Sunday, March 29, 2009

After Recruiting Board Members Help Them Become Effective Quickly

Nonprofits' best chance for their organizations' greatest aspirations is each organization's own leadership. Board members, executive directors, trustees, advisers, development directors, program directors, and all other nonprofit leaders should follow their nonprofit's bylaws, recent strategic plan, current development plan, implement policy, and do all of these jobs with the mission statement in clear vision. While many people come to the nonprofit sector from the 'for profit' sector, operating nonprofits requires specific, different, knowledge (even of legally required oversight and reporting). If someone begins to volunteer for or work for a nonprofit without having a nonprofit background - all they need to do is learn. Provide anyone new to your organization with an opportunity to get up to speed and become effective quickly.

The organization, when recruiting board members or hiring new staff, has a proactive role to play in getting these 'newbies' into the organization, trained, on the same page, and on their way to being effective and productive members of the organization. It is common for a nonprofit (start up, small, large, or multinational) to provide new board members with a binder.

The binder should include the following:
__ Board Roster including the names of all board members, their preferred contact information, where they work (or retired from), and any official positions that they hold on the board or hold on committees. You may also include how many years they have sat on the board, to provide newbies with a context.

__ Staff Roster, including their title, work contact information, and note any committees that they sit on.

__ Organization's Bylaws

__ An abbreviated but clear list of all laws that pertain to the nonprofit organization that requires specific reporting, oversight, and compliance of the organization AND THEM (e.g. Sarbanes Oxley Act). You can also include key required reporting dates, and what dates, annually, the board is given financials to scrutinize.

__ The Mission Statement

__ Annual Fundraising/Contributions Required of Each Board Member Annually including what the protocol is for each donation the board member raises or donates, themselves, over the year so that how much each board member raises or contributes, over the year, is counted towards their respective annual required contribution total, for the year. Yes, every nonprofit should ask its leadership to set an example for other potential donors in the community, by contributing or raising larger donations, annually, themselves.

__ A Board Member Job Description

__ An Executive Director Job Description (as the board traditionally oversees the job that the ED is doing, reviews him/her annually, and makes decisions about the E.D.'s quality of work (and hires a new ED when necessary)).

__ A concise but thorough history of the organization, how it came to be, and its accomplishments from the past five years.

__ A list of all of the organization's committees, the current and next year's fundraising calendar, the programs/services/research, etc., board retreat dates, a schedule including anticipated outcomes and goals, and include for each of these nonprofit operations and when the evaluation period is to occur, what the evaluation method will be, how the each evaluation will be tabulated, and when the post-program review meeting will be to review evaluation results and recommend improvements, and changes.

__ The organization's current financials (Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet, and Current Annual Operating Budget); including the most recent fiscal year's professional financial audit and the most recent fiscal year's Annual Report. Ask board members to review the agency's financials quarterly and also annually, starting now.

__ A list of current resources that anyone new to the nonprofit sector could refer to, to educate themselves on contemporary, professional, nonprofit best practices in all areas of nonprofit operations (e.g. how to read, analyze, and understand financials (especially for fraud); nonprofit bookkeeping; traditional nonprofit board work including board/staff relations and conflict resolution; fundraising; how to be an ambassador to the community on behalf of the organization; the organization's professional field of work (including the latest thinking in the professional field); how to manage volunteers; strategic planning; etc.).

__ A list of the organization's current partners and collaborators, including which programs they work with your agency on and the collaborator or partner's explicit respective role and your organization's role in that program.

__ A calendar including each board meeting, time, date, and location; and board training dates.

Board binders may also include: committees with position openings that they could join, a schedule for any trainings that the programs people or board is going to hold, local professional nonprofit affiliations that they may want to join to learn and to also get to network, the protocol how to work with the development (fundraising) department such as how it prefers that the board report anything it learns to the fundraising department (to assist donor development) after board members socialized or networked with current or potential donors (e.g. grant donors or major donors); a couple of example "elevator speeches" to help them create their own, as they discuss the organization with friends, colleagues, and family; etc.

