Sunday, September 27, 2009

Some Advice About Volunteer Grant Writers

Any nonprofit that considers conducting its grant writing component of its fundraising through a volunteer grant writer either affords itself some extra cash or, well...a lesser outcome.

A nonprofit's volunteer is very prized and especially appreciated as they are giving, really, donating their time, their skills, and their dedication to the organization in a unique way, especially compared to a nonprofit's founders, staff, or collaborators. Dedicated, talented, committed, and reliable volunteers are prized and must be treated, in order to retain them (and keep them aware of how valuable and appreciated they are), as the organization's larger amount donors, board members, or beneficiaries are treated: with respect, professionalism, and gratitude. So, to be clear, I do not take any one's offer to volunteer or any volunteer's work lightly. Volunteerism is as much a donation to be as valued as any cash, item, or other contribution to a nonprofit.

From professional and volunteer experience (my own and colleagues' experiences), though, a nonprofit that rests its entire grant writing fundraising (program) on a volunteer's shoulders is potentially risking a fruitless venture, and perhaps not for the reasons that you might assume. Fortunately, volunteer grant writers are not, of themselves, a bad lot! The difference (as is true with a staff or consulting grant writer) between whether a grant writer (volunteer or not) is going to be successful has to do with the nonprofit doing its due diligence prior to formally agreeing to work with any grant writer. Also, you may be similarly surprised by me asserting that a volunteer grant writer may be very successful and work out well for your nonprofit, who has no grant writing experience, yet. So...this post is not going to tout that each volunteer grant writer must have ten years' professional grant writing experience behind them, before your agency even considers them. There is more to this...

The hopeful and best outcome for any nonprofit that conducts its entire grant writing work through a volunteer grant writer - is that the organization understands and truly knows how modern grant raising (grant writing) is conducted, what grant donors expect in applications, and what professional best practices include, today. For instance, if a nonprofit acquires an excellent volunteer grant writer but expects that the volunteer should raise $20,000 in grants in three months or less, and the nonprofit is new to grant writing - then the outcome will not likely be fruitful; and in this situation, it would be the fault of the nonprofit's - not the volunteer's. To my point, if though, a nonprofit acquires a skilled and capable volunteer grant writer, provides him/her with all of the source documents that they need to begin searching for grants, begin to write grant proposal drafts, and then finalize grant donors to apply to and proposal documents - and allow all of this work to occur over a realistic time line: then, over time, the organization will be out of its own way, and potentially really land grants and then, again.

The grant writer (volunteer or not) must have some basic skills that they can demonstrate real talent with (whether they are just attempting grant writing for the first time, or are long seasoned grant writer professionals). Anyone who will truly have 'the stuff' to be successful at grant writing must:

__ Know, understand, and appreciate modern professional-level grant writing work and its best practices. This means that the individual should understand what the typical documents are in the grant application process, how to locate grant donors to apply to (who are more likely to give to your specific organization than not), what should and should not be in any of the documents used to apply for a grant, etc.;

__ Be organized, attentive to details, communicative, good at listening and hearing others, and it doesn't hurt if they enjoy research, enjoy writing, and also enjoy working with others who are community-minded;

__ Be available over the realistic time line necessary for a new grant program to take hold and begin to raise grants (which can be as long as a year or more from work-start) and also be committed to actually seeing the entire process through, and then stick with it;

__ Be collaborative;

__ Ideally, it's nice too if they have some related successful experience in other fields if not in grant writing, such as more technical writing type experience, collaborative projects, and professionalism. Asking a potential hire for their writing samples, references, and referrals is O.K. - volunteer or hire.

If a nonprofit does not take the time to check into all of these basic but important attributes, before agreeing to work with anyone on its grant writing - then they have not done their organization's basic due diligence in working with their grant writer.

As I said, earlier, my suggestions, here, come from my own experience and colleagues' shared experiences. Executive directors at many nonprofits have shared with me, over the years, that their organizations attempted grant writing through a volunteer (and I do not think any one of them did not in any way not fully appreciate their volunteer, nor did they believe that their volunteer could not do it); but all found that above all, the time necessary to conduct grant writing work eroded either the volunteer's ability to see the work through entirely; or the long haul caused the volunteer's commitment to the project to wane if not altogether cease. I am certain that most if not all of these volunteers truly had the best intentions and envisioned seeing their grant writing efforts to the end (even if that's over a year out from the grant writing work start). As we all know, though, life happens. Some volunteers may take a new job, after beginning volunteer work, that requires more of their time. Others have kids whose schedules have changed theirs'. Still others can mean well but lose interest in their volunteer work as no grants have been raised, yet, but they've finished nine month's of work (which, again, is not unusual for a nonprofit that is just beginning grant writing). The amount of even the most modest requisite time to complete the upfront work, and then necessary time to complete a grant application cycle (and then go into the next) can frustrate even the most committed, confident, and steadfast volunteer grant writers.

