Sunday, January 31, 2010

Questions About Wyclef Jean's Foundation, Yele Haiti, Is A Lesson For All Nonprofit Fundraisers

Maybe like you, I've been loosely following fundraising for the Haitian earthquake victims. I've read, here and there, about The Smoking Gun's January 14, 2010 post (including a 1/15 update on the post) which poses a series of questions about the spending pattern of Ye'le Haiti the charitable foundation started by Wyclef Jean, a native Haitian and former member of hip hop group, The Fugees. On January 18, Jean came out in the press and both admitted to mistakes having been made, defended other aspects of the foundation's operations, and said that lessons have been learned. He has since continued fundraising for his foundation so it may provide its programs for the people of Haiti.

While it's great that The Smoking Gun made public concerns about spending and where certain money raised by Ye'le Haiti went and for what (was the money spent for the foundation's charitable work?); it was wise that Mr. Jean considered the concerns, reviewed his organization's spending, and went public to address concerns. That being said, it is always very prudent of anyone considering donating to any nonprofit that they review which nonprofits they could give to (for whichever cause or issue they choose to support) to see how much of every dollar raised is spent on the work of the organization's mission. It is generally accepted, according to American professional nonprofit best practices, that a nonprofit that spends 80% or more of every dollar raised, on the services or products that it exists to provide as a viable, probably well-managed, and 'safe' nonprofit to give to (expecting that you want your dollar contribution to do the most good that it can). Donors can research nonprofits by looking them up and checking how much of each dollar raised is spent on programs or services in Charity Navigator, Guidestar, or with the State Attorney General's Office of the state that the nonprofit is operating in.

Donors have the right to research who they give to, give the amount that they want, to not give if they choose not to, and to expect results from the donation they contribute. Transparent nonprofits help their donors understand what their contributions have done by providing financials when requested by donors or potential donors, these nonprofits report in their annual report and other organizational publications (i.e. newsletters, donor thank you letters, etc.) how much of each dollar raised is spent where, exactly what fund an individual contributor's dollars went to and what it has done or will do (honestly), and provide the donor (or potential donor) with information about the organization's current programs, who is being served, how service is provided, why that service in particular is provided to the community, and quantifiable results of the nonprofit's work. Donors are not simply giving money out willy nilly and they shouldn't. Donors give out of concern or interest in an issue or a cause and they want to see real results that actually provide efficient and practical solutions.

In no way am I admonishing Jean. It's probably fair to assume that Mr. Jean created and began his foundations with the best intentions but perhaps, himself, did not know professional nonprofit best practices: how to operate a nonprofit (its fundraising in tandem with the work of its mission statement) in the most ethical and efficient modes, according to professional nonprofit best practices. It's O.K. to learn on the job. What's more, he's admitted to errors and said that they will not happen again.

For all of you, though, who have the best intentions but perhaps do not understand what motivates donors to give to charities (whether they donate $10, $200, or $25,000), the following posts will help you to understand not just why understanding what motivates donors' giving is powerful to help your organization raise more money more often; these posts also describe professional best practices and why they are the 'best way to operate'. The fact is, these best practices are such because they are not only successful, they work over and over again for all kinds of different nonprofits (different aged organizations, different size organizations, nonprofits in different regions, etc.). The wheel doesn't need to be reinvented if there's an accepted effective standard to learn and apply in practice.

Fundraising...Mission Success, Community Building: It's All the Same

A Shift In Giving: Proactive Philanthropists Instead of Passive Donors

How To Increase the Number of New Donors

Your Nonprofit Needs Cash Flow. That Means Your Nonprofit Needs Your Individual Donors...

How the Everyday Donors Can Become A Major Ally In Your Nonprofit Surviving This Economy

Keep in mind that there are many different types of donors that give to a nonprofit: individual donors, grant donors such as foundations, major donors, sponsors, etc. The basic premises in the above posts (whether they refer to one type of donor or all kinds) applies to all types of donors. Donors are investor partners and in this way interested in the same result: the nonprofit doing for its constituents what it exists to do, efficiently and successfully.

11/28/11 Update:

Grants for Indian Tribes & U.S. Territories Involving School Age Youth in Service Learning Projects

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: March 9, 2010

Corporation for National and Community Service Announces Availability of Funding to Support Service-Learning

The Corporation for National and Community Service has announced the availability of a total of $650,070 for new Learn and Serve America School-Based grants to Indian tribes and U.S. territories to involve school-age youth in service-learning projects that simultaneously support student development and meet community needs.

