when filing a nonprofit's tax forms annually, ultimately helping you to keep the organization in good standing. The IRS' web page explaining the series of classes is available at Online Courses at StayExempt.irs.gov and the program's official website is IRS Stay Exempt - Tax Basics for Exempt Organizations.

Finally, as always, the IRS has all of its information for nonprofits located at Tax Information for Charities & Other Non-Profits.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Holidays, Seeking Grant Money Today Readers!

We at The Grant Plant want to wish you and all of our Seeking Grant Money Today readers a very happy holiday season. Merry Christmas, a belated Happy Chanukka, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice, and best wishes in 2010!

Since you are busy year round in your office we thought it would be a good lead into the holidays for us to offer some free distractions that are also fun... there may be flight lay overs, family drama time-outs, or wee hours of the morning online surfing during your holiday break...and these may help. We think we've got a gift list here good for everyone:

For Sci Fi Geeks... check out Star Trek Wiki an online encyclopedia for "all things Star Trek" and honestly, Trekker or not, its pretty fun to look through.

For the Music fan...check out Ultimate '80's Songs to either look up song titles from the '80's or popular musicians from the '80's to hear songs (or even link through to the lyrics).

For the Comedy Fan or Comedian... look over the favorites or newest at Funny Or Die

For the Sports Fan... go to All Sports Trivia.com pick your favorite sport and click on it to be given list of sports trivia questions. Answer them and see how you do!

For the Video Gamer... put your Wii, Xbox 360, or Nintendo controller down, go to Classic Arcade Games and give classic arcade video games like Pac Man, Donkey Kong, Frogger, or Astroids a try. Master Chief, meet Mario.

For the Creative Type...check out Craftzine.com for crafty ideas in many different craft projects (complete with instructions) working with various mediums and skill levels.

We hope that you have a stress-free, fun, safe, and good holiday season!

Grants for Nonprofits Restoring Wetland, Riparian, or Coastal Habitat

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: February 11, 2010

Five Star Restoration Program Announces 2010 Request for Proposals

Administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Five Star Restoration program seeks to develop community capacity to sustain local natural resources for future generations by providing modest financial assistance to diverse local partnerships for wetland, riparian, and coastal habitat restoration.

Funding is available throughout the country from the United States Environmental Protection Agency and NFWF's corporate sponsors in several Southeast states, and most of northern and central California, and seven major metropolitan areas.

In 2010, NFWF anticipates that the following will be available:

Approximately $225,000 from the EPA to support projects across the United States in each of the agency’s ten geographic regions.

Approximately $200,000 from Southern Company and its operating companies (Georgia Power, Alabama Power, Gulf Power, and Mississippi Power) to support projects in the Southern Company service area, which includes: Georgia (excluding Union, Fannin, and Towns counties); Alabama (excluding Lauderdale, Colbert, Lawrence, Limestone, Madison, Marshall, Morgan, Jackson, DeKalb, Cherokee, and Cullman counties); the Florida Panhandle (west of the Apalachicola River); and southeast Mississippi (twenty-three counties, from Meridian to the coast, with the west boundary running from Pearl River County to Union County).

More than $260,000 from Pacific Gas and Electric Company's Nature Restoration Trust program to support projects located in the PG&E service area.

And at least $200,000 to support urban conservation and restoration in the following metropolitan areas: Boston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Memphis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. To be eligible for this urban conservation and restoration funding, projects must include a spring community service day in which funding partners can participate in a restoration project (e.g., planting trees or native plants, pulling invasive plants, removing trash from urban waterways, installing rain gardens, etc.).

Elements of a Five Star project include on-the-ground restoration, environmental education, partnerships (at least five community partners), and measurable results.

The program is open to any public or private entity, but grants funded by PG&E’s Nature Restoration Trust are restricted to nonprofit community-based organizations, conservation organizations, local governments, and school districts. Requests must be for $10,000 to $40,000 each. Projects that can leverage the amount of funds requested with significant cash and/or in-kind contributions from project partners will be much more competitive.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Couple of Nonprofit Best Practices Lessons From the Real World

If a nonprofit does not put its mission statement first, in all of its operations considerations, it risks losing its way or worse. The following are real world examples that demonstrate why this is so.

Let's say that you and I met because we both donate to a specific art museum. Let's say that you and I grew up in the same city and this art museum is important to each of us so we have supported it over the years. The museum both has a terrific art collection of its own and they regularly host beautiful touring exhibits. You and I each have come to trust the organization. The museum's leadership make excellent operations and management decisions in the best interest of the museum's mission statement goal, repeatedly. You and I, as long time supporters (who, through our trust in the organization and the confidence in its programming track record, donate because we believe in the museum's mission), can trust that the museum's leadership makes operations and management decisions based on the best interest of the museum's reason for existing, its mission statement. We support the museum based on its goals in the community but also based on its reputation and successful track record. The leadership has demonstrated that it is aware of its responsibilities, provides excellent programs: that it understands and upholds the organization's mission, and that it does not get swayed (primarily because the museum's leadership puts the mission statement first in all decision making processes).

How, then, would we feel (as regular and long time donors) if we happened to be supporting the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), which just recently opened the exhibit, Dreams Come True: Art of the Classical Fairy Tales From the Walt Disney Studios. As long time donors we are pleased with the NOMA's mission statement, " The mission of the New Orleans Museum of Art is to inspire the love of art; to collect, preserve, exhibit and present excellence in the visual arts; to educate, challenge and engage a diverse public." (quoted from their own website). How, then, as supporters of this museum would we react if we discovered as is actually the case, about this exhibit (according, in reality, to the NOMA's own director) "that his museum and its curators stood by as Disney employees pitched the presentation and then as Disney "did all the curatorial selection, crated it all up [and] packed it." Director Bullard said his museum "wasn't interested in a general animation exhibition," that is, the museum's only interest was in presenting a single corporation's marketing display at the same time that corporation was launching a major film based in his city (and, not coincidentally, during the holiday DVD-selling, movie-merchandising season)." [Quote taken from Tyler Green's blog, Modern Art Notes' December 11, 2009th post "Disney markets at NOMA: A major museum error"]? Not only did the leadership not do anything, they actually enabled another organization (Disney) to dismantle some of the trust that the museum developed, fostered, and demonstrated in its supporters (volunteers, donors, sponsors, community partners, etc.) over the years. If the museum's leadership had, instead, after Disney's pitch weighed its own mission statement against Disney's offerings (no matter if the exhibit was regarded by the leadership as "actually a result of Katrina, a gift from the Walt Disney corporation..." [quoted from Bullard in Green's interview with him on December 10, 2009]). Does the museum exist to benefit from Katrina or does it really exist to "...exhibit and present excellence...to educate, challenge, and engage..."? Not only did they make a curatorial error, the museum's own leadership placed a question mark in the minds of its lifeblood (its own supporters).

Here's another real world example....