From my own personal experience, as a volunteer grant writer, the other side of this can be equally as fruitless. I have many times attempted to offer my professional (and usually payment-required) experience, skills, and talents to a few nonprofits, over the years, and in no situation was I able to see the program through, yet (for different reasons). In one instance, the executive director didn't seem to understand that not only did I have nearly ten (contiguous) years (at that time) professional, successful, grant writing experience; she never even allowed me to get going. Instead, she kept sharing with me which fundraising gurus' books she appreciates (which, in and of itself are always great colleague recommendations) - but then she asked me to sign and fold donor thank you letters and sit in on a board-led operations committee. I don't think that she was a poor director or that she didn't ever intend to conduct grant writing. I think, though, that she was overwhelmed at work (or perhaps even burned out), had 'fires' in the day to day work to put out, and saw a 'warm body' in me, and simply filled organizational holes or gaps - as any nonprofit leader will. She missed, though, an opportunity to instead focus my energies on another of the organization's needs: its fundraising. I wound up leaving the organization, as a volunteer, because I was doing work that was important but it was not what I wanted to do (which is a key mishap in poor volunteer management). The other common experience that I've had, as a volunteer grant writer, is that grant writing really does require a team effort (from the organization's executive director, bookkeeper, and the programs management, if not others such as the board, etc.); yet, many well-intending executive directors, once they have an able person in the grant writing position (volunteer or not) can not themselves follow through. Much of successful grant writing requires that the grant writer understand the organization, its history, and its work and goals; but also have key source organization documents (such as program budgets); and more importantly their time and their ear. Many grant proposal go through drafts and revisions. If an executive director expects to review drafts (as they should) but doesn't make the time to do so in a reasonable amount of turnaround time and get it back to the grant writer; or if an executive director can not seem to get all of the requisite organizational documents to the grant writer (that perhaps either inform some grant application content or are required by a grant donor that the organization is applying to, as an attachment to the grant application); then the executive director (or whomever fails to be a team player in the grant seeking work) has gotten in the way of success. It may sound cynical, but I have found that the one true way to be fairly certain that work will flow as it should - is if a nonprofit is paying for a professional service that it is receiving from a professional. Money seems to, if nothing else, remind all involved in the work that waste will be created if a commitment is not made (by all involved) in the entire process. Do I think that all successful grant programs are conducted by paid grant writers (staff or consultant)? No, I don't. As I said, though, in my experience it seems to certainly ensure focus, commitment, reasonable turnaround time in team work, and a clear understanding of what the real grant raising process is and what to expect.

At a minimum, a nonprofit can help itself succeed at raising grants through a volunteer grant writer with some clear, current, and professional understanding of the grant writing process, time line, and if it does its due diligence when finalizing who will conduct the volunteer grant writing work.

One Year's U.S. Or Canadian Graduate School Scholarship For Women Studying Computer Or Electrical Engineering, Or Mathematics

From The Foundation Center:

Deadline: October 9, 2009

Microsoft Research Accepting Applications for Graduate Women's Scholarship Program

The Microsoft Research graduate women's scholarship is a one-year scholarship program for outstanding women graduate students and is designed to help increase the number of women pursuing a Ph.D. in the computer sciences, electrical engineering, and mathematics.

The program supports women in the second year of their graduate studies. Women who are interested in the scholarship must apply during their first year of graduate studies.

The scholarship award includes $15,000 for the 2010 academic year and a conference and travel allowance of $2,000 for recipients to attend a conference in their field of study. Scholarships are awarded to recipients for one academic year only and are not available for extension or renewal.

Nominees for the Microsoft Research graduate women's scholarship program must be nominated by their universities and their nominations must be confirmed by the office of the chair of the department. Direct applications from students are not accepted.

Student must attend a U.S. or Canadian university and be enrolled as a full-time graduate student in computer science, electrical engineering, or mathematics. A maximum of three applicants per department, per university, will be accepted.