The corporation anticipates that grants will be awarded to an estimated three to five Indian tribes and U.S. territories, with awards ranging from approximately $45,000 to $120,000 each, annually, for a project period of up to three years.

The grants will specifically fund programs that focus on the following priorities: supporting high-quality service-learning sponsored by Indian tribes and U.S. territories and enhancing the infrastructure in schools and communities to support on-going service-learning programming; supporting Indian tribes and U.S. territories working with schools to expand service-learning into more tribal communities that will involve students in service-learning projects; increasing student civic, academic, and leadership skills and providing youth with service-learning experiences that motivate them to become more civically engaged and committed to lifelong service; and promoting healthy communities and healthy youth by having students engage in service-learning projects that address one or more of the following issue areas: health and wellness; environment; retention of tribal language, history, and culture, community development/economic development, and crime prevention/violence prevention.

Visit the Corporation for National and Community Service Web site for complete program information.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why Networking Is Part of a Nonnprofit Leader's Work

With everything that a nonprofit leader has to do, maybe it seems like being sure to get out of the office to network in the community is unlikely or maybe even frivolous.

Being busy in one's schedule isn't the only barrier to networking. Being a writer, it's no great surprise that I'm most comfortable focused, at my desk rather than out meeting new people with the goal of educating the community about the nonprofit I work for. I like people and socializing, but when it comes to networking it can be a bit...well...lower on my list of priorities. As an executive I'm missing out though, if I don't get out of the office regularly, each week. What is more important, my nonprofit and the goals of its mission are not getting the benefit of its community. Leaders who network connect the contact's potentially related interests or work with their own organization's reason for operating (the need it is meeting in the community), mission, successes, or current goals; and this is very important leg work to develop potential volunteers, donors, and community partners (other organizations).

Getting out of the office, often, to connect the nonprofit's work with others may seem tough. The reason that executives who network successfully get out of the office frequently is because there are a variety of people that offer different strengths that can benefit the organization's mission and its goals. You may think, who would I meet with? Or...when would I meet with anyone?

A nonprofit executive could lessen the impact to their weekly schedule if they, say, take maybe three lunches a week and rotate who they meet with such as leaders working for: other nonprofit organizations, businesses, from within government; or current major donors, potential donors, potential board members; or the press and other media; or anyone who brings something to the table that can further the nonprofit's work.

If a nonprofit's leadership isn't getting into the organization's community, regularly and often, to meet new contacts, make in-roads with potential donors or community partners, and to get the (correct) message out about its organization, then the opportunities that networking presents to any organization simply don't occur. It's one thing to present someone with an opportunity to become more involved with their community by working with or supporting your organization and have them respond 'thank you, but no thank you'. It's quite another thing to not even offer potential supporters and allies with the opportunity. Everyone always has the right to say 'no' to a proposal, but not being proactive by making sure that people are aware of your organization and its work is probably a detriment to much of your organization's various operational goals (e.g. acquiring new major donors, raising more from major donors, recruiting excellent new board members, locating potential community partners to collaborate with providing programs and services, etc.). Why create drag on organizational goals?

There are always potential supporters in the community who are new to your organization and its work; and there are also always long time supporters or former supporters to thank and retain or re-engage. Remember, face to face interaction is some of the most direct public relations, marketing, and even damage control there is. For one, face to face interaction allows the contact to place a name and a face with a nonprofit (and it's even enhanced when you hand out your business card). For another, everyone that a leader comes into contact with may have a personal reason or interest in the organization that you work for, but if you don't help them connect their interests or experiences with your organization's work - they may not necessarily connect with your organization on their own. Finally, direct face to face contact allows people to ask you questions, if they have any. How you treat people, how you interact with them (good follow through, for instant), and your ability to engage them without leaving them feeling like they have just been schmoozed or coerced will also leave them with an excellent impression of the organization.

What the networking leader receives, even just in conversation, is important. Especially during a difficult economic climate, it's good to hear which nonprofit is doing what to sustain their fundraising. Camaraderie can be very powerful when organizations are facing the same adversity whether their work is similar or related or not. Also, you may bump into a board member of the foundation that granted to your nonprofit last year - and she or he may mention that the board was just wondering, during their last meeting, what your nonprofit has been up to (this is a potential grant, this year, in other words). The potential is great.