What if you and I, instead, were long time regular donors of the New York Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum? Its mission statement is "...to promote the understanding and appreciation of art, architecture, and other manifestations of visual culture, primarily of the modern and contemporary periods, and to collect, conserve, and study the art of our time. The Foundation realizes this mission through exceptional exhibitions, education programs, research initiatives, and publications, and strives to engage and educate an increasingly diverse international audience through its unique network of museums and cultural partnerships." Even just appearances can damn an organization. The Guggenheim announced in 1999 that it would exhibit Italian fashion designer icon, Giorgio Armani's gowns in its building rotunda. But, to quote The New York Times' writer, Carol Vogel's December 15, 1999 article "Armani Gift to the Guggenheim Revives Issue of Art and Commerce"; "
"What the museum did not acknowledge was that some eight months earlier, Mr. Armani had [sic. then] become a sizable benefactor to the Guggenheim. The size of his contribution has not been disclosed, but one participant in museum meetings at which it was discussed said it would eventually amount to $15 million, an initial $5 million with a pledge to donate $10 million more over the next three years.
"Asked about the gift, museum officials said it was part of a ''global partner sponsorship,'' gift that can go to Guggenheim projects anywhere in the world, and denied that it was a quid pro quo for organizing the Armani show. The show is being sponsored by the fashion and celebrity magazine In Style, in which Armani is an advertiser." [Quoted from the linked NY Times article, above].
But appearances are everything. The Guggenheim did indeed host the Armani gowns exhibit in 2001 amid much discussion (e.g. the press) about whether such an exhibit in light of the contribution was ethical or poor operations on the part of the museum's leadership. Though the exhibit was ultimately critically panned (for not focusing on the evolution of Armani's fashion designs in chronological order, but rather the exhibit was laid out in order based on the color of the gowns), in 2002 the "shit hit the fan", demonstrating the point that I'm making in this blog post. As stated of the then leadership, in The New York Times' magazine's June 30, 2002 post by Deborah Solomon, "Is the Go Go Guggenheim Going Going", "Some charge that Krens has broken faith with art. The critic Jerry Saltz, writing recently in The Village Voice, called for Krens's resignation and went on to say, ''The trustees and board members who helped him twist this institution into a kind of GuggEnron should go as well.''"
What was the fall out of one of the most premier museums in the world placing a question mark into the minds of its long time supporters? Read on. To further quote Solomon's NY Time Magazine article,
"There are many ways to assess the growth of a museum, but probably the simplest is to look at an annual report. The Guggenheim, however, did not publish one last year. Why not? ''They're superfluous,'' Betsy Ennis, the museum's director of public affairs said.
"The museum's endowment has declined in recent years, from $55.6 million in 1998, to $38.9 million at the end of 2001. An endowment consists of savings that produce interest and should not be spent. While donors have continued to write checks to the Guggenheim's endowment, Krens has regularly dipped into it, mainly to cover operating expenses. Records show that $9.7 million was removed from the endowment in 1999; $13.6 million in 2000; and another $13 million last year."
Fundraising was diminished and the organization's ability to pay for its operations expenses through incoming donations decreased so the museum needed to dip into it's 'nest egg', its endowment. This failure in fundraising directly led to the organization's leadership inability to pay the bills, which will further instill concerns in long time Guggenheim supporters of all kinds.
If a major nonprofit like the world-renown Guggenheim museum can wreak such a blunder on itself any sized nonprofit, from start up to long existing can do it to itself, too. The lesson, here, is that any nonprofit's leadership that loses sight of its organization's own reason for existence (even in the face of a large donation) will lose much more, probably, than it gains (and not just in the moment but potentially for years to come, too). Any nonprofit's leadership must always place the organization's mission statement first and foremost in making any decisions for the agency. Any nonprofit's integrity, track record, and reputation is directly related to its ability to raise more and grow, or not. Each time the mission statement is put aside, during decision making, then the fidelity a nonprofit has formed with its existing supporters fades. For more discussion on this topic read The Nonprofit That Understands That Without A Strong Relationship With Its Community, It Stumbles - Is the Nonprofit That Succeeds.

Grants for Lab Work to Preserve Culturally & Historically Significant Films

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: February 12, 2010 (Registration)

National Film Preservation Foundation Announces Registration Deadlines for Basic Preservation Grants

The National Film Preservation Foundation is accepting applications for its Basic Preservation Grants. These cash grants are awarded to nonprofit and public institutions for laboratory work to preserve culturally and historically significant film materials.

Grants are available to public and nonprofit institutions in the United States that provide public access to their collections, including those that are part of federal, state, or local government. The grants target orphan films made in the United States or by American citizens abroad and not protected by commercial interests. Materials originally created for television or video are not eligible, including works produced with funds from broadcast or cable television entities.

The grant must be used to pay for new laboratory work involving the creation of new film preservation elements (which may include sound tracks) and two new public access copies, one of which must be a film print. The grant does not fund high definition quality transfers.

Awards generally range from $3,000 to $18,000 each.

Visit the NFPF Web site for complete program guidelines.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, December 06, 2009

How The Everyday Donor Can Become A Major Ally In Your Nonprofit Surviving This Economy

Any nonprofit's relationship with its donors is invaluable the moment the donor gives for the first time, after they've given a second or third gift, and after they've given multiple numbers of donations over the course of years. The donors we're discussing, here, are not foundations or major corporate sponsors (who are solicited and cared for in their own unique way or at specific times). The donors that we are discussing, here, are the 'everyday' people who donate to your nonprofit perhaps through an annual appeal letter, or the local family owned business down the road that gives a couple hundred dollars each year. The sum total of all of these regular donors are what is called a nonprofit's donor base. How does a nonprofit retain donors, encourage their interest and support, and grow the amounts and frequency in which donors give? Donor development.

Donor development is the term given to building confidence in donors, educating donors, including donors, being transparent when reporting to one's donors, and caring for a given agency's relationships with all of its donors. Whether any donor gives any nonprofit a donation once a year or once a month, and also whether that donor gives $20 or $2,000. Donors are not simply people who gave money for your agency to go spend, without any regard for the outcome of the way the money was spent, without any regard for the donor's best intentions given the organization's mission statement, and it's an opportunity to raise more from that donor again and again.

You may be wondering how your organization can initiate or get donors giving, in the first place. Read Your Nonprofit Needs Cash Flow... to find out how to begin a donor base. You may also be wondering what today's donors are thinking about or considering (especially, today, in this economy) as they decide which nonprofits they will give to or won't; and for what types of programs or funding needs. To understand donors' motivations read What Motivates Giving.

Donor development has everything to do with treating the donor as the investor in the nonprofit that they are. Put another way, without regular donors or without donors who are asked to give again after they've given once - a nonprofit has no regular cash coming in the door to pay bills. It is difficult for any nonprofit to maintain its cash flow (and pay the bills) without a body of donors who are given by the nonprofit, itself, the incentive (provide donors with the recognition as supporters or enablers - because they are. Without them a nonprofit does not operate so the donor is the team member, on any nonprofit's team, that enables it to do its work), education (about the issue the organization serves, the current need in the community that still exists that the nonprofit serves, what it is explicitly doing currently in the community, and what its success rate is and why its uniquely situated (in its community) to succeed at its own mission statement), and included (e.g. through regular appropriate gratitude and acknowledgment of their contribution to the organization's success for the community's benefit). It is also difficult to grow a nonprofit and the programs or services that it offers without regular sustained support. Having a donor base, or a group of people, businesses, and other (usually regionally local to the nonprofit) supporters allows a nonprofit a certain amount of cash flow, month to month - a nonprofit that has an established, managed, developed, and involved donor base (who are involved as donors) is a nonprofit that has a sort of peace of mind among its nonprofit administrators and leaders.

Today's donor development is a bit different than at any other time in recent American philanthropy. The following are several suggestions to develop your agency's donors, this coming year, especially given the economy:

__ Put yourself in their shoes. Perhaps your have donors who have given regularly over the past two or five years but has indicated on an appeal remittance that they are sorry but they can't give this year. We can all appreciate this situation - but more than that: take their communication as not just an apology (or not just 'another donor who isn't giving this year') but rather as someone who is engaged with your agency, remains engaged, wishes they could give as usual - but can't right now. My point? The words "right now". This is still a regular donor to your nonprofit in their eyes - so do nothing in your agency's view of them. Ask them again next year for a contribution and let's assume the best for all of us in this economic downturn and assume that they will be able to donate again and then again for years to come.