Visit the Microsoft Research Web site for further information.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, September 20, 2009

What Are Grant Donors Looking For & Funding, Today?

In order to raise a grant, today, a nonprofit must demonstrate the following to each potential grant donor that it applies to, because (even without the difficult economy and perhaps fewer nonprofits attempting to raise grants) donors, today, expect a review of project results, transparency in accounting and reporting, project viability, and relevance of the programs or projects that they fund (or seriously consider funding). Why? If a nonprofit can't both demonstrate the need, potential, and expected outcome of the project that it is asking for grant money for - then grant donors can turn to another nonprofit's more planned and viable project because it is potentially more likely to be successful and what donor (who thinks, really more like an investor, today) doesn't want to put their money where it's most likely to provide real positive results for the community? Why, if they do not feel confident in their investment, should they invest their donations (grants) in your organization's proposed project? In order to raise grants, today, a proposed project in any grant application should have:

__ Forethought - Research, and Planning: are other organizations (or entities - for/nonprofit or local government, etc.) already doing what your agency is going to propose to do? If so, why should another organization do it? Also, if your agency is proposing brand new work or a new program - research must be conducted to learn what the population your agency works to benefit truly needs, right now, and what would really solve the issue.

__ The Dream Team: All the best meaning people can be a part of a new project's team, but if there are no successful experts with prior relevant and strong experience on the team (especially if there are no 'big names' or 'rock stars' in the professional field that your agency works in) why would a donor (investor) feel confident in the project's viability? Research who would be ideal to have on the team, actively recruit them, and be sure to have in place human resources benefits and a professional culture that will retain them.

__ A Proof of Concept: Innovation is really popular, today. Once a nonprofit has listened and heard what it's beneficiary population truly needs, right now (that is not being met, yet) and has come up with a viable, new, and possible way to remedy the issue - it must either prove through others' (credible) research that the new concept is worthy of an attempt (and donations) or it must do it a few times to demonstrate the project's realistic potential to solve the issue, the project's viability, and how it can be done efficiently with real positive outcomes.

__ A Model Project - Or An Easily Replicated/Duplicated Innovation That Can Be Used Elsewhere By Other Organizations: Innovation, as I said above, is attractive to donors, but if a project is proven to work and can also be replicated by other nonprofits doing similar work, elsewhere, then the innovative project can be deemed a 'best practice' or 'tried and true' and hopefully a better way to remedy a standing issue. If a donor sees that their donation launched a solution for your organization's constituents but potentially other agencies' clientele or beneficiaries, too - it is easy to invest as the potential is greater.

__ Viability - The Project Should Be Viable Today and In the Future: If a nonprofit proposes the ultimate potential project but the organization that is proposing it has not planned out the project or how it would be funded fully - year to year, into the future, growing it; and worked to that end then there remains, in potential grant donors' minds, a fear that while your organization can provide the project or services it can not sustain it, or does not know how to raise the money to provide the project beyond their grant. Their investment, then, would be wasted.

__ Buy In - If Your Organization's Leadership Aren't Investing In It and If Your Organization's Community Isn't Investing In It Then Why Should A Major Donor (such as a grant donor)?: One of the most compelling line items in any proposed project's grant application budget is 'Board Contributions of $x' listed there, under 'Income'. If an organization's leadership has not allocated a portion of the total funds that they (as leaders in the organization) are going to either raise or give, themselves, for this proposed project - then why should a donor give? Also, if other organizations (local major donors, local businesses, other grant donors) have seen the proposal but not given - why would others? Buy in is an excellent way to make potential grant donors more comfortable giving. If you send a grant proposal to a potential grant donor and already have a few donors committed for part of the whole cost then be sure to include that as line item(s) in your grant proposal's budget. Having buy-in is very compelling to potential donors (including grant donors).

__ Collaboration With Other Relevant and Expert Organizations In the Community: No one wants to donate to a nonprofit that is either reinventing the wheel (and doing what other nonprofits have already tried or are already doing); and no donor wants to give to a nonprofit that is not being as efficient (with talent, money, and time) as it possibly could. Often, when a nonprofit works with another organization to provide a project it is not just a collaboration for fundraising's sake. It is a melding of talent pools, a more efficient mechanism as the organizations will mutually pay for expenses, and the outcome for the community is the same (or greater). To many grant donors, collaborations lead to a strengthened community, the outcomes that we all hope for, but less overhead costs, less reinventing the wheel, more applied talent and experience, and shared expenses. It's a good deal.