Nonprofit board members, executive directors, and fundraising (or development) directors engage people and further the organization's efforts and successes when they get out of the office and into the community regularly (in a planned and coordinated networking effort). Part of a leader's role is to further the organization's success. Networking is one important way to achieve that goal.

The following posts each have to do with various forms of networking.

Leadership's Role In Seeking Grants

Fundraising, Grant Writing, Mission-Success, Community Building: It's All the Same

Nonprofit Professional Affiliations

This Past Week A Group of Grant Writers Networked Among Themselves...

Talking Is Good

How To Approach Grant Donors That Are Not Accepting Grant Applications and Get Their Attention

Theater Grants & Awards for U.S. Students and Programs in Theater, Playwriting, Dance, Choreography, & Film

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: Various

Princess Grace Foundation-USA Announces 2010 Princess Grace Awards Applications in Theater, Playwriting, Dance, Choreography, and Film

The Princess Grace Foundation-USA has announced the availability of applications for the 2010 Princess Grace Awards in theater, playwriting, dance performance, choreography, and film. Founded in 1982 in memory of Princess Grace (Kelly) of Monaco, the foundation identifies and assists emerging artists in theater, dance, and film and has awarded grants in excess of $7 million to nearly five hundred individuals nationwide.

Theater awards take the form of scholarships, apprenticeships, and fellowships. Grants are awarded based on the quality of the emerging artist's past work, his/her potential for future excellence, and the impact the collaboration between the nominating organization and the artist will have on the individual's artistic growth. The Playwriting Award includes a residency at New Dramatists, Inc. and the opportunity for the winning play to be licensed and published by Samuel French, Inc. (Deadline: March 31, 2010.)

Dance performance awards take the form of scholarships and fellowships. Awards are based on the applicant's artistic merit, significance of the award to current artistic development, and the potential for future excellence and impact on the field. Choreography awards offer emerging choreographers the opportunity to create a new work with organizations with which they have little experience. (Deadline: April 30, 2010.)

Film scholarships, awarded to both undergraduate and graduate students, are by invitation only. Approved university, college, and school film programs are invited to submit applicants via their department chairs or deans. Film scholarships provide funding toward the filmmaker's thesis project. (A complete list of accepted schools is available at the foundation's Web site.) (Deadline: June 1, 2010.)

All applicants must be U.S. citizens or have permanent resident status at the time of application. Additionally, all applicants (except playwriting) must be nominated by a nonprofit organization (school or company) with which they will be affiliated during the grant period (September 2010 to August 2011.)

Full guidelines and applications are available at the foundation's Web site.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to Strategize About Which Grant Donors Your Nonprofit Will Approach for Which of Your Organization's Funding Needs

There are a few steps that a nonprofit can take to organize and best plan out which grant donor it should apply to for which of the various different funding needs the nonprofit has. Getting an organization's grant seeking organized is not only a good way to save money, time, and the leaders from headaches; it also can allow the nonprofit to go after larger grants for the bigger funding needs it has, for instance, without feeling pressure to find larger amount grant donors at the last minute.

Let's say that you and I are the grant writers at a nonprofit and we either have years of experience having written grants, or we took a few good grant writing courses at the local community college. We are clear about which programs and other funding needs we're applying for grants for on behalf of the nonprofit that we work for, we have researched which grant donors we're going to apply to for a grant (also called prospecting), and we are now sitting down to strategize about which grant donor we should apply to for which funding need, before we begin writing the grant proposal (or case) portion of the grant application (or before we sit down to edit an already existing grant proposal to tailor it to a specific donor's requirements).

When a nonprofit begins to submit grant proposals (or applications) to various potential grant donors it is a process. Each grant donor is its own unique organization. So, each grant donor usually has their own giving guidelines or instructions that explain which kinds of organizations may apply to them, and for what types of funding needs (i.e. programs, capital campaigns, but perhaps not overhead expense, etc.). The giving guidelines also describe how an applicant may apply to their organization for a grant. The giving guidelines also include all of the information that the grant donor wants to know about an applicant nonprofit (and sometimes also includes what they do not wish to receive or hear about in the proposal, i.e. 'no videotapes, no copies of newsletters, etc.'). Keeping organized helps not just the grant writer track the work being done, on behalf of the organization, but it also allows anyone else (e.g. the executive director, the board, the grant writing committee, etc.) to see where in the grant application process the organization is, for each potential grant donor your agency is applying to. The spreadsheet also helps get the grant writer organized, in regards to the nonprofit's own staff and leaders. All grant donors' application process is different and is of varying lengths of time (sometimes weeks, sometimes months, and sometimes nearly a year from the application due date). Tracking your organization's grant writing work on a spreadsheet (or in a grant management database software package) and in hard files will help you and everyone else keep on top of each application and each potential grant donor you're applying to.