Require each board member to become familiar with the information in the binder. It will help them represent the organization and conduct their job as a board member better.

Binders, today, can be digital (either a memory stick with the pertinent data, a download that sits on the organization's server that can be FTP'ed down, or a CD ROM, etc.) as long as any new members will have regular access to a computer (either their own or at the organization).

The binder is usually updated, at least annually, for all members, with new laws or legal updates that effect the nonprofit sector or the organization's professional field; new organizational policies and plans; and updated organizational documents such as bylaws; current financials; or anything that has been updated, changed, or is new that pertains to the nonprofit's operations, board oversight, and legal compliance.

Anyone new to any organization will need to get beyond a learning curve, but the sooner and better that the new person is up and running, the less time and money is taken from the organization - and the more they are contributing to the organization's achievements (fundraising, programs, etc.) sooner. Having everyone informed, clear, and on the same page is powerful. Board binders and training increases these chances.

Grants to Community Programs Financing Services Benefitting Those in Need

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: April 30, 2009

Entries Invited for Wachovia NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance

The aim of the Wachovia NEXT Awards for Opportunity Finance is to propel Community Development Financial Institutions to a higher level of growth, success, and sustainability. The awards are presented by the Opportunity Finance Network, with grant support from the Wachovia Foundation and a major program-related investment from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Opportunity Finance programs provide capital and financial services that benefit low-income and -wealth people, helping them to build homes, schools, small businesses, and community facilities. The Opportunity Finance industry includes more than twelve hundred mission-driven CDFIs.

Successful candidates for the Wachovia NEXT Awards will be premier CDFIs with a history of outstanding accomplishment; a bold and compelling vision; extraordinary future potential for growth, innovation, and impact; and a high degree of readiness to successfully accept, use, and leverage a large, flexible investment.

The awards program will provide two of the United States' most promising CDFIs with a major one-time financial award that combines unrestricted grant dollars and flexible, long-term, unsecured below-market loans (program-related investments). One outstanding, high-potential CDFI with over $50 million in capital dedicated to lending or investing will receive a $5 million below-market loan and an unrestricted grant of $500,000. One outstanding, high-potential CDFI with $10 million to $50 million in capital dedicated to lending or investing will receive a $2.5 million below-market loan and an unrestricted grant of $250,000. In addition, four CDFIs will receive unrestricted grants of $25,000 each for their excellence in Advocacy, Community Impact, Financing, or Innovation.

Visit the NEXT Awards Web site for complete program guidelines.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nonprofits Will Improve Themselves Seeing Beyond Their Organization's Culture

Hiring for culture is important (especially so that everyone works constructively for the nonprofit's mission, together) but hiring only people who look like the movement behind, or passionately ascribe to, our field or work and our mission statements may not be the best for the organization.

For example, let's say that you are a long-time, experienced, successful, talented bookkeeper who has worked with four different nonprofits, one after the other, over twenty professional years of work. You have an interview Monday at 2pm with a new potential nonprofit employer; and you love their work and successes in the community. You know that you'd be an excellent addition to their team. If you walk into the interview with the talent and knowledge that the organization needs to operate excellently: you would trim their costs, increase efficiency, increase reporting and transparency, and provide these and more abilities that would potentially increase community buy-in, the number of volunteers they recruit and retain, and the numbers of and amounts given by new donors; then you are the solution to the hole that they have in their staff roster, right now. What sometimes happens, though, for different reasons (perhaps due to the culture within the operation, or maybe due to an idea in the organization that it preserves the cause, or maybe for unconscious reasons) a talented potential hire is declined because they did not get a masters in the field that organization operates, or because they don't dress like everyone else in the office does, or because they didn't attend at least four sit-ins for the cause over the past year. How sad for the beneficiaries of the mission statement of that nonprofit, that the organization can't imagine beyond its own culture hiring talent that is available to it, but who may not eat, sleep, and walk the cause, issue, or professional field. You are a talented bookkeeper, who if hired, will help take the organization to the next level successfully. If, though, the nonprofit who is interviewing you can not see your talent and potential (beyond their organizational culture) then they aren't only missing a tremendous opportunity (and giving you a good reason to look for a better potential employer); they are not focusing on their mission statement and the beneficiary(ies) of it. They are too wrapped up in what an employee "should" look like, or dress like, or have as a degree, or do on their own personal time, politically, etc.

