Sunday, November 29, 2009
[I always appreciate, while reading online, knowing in full what relationship, if any, the author has with an organization, a book's author, etc. that they review or editorialize. So, in the interest of full disclosure to you - I want to be clear that I wrote this blog post on my own (without any request that I do so), assembled the following opinion over time of my own free will (without compensation, suggestion, or other), and make the following recommendations without any benefit to me, my company, or anything or anyone else in any way affiliated with me. I know it is important, as a nonprofit professional, to share excellent resources with colleagues - and it is this and only this that is the intention of this post.]
When I began my very first job in the nonprofit sector, nearly ten years ago, and I needed to learn quickly the basics about many different nonprofit operations, I read about how excellent a resource The Foundation Center is, over and over again, so I immediately began investigating their website.
On their About Us web page The Foundation Center describes itself as "... a national nonprofit service organization recognized as the nation’s leading authority on organized philanthropy, connecting nonprofits and the grantmakers supporting them to tools they can use and information they can trust... The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. grantmakers and their grants; issues a wide variety of print, electronic, and online information resources; conducts and publishes research on trends in foundation growth, giving, and practice; and offers an array of free and affordable educational programs." Their headquarters are in New York, but they also have offices in Atlanta, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.
More importantly, they offer their "most comprehensive database on U.S. grantmakers and their grants..." for free in public libraries, community foundations, and other public resources in major cities, all over the United States. The database is called The Foundation Center's Cooperating Collection. To check where their free database (Cooperating Collection) is nearest to you, click on your state or a state near you on the Cooperating Collection web page.
Always a good place to begin when investigating any new website, The Foundation Center's website's Get Started section (located in the green header bar in the middle of their web pages) helps you understand just what they offer us nonprofit workers. In the Get Started web page's case, they show upcoming trainings (classroom trainings) that The Foundation Center provides around the United States. They also always list their classroom trainings on their website on their Classroom Training Courses web page. When you go to the Classroom Training Courses web page you'll see listed, there, different mediums through which The Foundation Center provides its training, in total. Some of it is online, through webinars, some of it is in the shape of online tutorials, and other training is in person classroom training. I have had the opportunity to experience all three of their training mediums and they are each very well done. You will see, reading down their various educational opportunities, that a variety of experience levels are offered courses, and that about half of their trainings, classes, etc. are provided for free. Most of the 'getting started' type of classes are provided for free. You can also go to the second to the final header in the green header bar in the middle of the web page, View Events, and see where in the U.S., currently, various specific Foundation Center courses are being offered.
If you are getting going in grant writing and need to learn some basics, The Foundation Center, is an excellent resource to learn (ala the described training opportunities, above). As you begin actually researching for potential grant donors to apply to for grants - The Foundation Center does not only provide the public with its database of grant donors and grants - it also provides information on how to best locate potential grant donors, resources to help with the actual grant donor research (also called prospecting), and tools to do the work efficiently. Go to the Find Funders web page in their site (again, in the green header bar in the middle of the web page).
Gain Knowledge (the third web section listed in the green header bar in the middle of the web page) may not, initially, seem very critical information to know but its content is often extremely powerful to assist those who are seeking grants (but for also all other forms of fundraising). In fact, the information that is offered, in this section of their website, will ultimately help the grant writer formulate an excellent grant proposal (or fine tune and improve a 'so - so' one). Information offered on this page will improve grant proposals by informing their reader about real time best practices, professional thinking (to assist nonprofits strategize to best raise grants for their specific organization) and to give a big picture context for the current world of philanthropy (donating), what grant donors are thinking and wanting now, and what other nonprofits are doing that works (especially in this tough economy). Taking the time to be current about one's own professional sector and specific groups or organizations within that sector can be the difference between reinventing the wheel (and wasting your organization's time and resources), or being current and informed and giving a new but tested and successful best practice a shot. In this economy especially, this can mean everything for a nonprofit.