__ Consider who is who among the entire group of donors. What is the breakdown of your donor base? No donor is more important than another (based on who gives how much) but for the sake of analysis and familiarity with what your agency can do to 'grow' specific sub-sets of the total group of donors is worth the time. Let's say that you analyze all donations (and the donors who gave them) given over the course of the past two years (to account for the economic downturn) and discover that 80% give between $1 - $50; %10% give between $51 - $100; 5% give over $100; 3% gave over $1,000; and 2% gave over $5,000. Your fundraising volunteers and staff can now sit down, given your region's economic situation, and strategize (realistically) how to increase next year's donation amounts over the course of next year for each of these sub-groups. For instance, perhaps for the 80% who give $50 or less, perhaps your nonprofit will instate two new annual appeal campaigns. For those who gave between $100 - $1,000 your nonprofit decided it will have a 'thank the donor' event where the executive director, board, and key staff will mingle with these donors thanking them for their generosity, listen to the donors' connection with your agency (note that for future interactions with the donor), and then include them in the two new appeal campaigns. Perhaps for the 5% who gave over $1,000 your board and executive director are going to divvy up their names and over the course of the year take their respective donors to lunch or breakfast, discuss their generosity, thank them, ask them if they're interested in becoming more involved, and share with them what current funding needs exist and ask for reasonably larger donations than their most recent.

__ Meet the donor where they have indicated to the nonprofit that they prefer to be met by your agency. In other words, if a donor, Ms. Jones gives each year to one fundraising method that your agency solicits her through - let's say an annual gourmet dinner and auction - then be certain to invite her to the same even next year. If, though, Mr. Smith has been invited to everything but only gives, year and year again, to the annual appeal letter then still include him (as long as he has not requested to not be solicited for these) to everything but be aware (perhaps indicated in your donor database software) that his preference is to donate each year, once, in response to your annual appeal letter.

The key for any size nonprofit (even an extremely large one) to begin, have, and maintain or grow a relationship with any one individual donor (out of its donor base) is to enter correct data (such as donation received, in response to what kind of solicitation or event, any connection that they personally have with the cause or issue or organization, etc.), but also refer to the data as appropriate (such as just before you send him or her a personalized thank you note or just before you take him or her out to lunch to ask for a major donation). Having information on donors is not some commodity to be sold or some invasion of privacy (and should not be acquired, managed, or thought of as such). Rather, it's the incidental information that the donor has made public (e.g. perhaps they just made partner at the law firm they work at), or the information gained after developing them over the years (e.g. your nonprofit assists those with multiple sclerosis and the donor has indicated that their older brother is a client of the agency's), or the information that they state directly (e.g. such as 'I wish I could give this year but I can't', or a response to a board member asking at a 'thank the donor' function why they give to your nonprofit). Information is very powerful in leveraging a donor's relationship with the nonprofit they support.

For further information read How To Increase the Number of New Donors

Year Long Grants for Youth Social Entrepreneur Nonprofits

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: Open

Starbucks Foundation Offers Support for Young Social Entrepreneurs

A program of the Starbucks Foundation, the Starbucks Shared Planet Youth Action Grants program is designed to help young people realize their natural potential to reinvent their local communities. The program is the primary vehicle through which the Starbucks Foundation invests in communities globally as part of the Starbucks Shared Planet commitment to communities. Since launching the grants program in 2007, more than $1.5 million in total has been invested in youth-led initiatives around the world.

The Starbucks Foundation will solicit applications from organizations that provide young people (ages 6 to 24) with a continuum of service opportunities in social entrepreneurship. To be eligible, U.S. applicants must be tax-exempt, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Applicants outside the United States must be charitable in purpose and identified as nongovernmental organizations or the equivalent of a tax-exempt nonprofit organization.

Grants will range from $10,000 to $25,000 each for one year.

The foundation does not accept unsolicited proposals. Interested organizations may submit an online profile. The foundation reviews these profiles periodically and will contact those organizations about which it is interested in learning more. The Starbucks Foundation reviews the submissions on a quarterly basis; there are no deadlines for the submission of organization profiles.

For more information, visit the Starbucks Foundation Web site.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Learning From & Finding Grants Through The Foundation Center Can Be Mostly Free and Is Invaluable

The Foundation Center, without a doubt, is one of the most professionally well regarded, current, and informed nonprofit resources that exists. It may seem, from its name, that it is a resource for foundations (those entities who donate grants), but it is a resource for the entire nonprofit sector (nonprofit organizations and all). Again, and again, in this blog I reiterate that it's imperative (especially in today's difficult economy, more than ever) that nonprofit volunteers, leaders, and staff require themselves to know professional nonprofit best practices so that the organizations that they work for have a better chance of raising more, growing, and without reinventing the wheel (or expending more money or time than need be). The Foundation Center is an excellent resource to learn best practices from (which provides much information for free). Whether you are brand new to the nonprofit sector, a long time volunteer with different organizations, or a seasoned executive director with the same organization for over twenty years, notoriously, The Foundation Center offers you resources, information, education and networking opportunities, and more. Throughout my career it has remained a reliable and helpful resource.

[I always appreciate, while reading online, knowing in full what relationship, if any, the author has with an organization, a book's author, etc. that they review or editorialize. So, in the interest of full disclosure to you - I want to be clear that I wrote this blog post on my own (without any request that I do so), assembled the following opinion over time of my own free will (without compensation, suggestion, or other), and make the following recommendations without any benefit to me, my company, or anything or anyone else in any way affiliated with me. I know it is important, as a nonprofit professional, to share excellent resources with colleagues - and it is this and only this that is the intention of this post.]

When I began my very first job in the nonprofit sector, nearly ten years ago, and I needed to learn quickly the basics about many different nonprofit operations, I read about how excellent a resource The Foundation Center is, over and over again, so I immediately began investigating their website.

On their About Us web page The Foundation Center describes itself as "... a national nonprofit service organization recognized as the nation’s leading authority on organized philanthropy, connecting nonprofits and the grantmakers supporting them to tools they can use and information they can trust... The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. grantmakers and their grants; issues a wide variety of print, electronic, and online information resources; conducts and publishes research on trends in foundation growth, giving, and practice; and offers an array of free and affordable educational programs." Their headquarters are in New York, but they also have offices in Atlanta, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.

More importantly, they offer their "most comprehensive database on U.S. grantmakers and their grants..." for free in public libraries, community foundations, and other public resources in major cities, all over the United States. The database is called The Foundation Center's Cooperating Collection. To check where their free database (Cooperating Collection) is nearest to you, click on your state or a state near you on the Cooperating Collection web page.

Always a good place to begin when investigating any new website, The Foundation Center's website's Get Started section (located in the green header bar in the middle of their web pages) helps you understand just what they offer us nonprofit workers. In the Get Started web page's case, they show upcoming trainings (classroom trainings) that The Foundation Center provides around the United States. They also always list their classroom trainings on their website on their Classroom Training Courses web page. When you go to the Classroom Training Courses web page you'll see listed, there, different mediums through which The Foundation Center provides its training, in total. Some of it is online, through webinars, some of it is in the shape of online tutorials, and other training is in person classroom training. I have had the opportunity to experience all three of their training mediums and they are each very well done. You will see, reading down their various educational opportunities, that a variety of experience levels are offered courses, and that about half of their trainings, classes, etc. are provided for free. Most of the 'getting started' type of classes are provided for free. You can also go to the second to the final header in the green header bar in the middle of the web page, View Events, and see where in the U.S., currently, various specific Foundation Center courses are being offered.

If you are getting going in grant writing and need to learn some basics, The Foundation Center, is an excellent resource to learn (ala the described training opportunities, above). As you begin actually researching for potential grant donors to apply to for grants - The Foundation Center does not only provide the public with its database of grant donors and grants - it also provides information on how to best locate potential grant donors, resources to help with the actual grant donor research (also called prospecting), and tools to do the work efficiently. Go to the Find Funders web page in their site (again, in the green header bar in the middle of the web page).

Gain Knowledge (the third web section listed in the green header bar in the middle of the web page) may not, initially, seem very critical information to know but its content is often extremely powerful to assist those who are seeking grants (but for also all other forms of fundraising). In fact, the information that is offered, in this section of their website, will ultimately help the grant writer formulate an excellent grant proposal (or fine tune and improve a 'so - so' one). Information offered on this page will improve grant proposals by informing their reader about real time best practices, professional thinking (to assist nonprofits strategize to best raise grants for their specific organization) and to give a big picture context for the current world of philanthropy (donating), what grant donors are thinking and wanting now, and what other nonprofits are doing that works (especially in this tough economy). Taking the time to be current about one's own professional sector and specific groups or organizations within that sector can be the difference between reinventing the wheel (and wasting your organization's time and resources), or being current and informed and giving a new but tested and successful best practice a shot. In this economy especially, this can mean everything for a nonprofit.