This is one phenomenon in the nonprofit sector that I don't believe that I've ever heard addressed formally, such as in an article or as a topic during a conference, and yet, it always occurs to me when I see it that it is probably a detriment to the nonprofits where it happens. I want to know what you think.

I am writing about this now (for the first time) because in this economy who we hire to either consult with us or come onto our organizations as staff is very very important. They must be talented in their respective role. For that matter...even who we purposefully recruit for our organization (such as board members) is equally, if not more so, crucial. Talent, experience, successes, and expertise...the person's potential is the key. The people who your organization has the benefit of attracting and potentially hiring or recruiting are the only opportunity it has to not just succeed and operate well - these people would be the organization's cogs, heart, and its future. They must be reviewed for their professional work potential, what they could do to improve the organization's operations or efficiency, what they could do to increase services or research provided, and their ability to be a strength for the organization's only reason for existing and operating: the mission.

I don't want to sound, here, like mission buy-in isn't important. It is. That's not my point, here. My point is there is mission buy-in and then there is only hiring or recruiting people who look, do, or whatever as we have looked, done, or whatever. The world is bigger and the bigger that your point of view is - the broader the potential for your nonprofit's hiring and recruiting and that is the pool that any nonprofit wants to select from.

Grants for Programs Supporting Young People With Disabilities

From The Foundation Center...

Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation (MEAF) Accepting Applications for National Grant Program to Support Young People With Disabilities


Deadline: June 1, 2009

Grants will be awarded to nonprofits working to provide access for young people with disabilities to educational, vocational, and recreational opportunities in the company of non-disabled peers...

The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation is dedicated to helping young Americans with disabilities maximize their potential and full participation in society.

Through its National Grant program, MEAF provides funding to nonprofit organizations that are working toward the full inclusion of young people (newborn to early 20s) with disabilities in society. Proposed projects should be national in scope and have the potential to be replicated at multiple sites. A major program emphasis is inclusion -- enabling young people with disabilities to have full access to educational, vocational, and recreational opportunities and to participate alongside their non-disabled peers.

Grants are made only to U.S.-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. While requests from all parts of the United States will be considered, priority will be given to communities where Mitsubishi Electric U.S. companies are located. Preference is given to organizations and projects that reflect collaboration among groups, and to those that actively involve people with disabilities in program planning and implementation.

Grant amounts vary based on the nature of the project/organization and the duration of proposed activities. Funding is available for both project costs and operating support, and is open to both disability-specific organizations and those that serve the general population.

The foundation accepts and reviews concept papers throughout the year, but concept papers should be submitted by June 1 to be considered for funding in the following year. If the concept paper is approved, the organization will be invited to submit a full proposal.

For complete application guidelines and examples of funded projects, see the MEAF Web site.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Here's A Handy Checklist for Nonprofit Operations and Fundraising Success...

If nonprofits do the following work prior to and in tandem with their grant writing work, the sum total of the work, listed below, can increase the chances of it raising a grant (and also increase all of its fundraising success, beyond just grant writing).