__ A Project Goal, The Expected Outcomes, and Evaluation Methods Built Into the Project Design: If a nonprofit does not have a (clear) expected goal of its proposed project, no expected outcomes, and no evaluation method to check for both successes but also to learn where improvements are needed in the project - then how would a donor (investor) know what to expect, know that the proposed project is really going to be a viable solution for the community, and whether the proposed project will wind up being fruitful (either as a solution or as part solution and part learning experience to better the next time the project is conducted)?

__ Transparency: Honesty is important for any nonprofit's credibility and relationship-building in its community (for not just fundraising but also to be considered capable of delivering its programs); but it is critical in reporting (e.g. in annual reports to current donors, in tax returns to governments, and to potential donors in proposal budgets). If a nonprofit is open and honest in its reporting, a donor will be further compelled to give because the donor will feel confident and trust the organization and that goes a long way in any type of fundraising. Anything less in any kind of accounting or reporting is a red flag and will negate chances to raise grants.

__ Organizational Responsibility and Accountability to the Beneficiary Population of Its Work: If a nonprofit has an innovative, compelling, viable proposed project underway but doesn't see the merit in evaluating its project after its initial run, or if it evaluates its project but doesn't follow through to review and listen to the results; then it is not going to either learn from its mistakes to improve the project. Ultimately, this demonstrates that the organization is not so concerned about whether their project will really solve some of the issues it is attempting to (how will it, in any quantifiable or demonstrable way, know if it has or not)? More importantly how will it tell others that it is successful in its mission statement work?

__ Enough Time for The Project to Realistically Succeed: Part of the expense of any project is the cost of start up and initially running it. Often it takes at least two years for a new project to take hold and get to where it can really do some good and this expense (of start up) requires planning (including: a project design, staffing, a goal, expected outcomes, an evaluation, an anticipated time line, action items, assignments and expected deadlines, proper budgeting).

Any nonprofit that takes the time to really create a strong project to propose to potential donors (including grant donors) it has put itself ahead in the pool to really potentially raise grants.

Grants for American Music Archiving Or Preservation Projects

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: October 1, 2009 (Letter of Inquiry)

Grammy Foundation Announces New Letter of Inquiry Process for Grant Cycle

Funded by the Recording Academy, the Grammy Foundation Grant Program administers grants annually to organizations and individuals to support efforts that advance the archiving and preservation of the music and recorded sound heritage of the Americas, as well as scientific research projects related to the impact of music on the human condition.

The program has announced revisions to this year's grant application process, including a new Letter of Inquiry requirement and changes to the timeline and grant amounts.

The foundation will award Scientific Research Project grants up to a maximum of $20,000 each to organizations and individuals to support research on the impact of music on the human condition. Examples might include the study of the effects of music on mood, cognition and healing, as well as the medical and occupational well-being of music professionals and the creative process underlying music. Priority is given to projects with strong methodological design as well those addressing an important research question.

The foundation will award Archiving and Preservation Project grants to organizations and individuals to support efforts that advance the archiving and preservation of the music and recorded sound heritage of the Americas. The Archiving and Preservation area has two funding categories: Preservation Implementation ($20,000 maximum award each); and Planning, Assessment, and/or Consultation ($5,000 maximum award each).

A Letter of Inquiry is now required before submission of a full application. Inquiries must be received by no later than October 1, 2009. If the project is recommended for further consideration, the applicant will be invited to submit a full application in early November. Full applications will be due within approximately four weeks of notification and wards will be announced in March 2010.

Visit the Grammy Foundation Web site for the updated grant guidelines and application procedures.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Considering Or Beginning A Grant Writing Program? Here's Some Help...

When starting grant writing from scratch - it can be overwhelming, to say the least.

The first and foremost advice that I and any other professional nonprofit grant writer worth their salt will tell you is you and others involved in your organization in the grant writing should take the time to learn. You may think 'I don't have the time' or 'we don't have the funds for that', etc. I know. I understand. The thing is - if your agency is considering initiating grant writing for the first time (as a fundraising method) or if it's decided to implement it for the first time - you and your colleagues would be wise to learn how it's done, what the entire grant seeking process is, why donors give grants, and what donors see (or even expect) in a well written and compiled grant proposal (or grant application), today. Getting informed and learning (having people to do the work who have the skills) to write grant proposals will put your nonprofit (even as a newbie to grant writing) ahead of other applicant agencies that did not take the time, and over time your agency will raise more grants earlier and waste less time and money, overall. Bumbling for lack of time or lack of money (skipping taking the time to learn) isn't an excuse, really anyway, with so much excellent free grant writing 'how to' or 'where to find' information and resources on the web, now. (See the links to get started learning excellent, professional, best practices grant writing).