No matter who you are (volunteer, executive, or staff) or whether your agency can afford to pay for any further resource or service at The Foundation Center, I highly recommend that you sign up for any one or more of their free newsletters (which I still do). This web page is always listed at the very top of The Foundation Center's web pages in the middle of the top-most header. Going to that web page, the Job Bulleting newsletter may be very pertinent to you right now (given this economy), but notice that they also offer Philanthropy News Digest newsletter, too. It is a weekly digest of all of the news in the nonprofit sector and again, it is invaluable to remain on top of the latest in one's professional (or volunteer work) sector.

Most invaluable, The Foundation Center also offers (again, for free) a RFP Bulletin newsletter. Each week The Foundation Center e-mails this free newsletter listing the latest grants available to apply for (also called a Request For Proposal (or RFP)). Having a list of the latest available grants sent to you weekly, is invaluable.

The Foundation Center's value deepens as organizations or their volunteers and staff choose to pay for yet more of their resources. They offer a store with reputable, professional, excellent resources and on the left you'll see they always offer Specials/Discounts. They also offer an online subscription (in various forms) to their database of grant donors and grants which is very handy given its online access.

The Foundation Center remains a professional resource for me and my colleagues, at The Grant Plant, LLC and I heartily recommend it to you and yours. If you have any other resources that you have found invaluable as a nonprofit proessional, please share it here by posting a Comment (below) with it and thank you.

Grants for Photojournalists Telling Compelling Social, Political, And Cultural Stories

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: Various

Getty Images Offers Grants for Editorial Photography and Nonprofit Work

Getty Images has announced a new round of Grants for Editorial Photography and Grants for Good.

This year, the Grants for Editorial Photography will be awarded in one round rather than two. In another change to the program, the Grants for Good program will now require the guidance of a creative agency.

The Grants for Editorial Photography program is designed to provide professional and student photographers with the creative freedom to create compelling social, political, and cultural stories. The program will award five professional photojournalism grants of $20,000 each and four student grants of $5,000 each. The deadline for applications is May 1, 2010.

The Grants for Good program is designed to support photographers and communications professionals who use imagery to promote positive change in our world. The program will award two grants of $15,000 each to cover photographer, filmmaker, and agency costs as they create compelling new imagery for the nonprofit of their choice. The deadline for applications is March 1, 2010.

Visit the Getty Images Web site for complete grant program guidelines.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, November 22, 2009

It's A Stressful Time of Year for Nonprofits, Especially Now, But Also A Time For A New (Survivable) View

As we head into Thanksgiving, this week, our heads are buzzing with realities based in this year. We want to be sure to remember to buy the ingredients for the dish we're making and bringing to Thanksgiving dinner, we are wondering how we'll be sure to spend less on holiday gifts, and we are a bit concerned about the future. How secure is the nonprofit we care most about? How secure is our job? Our friends' and family members' jobs? What about others? There are those who are currently jobless, and the less fortunate, and still yet others who are perhaps the most disenfranchised and vulnerable in our communities. It' s a pleasant time of year and also a bit daunting.

I truly wish you and yours' a wonderful holiday season, this year, filled with some genuinely good times, some good news, and even some quality relaxation.

As for the view on the horizon...

We are all nonprofit professionals (whether dedicated volunteers or staff) and as such, despite the different causes or geographic regions which we serve, share the same professional arena: the nonprofit sector. Our sector is uniquely situated as we do not make profits, our organizations grow and achieve only by being successful and efficient at the work of our missions, and the only way we bring funds in is if we are as committed to fundraising work as we are to the work of the mission (and as successful at this, too). As such, we (no matter what different causes or issues our organizations work on) can share professional methods that succeed (or 'best practices') that can be used and applied by any nonprofit, no matter where, or what that organization works on.

We have many professional resources available to us, as a sector, and in times like these (especially when we are keeping an eye on the future and our organizations' potential in that future) it is important to keep up on the latest best practices, studies' findings in our sector (such as donor trends, how organizations are surviving the economic downturn, etc.), and keeping open to other organizations' lessons learned or recommendations, given these tough times. The media, such as regional professional nonprofit affiliations (check with your local United Way for the one nearest you), professional print media (e.g. The Chronicle of Philanthropy), reputable professional web resources (e.g. The Foundation Center, in particular their Focus On The Economic Crisis web page), professional current topics online web discussions (of which many are free now), and all other reputable avenues where nonprofit professionals are sharing quality information. Staying in the loop on the latest in our sector will keep you aware of until now unknown options or even potential connections that can help your organization if it gets into a tight spot that others have experienced and worked out.

Communicate with colleagues at other organizations, from our own, and keep in touch. Go to lunch with a colleague and ask them to invite another colleague to join you two who you do not know yet and do the same. Bring people together who are skilled, ethical, talented, and have a proven track record and then over lunch brainstorm issues and potential solutions. Share insights, lessons learned, and what you have heard or know. Ask the same of the others at the table.

Look at your organization's situation as one within a whole. Your organization exists within the community(ies) it serves. Look at that geographic region and consider what is impacting it, where the silver lining is predicted, and what the reality is (pressures, lessons learned, and what's working for other nonprofits in the region); and picture your organization within that context. Consider, from this point of view, what the strategic options are to keep your organization running, growing, and healthy based in real regional information (facts). For instance, if most donors, in the region, are still giving but at lesser amounts than two years ago; but the major donors in the area are still giving in about the same larger amounts - your organization would be wise to either initiate (if one does not exist, yet) a major donor program (or to increase and expand it if one does).

Educate yourself, the executive director, and the board; come together to review, assess, study, and devise survival strategies; review real relevant recent data and communicate further; consider what is best for the organization in light of its mission statement and plan in the best interest of the organization and the beneficiaries of its work.

The future can be dealt with if a nonprofit's leadership takes it on, facing reality, finding out information, communicating, listening, planning, and evaluating for successes and failures, and making adjustments based on lessons learned. If a nonprofit is still doing excellent, much needed, and unmatched work in the community in an efficient, ethical, professional, and talented manner - while dealing with the current economy by facing it, educating oneself, and planning how to deal with the economy; the organization will likely survive well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Grants for Grassroots Organizations Establishing, Protecting, and Maintaining Foot Trails

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: December 15, 2009

Applications Invited for American Hiking Society's 2010 National Trails Fund

The American Hiking Society's National Trails Fund is the only privately supported national grants program that provides funding to grassroots organizations working to establish, protect, and maintain foot trails in the United States.

National Trails Fund grants are designed to give local organizations the resources they need to secure access, volunteers, tools, and materials to repair and protect America's hiking trails. To date, American Hiking has granted nearly $382,000 to 105 different trail projects across the U.S. for land acquisition, constituency building campaigns, and a variety of trail work projects.

Awards typically range from $500 to $5,000 per project.

Visit the American Hiking Web site for complete program information.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What Information Goes Into A Grant Proposal?

Grant proposals usually contain the following information and is often expected by grant donors, today: proposal introduction, organization description, proposed project description, beneficiary population description, statement of need, project evaluation description, project budget description, and closing paragraph. Some of this content may or may not be required (as directed in the giving guidelines of the organization your agency is apply to for the grant) or other content may be requested; and each potential grant donor organization is different from the next. Each grant proposal that your organization submits, therefore, should be tailored specifically to the entity that it is being sent to, per that potential grant donor's giving guidelines. The giving guidelines dictate what should be in the grant proposal and not much else should be added to the grant proposal package. It is not wise to provide extra attachments or information as it is viewed as unnecessary. So, don't waste your agency's time or resources with it, and don't waste the potential donor's time with it. If your agency believes that extra information is important to the potential grant donor understanding the proposal - if they accept phone calls (check their giving guidelines), then call the potential donor, explain the mitigating circumstance, and ask their program manager if it is alright to submit the extra information. Then, do what they recommend. Otherwise, leave extra content out. When a grant donor is considering a nonprofit's request for a grant (the grant proposal) and needs more information they will request it of the nonprofit. What order to place the various content in a grant proposal into varies, too. If the giving guidelines of the agency that your nonprofit is applying to does not state what order the content should be in - then write the proposal with the content in a logical order. Remember, too, that a grant proposal is usually limited to a certain number of words or pages and you want to make a good impression in the written document space that you have; follow their application instructions, tell them everything that they want to know about, be honest, and meet their application deadline on time.

The definition of the standard contents in a grant proposal are:

Proposal Introduction
Organization Description
Proposed Project Description (and How To Make the Case for Your Grant Request In the Grant Proposal, ...Writing In the Grant Proposal About What You Need the Money For)
Beneficiary Population Description (see the above three "Proposed Project Description" links)
Statement of Need
Project Evaluation Description
Project Budget Description
Closing Paragraph

Also, read Basic Grant Writing 101..., The Letter of Introduction or Inquiry: Often the First Step, How Do We Tighten Up Our Grant Proposal, Take That Nonprofit's Grant Writing to the Next Level, What Grant Writing Is and What It Is Not, Time Can Be A Huge Asset In Raising Grants, Be Strategic...When Your Write the Grant Proposal, Descriptions of Different Grant Proposal Documents, and Grant Writing...Mission Success...Its All the Same

See, too, the topic index or "Labels" for further information, below to the right for more grant proposal document writing tips and content ideas.

Grants for Music Programs In Public Schools in Low Income Areas And Nonprofits

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: February 5, 2010

Muzak Heart & Soul Foundation Invites Grant Applications for Music Education Programs

The Muzak Heart & Soul Foundation, a nonprofit public charity established by Muzak LLC, works to redefine and expand the scope of music education. The foundation's Music Matters Grants for 2010 program will focus on educational reform in school music programs and independent music programs across the United States.

Music education — vocal or instrumental — must be the key component of any music program requesting funds. Applications will be accepted from public school programs (qualifying for Title I federal funding and serving a minimum of 70 percent low-income students) and nonprofit 501(c)(3) programs directly funding music education (serving students regardless of their ability to pay).

Applicant schools and programs must already employ a music educator(s) and have an existing music program in place. Grant requests must articulate specific music program needs — for existing and/or planned programs.

Grant amounts for this cycle will range between $1,000 and $12,000 each and will be made on an annual one-time basis.

Visit the foundation Web site for complete program information.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, November 08, 2009

What Tone Should I Set In Our Grant Proposal?

There are finer aspects to writing a grant proposal that are often not so easy to teach, and not even so easy to ask about or find out how to do. There are technical aspects to writing a grant proposal such as being sure to include the usual sections (e.g. introduction, organization description, project description, beneficiary population description, etc.); but the finer question, once a grant writer gets writing a proposal, can become 'what tone should I set in the grant proposal's contents?'

The answer, as is often the case in grant writing, is 'it depends'. So, I'm going to walk you through what I can, in a blog post.

When a nonprofit's grant writer sits down to begin writing the proposal they are, undoubtedly, focused on how they can win the grant. There is sometimes an inclination, then, to make their organization sound, in the proposal, like one of many, let's say... grant-seeking-archetypes:

__ Needy and Deserving, Or Just Because We Are A Nonprofit
__ Admirable Bleeding Hearts
__ The Only Organization To Choose, Or Arrogant
__ The Next Organization In Line, Or Winner by Default
__ Politically the Best Choice
__ The Victim
__ Deserving by Proximity (e.g. having a 'big name' personality or historic figure who founded or works for the nonprofit)
__ The Reputable, Well Run, Possessing A Demonstrable Track Record of Success, A Talented/Experienced Team, Successful Results, Practitioners Of the Latest Professional Best Practices, Inclusive, Transparent, Etc. Organization

Guess which one is probably the better tone to set in a grant proposal? You've got to walk the talk that you assert about your nonprofit, in your grant proposal. Remember, only reflect, in the tone of the grant proposal content, the character of your organization that you could back up with documents and recent accomplishments: that you could prove. If you can truly reflect in its track record, financials, operational history, etc. what you have said about the organization, in the grant proposal - then you're stetting the correct tone.

The tone a grant writer selects to use in a grant proposal should also be: positive, honest, thorough, complete, hopeful, but also demonstrate how the organization operates through the facts it asserts about the organization, its history, its recent accomplishments, and its goals, and proposed project. The tone one sets in a grant proposal is an opportunity to convey to the reader (who works at the organization considering giving your agency a grant) its best foot forward and in the best light (in honesty) that is possible. It can challenge an organization to do this. For instance, some believe (wrongly) that if the truth about an organization seems contrary to its ability to raise a grant - then the organization should either not answer the challenging grant application question or it should lie in its response. Neither are correct. The better way to address a tough question is to 1) answer it and respond (never ignore or skip a grant application question or request for information); and 2) to tell the honest truth. Remember, you can always call a potential grant donor that your organization is applying to (if they allow phone calls) and explain the quandary and ask what they advise. Honestly, some of the best possible answers to a given grant proposal question can be recommended (and, in effect, given) by the grant donor agency's program manager, them self. For instance, if a grant proposal is being filled out and a question comes up like, 'have you conducted this proposed project before?' and the answer is 'yes' for our nonprofit, but it went horribly wrong and we wish to conduct the project, again, having made corrections to errors made that first time - and we're applying for the grant for this second go - it may seem that the better answer is to avoid answering the question, or to lie; it's the wrong way to go. In fact, a donor (such as a grant donor) who is given the truth and also informed about what lessons the agency learned, that the input for improvement came from the project's attendees (or beneficiaries, themselves), and that all necessary changes (or improvements) have been implemented (and that the attendees will be asked for input after the second run of this project (also called "evaluations")) - the donor is more likely to give. The donor, in the instance of truth, is being given the agency's experience, but the applicant nonprofit is also demonstrating that it values honesty (and reporting the truth to potential stakeholders such as donors), and anything that gives a potential donor confidence (such as the truth does) is some of the most powerful fundraising methodology that exists. If a potential donor discovers your agency's lie in a grant proposal they not only will not give your nonprofit a grant, today. You're risking them 'black listing' your nonprofit within their own organization for future reference ('do not give to this nonprofit as they lied in a grant application submitted to us in December 2009'); they are colleagues of others who work for other grant donors and these professionals do network and talk with one another. If word gets out in the grant donor community that your nonprofit lies in its proposals for funding - the damage to the agency could be catastrophic.

It may seem dangerous or contrary to instinct to tell the truth about your nonprofit's growing pains or lessons learned but there is not a single nonprofit that operates that has not learned through experience. There is no shame in this as long as the organization takes the lesson as an opportunity to grow the agency and improve its operations and goal setting. Sharing with potential stakeholders in your nonprofit, such as donors (e.g. grant donors, in this case), is really providing the grant donor with your agency's values (truth), professionalism (we aren't going to lie to stakeholders or potential stakeholders), and sense of self (we are not afraid to listen to our constituents, learn from our mistakes, and better ourselves by listening and implementing improvements). This is actually the more powerful way to manage and operate a nonprofit. What donor (or 'investor') wouldn't feel confident supporting an organization that admits its foibles, is aware of their likelihood, listens to benefit the population it is set up to serve, and makes appropriate improvements?

Grants for Western Hemisphere Native or Hawaiian Native Artists

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: January 15, 2010

National Museum of the American Indian Invites Applications for Indigenous Contemporary Arts Program

The National Museum of the American Indian's Indigenous Contemporary Arts Program offers support to a wide range of arts activities with the goal of increasing the knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of contemporary Native American arts. The NMAI considers the recognition of living artists of the Western Hemisphere and Hawaii to be of primary importance and will give awards to projects that strengthen the scholarship in this under served field and create opportunities for new and innovative work.

NMAI's Exhibitions and Publications program awards grants of $7,500 to $15,000 to support exhibitions, installations, publications, and critical writing that interpret and present the work of contemporary Native visual artists to the public and encourage dialogue and critical commentary. At least one-half of the proposed project team (artists, authors, curators, etc.) must be Native American or Native Hawaiian. Awards are given to nonprofit or education-based organizations. Project budgets must show a minimum 50 percent match by the applicant organization or other anticipated sources.

NMAI's Expressive Arts program awards grants of up to $10,000 to support the creation and presentation of new works through the collaboration of two or more Native artists. Awards will specifically support the creation of new works for public performance that may include, but is not limited to, music, dance, spoken word, electronic media, costume design, mask making, set design, performance art, photography, painting, and other forms of expressive culture. The award is open to all indigenous peoples who hold citizenship in the Americas.

Complete program information is available at the National Museum of the American Indian Web site.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, November 01, 2009

That Physical Address Location Question On Most Grant Proposal Applications... What Gives? Read More...

Which comes first? Is it the chicken or the egg?

I received a question on Seeking Grant Money Today, this week, that I thought I'd write about because I've heard it asked, before.

A reader of this blog posted a question asking how their brand new nonprofit can apply for grants when so many grant application forms require the physical address of the location where the nonprofit will provide the program or service that it is requesting funding for. It would seem, for any nonprofit that does not yet have a physical location (building, classroom, conference room, etc.) to conduct its organization's work that this is a barrier. The question can often become, 'well...we just started up...we can't afford a building, yet,'. That's actually, not the point, but the misunderstanding is not uncommon.

This question is a perfect example of a situation that warrants a nonprofit calling the potential grant donor that they are applying to (whose grant application apparently stumped them) and ask to speak to a program manager at the foundation. Ask them, given your organization's specific situation, what they prefer a nonprofit answers for that question. Explain your nonprofit's situation (for example, perhaps yours' is not a brand new nonprofit but has, in fact, existed for fifty years - but is only now providing services or assistance to the public and, let's say, has no gymnasium to provide after school camp for youth in, yet). You will receive the answer from that specific potential grant donor and you'll know how to answer their grant application; but please do not assume that all of the other organizations that you're sending applications to will want the same. Again, phone each (as long as they accept unsolicited phone calls - some prefer not to hear from applicant organizations. In this case, make your best guess as to what they wish to know and provide the appropriate answer). This inquiry also establishes the beginning of a relationship and relationships are how donations are raised (larger donations, anyway).

When a donor asks for a physical location on a grant application, they are considering the program or project that your nonprofit is requesting funding for. They, in fact, do not EXPECT any nonprofit to own a building, and usually aren't surprised at all when a start up nonprofit is using the facilities of another nonprofit's or other organization's. No grant donor, very often, expects anything of any nonprofit and in fact, that is the point of asking questions in the grant application. They simply ask questions, in the grant application, to get the honest answers from the applicant nonprofit. They probably aren't so interested in the square footage or how many public facilities there are on the premises (although they may be), but rather they are more likely gauging other considerations such as:

__ is this building's location easily accessed by the target beneficiary population the program is supposed to serve (e.g. are bus lines running nearby during program hours, is there free parking nearby, is it well lit and safe at night, etc.);

__ is the building easily accessible for the disabled;

__ is the building a modern, safe, well maintained facility, or is this a notoriously 'red - flagged' potential death trap repeatedly dinged by the city or county to require safety upgrades, etc.;

__ are there enough classrooms or is there enough space in the rooms planned to be used for the anticipated number of participants or attendees;

__ etc.

As I've always written, here, it is never wise to lie in any grant application about anything. If your nonprofit is applying for grants to, let's say, provide an after school camp for youth - but your board has not come to a formal agreement with the property owners of a proper facility, but you all are pretty sure that it's a done deal: then tell the potential grant donor this. Do not claim, if it is not the case, that a location will be used for certain. If, though, a location has been arranged for and is formally your organization's for this program/project at a certain date and time - then state this in the grant proposal.

Some potential grant donors may wish to know the physical address of the proposed program or project (proposed in the grant proposal) because of other reasons. How can you know? It's best, for each potential grant donor that your organization is apply to for a grant, to know their reasoning behind asking the question (and remember, all grant donors are separate, different, individual entities - one's thinking or reasoning is different from another sometimes and its always best to tailor each grant proposal per the recipient grant donor's interests, demonstrated track record, recent actions, etc. to increase the chances in receiving a grant from them). If you area allowed to phone them, have the executive director or a board member (someone who is 'peer to peer' on the same level as the leaders of the potential donor's) phone them. If you can't phone the organization, read over their giving guidelines, other literature, their website, or research recent past grant recipients' programs/project's physical addresses (for programs or projects that they funded that are similar to the one that your agency is proposing).

This question also demonstrates a common misconception on the part of nonprofits about potential donors of all kinds: they just want us to jump through hoops. In fact, grant donors, in particular, are usually staffed with and led by people are are very knowledgeable about, professionally skilled in, and perhaps lettered researchers in the very field of work that your nonprofit works in. They, themselves, have often worked at nonprofits (perhaps ones serving the same cause as yours') and are usually very up to date on professional and ethical philanthropy. They are weighing which nonprofit should receive the next grants that they are about to donate. Most grant donors are not, in fact, being flip about just randomly asking for nonprofits to provide this, that , or the other. They are using some key information, for each proposed program or project, that they hear about in each round of grant applications to decide which (of likely tens if not hundreds) of grant applications they will award a grant to. Grant donors are not giving to get a tax break, and leave it at that. They are very active, engaged community members who are looking where they can best place their cash donation (or other contributions) that will help the nonprofit do the best, most effective, and perhaps the most good for the community. Grant donors are looking for honest, well run, efficient, knowledgeable, expert, talented, successful nonprofits that they are more likely to get excellence for the community out of the fiscal (or other) investment that they place in the awarded nonprofit.

Fellowships for Social Entrepreneurs To Turn Innovations Into Sustainable Social Change

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: December 2, 2009

Echoing Green Opens Application Period for Social Entrepreneur Fellowships

Each year, Echoing Green awards twelve to fifteen two-year fellowships to social entrepreneurs. Fellows receive seed funding and technical support to turn their innovative ideas into sustainable social change organizations.

Echoing Green seeks individuals or partnerships (organizations led by two people) with innovative solutions to significant social problems; strategies to create high-impact, sustainable change in people's lives; and the ability to grow and lead a new organization.

The application process is open to citizens of all nationalities working in any country. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older, and must have sufficient English fluency to participate in interviews and Echoing Green events.

Organizations must be the original idea of the applicant, and must be independent and autonomous. (Organizations cannot be considered independent or autonomous if they are started under the direction of an existing organization.) Organizations must be in a start-up phase. To be considered a start-up, the applicant may have been running the organization full-time for approximately two years, and Echoing Green's financial support should qualify it as a major/primary early funder. Applicants who have only worked on their organization on a part-time basis or have yet to start an organization are generally considered eligible. Applicants must make a full-time commitment to the organization's development.

Fellows receive up to $90,000 ($60,000 for individuals and $90,000 for partnerships of two people) in seed funding over two years.

Visit the Echoing Green Web site for complete eligibility information, application materials, and profiles of fellows and their projects.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Monday, October 26, 2009

For Current Insights Into What Is Motivating Major Donors To Give Large Donations, Now, See This Free Webinar Transcript

This past Thursday I sat in on The Chronicle of Philanthropy's free webinar, "What Makes A Donor Give A Fortune" (which, handily, only required that participants could log onto their website to participate). The speakers were two active philanthropists who have planned out their wealth and future wealth so that they could give before they passed and have been for years. They answered the participating audience's questions and the two moderators' questions. The benefit of listening to a panel of wealthy donors is to understand what motivates them to give, what they are looking for in the nonprofits that they donate to, and any other questions that are asked.