In order to be successful in any nonprofit operation (e.g. grant writing or other fundraising campaigns, policy setting, organizational oversight, project/program planning, etc.) I am a proponent of the nonprofit leadership:
__ educating itself in any professional contemporary nonprofit best practices that it doesn't know well, yet, or understand;
__ successfully recruiting, training, and retaining a talented, experienced, successful, and committed group of volunteers to either serve the organization's board or serve different committees (e.g. grant writing committee) who each have different but pertinent and strong professional backgrounds that will serve the organization's, but more importantly mission's needs such as law, accounting, fundraising, and specialists in the organization's professional field;
__ conducting surveys or feasibility studies in the community or population that the organization serves to understand and learn from the community, itself, what it truly needs, right now;
__ designing the project;
__ planning, designating responsibilities, determining the time line and expected benchmarks, due dates, hard deadlines, and follow up meetings, during and after the project;
__ clearly defining the expected outcomes;
__ planning, creating, and implementing an evaluation method that is professionally acceptable in your organization's field or industry;
__ implementing project;
__ monitoring project, during the project;
__ conducting the evaluation method;
__ tabulating the survey, poll, interview, or other method that was used to develop the participants' experience of the project;
__ reviewing the evaluation results;
__ meeting to discuss which aspects of the project met or exceeded the expected outcomes, and which aspects of the project need to be improved, and determine how the improvements can be best implemented, when they will be implemented, by whom, the change time line, and follow up on the implemented improvements;
__ follow through with this process, again, during the next experience of this project

So...from the above list you can see that the program, project, building, or items that you are going to apply for a grant for requires expertise and time to clarify what your nonprofit is planning to do, why, for whom, and how.

Any successful grant writing campaign also requires specific nonprofit professional best practices be conducted (besides the above project planning work) before and also in tandem with grant writing work.

__ Network with one's counterpart working for (or volunteering for) other nonprofits doing similar work as your organization, who are serving the same geographic regions as your agency does to be sure that they know of your organization, what it is doing, for whom, and why, and be sure that you understand the same of their organization;
__ Network with for-profit, local and state government, Tribal, and other pertinent leadership in the community that your organization serves and again, be sure that they know of your organization, its mission, who it serves, why; and answer questions about your organization's work;
__ Stay open (be willing to listen and hear) to collaboration with excellent agencies or companies doing work similar or related to your organization's, if it is a benefit to the benefactors of your nonprofit's missions statement; do not take your organization out of its community's network by closing off to people coming to talk with you about new programs or ideas (it doesn't do anything expect reflect poorly on your agency - remember, you can always act professionally and say 'no' when 'no' is the best response for the nonprofit's benefactors);
__ Provide the press and media existing in the geographic regions that your nonprofit serves with each and every success story that your nonprofit achieves, develop professional but good relationships with media staff who write about or cover the kind of work that your organization works on, learn how to write professional and effective press releases and use them regularly, and release them to all types of media (not just newspapers or radio stations);
__ Let the people of the geographic region that your agency serves know about your organization, its mission, why it does what it does, who it serves, its achievements, its plans for the future, its successes, its transparency, and why your organization and its work is relevant and necessary. There is no finer way to raise money, let alone to market your organization, than this;
__ Listen to (and hear) others such as potential collaboration partners, governments, constituents, benefactors, staff, volunteers, colleagues in other nonprofits and others, and consider their concerns, questions, and points. You do not have to agree with everyone (and you shouldn't) but no nonprofit succeeds because its leadership is closed off, knows it all, or keeps doing the same thing over and over year in and year out;
__ Keep organized; follow through and in a timely manner; recruit more help (e.g. volunteers) if you need it; and breathe

Successful grant writing can involve simply sitting down to take a stab at writing a grant proposal and submitting it. More often, though, the above list of 'to do's' is involved and over time, the entire process doesn't just potentially increase the number of grants raised - this kind of due diligence improves the programs or services that your organization provides, it increases and improves the volunteers and staff that your nonprofit recruits, it retains excellent talent over time, increases other methods of fundraising's success, and allows potential donors (who haven't given to your organization, yet) to learn about your group, what it does, and why they should invest in it. No proactive, best practices work for one's nonprofit is a waste of time or money. Doing any nonprofit work off the cuff, without understanding or experience, and crossing your fingers for the best is. It is always an investment into increasing the organization's reputation, money raised, and visibility when there is a commitment to conduct nonprofit work with a pertinent education, experienced professionals (who can be volunteers), according to best practices, and with the mission in the forefront (not insecurities, not egos, not personal agendas, not resume' padding, but rather, a committment to success in the work of the mission statement).

Grants for Innovations Improving the Quality of Life in Rural and Farming Communities

From The Foundation Center...