No matter if your nonprofit is brand new, five years old, or seventy-five years old; take the time to get information pulled together. Did your nonprofit write grant proposals to raise funds, ten or fifteen years ago but stopped eight or ten years ago and never started again? If so, locate those grant records (hard files or digital or both) and go through them. The grant donors who gave to your agency should be naturals for you to research requesting a grant from again (and be sure in the letter of introduction to remind them that they gave to your nonprofit whenever they did and that your agency remains grateful, still, for their support back then). If your agency is brand new to grant seeking pull together some basic internal documents that all nonprofits seeking grants should have easily on hand to either scan or photocopy to include in a grant proposal (only if it's requested, per grant application - see each potential donor's giving guidelines that you are applying to for a grant). Have on hand the nonprofit's current list of board members, your nonprofit's most recent financial audit, the most recent financials, all proposed programs' or projects' budgets, your nonprofit's most recent tax filing (probably a tax form 990), etc.

To begin grant seeking work be sure to prospect (or research) which grant donors are actually likely to give to your nonprofit and only apply to those who you determine (through prospecting work) are really viable potential donors. Sending grant proposals (applications) out to any grant donor, willy nilly, is a waste of time, resources, and it even can cause your nonprofit to appear disorganized and wasteful to those grant donors who do not give to your nonprofit's cause but receive a grant application from you, anyway. Remember - grant donors are colleagues and they do communicate with one another. Operate your grant seeking as the consummate professional that you are and apply the professional best practices that you learn about how to apply for grants. If you need a free resource to help your agency keep your grant seeking organized (between the computer and your agency's hard files) see this post.

Once you've acquired a good list of truly potential grant donors - your nonprofit's leadership must make sure it has its ducks in a row. Especially in today's economy, grant donors are even more thorough when considering which nonprofit should receive a grant and which they'll pass on. Don't waste your agency's precious resources if it is not in a prime position to actually acquire a grant. What is that position? There are other strong attributes that position a nonprofit as more likely to acquire a grant than others. Does your nonprofit:

__ ...have a reputation in the geographic region that it serves (among local families, businesses, other nonprofit agencies, and the local government) as being transparent in its policies, operations, and finances? Does it have a reputation as being successful in its mission (work)? Do you have recent successes, achievements, or accolades to point to?

__ ...operate programs or projects that truly address real current problems that have as yet been unsolved for the beneficiary population that your agency serves (per its mission)? In other words - does your nonprofit provide real, current, efficient, and successful assistance? When is the last time that your agency's leadership audited the nonprofit's services and products in comparison to the the needs of the population it assists? When is the last time the leadership looked at what the real, current, unmet needs are that it could be tackling? Be relevant, current, and successful in your agency's work.

__ ...do what other nonprofits or agencies already do? If other nonprofits do related or similar work to yours', but your organization is the only one focused on a specific population or the only organization doing what it does - that is a necessary and relevant organization. If, though, the nonprofit is doing something another nonprofit does...consider how your agency can be more relevant and discuss as leaders in the agency how the adjustment could be made (to the mission, policies, and programs).

__ ... have the word out, about how great and needed it is, within the community(ies) that it serves? If your agency is a huge success, well run, transparent, and efficient but no one knows (including potential new donors, volunteers, and grant donors) then your agency has some work to do. Marketing and public relations are critical for any and all nonprofits (no matter the size) as each assists in fundraising, acquiring new clientele, and more.

__ ... have 'rockstars' in their respective professions both working for it (on staff or as volunteers) and leading it (either as advisory panels or board members)? If not, or if your nonprofit is recruiting talent but can't retain it - consider putting together some better Human Resources and staff policies; and also researching who your agency would like to have on its team (in which position) and actually actively recruit them. All kinds of donors (including grant donors) give to noprofits that are operated by people with excellent reputations, with pertinent experience, and the needed current skill set to get the organization successful and growing well.