Especially in today's economy nonprofits that apply for grants must be efficient, effective, well run, reputable nonprofits that are executing towards mission-based goals with excellent potential. There are even more 'tricks of the trade' (which are not really "tricks") that can help nonprofits increase the chances of getting any grant (above other applicant nonprofits that will be considered at the same time as your organization's application will be). In other words, it is powerful for a nonprofit to have positioned itself to be a likely grant winner. Make it easy for grant donors that receive your agency's application to give to you. Now, no nonprofit (no matter how excellent they are at grant raising) gets every grant they apply for. Having said this, though, there are attributes common to nonprofits that get many grants that they apply for. Getting strategic is one attribute that is very helpful.

Let's get back to our pretend scenario, with you and I working at a nonprofit as the staff grant writers. We have already prospected (researched which grant donors are likely to give to our nonprofit based on what causes the grant donors support, which types of programs or projects they fund, and which geographic regions the grant donors providing funding for). We determined during our prospecting work, based on our nonprofit's mission, programs or projects needing grant assistance, and where we serve the beneficiaries of our mission statement, a list of grant donors that our organization can apply to with some confidence that these grant donors, among all grant donors, indicate a likelihood to give to our agency. We have found, for the current year, the list of donors we will apply to for all of our nonprofit's funding needs that we plan to fund (even if only in part) with grants.

We can further increase chances, even still. By researching specific attributes of each grant donor that we'll apply to, we can further inform where our organization can best apply for our agency's various funding needs. The post, The Grant Writer's Little Helper: IRS Tax Form 990 Post 1 of 2 provides information necessary to help you and I understand where we can research this information (for each grant donor), and what we should look for (and where). The information that we extract for each grant donor can go into our grant spreadsheet, too, and should. It will become clear why, in another paragraph. We also read the post, The Grant Writer's Little Helper: IRS Tax Form 990 Post 2 of 2 further clarifies what can be gleaned to help us strategize and cautions what is not necessarily the end all, be all, of resources to understand each grant donor we'll apply to. Having gathered details on each grant donor that we'll apply to, and having entered those attributes to the grant spreadsheet (for each grant donor), we now can sit down together with a list of all of the funding needs that our organization plans to apply for grants for, and take a look at the spreadsheet, and compare the two before we begin to apply (or even write).

Keeping in mind that each grant donor is different from the next, we can take a look at our list of grant donors that we'll apply to and ask ourselves (while looking at the list of grant donors we'll apply to and their respective individual attributes):

1. Which grant donors typically give grants in amounts less than $10,000? Which give grants, typically, in amounts above $10,000? Which give grants in much larger amounts, typically (i.e. $50,000 and more)? Keep in mind, too, when comparing in what increments grant donors on our list give to what funding needs our nonprofit has that we only ask for amounts that in reality are needed, according to each funding goal's actual budget (i.e. maybe a program's budget or the budget for a new building, etc.). Every nonprofit could use $1 million but in reality donors only give amounts based in real need. If the case can't be realistically (and ethically) made for the amount requested, it makes the applicant organization look a bit questionable.

2. What does each grant donor give grants for (in total), or in other words, to which types of programs, projects, or for which types of items does each grant donor give?

3. What nonprofits, similar (or exactly) like your nonprofit has the grant donor given to recently (say, within the past two years), for what kind of program or project, and for how much?

4. Does your nonprofit (its volunteers, staff, or leadership, etc.) have any current or recent relationships with any of the grant donors (or their volunteers or staff, etc.) on the list? Do not assume that you know with whom (or what other organizations) everyone currently involved in your nonprofit's operations has relationships with. Relationships are powerful things, even the most minor seeming. It is worth asking the staff, ask volunteers, and ask the board (and others such as clients, as appropriate) if they know anyone volunteering with or working for any of the grant donors on your list that your nonprofit is going to apply to. I can not give you an exact percentage, but I urge you to check into this. I've rarely worked for or consulted with a nonprofit that, once it had a list of the grant donors we'll apply to, didn't have volunteers or staff that had relationships with at least one of the grant donors we were applying to. Note, for each grant donor, which of the people associated with your nonprofit has a relationship (and with whom) with the respective grant donor, and with whom within the grant donor's operations.