Ashoka's Changemakers Announces Global Competition for
Innovations to Improve Rural and Farming Communities

Deadline: May 13, 2009

With funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
( http://www.gatesfoundation.org/ ), Ashoka's Changemakers
( http://www.changemakers.net/ ) has launched "Cultivating
Innovation: Solutions for Rural Communities," a new collabor-
ative competition designed to find innovative solutions that help
to improve the quality of life in rural and farming communities.

The competition is open to all types of organizations (charitable
organizations, private companies, or public entities) from all
countries. Changemakers will consider all entries that demon-
strate system-changing solutions in agriculture and in the lives
of rural citizens in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and around the
world. Entries must indicate growth beyond the stage of idea,
concept, or research. At a minimum, entries should be at the
demonstration stage and indicate success. The judges are only
able to evaluate programs that are beyond the conceptual stage
and have demonstrated a proof of impact, even at small scale.
The winners of the competition will be those entries that best
demonstrate innovation, social impact, potential for replication,
and sustainability.

Entries may be submitted in English, Spanish, French, or Portu-
guese. Online submissions will be accepted until May 13, 2009.
At any time before this deadline, competition participants are
encouraged to revise their entries based on questions and com-
ments they receive in the Changemakers community online discus-
sion. A panel of judges will select ten to fifteen finalists,
and the Changemakers community will then vote online to select
three awardees to each receive a cash prize of $5,000. In addi-
tion, the best entry submitted by the early entry deadline of
March 30, 2009, will win a cell phone and digital camera.

Visit the Changemakers Web site for complete competition
information.

RFP Link:
http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15017259/changemakers

Sunday, March 08, 2009

This Tough Economy Is Not Lost On Donors And A Real World Fundraising Boon In This Economy For Us All

In our previous post, Think About Applying For Grants From the Grant Donor's Perspective we recommended looking at the grant raising process from the grant donor's perspective to package a better grant proposal. In this post we recommend seeing the nonprofit philanthropic sector, as a whole, to help understand how donors are in the same boat as nonprofits that are fundraising. We are not so different from one another.

The number one factor in improving our economy is to increase Americans' confidence. Editorials, this week, pundits on news talk shows, and economists have repeated the word "confidence".

When the economy began to slow, more visibly in fall 2008, foundations began to answer questions (all of the country and in all kinds of media and press) about whether they will reduce their recent giving levels. Some foundations answered the question confidently then, stating something like 'we will fulfill our giving goals for 2009', but would answer it differently now for different reasons (e.g. investment scams such as Ponzi schemes, loss of assets in the market, a breakdown in its leadership's confidence, or worse). Then, there are the rest of grant donors, such as foundations...

Foundations, who choose to be involved in the community working on the issue that they care about (not as nonprofits serving or providing services but, rather) to be a part of the solution, as the donor. Philanthropy is a team of nonprofits and donors (of all kinds, including grant donors) and that team works together to serve the community.

Those foundations (or governments, or other grant donors) are often experts in the issues or causes that they donate to serve. They are in touch with the news, like you and I are, and are keenly aware that the economic downturn, and our federal government's difficulty in figuring out a recovery plan, is taking now, and will take later resources that could have gone into the federal budget to better fund basic services and programs that meet needs in our community. Foundations do not balk at these kinds of economic downturns out of spite or fear. In fact, keep in mind, the federal government requires that foundations (in order to retain their official nonprofit designation) must donate a minimum five percent of their total assets, each year. Foundations may choose to donate more than 5% of their total assets but the point is that leaves, 95% of their assets to be used as the foundation sees fit. Some of these organizations, who are in touch with their causes - the unprecedented current need, and the economy, will and already have increased their planned donating for 2009.

In the United States, since the 1940's, when reductions to the federal budget potentially lessened services and programs in American community, the donors in this country (including grant donors) remained sensitive to holes stepped up (especially after 9/11). Many foundations are, by choice, consciously getting into this position again. Donors (including grant donors) do not want the nonprofits who they believe are providing real solutions for pressing issues to disappear. Bottom line...foundations (and all donors) are concerned for our communities. No donor or nonprofit wants to leave any unmet need in our communities to their own devices.