No matter who you are (volunteer, executive, or staff) or whether your agency can afford to pay for any further resource or service at The Foundation Center, I highly recommend that you sign up for any one or more of their free newsletters (which I still do). This web page is always listed at the very top of The Foundation Center's web pages in the middle of the top-most header. Going to that web page, the Job Bulleting newsletter may be very pertinent to you right now (given this economy), but notice that they also offer Philanthropy News Digest newsletter, too. It is a weekly digest of all of the news in the nonprofit sector and again, it is invaluable to remain on top of the latest in one's professional (or volunteer work) sector.
Most invaluable, The Foundation Center also offers (again, for free) a RFP Bulletin newsletter. Each week The Foundation Center e-mails this free newsletter listing the latest grants available to apply for (also called a Request For Proposal (or RFP)). Having a list of the latest available grants sent to you weekly, is invaluable.
The Foundation Center's value deepens as organizations or their volunteers and staff choose to pay for yet more of their resources. They offer a store with reputable, professional, excellent resources and on the left you'll see they always offer Specials/Discounts. They also offer an online subscription (in various forms) to their database of grant donors and grants which is very handy given its online access.
The Foundation Center remains a professional resource for me and my colleagues, at The Grant Plant, LLC and I heartily recommend it to you and yours. If you have any other resources that you have found invaluable as a nonprofit proessional, please share it here by posting a Comment (below) with it and thank you.
Getty Images Offers Grants for Editorial Photography and Nonprofit Work
Getty Images has announced a new round of Grants for Editorial Photography and Grants for Good.
This year, the Grants for Editorial Photography will be awarded in one round rather than two. In another change to the program, the Grants for Good program will now require the guidance of a creative agency.
The Grants for Editorial Photography program is designed to provide professional and student photographers with the creative freedom to create compelling social, political, and cultural stories. The program will award five professional photojournalism grants of $20,000 each and four student grants of $5,000 each. The deadline for applications is May 1, 2010.
The Grants for Good program is designed to support photographers and communications professionals who use imagery to promote positive change in our world. The program will award two grants of $15,000 each to cover photographer, filmmaker, and agency costs as they create compelling new imagery for the nonprofit of their choice. The deadline for applications is March 1, 2010.
Visit the Getty Images Web site for complete grant program guidelines.
Link to Complete RFP
Sunday, November 22, 2009
It's A Stressful Time of Year for Nonprofits, Especially Now, But Also A Time For A New (Survivable) View
I truly wish you and yours' a wonderful holiday season, this year, filled with some genuinely good times, some good news, and even some quality relaxation.
As for the view on the horizon...
We are all nonprofit professionals (whether dedicated volunteers or staff) and as such, despite the different causes or geographic regions which we serve, share the same professional arena: the nonprofit sector. Our sector is uniquely situated as we do not make profits, our organizations grow and achieve only by being successful and efficient at the work of our missions, and the only way we bring funds in is if we are as committed to fundraising work as we are to the work of the mission (and as successful at this, too). As such, we (no matter what different causes or issues our organizations work on) can share professional methods that succeed (or 'best practices') that can be used and applied by any nonprofit, no matter where, or what that organization works on.
We have many professional resources available to us, as a sector, and in times like these (especially when we are keeping an eye on the future and our organizations' potential in that future) it is important to keep up on the latest best practices, studies' findings in our sector (such as donor trends, how organizations are surviving the economic downturn, etc.), and keeping open to other organizations' lessons learned or recommendations, given these tough times. The media, such as regional professional nonprofit affiliations (check with your local United Way for the one nearest you), professional print media (e.g. The Chronicle of Philanthropy), reputable professional web resources (e.g. The Foundation Center, in particular their Focus On The Economic Crisis web page), professional current topics online web discussions (of which many are free now), and all other reputable avenues where nonprofit professionals are sharing quality information. Staying in the loop on the latest in our sector will keep you aware of until now unknown options or even potential connections that can help your organization if it gets into a tight spot that others have experienced and worked out.
Communicate with colleagues at other organizations, from our own, and keep in touch. Go to lunch with a colleague and ask them to invite another colleague to join you two who you do not know yet and do the same. Bring people together who are skilled, ethical, talented, and have a proven track record and then over lunch brainstorm issues and potential solutions. Share insights, lessons learned, and what you have heard or know. Ask the same of the others at the table.