Now, we use all of this effort and information.

Let's look at the information, for each grant donor, we have for our question number 3, above, first. Looking over the list of programs that we're seeking grant funding for, and looking at which similar nonprofits (to ours') have received grants from different grant donors for similar types of programs as the ones we're needing funding for indicates to us which of these grant donors are likely to fund which of our nonprofit's programs, projects, or items. We note this on our spreadsheet.

Next, let's take a look at the information for each grant donor that we have for our questions 1 and two, above. Which of our donors give in smaller increments (and it's O.K. that they do - what nonprofit couldn't use $250, $500, or $1,000 for a program or project); and which give in larger increments (and it's normal to think 'well...if they typically give $100,000 or more but we don't have any programs that would need that much money', or 'they must give to larger or more successful nonprofits than ours'...then I say to you, hold on a second). If we have three funding needs we're seeking grants for this year, let's say: a new program, a long standing but newly revamped program, and twenty brand new wheelchairs and walkers. We need to ask each grant donor for a specific funding need (we can't realistically lump them all together and apply to each donor: we have to ask the donors that give grants for the single respective funding goal (of all of our goals) project, program, or item(s) we need (of the pretend three) that we have). If our programs each only cost $30,000 and $50,000 respectively and the 20 wheelchairs and walkers, combined, cost $10,000 then it may appear we don't need $50,000. Our nonprofit may create a new organizational goal, in this year, that will require grant applications be sent for large increments like $50,000 (it's good to have a current list of grant donors that give at all increment levels that seems to be interested in funding organizations doing what yours' does); or we can consider what two years' operating costs of the $50,000 program will be and apply to the larger increment grant donor for two years' expenses of this program (IF the specific larger increment grant donor gives multi-year grants and many larger grant amount donors do, by the way). We have our two programs and forty items to fund. We need to look, in our list, at which grant donors fund items for the handicapped, which give for brand new programs like the one we're starting, and which fund the revamped program's work (i.e. a counseling program, or a support program).

Finally, we need to look at what we learned for our question number four, above. If we know, for instance after asking our nonprofit's leaders, volunteers, staff, etc. if anyone knows anyone volunteering with or working for any of the grant donors on our list that two board members each have friends volunteering on the board of two of the grant donors then we need to make sure that either in initial conversations with the donor, or in the letter of inquiry (first step in the grant seeking process, typically), or in the actual grant proposal, itself, (or all three) that mention is made of the connection to each of these two grant donors' board or staff. As is always true of all business (for-profit or nonprofit) the old adage, "relationships are everything" holds true. Even nonprofits new to grant writing (or even start up nonprofits) have raised grants from grant donors in part due to an existing relationship alone (even seemingly small connections between people, if established and well regarded, can be helpful).

Once a nonprofit has completed its planning and prospecting, taking research on each grant donor that it is going to apply to further, and then utilizing the information that comes from that research isn't just worth the time and effort anecodatlly. Track time taken to do this kind of research, analysis, and to strategize. If, after the year's grant raising work is done, you conduct a Return on Investment (ROI) or cost/benefit analysis: I am willing to be that you'll find that the advantage the information gets your nonprofit, and how being strategic with that information, about which grant donor your agency applies to for what, is worth it.

Character Education Grants for K - 12, U.S., Public Schools or School Districts

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: February 5, 2010

Sprint Character Education Grant Program Announces 2010 Application Period

Sprint has announced the launch of the 2010 application period for the Sprint Character Education Grant Program, its annual character-education grant program for schools and school districts across the United States.

Now in its third year, the program awards Sprint Foundation grants to school districts and individual schools to fund resources that facilitate and encourage character education among K-12 students. The program is open to all U.S. public schools (K-12) and U.S. public school districts.

In 2010, the Sprint Character Education Grant Program will award grants between $500 and $5,000 each to individual schools and grants between $10,000 and $25,000 each to school districts. In 2009, the Sprint Foundation awarded a total of more than $450,000 to schools and school districts through the program.

The program will accept applications for character-education programs that promote and/or address youth leadership, youth volunteerism, a positive school culture, and drop-out prevention.

For program information and/or to submit a grant application, visit the Sprint Web site.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, January 10, 2010

What To Do When Your Nonprofit Doesn't Spend All of an Awarded Grant's Money....And Why....

It may seem contrary to logic, but sometimes, after a nonprofit receives a grant it cannot use all of the grant as the nonprofit described it would in the original grant proposal that it submitted to receive the grant. Sometimes there is leftover money from a grant that your nonprofit received. In this case, what would the nonprofit that you work or volunteer for do? I can recommend what you should do and explain, too, why it's the best way to proceed.

A good friend/colleague and I spoke this week, catching up on the holidays and work. She mentioned that the nonprofit that she works for recently discovered that they had a bit of 'extra money' after spending as much as they could of it on the specific project that it was awarded to the organization for. The amount was not big, it was $2,000 but, it was overage.

It may seem to an unsuspecting grant recipient nonprofit's leader like an easy situation to deal with. The unknowing nonprofit who has a bit leftover from an awarded grant may think to them self, '...well...this is a nonprofit... and we spent most of the grant exactly as we said we would in the grant proposal to the grant donor: it's only $2,000...I'll just spend that extra in this other program, that we have, that needs a little cash right now...' or maybe our pretend executive director thought, '...we spent the amount that we said and described needing, as a nonprofit, and they sent the extra or overage in the grant check...they must want us to use all of it any way that we can apply it to our mission statement...'. While are able to track the reasoning in these two pretend self discussions, they are examples of what a recipient nonprofit should not think if they find the awarded grant is larger than the actual program's expenses that they applied for the grant for. The fact is that there's actually more at play with grant overage situations than just unspent money, and it's really important that nonprofit leaders see this, but also understand the positive potential they set their organization up with for the future, if they deal with grant overage situations according to professional nonprofit best practices.

Let's say that you and I work, too, at the nonprofit that my friend does and that it's called Staples for the Hungry. Let's say that the organization serves the hungry in Portland, Oregon; and we applied last year in February for a $15,000 grant from the Portland Food Pantry Foundation for a summertime teen camp lunch program called Healthy Teens Eat Healthy. Let's say that we received a $15,000 grant from them in May 2009. Let's say, too, that in our grant proposal to Portland Food Pantry Foundation we described (in the Program Description portion of the grant proposal) how the program that we were seeking $15,000 for was a lunchroom program at one high school, Zefram Cochrane High School, in the City of Portland and the schoolroom lunch program was to operate over the duration of a specific summer camp's use of the school campus from June to September. Let's say that we found, by mid July, that Staples for the Hungry's camp program, Healthy Teens Eat Healthy was running smoothly, meeting program benchmarks and goals, and the grant was covering its portion of the program's expenses. Let's say, too, that just before the program ended in September we could see in our accounting ledger for the program that the whole grant from Portland Food Pantry Foundation may not get entirely spent (let's say that we thought, before the program began back in January 2009 (when the budgeting and final planning for the summer program was being finalized) that Staples for the Hungry would have to buy all of the baked goods used in our program, and that was part of the expense that we applied, specifically, to the Portland Food Pantry Foundation for). Then, in May 2009, we were gratified to discover that a local grocery store near the high school decided to donate all of the baked goods that the program would need for the month of August. This is how, despite our having planned and budgeted for the Healthy Teens Eat Healthy program correctly, in the end, we had an extra $2,000.

There was no poor budgeting, planning or bookkeeping; the program was a huge success in the end; and all spent items for the program were tracked and accounted for keeping which grant donor donated which portion of the spent budget in mind, as we spent and went through the program. The extra $2,000 doesn't demonstrate some accounting or management error or a problem with the program, itself. The extra $2,000 came from our receiving the baked goods donation unexpectedly.

You, me, my friend, and our executive director sit down to discuss our extra $2,000. Let's say that you and I don't know better and speak up right away saying how great it is to have the extra money in our coffers (especially in this economy), and that we know that another one of our organization's programs, our community food pantry, could use the money. My friend and the executive director each say, "hold on".

When a grant is given to a nonprofit it is a donation. As is true with all donors, including grant donors, nonprofits that develop relationships with their donors focusing on the reason that the donor gives to your specific nonprofit and their interest in the nonprofit's work as the way to engage the donor (or potential donor) and then once engaged, keep them interested in (valuing and supporting) your nonprofit over time. The reason that developing relationships with donors is a professional nonprofit best practice is because it ensures for a nonprofit a sustained donor base (who give regularly) and it also ensures repeat donations. A relationship provides for any nonprofit that forms solid ties with its donors, to receive a donation now but also again and again in the future. A relationship that a nonprofit develops with its donors by explaining what their donated dollars did, how it helped the community, what the current programming goals are, and what success is expected through those current goals instills trust, confidence, a feeling of contributed, and gratitude to the donor (when communicated to them consistently in a way that is not annoying or unprofessional). This developed relationship is an invaluable way to maintain cash flow and community loyalty over time.

Given this nonprofit best practice in developing relationships with donors, it is wise, then, to see the extra money from the grant donation from the grant donor's point of view, always. They gave the grant (in good faith with your nonprofit) because your nonprofit stated (in its grant proposal) how, why, and form whom (or what) the grant, if received, would be spent. A nonprofit only has its reputation, success rate, and potential to stand on when soliciting any donations (including grants). If your agency has received a grant but then decides to spend some of the money in any way other than how your nonprofit stated in the grant proposal it would be spent, then your agency has opened itself up to being discovered to be the dishonest, poorly run, and perhaps even stealing nonprofit that it could appear to be (and this misuse of funds can in fact get back to donors through gossip, annual reports, and a nonprofit's own accounting (which is open to public scrutiny in its tax reporting), or other ways). A nonprofit's reputation takes a long time to both develop and share among its community, but once its established an excellent reputation can raise more money more often (as well as new excellent volunteer, board, and staff recruits) quicker than anything else.

If, during our meeting, we decide that the executive director will give the donor a call, explain the situation, and leave it up to the donor whether they wish to let our nonprofit keep the overage, or if they would rather have it back; then we have decided to do the correct thing according to professional nonprofit best practices. Remember that "best practices" are considered such because they have been tried over and over again by other different types of nonprofits and always work to the nonprofits' advantages. By giving the donor the information (the truth) about the leftover grant money, we are including them in the situation and providing them (as the donor) with the power to use that as yet unused portion of the money that they gave. Sometimes grant donors will say, 'thank you so much for disclosing this overage to us and being honest with us, please keep it and spend it where it's needed'. Other times, they will say, 'thank you so much for disclosing this overage to us and being honest with us, please return that extra money back to us,'. This is what my friend said the grant donor told their nonprofit's executive director, in this instance.

The organization that my friend works for returned the extra (or unspent) $2,000 to the grant donor. One can imagine, especially today in this economy, that all grant donors have considered what they can do to help nonprofits, given the economy. We can imagine that the $2,000 was requested back because maybe the grant donor knew of a situation where $2,000 would help another nonprofit stay on its feet, or get up and running, or keep one more person safe and warm this winter.

What's more is the relationship that the nonprofit demonstrated to the grant donor will only instill confidence among the donor in the nonprofit: the nonprofit's leader was proactive and contacted the donor, they were honest and explained the overage, and they gave the donor the power to do what it thought was best, and then they listened and complied with the donor's wishes. If you don't see that the grant donor will now have the highest regard for this nonprofit (and give again to them in the future) then you are missing the point. Don't miss the point of the relationship a nonprofit can establish and have with its donors, including its grant donors. Imagine that my friend's nonprofit will apply again to this particular grant donor (and they will). Imagine, too, that (as they have before) the amount requested will be in the tens of thousands of dollars. Isn't it worth developing a good relationship with a donor to give them back their (unused) $2,000 to increase the likelihood that our nonprofit will get $15,000 or maybe even $35,000 the next time that we need support? Of course it is.

Award for Volunteers Able to Demonstrate Impact, Scope of Work, Innovation, Etc.

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: March 1, 2010

Caring Institute Invites Nominations for Caring Awards

The Caring Institute, a nonprofit organization founded in 1985 to honor and promote the values of caring, integrity, and public service, is accepting nominations for individuals from nine to 99 years old for the 2010 Caring Awards. Nominees should exemplify caring and serve as worthy role models for others.

Award criteria include length of service, scope and impact of work, challenges overcome, and imagination and innovation. Based on these criteria, a class of nominees is selected for the official ballot. Then the Board of Trustees and previous Caring Award winners cast their votes for those who are most outstanding. All winners are honored at a special ceremony, and young adult winners receive funds for college.

Visit the Caring Institute Web site for complete program guidelines.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, January 03, 2010

How This Blog Can Help Your Nonprofit To Raise Grant Money

I will tell you how to raise grant money, as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization.

