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 and download the latest (free) version of Adobe Acrobat Reader (it will be on the 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 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 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 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.

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 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 " 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.

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.

Link to Complete RFP