You, too, can read the transcript for free, now, at http://philanthropy.com/live/2009/10/fortune_to_charity/ if you toggle down the page and in the "Conversation With A Major Donor..." text box at the bottom of the page, click on the right pointing sideways arrow ('play' arrow) in the box. This will prompt the text to appear and you can read from top to bottom.

This particular webinar was well attended and between the participants' and moderators' questions the topics covered ranged from how a start up nonprofit can get funded to what the passion is that causes people to organize their wealth and begin to give (either as individuals or even as a family foundation). Also, there are a wealth of great suggested web resources and their links included, too.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy
does a beautiful job of listing all of their previous webinars that anyone can access afterward, for free. To read down the list of conversations that they have held before, and to also see what discussions are coming next (which you could certainly participate in for free, if you wish), go to http://philanthropy.com/live/

The Chronicle of Philanthropy's next free webinars are listed to happen on October 27, October 29, November 3, and November 12. As more follow these dates, they will be listed, too, at the "live" URL above. Not only are these a great opportunity to get current happenings, thoughts, and best practices; they are a terrific free tool to learn; and they allow any participant to ask questions. I can't recommend them enough.

Grants for American Museums

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: April 1, annually (Letters of Inquiry)

Luce Fund in American Art Offers Support for Scholarly Exhibitions and Publications

A program of the New York City-based Henry Luce Foundation, the Luce Fund in American Art seeks to support scholarly exhibitions and their related publications that contribute significantly to the study of American art.

Each proposed project must result in a tangible product that can be added to the body of scholarship in the field of American art. Applicants must be the originator of the exhibition project, not a subsequent venue. All periods and genres of American art history are included. Intellectual merit and potential contribution to scholarship are the most important criteria for evaluating proposals. Demonstrable impact of the artist or subject must be substantiated. The program is aesthetically and object-based and does not include projects that are primarily historical, documentary, sociological, or that concern private collections. Museum permanent collection projects are not included in this category.

Any American museum evincing a commitment to American art is eligible to apply for a grant. Museums outside of the United States may submit appropriate projects for consideration only if they have proof of valid nonprofit status provided by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Proposals are not accepted from individuals.

A prior Letter of Inquiry is required to ascertain the foundation's interest. Inquiry letters may be submitted at any time, but must be received no later than April 1 for possible acceptance to the annual summer review of approximately 20 proposals. The annual deadline for receipt of proposals is June 15. It is recommended to inquire at least 18 months in advance of an exhibition's opening date.

See the Luce Foundation Web site for complete guidelines and examples of museums and projects that have been supported through the fund in the past.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, October 18, 2009

We Nonprofits Must Rise to The Economic Occasion

As nonprofit organizations, we are always struggling for resources, excellence, successes, and to grow. It's a great burden on a nonprofit organization at any time, to move forward and grow, but in this kind of economy it is especially difficult.

Nonprofits can do the following:

__ Determine current unmet organizational staffing needs and upcoming organizational staffing needs and then create job descriptions for those positions - and begin to actively recruit volunteers for some of these positions, still looking for only the most accomplished, successful, and talented people. After successfully acquiring any talent for your agency, proactively retain them with excellent human resource management, a good work environment, etc.

__ Cut costs, increase fundraising, and save more. For example, does your organization's board contribute annual amounts? This could be a new additional annual fundraising mechanism! To know more read What Are Leadership Donations?

__ Reduce numbers of days that the office is open, set up a new sliding fee scale for services that your organization provides and ask those who can to contribute a fee, increase value for dollar spent (e.g. be sure that each donor who gives $20 or more this year understands exactly what their dollar will do in the community, etc. Fore more read Save Your Nonprofit Money...

Most of us nonprofits have already implemented the above or some variations of these survival steps. The real question becomes, ultimately, 'can our nonprofit raise more?'

There seems to be a common set of misconceptions that nonprofits use as 'outs':

__ 'our community is already donating as much as it can', or 'this market (speaking of a local geographic region) is already tapped out';

__ 'we don't have the people, resources, or skills to successfully raise enough to survive this economy';

or

__ 'we've done everything that we can, so it's time to close shop'

If your nonprofit is clearly defining for community members (potential donors) what your organization does, that it is unique in providing this for the community, that it meets a current and as yet unmet need, and does all of this successfully while operating in an ethical and transparent manner: then your agency won't have such a difficult time raising new money. All nonprofits must make their names, achievements, services, and reason for providing them known to the communities that they are raising funds in - otherwise the potential to raise money (even new money) is only limited to those people who already know about the organization. These people who've already bought in may indeed be giving everything that they're going to for the year, already - so your agency must be bringing in and retaining new donors. For more on this read The Nonprofit That...

If a donor wishes to support your nonprofit it is not at the expense of another nearby nonprofit, doing other work, necessarily. Donors who wish to support nonprofits support the causes and issues that are dear to them. They do not tell themselves 'well, I care about these multiple number of causes but I will only give to one of them' if they've budgeted for the year choosing to give what they can. Help your donors to plan. Inform them and make it clear what your nonprofit does, that no other does, and that their money will reach the community and what it will do. That's what any donor wishes to do successfully through the organizations that they contribute to. For more read How To Raise Money Better In Your Region

If you do not have the skills or if a board member or two do not have the time or willingness to contribute: move them or yourself out of the way. The importance of any nonprofit is its mission statement and its ability to successfully provide the services or products of that mission statement. You or any other person can take the time to learn, implement new policies or campaigns, and contribute in a new direction on behalf of the mission - but if someone is unwilling to change the old routine, won't expand their knowledge or expertise, or won't contribute during a difficult time then they are standing in the way of the nonprofit's success and its ability to deliver its mission to the communities it serves - and this is wrong. Get those who are stalwart and hopeless out of the community's way of getting the benefits of the nonprofits. Keep in mind - just because you can't do what may be needed to be done for the organization to survive this economy doesn't mean that you can't learn it or get someone else into the agency, in your position, who can. Don't make keeping the nonprofit open or closing it in this recession about you or anyone else.

Like all decisions, any decision made for the nonprofit is (by law) supposed to be made in the best interest of the nonprofit and the entities it serves.

Grants for American School Libraries Looking to Update, Extend, and Diversify Their Collections

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: December 31, 2009

Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries Accepting Applications From School Libraries

In order to promote a love of reading, the Laura Bush Foundation for America's Libraries works to provide books to the school libraries and students that most need them.

The foundation makes grants of up to $6,000 each to update, extend, and diversify the book collections of school libraries. All LBF grants are made to individual schools rather than to school districts, county systems, private organizations, foundations, or other entities. LBF gives selection preference to schools in which 90 percent or more of the students receive free or reduced lunches and are likely to have the fewest books at home.

Foundation funds are available only for library books and magazine/serial copies and subscriptions. The Laura Bush Foundation is unable to honor requests for staffing, shelving, furniture, equipment, software, videos, classroom book sets or any kind of book guides, tests, or exams. Only one application per school is allowed per year.

Libraries at public and private schools are eligible to apply.

Visit the LBF Web site for complete program information and application instructions.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Here Are Some Tips To Get Your Board Behind Your Agency's Grant Writing

Any nonprofit's board of directors are an important part of its potential to raise money in all types of fundraising methods. The board are not just legally responsible for the quality of the organization's transparency and bookkeeping, for instance; they are not just responsible for finalizing all of the organization's goals, visions, and policies; the board are also important partners and active members in any nonprofit's fundraising.

As such, many people have asked us how they can either get their board of directors educated about how grant writing works and how they can get their board to assist their organization's success with it; or how they can get their board behind and excited about their grant writing. The following are suggestions for any fundraising committee members, fundraising staff, or executive director looking to get their board members informed on, supportive of, and ultimately to become a strength in the agency's potential to raise more and larger grants.

__ Never assume any organization's leadership and its respective individual members know what any new thing that any nonprofit is doing and how it's done. I'm not being smart or snide, here, but rather being very honest. Over and over again we have worked with nonprofits whose well meaning, involved, intelligent, and experienced board were thought to know or be skilled in some (or all) aspect(s) of grant writing work - only to discover that (of course) the board included people with various levels of grant writing knowledge, experience, and skills : from 'none' to 'a lot'. Clearly state which organizational member's role is and also a grant writing campaign persons chart (with the head grant writer and key organizational leader as 'day to day' decision makers and the board members as 'overseers' and also willing participants in the work). Provide a clear, succinct, but thorough grant writing board training that covers what grant writing is (and what it is not); how long most successful grant writing campaigns take; and at the finale, give a realistic and researched recommended one or two year plan including a time line, expected (realistic) outcomes, assignments per person, expected benchmarks, etc. Include clear roles and tasks per board committee (or member), their efforts' time lines, etc. Provide them with good, professional, ethical, current, but also clear and to-the-point basics and then trust them to do their jobs and do them well. The following of our posts may be helpful, Planning Your Organization's Grant Writing Expense; Descriptions of Different Grant Proposal Documents; Places, Resources, and Ways to Learn Everything From Fundraising to Other Nonprofit Operations; What Are Grant Donors Looking For and Funding Today; Considering Or Beginning A Grant Program? Here's Some Help; and Leadership's Role In Seeking Grants

__ Conduct bi-weekly updates with the board and the key grant writing team (over e-mail or over the phone in a group conference call) that tells them what progress has been made, what stage of work the campaign is in, what is going to be worked on next, what deadlines are pending, and ask each board and grant writing team member for updates in their respective work and what questions they have. Keep the lines of communication open. Also, be sure that everyone who promised to get back to anyone, after each meeting, does. To help the ongoing communication remain fruitful for the organization and everyone involved, the head grant writer and the executive director should be endowed with the power to direct the grant writing work and campaign success; the board or board president should be endowed with 'peer to peer' meeting interactions with potential grant donors' organizational leaders (to be scheduled and researched in tandem with the grant writing team) and also high-level fundraising goal objective concerns.

__ Keep expectations realistic. If, for instance, your nonprofit has never attempted grant writing before - expect that the first grant may not come in for at least three months but even up to a year from work start. Similarly, if a nonprofit has been grant writing for years, and very successfully - build the current economy and what expected grant donors are likely to do today into the year's expected fundraising goal outcomes. Research what the donors are doing given the economy. For help with realistic expectations read our posts, How To Raise Grant Money, Even In This Economy; Top Ten Tips To Raise Grants In A Down Economy

__ Keep at it. Grant writing is not a 'quick' fundraising method. It takes a lot of initial, up front work (research on how to do grant writing professionally today, campaign planning, prospecting or researching for potential viable donors, writing drafts of each letter involved in the grant seeking process, etc.) but once that work is completed it is often only something that needs to be edited, partially re-written, and updated over time. A good strong informed and well-researched and well-written initial foundation in grant writing work is a powerful way to raise more grants in larger increments sooner than later from work-start.

__ Keep a chin up, as the work begins and as time progresses, but no $1 million grants have rolled into the office, "yet". A lot of groundwork is necessary for any successful grant-raising. Some will simply not understand (or maybe even not trust) that the grant writing will result in success - but if it is conducted professionally, with skill, honestly, and in a thorough manner per each individual grant donor's requirements - success can come.

For more information on this process read our post, How to Coordinate the Executive Director, the Board, the Volunteers, and Staff to Successfully Raise Grants

Grants for Programs Fighting Teen Dating Abuse

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: November 15, 2009

Do Something Offers Grants to Support Youth-Led Projects Addressing Teen Dating Abuse

Do Something and Liz Claiborne, Inc. seek to support young people across the United States who are taking a stand against teen dating abuse.

Do Something will award ten grants of $250 each to help run projects started by young people that are fighting teen dating abuse. Programs may include activities such as holding an abuse awareness week at school, setting up a peer-counseling program, or posting fliers to alert people about dating abuse hotlines. Special consideration will be given to projects that include an event on It's Time to Talk Day (December 3, 2009), or culminate in some way on that day.

The applicant must be 25 or under and must be a U.S. or Canadian citizen.

Visit the Do Something Web site for complete program guidelines.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, October 04, 2009

A New Popular Fundraising Method Could Be Replicated By Your Nonprofit

A new type of fundraiser is becoming more popular very recently, and although not each American nonprofit could afford to replicate this fundraising method on the scale being conducted by some, the basic ideas could easily be replicated by any nonprofit to create a new, fresh, and entirely community-related fundraiser.

If you have looked through a fashion magazine or two during the past two months you likely read about major foundations asking either famous artists or children to create art that will be (in these two instances) used as the design for the canvas or leather exterior of limited edition women's totes or purses. Considering which fashion designers are involved, here, these bags are very affordable and the buzz that this specific fundraising method is generating (even in this economy) shows how smart and 'out of the box thinking' this fundraising method is to utilize fashion fads or trends to increase the number of people interested in purchasing a tote or purse. It's really quite brilliant.

Now known as an Italian fashion empire, the Versace name grew to fame in the 1980's through its visionary, Gianni Versace. Tragically, on July 15, 1997 was killed as he left his Miami Beach mansion. Bravely his siblings took over operations and continued their brother's vision. His sister, Donatella Versace has since furthered her brother's styles while invigorating the House of Versace with her own. Ever involved in community (especially per her notorious love and active involvement in the art world), she began the Versace One Foundation. Under its Art Unites program, along with the Starlight Foundations. Versace provided art supplies to 1,400 children (that each foundation serves) and gathered their creations. From the press release, "Each child’s work of art will be fashioned into a one-of-a-kind Versace canvas tote bag which will be sold worldwide at Versace boutiques and the Gilt Groupe, a member’s only ecommerce site this October. The bags are expected to retail for between $200 and $250, and 100% percent of the proceeds from the sale of the bags will be donated equally to Starlight and to One Foundation." The bags will be available for purchase both through the Gilt Groupe (a free online shopping portal that anyone can sign up for) and Versace boutiques. "

Similarly, Target has placed on 42nd Street, in Times Square, billboards featuring four New York artists' work through the end of October that, to quote the press release, will be converted, after, to fashion: "after their run on 42nd Street when the vinyl is restyled into 1,600 limited-edition, affordable tote bags, based on a design conceived exclusively for Target by fashion icon Anna Sui."..."The unique billboard bags are available for $29.99 at Target.com/billboardbag while supplies last.

"At the time of purchase, guests can further customize their tote by selecting which of the four artists' work will be restyled into their unique bag. The fashion-forward totes will be shipped to guests in January."

Not only does the billboard feature emerging artists' work, prominently in Times Square; the canvas that the billboard is printed onto will itself be turned into bags (which is recycling); and the number of available bags is limited by the size of the canvas which drives up the popularity and desire for donors to order their bags.

Though it easily could be, this particular program is not a fundraiser, per the press release, and at the time of this post' writing, the Target website does not allow me to purchase a purse, so they may be sold out. You may check, yourself, at http://www.target.com/gp/browse.html/?node=2224647011&ref=sr_shorturl_billboardbag

The basic ideas of these two programs could easily be replicated by any nonprofit, though, and the original art could be scanned into a computer and then used to design mugs, calendars, or even limited edition lithographs or printed posters. The beneficiaries of the Versace One Foundation created the art that will be used to design the limited edition bags. Getting the word out about the bags, their pricing being low, limiting availability, and having a big name (fashion designers, in these cases) helped push the popularity, fad, and eagerness to order one. These are each pieces of a fundraising method that any nonprofit could pull together, themselves.