As nonprofit volunteers, staff, and leadership - we are wise to be sensitive to the position that donors are in, in this economy. Donors and nonprofits are a team and if we can see from the donor's perspective where they are today, it can allow us nonprofits to strategize how to better approach potential donors, with our requests, now. It can help us nonprofits to research these potential donors given our economy, now (e.g. perhaps instead of prospecting potential grant donors, as we all have been for years, in order to anticipate their interest in your organization's grant application on last year's giving - but instead, call their offices today and ask their program manager where they are, what they are looking for today, and what they expect to give to, now).

I will finish this post with one last very recent nonprofit fundraising experience (that I posted in our new forum about last week) that is extremely insightful for any of us raising funds, today.

A colleague worked on a nice auction dinner event, two weeks ago, that this nonprofit held annually for years. It is usually a fancy evening out, and most auction items were higher priced. In years past, the event always sold out, and all auction items were always sold at much higher price points than their common value. She said that this year, the event sold out, but it was held at a less fancy restaurant; there were less auction items, but many more silent auction items; and auction items this year were not fancy and expensive items but rather they were nice but more accessible items (e.g. $20 gift certificates, $30 hair cuts, etc.). She said that because the entire event was held to be much more accessible (fiscally, socially, and in the end...psychologically) they made $20,000 more this year (in this event) than they have ever made on this event.

We can raise money this year, and more than we did last year - we must, as nonprofit leaders, think and do our work differently than we have been. Times are changed but we can change, and adapt, too.

Grants For Women-Led Programs That Will Change the Journalism World

From The Foundation Center...

McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs Program Offers Funding for Innovative Journalism Projects

Deadline: March 31, 2009

Through the McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs program, J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism ( http://www.j-lab.org/ ) and the McCormick Foundation ( http://www.mccormickfoundation.org/ ) are seeking to fund three women-led projects that will help change the world of journalism.

The program partners will fund individuals who have original ideas for new Web sites, mobile news services, or other entrepreneurial initiatives that offer interactive opportunities to engage, inspire, and improve news and information in a geographic community or a community of interest.

The McCormick New Media Women Entrepreneurs program will provide three one-time grants of $10,000 each to women who have the vision, skills, and experience to launch a new venture.
Ventures can be solo ideas or team projects spearheaded by women.

Funding is available for start-up programs only. Projects must launch (at least a live beta) within ten months of the grant and must have a plan for continuing after initial funding has ended. Projects must have journalistic value. Projects may be independent or housed within traditional media. Personal blogs or one-time documentaries will not be funded.

Award winners will receive funding through a subcontract if they are an individual or affiliated with a business, and through a grant if they are affiliated with a nonprofit institution.

Visit the New Media Women Web site for complete program information.

RFP Link: http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15017173/newmediawomen

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Think About Applying for Grants From the Grant Donor's Perspective

Sometimes the best way to get a grant awarded to your nonprofit is to think beyond the actual grant writing process, get out of that mindset for a moment, and imagine what the grant donor's wanting to assist (or, to what do they want to give a grant to - what are they looking for). This exercise can actually help you create a winning grant proposal.

Let's look at the grant application process from the grant donor's perspective. Let's say that you and I work together at a local grant donor, a local foundation. Let's say we work at Partners Foundation (I just made that up). Let's say, too, that we're a medium size foundation in a larger town or city. Our annual operating budget is around $180,000 and we grant about $100,000 a year to applicant nonprofits. Let's say that (as all foundations specifically wish to grant to the causes or issues that they are concerned about, at the time) Partners Foundation requests applications from nonprofits providing one of three different kinds of health programs: hospice programs, counseling programs for families who have a critically sick child, and shuttle or transportation assistance services for people unable to drive themselves to their medical appointments or to pick up their prescriptions. In other words, any nonprofit who is (or is going to) provide, and needs money for any one of these specific programs (and who also meets the other requirements to apply, located in Partners Foundation's giving guidelines (see the link to understand what giving guidelines are)) should apply to Partners Foundation. Do not ever apply to a foundation: that does not fund the cause/issue that your nonprofit works on, or that does not fund organizations that serve the population in the geographic region that your nonprofit serves, or that does not fund the kinds of programs, services, research, etc. that you are needing to fund. [Note: To understand how to look for grant donors (this work is called 'prospecting') to specifically locate the grant donors most likely to give to your nonprofit read the following posts: We Need Money For Our 501(c)(3)... , The Grant Writer's Little Helper; IRS Tax Form 990 Post 1 of 2 , The Grant Writer's Little Helper; IRS Tax Form 990 Post 2 of 2 ]