Look at your organization's situation as one within a whole. Your organization exists within the community(ies) it serves. Look at that geographic region and consider what is impacting it, where the silver lining is predicted, and what the reality is (pressures, lessons learned, and what's working for other nonprofits in the region); and picture your organization within that context. Consider, from this point of view, what the strategic options are to keep your organization running, growing, and healthy based in real regional information (facts). For instance, if most donors, in the region, are still giving but at lesser amounts than two years ago; but the major donors in the area are still giving in about the same larger amounts - your organization would be wise to either initiate (if one does not exist, yet) a major donor program (or to increase and expand it if one does).
Educate yourself, the executive director, and the board; come together to review, assess, study, and devise survival strategies; review real relevant recent data and communicate further; consider what is best for the organization in light of its mission statement and plan in the best interest of the organization and the beneficiaries of its work.
The future can be dealt with if a nonprofit's leadership takes it on, facing reality, finding out information, communicating, listening, planning, and evaluating for successes and failures, and making adjustments based on lessons learned. If a nonprofit is still doing excellent, much needed, and unmatched work in the community in an efficient, ethical, professional, and talented manner - while dealing with the current economy by facing it, educating oneself, and planning how to deal with the economy; the organization will likely survive well.
Deadline: December 15, 2009
Applications Invited for American Hiking Society's 2010 National Trails Fund
The American Hiking Society's National Trails Fund is the only privately supported national grants program that provides funding to grassroots organizations working to establish, protect, and maintain foot trails in the United States.
National Trails Fund grants are designed to give local organizations the resources they need to secure access, volunteers, tools, and materials to repair and protect America's hiking trails. To date, American Hiking has granted nearly $382,000 to 105 different trail projects across the U.S. for land acquisition, constituency building campaigns, and a variety of trail work projects.
Awards typically range from $500 to $5,000 per project.
Visit the American Hiking Web site for complete program information.
Link to Complete RFP
Sunday, November 15, 2009
The definition of the standard contents in a grant proposal are:
Proposed Project Description (and How To Make the Case for Your Grant Request In the Grant Proposal, ...Writing In the Grant Proposal About What You Need the Money For)
Beneficiary Population Description (see the above three "Proposed Project Description" links)
Statement of Need
Project Evaluation Description
Project Budget Description
Also, read Basic Grant Writing 101..., The Letter of Introduction or Inquiry: Often the First Step, How Do We Tighten Up Our Grant Proposal, Take That Nonprofit's Grant Writing to the Next Level, What Grant Writing Is and What It Is Not, Time Can Be A Huge Asset In Raising Grants, Be Strategic...When Your Write the Grant Proposal, Descriptions of Different Grant Proposal Documents, and Grant Writing...Mission Success...Its All the Same
See, too, the topic index or "Labels" for further information, below to the right for more grant proposal document writing tips and content ideas.
Deadline: February 5, 2010
Muzak Heart & Soul Foundation Invites Grant Applications for Music Education Programs
The Muzak Heart & Soul Foundation, a nonprofit public charity established by Muzak LLC, works to redefine and expand the scope of music education. The foundation's Music Matters Grants for 2010 program will focus on educational reform in school music programs and independent music programs across the United States.
Music education — vocal or instrumental — must be the key component of any music program requesting funds. Applications will be accepted from public school programs (qualifying for Title I federal funding and serving a minimum of 70 percent low-income students) and nonprofit 501(c)(3) programs directly funding music education (serving students regardless of their ability to pay).
Applicant schools and programs must already employ a music educator(s) and have an existing music program in place. Grant requests must articulate specific music program needs — for existing and/or planned programs.
Grant amounts for this cycle will range between $1,000 and $12,000 each and will be made on an annual one-time basis.Visit the foundation Web site for complete program information.
Link to Complete RFP
Sunday, November 08, 2009
The answer, as is often the case in grant writing, is 'it depends'. So, I'm going to walk you through what I can, in a blog post.