Successfully raising grant money now, and again later, has everything to do with any nonprofit doing certain things before beginning grant writing, doing certain things while doing the grant writing work (over and over again); and any nonprofit must also operate within certain parameters, as an organization (which also enhances all of the other forms of fundraising that the nonprofit is conducting in tandem with grant writing). The post, Fundraising, Grant Writing, Mission-Success, Community Building; It's All the Same will explain these specific points.

In general, though, to understand how to truly raise grants it can be confusing. I know that (especially in this depressed economy) there are tons of websites, books, TV commercials, radio ads, entire blogs, podcasts, and more dedicated to inform about how to raise grants. Many are really genuinely written with current, professional, ethical, effective, tried and proven, and practical information to share with the consumer. Others, though, are...frankly, sharing questionable information (at best) and in some cases they're peddling pure crap. As with all things that have to do with money, it is prudent to be skeptical of any information one receives about 'how to raise grant money' (or any money) until the information proves to you that it bears out. It will prove to you its authenticity when you hear the same thing from other reputable sources, when it sounds (in your gut) that its logical and sound, and when the information provided seems logical, plausible, and honest. Your gut is probably the best barometer, but remember, it never hurts to pick up the phone and speak to a professional at a reputable and well established nonprofit and ask them for a ten minute informational interview and ask them for their recommendations. See how the advice you received stacks up.

This blog, Seeking Grant Money Today, is also a wealth of excellent free information and recommended resources.

This blog provides excellent, tried and proven, professional, ethical, actual information, suggestions (such as resources to learn from), and real world examples from the contemporary nonprofit sector about not just how to raise grants but also other nonprofit operations such as leadership, board work, other fundraising methods besides grant writing, and more.

On this blog's web page, if you look to the lower right hand side of the web page (cursor down and look right) you will see the header "Labels". Under the header is a list of topics. The list of Labels is an index of all of the blog posts, here in this blog, labeled according to each blog post's topic or subject. So, in other words, the Labels list is really an index of everything covered in this blog. Look down it and see if there's information, besides what got you here, that we provide (for free) that you are wanting to further understand.

You can also look on the left hand side of this blog's web page and see (in the left side margin) the headers, "Recommended Links" in the middle, and "My Blog List". Under each of these headers are other websites. I personally recommend them as excellent references for anyone doing research for any aspect of nonprofit operations. Under "Recommended Links" there are links to our web store complete with some of the best books (standards) in the professional nonprofit sector, our Twitter and, Facebook pages, and our consulting firm's web page. There are also listed three excellent, well known, reputable, and informative nonprofit resources online. I recommend that you consider The Chronicle of Philanthropy, The Foundation Center, and as excellent resources.

Finally, here are a few of the most viewed blog posts from this blog. You may find one or two of them helpful. If these aren't pertinent, though, to what you need, definitely look at the index of topics, to the lower right hand side of this blog's web page for what you're needing.

The Top 10 Seeking Grant Money Posts of 2009:

Start Up Nonprofit? Needing Seed Money? Starting Fundraising? Here's help...Part 1 of 2

Start Up Nonprofit? Needing Seed Money? Starting Fundraising? Here's help...Part 2 of 2

Pricing Grant Writers - What Should We Pay For A Grant Writer?

Write An Annual Appeal Letter To Raise Relatively Quick Funds

Emergency Grants

Are There Grants For An Individual?

We Need Money for Our 501(c)(3) Organization - What Is The Grant Seeking Process?

Grant Writers On Commission

Evaluation Methods - How Can A Nonprofit Use Them To Raise More Money More Often

How Do I Write The Statement Of Need?

Grants for Organizations Enhancing the Development of Many Museums' Staffs

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: March 15, 2010

Institute of Museum and Library Services Invites 21st Century Museum Professionals Grant Applications

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is calling for proposals from museums, museum service organizations, and universities for projects that will enhance the professional development of museum staff. The 21st Century Museum Professionals grants are intended to have an impact on multiple institutions by reaching broad groups of museum professionals.

Funding will support projects involving core management skills such as planning, leadership, finance, program design, partnership, and evaluation. Projects may also focus on collections care and management, interpretation, marketing and audience development, staff retention, visitor services, governance, and other areas of museum operations. Additionally, IMLS encourages applicants to review its report, "Museums, Libraries, and 21st Century Skills," and respond with project proposals that address competence in such 21st century skill areas as information, communications, and technology literacy; critical thinking; problem solving; creativity; civic literacy; and global awareness.

Applicants may request from $15,000 to $500,000 each for a grant period of up to three years.

Visit the IMLS Web site for complete program information.

Link to Complete RFP