__ ... have a vision, organizational goals, planning and all operations based in the mission statement? Also, is your agency actively fundraising to be able to fund all current operations and programs plus save for planned new programs that are not yet implemented? If not - why not? Part of any and all nonprofit's work is to raise funds for its success, growth, and entire operations each year, each month, each week. If you are not raising funds enough to cover operations and most of the cost of all programs - why would a donor (any donor) give to your agency? Be accountable to your community (your donors, other agencies that collaborate with your nonprofit) and to the beneficiary population that you serve and raise funds as basic daily operations, each business day of the fiscal year. Fundraising isn't a side bar to nonprofit work. It is equally as necessary and needed, daily, as your programs and services (because it is how those or whatever your agency serves are guaranteed your assistance isn't going to go away).

Learn, plan, organize, and then be willing to learn as you go. Your success is there for your nonprofit to achieve.

"Focus On the Economic Crisis" Web Page to Keep Us Nonprofits Up to Date

The Foundation Center created an entire web page, Focus On the Economic Crisis, dedicated to the current economic crisis as it relates to raising grants, nonprofits, and others seeking grant money. The page provides information such as grants distributed by American foundations, by state; how nonprofits can acquire American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dollars, by state; suggested tried and true methods to raise funds in this economy by experts working for nonprofits today; the latest nonprofit sector news (regarding funding and grant raising); and more. The web page is unique in that it reportedly provides information (such as the number of emergency grants donated per state) in real time.

Not only is the information extremely pertinent to all nonprofits, regardless of size, cause, geographic location, etc.; the information provided allows nonprofit managers, directors, and board members to keep up on what the economic situation is right this moment, day to day, but also it allows leaders to find professional best practices, resources, and grant leads that are each solutions for today's nonprofit economic difficulties.

You are able to follow their economic updates on Twitter. For those nonprofits not yet on Twitter, I'd research it, and consider including it in your organization's social media policy within your public relations and marketing plan. Twitter can be both an excellent free marketing tool for any organization but it is also a terrific way to both network and be kept up to date on the latest in your sector and professional field. I'd recommend that you "follow" this page on Twitter (which is jargon that means 'subscribing' to the Foundation Center's Twitter account). The button to follow them (for free) is at the top of the web page.

If you do look over this new web page or if you do follow them on Twitter, please let me know your thoughts on the content. Is there anything missing from their page that you'd like to see? Let them know, too. They will be glad to remain pertinent to us, the nonprofit sector.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Mission Drift: What Is It, Potential Impacts, & Recovery Methods

In everything that any organization does (for-profit or nonprofit) its mission statement, the clear statement that says what an organization does, for whom, how, and sometimes also why, and where; provides clarity, in the case for nonprofit organizations, for anyone and everyone who either volunteers with, works for, donates to, collaborates with, or considers requesting assistance from a nonprofit. The mission statement provides clarity for everyone about that specific nonprofit. It also provides a clear description (ideally) of what exactly the nonprofit is doing (or is supposed to be doing).

Mission drift is the term given when a nonprofit (or other type of entity) either finds that it has moved away from the organization's mission; or the organization consciously moves into a new direction from its mission statement. Sometimes this is by accident and not intended to occur and sometimes the organization means to change direction. This post is going to deal with the first scenario: when a nonprofit gets off message from its own mission statement.

I will state, here, though that if an organization intends to take its mission into a new direction, it is fine as long as the new direction is discussed and ratified by the board and that all considerations (discussions, research, studies, and considerations about the change) and the decision making are conducted per the nonprofit's Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. There can then be a look taken at the current or old mission statement, once a direction is agreed upon, and it can be updated. This is a process (and a healthy one for any organization that wants to modernize, expand its work, etc.). Once a new mission statement is created, inform the IRS and the state and other governments your organization is registered with. The new mission should be then disseminated everywhere including to the community through a press release, at a minimum.

If mission drift occurs and its unintentional it potentially can confuse what the organization exists to do and for whom and how the work is to be conducted. This will create great confusion and possibly undo internal politics, etc. among the organization's volunteers and staff. Resources can be wasted on different factions within the organization working in different and conflicting areas, or on people attempting to get clarification or people attempting to clarify, themselves. Also, mission drift can confuse the community that the organization serves - and that community includes the nonprofit's donors, volunteers, including future potential new donors and volunteers. The potential risk in mission drift can actually be catastrophic to a nonprofit - especially in this economy when donors only want to give where their dollar will be mostly (usually at least 80% of each dollar) spent on an agency's programs, spent very efficiently (which requires skilled and experienced talent to be creating and implementing programs; and it requires planned out, funded, and budgeted programs), that will result in a real viable solution for the community (which requires follow through and program evaluation, meeting afterward to discuss evaluation findings, and making improvements as lessons are learned) for a program or service that will succeed and endure.