When a nonprofit's grant writer sits down to begin writing the proposal they are, undoubtedly, focused on how they can win the grant. There is sometimes an inclination, then, to make their organization sound, in the proposal, like one of many, let's say... grant-seeking-archetypes:
__ Needy and Deserving, Or Just Because We Are A Nonprofit
__ Admirable Bleeding Hearts
__ The Only Organization To Choose, Or Arrogant
__ The Next Organization In Line, Or Winner by Default
__ Politically the Best Choice
__ The Victim
__ Deserving by Proximity (e.g. having a 'big name' personality or historic figure who founded or works for the nonprofit)
__ The Reputable, Well Run, Possessing A Demonstrable Track Record of Success, A Talented/Experienced Team, Successful Results, Practitioners Of the Latest Professional Best Practices, Inclusive, Transparent, Etc. Organization
Guess which one is probably the better tone to set in a grant proposal? You've got to walk the talk that you assert about your nonprofit, in your grant proposal. Remember, only reflect, in the tone of the grant proposal content, the character of your organization that you could back up with documents and recent accomplishments: that you could prove. If you can truly reflect in its track record, financials, operational history, etc. what you have said about the organization, in the grant proposal - then you're stetting the correct tone.
The tone a grant writer selects to use in a grant proposal should also be: positive, honest, thorough, complete, hopeful, but also demonstrate how the organization operates through the facts it asserts about the organization, its history, its recent accomplishments, and its goals, and proposed project. The tone one sets in a grant proposal is an opportunity to convey to the reader (who works at the organization considering giving your agency a grant) its best foot forward and in the best light (in honesty) that is possible. It can challenge an organization to do this. For instance, some believe (wrongly) that if the truth about an organization seems contrary to its ability to raise a grant - then the organization should either not answer the challenging grant application question or it should lie in its response. Neither are correct. The better way to address a tough question is to 1) answer it and respond (never ignore or skip a grant application question or request for information); and 2) to tell the honest truth. Remember, you can always call a potential grant donor that your organization is applying to (if they allow phone calls) and explain the quandary and ask what they advise. Honestly, some of the best possible answers to a given grant proposal question can be recommended (and, in effect, given) by the grant donor agency's program manager, them self. For instance, if a grant proposal is being filled out and a question comes up like, 'have you conducted this proposed project before?' and the answer is 'yes' for our nonprofit, but it went horribly wrong and we wish to conduct the project, again, having made corrections to errors made that first time - and we're applying for the grant for this second go - it may seem that the better answer is to avoid answering the question, or to lie; it's the wrong way to go. In fact, a donor (such as a grant donor) who is given the truth and also informed about what lessons the agency learned, that the input for improvement came from the project's attendees (or beneficiaries, themselves), and that all necessary changes (or improvements) have been implemented (and that the attendees will be asked for input after the second run of this project (also called "evaluations")) - the donor is more likely to give. The donor, in the instance of truth, is being given the agency's experience, but the applicant nonprofit is also demonstrating that it values honesty (and reporting the truth to potential stakeholders such as donors), and anything that gives a potential donor confidence (such as the truth does) is some of the most powerful fundraising methodology that exists. If a potential donor discovers your agency's lie in a grant proposal they not only will not give your nonprofit a grant, today. You're risking them 'black listing' your nonprofit within their own organization for future reference ('do not give to this nonprofit as they lied in a grant application submitted to us in December 2009'); they are colleagues of others who work for other grant donors and these professionals do network and talk with one another. If word gets out in the grant donor community that your nonprofit lies in its proposals for funding - the damage to the agency could be catastrophic.
It may seem dangerous or contrary to instinct to tell the truth about your nonprofit's growing pains or lessons learned but there is not a single nonprofit that operates that has not learned through experience. There is no shame in this as long as the organization takes the lesson as an opportunity to grow the agency and improve its operations and goal setting. Sharing with potential stakeholders in your nonprofit, such as donors (e.g. grant donors, in this case), is really providing the grant donor with your agency's values (truth), professionalism (we aren't going to lie to stakeholders or potential stakeholders), and sense of self (we are not afraid to listen to our constituents, learn from our mistakes, and better ourselves by listening and implementing improvements). This is actually the more powerful way to manage and operate a nonprofit. What donor (or 'investor') wouldn't feel confident supporting an organization that admits its foibles, is aware of their likelihood, listens to benefit the population it is set up to serve, and makes appropriate improvements?
Deadline: January 15, 2010
National Museum of the American Indian Invites Applications for Indigenous Contemporary Arts Program
The National Museum of the American Indian's Indigenous Contemporary Arts Program offers support to a wide range of arts activities with the goal of increasing the knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of contemporary Native American arts. The NMAI considers the recognition of living artists of the Western Hemisphere and Hawaii to be of primary importance and will give awards to projects that strengthen the scholarship in this under served field and create opportunities for new and innovative work.
NMAI's Exhibitions and Publications program awards grants of $7,500 to $15,000 to support exhibitions, installations, publications, and critical writing that interpret and present the work of contemporary Native visual artists to the public and encourage dialogue and critical commentary. At least one-half of the proposed project team (artists, authors, curators, etc.) must be Native American or Native Hawaiian. Awards are given to nonprofit or education-based organizations. Project budgets must show a minimum 50 percent match by the applicant organization or other anticipated sources.
NMAI's Expressive Arts program awards grants of up to $10,000 to support the creation and presentation of new works through the collaboration of two or more Native artists. Awards will specifically support the creation of new works for public performance that may include, but is not limited to, music, dance, spoken word, electronic media, costume design, mask making, set design, performance art, photography, painting, and other forms of expressive culture. The award is open to all indigenous peoples who hold citizenship in the Americas.
Complete program information is available at the National Museum of the American Indian Web site.
Link to Complete RFP
Sunday, November 01, 2009
That Physical Address Location Question On Most Grant Proposal Applications... What Gives? Read More...
I received a question on Seeking Grant Money Today, this week, that I thought I'd write about because I've heard it asked, before.
A reader of this blog posted a question asking how their brand new nonprofit can apply for grants when so many grant application forms require the physical address of the location where the nonprofit will provide the program or service that it is requesting funding for. It would seem, for any nonprofit that does not yet have a physical location (building, classroom, conference room, etc.) to conduct its organization's work that this is a barrier. The question can often become, 'well...we just started up...we can't afford a building, yet,'. That's actually, not the point, but the misunderstanding is not uncommon.
This question is a perfect example of a situation that warrants a nonprofit calling the potential grant donor that they are applying to (whose grant application apparently stumped them) and ask to speak to a program manager at the foundation. Ask them, given your organization's specific situation, what they prefer a nonprofit answers for that question. Explain your nonprofit's situation (for example, perhaps yours' is not a brand new nonprofit but has, in fact, existed for fifty years - but is only now providing services or assistance to the public and, let's say, has no gymnasium to provide after school camp for youth in, yet). You will receive the answer from that specific potential grant donor and you'll know how to answer their grant application; but please do not assume that all of the other organizations that you're sending applications to will want the same. Again, phone each (as long as they accept unsolicited phone calls - some prefer not to hear from applicant organizations. In this case, make your best guess as to what they wish to know and provide the appropriate answer). This inquiry also establishes the beginning of a relationship and relationships are how donations are raised (larger donations, anyway).
When a donor asks for a physical location on a grant application, they are considering the program or project that your nonprofit is requesting funding for. They, in fact, do not EXPECT any nonprofit to own a building, and usually aren't surprised at all when a start up nonprofit is using the facilities of another nonprofit's or other organization's. No grant donor, very often, expects anything of any nonprofit and in fact, that is the point of asking questions in the grant application. They simply ask questions, in the grant application, to get the honest answers from the applicant nonprofit. They probably aren't so interested in the square footage or how many public facilities there are on the premises (although they may be), but rather they are more likely gauging other considerations such as:
__ is this building's location easily accessed by the target beneficiary population the program is supposed to serve (e.g. are bus lines running nearby during program hours, is there free parking nearby, is it well lit and safe at night, etc.);
__ is the building easily accessible for the disabled;
__ is the building a modern, safe, well maintained facility, or is this a notoriously 'red - flagged' potential death trap repeatedly dinged by the city or county to require safety upgrades, etc.;
__ are there enough classrooms or is there enough space in the rooms planned to be used for the anticipated number of participants or attendees;
As I've always written, here, it is never wise to lie in any grant application about anything. If your nonprofit is applying for grants to, let's say, provide an after school camp for youth - but your board has not come to a formal agreement with the property owners of a proper facility, but you all are pretty sure that it's a done deal: then tell the potential grant donor this. Do not claim, if it is not the case, that a location will be used for certain. If, though, a location has been arranged for and is formally your organization's for this program/project at a certain date and time - then state this in the grant proposal.
Some potential grant donors may wish to know the physical address of the proposed program or project (proposed in the grant proposal) because of other reasons. How can you know? It's best, for each potential grant donor that your organization is apply to for a grant, to know their reasoning behind asking the question (and remember, all grant donors are separate, different, individual entities - one's thinking or reasoning is different from another sometimes and its always best to tailor each grant proposal per the recipient grant donor's interests, demonstrated track record, recent actions, etc. to increase the chances in receiving a grant from them). If you area allowed to phone them, have the executive director or a board member (someone who is 'peer to peer' on the same level as the leaders of the potential donor's) phone them. If you can't phone the organization, read over their giving guidelines, other literature, their website, or research recent past grant recipients' programs/project's physical addresses (for programs or projects that they funded that are similar to the one that your agency is proposing).
This question also demonstrates a common misconception on the part of nonprofits about potential donors of all kinds: they just want us to jump through hoops. In fact, grant donors, in particular, are usually staffed with and led by people are are very knowledgeable about, professionally skilled in, and perhaps lettered researchers in the very field of work that your nonprofit works in. They, themselves, have often worked at nonprofits (perhaps ones serving the same cause as yours') and are usually very up to date on professional and ethical philanthropy. They are weighing which nonprofit should receive the next grants that they are about to donate. Most grant donors are not, in fact, being flip about just randomly asking for nonprofits to provide this, that , or the other. They are using some key information, for each proposed program or project, that they hear about in each round of grant applications to decide which (of likely tens if not hundreds) of grant applications they will award a grant to. Grant donors are not giving to get a tax break, and leave it at that. They are very active, engaged community members who are looking where they can best place their cash donation (or other contributions) that will help the nonprofit do the best, most effective, and perhaps the most good for the community. Grant donors are looking for honest, well run, efficient, knowledgeable, expert, talented, successful nonprofits that they are more likely to get excellence for the community out of the fiscal (or other) investment that they place in the awarded nonprofit.
Deadline: December 2, 2009
Echoing Green Opens Application Period for Social Entrepreneur Fellowships
Each year, Echoing Green awards twelve to fifteen two-year fellowships to social entrepreneurs. Fellows receive seed funding and technical support to turn their innovative ideas into sustainable social change organizations.
Echoing Green seeks individuals or partnerships (organizations led by two people) with innovative solutions to significant social problems; strategies to create high-impact, sustainable change in people's lives; and the ability to grow and lead a new organization.
The application process is open to citizens of all nationalities working in any country. Applicants must be 18 years of age or older, and must have sufficient English fluency to participate in interviews and Echoing Green events.
Organizations must be the original idea of the applicant, and must be independent and autonomous. (Organizations cannot be considered independent or autonomous if they are started under the direction of an existing organization.) Organizations must be in a start-up phase. To be considered a start-up, the applicant may have been running the organization full-time for approximately two years, and Echoing Green's financial support should qualify it as a major/primary early funder. Applicants who have only worked on their organization on a part-time basis or have yet to start an organization are generally considered eligible. Applicants must make a full-time commitment to the organization's development.
Fellows receive up to $90,000 ($60,000 for individuals and $90,000 for partnerships of two people) in seed funding over two years.
Visit the Echoing Green Web site for complete eligibility information, application materials, and profiles of fellows and their projects.
Link to Complete RFP