So, given that we work for a small to medium sized foundation, we have four giving cycles a year. This means that each quarter, we notify the public that we are accepting applications for grants (for the specific issues, programs, and in the locations that we indicate in our current giving guidelines). Working for a foundation, we provide nonprofits who are interested in applying for our grants with our foundation's giving guidelines, due dates, answer questions about how to apply or the application, itself, etc. Being that we grant about $100,000 a year over four quarters, in 2005 we received about 300 grant application a giving cycle (or a quarter). In 2007 we averaged receiving about 800 applications a quarter - over double the average before the economy slowed. Also, since we have an annual operating budget of about $180,000 (which is only how much the foundation spends, annually, to operate - it does not reflect the assets that the foundation owns), and we give about $100,000 annually, in grants, then we can surmise that about $80,000 is spent, over the year, on operating the foundation (everything from overhead such as rent, parking, office supplies, phones, etc. to salaries and benefits). Let's say that $80,000 is broken into $60,000 for the foundation's executive director's salary and benefits, $10,000 for one part time program manager, and we have two interns in our office at any time to do administrative work. The other $10,000 pays the foundation's overhead and operations expenses. Yes, foundations recognized by the U.S. federal government as such, are nonprofits, themselves.

So...if we have a staff of four, not including Partners Foundation's board of directors (which, let's say, is 15 people); we receive approximately 800 grant applications that must each be read before a major deadline each quarter, every year; and we only fund those nonprofits that meet and exceed the requirements and spirit of our foundation's giving guidelines - we know the following about our work as a foundation (and these are important clues to nonprofits who are applying for grants to any foundation or other grant donor):

__ While program managers may be excellent readers, they are reading for content (looking for the applicant nonprofit's mission, proposed program/project that they need funding for, reasoning that explains why the program/project and organization are necessary to the community, and for the application's compliance with not only the giving guidelines but also that all required attachments are in the application package, etc.). That is a lot to have to find in each document of 800 applications. [Note: the more that a nonprofit formats it grant proposal (while staying within the requirements of the giving guidelines) so that it is easy for the reader to pick out the compelling or important points in it - the easier it is for anyone who has numbers of proposals to read to find the facts that will sell them on your organization's proposed work].

__ We have to determine which applicants' budgets are not just mathematically correct, but also correlates to what is stated in the written proposal, and is fiscally responsible and sound (of the nonprofits that remembered to include the budget for the proposed program/project, in the proposal, as required in Partners Foundation's grant application process). [Note: Always make sure that your budget is in accordance with the foundation's giving guidelines, is realistic/possible, simple, complete, honest, and is mathematically correct. Also, make sure that what is stated in the proposal about money, matches what is listed in the budget].

__ We have to weed out the grant applications that we can (because of the volume of applicants compared to what we give in grants each quarter). While we wish we could fund each good idea that we received in applications, we can't. Any reason that we can find to put a grant application into the "No Pile" - we have to use. [Note: Never make it easy for a grant donor to put your nonprofit's application in the "No Pile". How? Always do everything that they require in the foundation's giving guidelines. Meet deadlines. Do not add any extraneous documents, attachments, videos or other media to a grant application package. They don't have time to go through it at all. Write a succinct, complete, honest, and compelling grant proposal, etc.] While working at our jobs, we move after this first quarter of 2009's giving cycle's deadline is past us, approximately 90% or 720 of 800 grant applications to the "No Pile" for various reasons (which we note on each grant application that we put into that pile - in case the nonprofit calls us, after receiving their rejection letter, asking us how they can do better when they apply to our foundation next time). The 10% or 80 grant applications that we did not find issue with, next, goes to our board of directors who always make the final grant recipient decisions. The 15 of them will divvy up going through all 80 grant proposals and probably in greater detail than you and I could.

__ Since we know that we only have about $25,000 to grant this giving cycle, and because we want our foundation's grants to make the most good in our community that those dollars can, the board of directors of our foundation do not want to fund any programs, projects, etc. that indicate even a possibility of the following: nonprofits whose missions do not serve a current or urgent real need in our community; nonprofits who do not expertise in what they doing (e.g. do not have expertise or credentialed professionals working as staff or on the board of the nonprofit); nonprofits who do not appear to know how to run a nonprofit according to current professional nonprofit best practices (because our board doesn't want to risk even a dollar of its grant money to nonprofit leadership who are learning as they go, when there are plenty of nonprofits who are run by people who make sure that they know how to run a professional nonprofit, that have also applied for a grant); nonprofits who have had bad press recently (e.g. a legal or internal scandal), or who are known to spend grant money on things other than what they say they'll spend the money on (the board of our foundation have friends who work for other foundations' boards and these friends do talk to one another about nonprofits who bilk or cheat them), or nonprofits who do not seem to account for their money well or correctly, etc.; proposals that are not clear or do not demonstrate that the program/project has been thoroughly planned out, including the goal of the program/project and anticipated results and an evaluation method; etc. [ Note: When your organization applies for a grant, and even if it's up against only one other nonprofit (instead of 79 other nonprofits) to get that grant - you must have submitted an excellent, strong, well done proposal because if you don't, the other nonprofit has).

__ We want to give our grants to reputable nonprofits. Not only does this mean that we only want to give our dollars to organizations who are known to be successful, well run, honest, efficient with their money, etc. BUT (big 'but') it also means that we (as the foundation staff, board, etc.) should have heard of the applicant nonprofit before. Not only that, if we, at the foundation, have friends, colleagues, or family that work for, is served by, or volunteer with an applicant nonprofit - that helps that nonprofit's chances of getting a grant (because connections are 'everything') WHEN WE AT THE FOUNDATION KNOW ABOUT THE CONNECTION. [Note: Always, always, always take marketing and public relations work as seriously as fundraising work because the two actually go hand and hand. Marketing and PR can increase the amounts raised and numbers of donors gained. Similarly, be sure to let your community at large know whenever and each time your organization achieves any success. Finally, whenever and each time your nonprofit is about to submit a grant proposal check with your organization's staff, board, volunteers, and beneficiaries whether anyone has a relationship with anyone volunteering with or working for the foundation that you're applying to. It can be invaluable. If a connection is found - be sure that the person who has the connection contacts their connection in the foundation and let them know that your nonprofit is about to apply, and why they believe in your nonprofit (nothing "sales-y" - from the heart is always more compelling)].

From a foundation's (or other grant donor's) point of view, they are looking to give grants (not for the tax break, studies have found) because they are concerned about our world and have specific concerns for the community. They are as much investors as they are donors. Foundations (and others) give grants to succeed at providing a viable and strong solution to real needs. Help them see and be able to see why your organization's proposed program or project is an excellent, efficient, current, professional, successful, viable, and long lived investment.

Program Assisting First Generation College Attendees To Graduate Is Seeking Universities to Partner With

From The Foundation Center...

Suder Foundation Seeks University Partners

Deadline: March 31, 2009

The mission of the Suder Foundation ( http://www.suderfoundation.org/ )
is to improve the graduation rates of first-generation college
students by providing them with financial, academic, emotional,
and social assistance at state universities across the U.S.

The foundation is currently in the program development phase and
is seeking universities to work with TSF to research and develop
program components.

See the foundation's Web site for further information and contact
details.

RFP Link:
http://fconline.foundationcenter.org/pnd/15017069/suderfdn