If, for instance, you are a brand new staff member who has just begun the executive director position at a nonprofit, and you soon discover that while there is a mission statement that everyone at this organization seems to know and is printed on the agency's brochures, fundraising letters, etc. - the actual work being conducted, for the beneficiary population is a bit broader and less or more than what the mission statement, itself, claims: mission drift has occurred. It's not the end of the world. The key, when mission drift occurs is to catch it and for the agency's leadership to take it on, proactively.

What can be done?

__ Conversations, listening, ideas, and more conversation. The staff leadership and board should sit down and talk. Not everyone will agree and that is O.K. Everyone, though, should be brought to the table to discuss the situation who is a stakeholder, internally, of any organizational department or operation.

__ Conduct fact finding. Ask a group of people randomly selected people from the organization's volunteers, clients, donors, and others working for other entities in the community who are familiar with your nonprofit to all answer a survey (www.surveymonkey.com and other online survey services will allow surveys up to 10 questions to be created, implemented, and the data culled for free). Also, research what the beneficiary population that your nonprofit serves needs, now, based on your current work and most recent mission statement. I'm not stating, here, list what your nonprofit does. I'm saying, here, ask the beneficiary population that your agency serves 'what are your current needs, now', 'in your opinion, based on your experience, what could solve this issue', and 'what are potential barriers that you know of that might preclude you from getting or receiving this solution to this issue'. Neither study needs to be long, and all of the results must be tabulated and reviewed, but your agency needs to know the community's perception of the nonprofit (not just the internal staff's and volunteers' perceptions) of the organization.

__ Now, sit down and list everything that your agency is currently doing (programs, services, and products that it provides or sells related to the mission statement); and then list, too, all of the organization's current goals (e.g. planned achievements or goals that the organization plans to obtain and also any new programs, services, or products that are going to be launched shortly).

__ Having all of this information culled, tabulated, and disseminated to all key stakeholders - ask the volunteers and staff to review the studies and their findings and consider what the most recent mission statement was and its meaning, compare it to the community's perception of the nonprofit, and then also consider what the nonprofit is currently doing and what its short term and long term goals are. Now ask the stakeholders to account for differences, note them, and then begin to consider updating and modernizing the most recent mission statement to reflect what are really the nonprofit's current (actual) goals, vision, values, work, reasoning, etc. This begins the work in retooling a nonprofit's mission statement. Again, it's important, not quick, but very healthy and fruitful work for any nonprofit. The pains that any organization takes and goes through, in healthy change, pays off.

Any nonprofit willing to address issues within its organization, that takes the time to do the organizational work (not just the work of the mission statement, solely) is building a healthier, better, operation. Nonprofits are not just offices full of do-gooders: like any for-profit organization, a nonprofit is an operation and must run as a healthy organization or it will falter. If the organization's operations are not managed, overseen, and cared for the work of the 'do-gooders' becomes overshadowed by internal operations problems, sooner or later.

Grants for Organizations Working to Assist Indigenous Communities Adapt to Climate Change

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: September 30, 2009

Honor the Earth Seeks Funding Proposals for Building Resilience in Indigenous Communities Initiative

Honor the Earth is a native-led organization established in 1993 to address the two primary needs of the native environmental movement — the need to break the geographic and political isolation of native communities, and the need to increase financial resources for organizing and change.

Honor the Earth's Building Resilience in Indigenous Communities Initiative will award grants to organizations working to increase Indigenous communities' capacity to prevent and adapt to climate change in ways that preserve and restore Indigenous cultures. In line with Honor the Earth's commitment to developing the next generation of Native American youth leaders, special funding is available for resilience projects that are youth-led and/or -focused.

Funding for the Building Resilience in Indigenous Communities Initiative will focus on two goals — development of culturally based, indigenous solutions to climate change based on re-localizing food and energy economies; and restoration of traditional knowledge as a key adaptation and mitigation strategy to ensure a safe and healthy future.

Please note that grantmaking resources for the 2009 fall/winter docket are more limited than in years past.

Complete application guidelines and forms are available at the Honor the Earth Web site.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP