Sunday, March 28, 2010

A New Website, Glasspockets, Encourages Foundations to Fully Disclose, Too

The Foundation Center, a pillar among excellent resources available to professionals and volunteers, alike, working in the American nonprofit sector; has created a brand new website called Glasspockets. About Glasspockets The Foundation Center explains, on the site's home page, "We're showcasing the online transparency and accountability practices of the largest foundations."

As we each know, one of the clearest ways for an individual to determine if a company is worth investing in any type of corporation (when considering either buying stock of for-profit companies or considering donating to a nonprofit) is for the potential investor to review that organization's recent financials and other pertinent organizational documents. This is where the issue of transparency stems from (in both sectors); and after the '90's the issue came out of real frustrations. If we remember, Americans, whether a company's stock holder or a nonprofit organization's regular donor were, by 2002, even after reviewing financials, not certain that they were getting extant, complete, or fully truthful snapshots of the potential investments' operations (for profit or nonprofit) . The news, at that time, indicated how difficult it was becoming to get that snapshot. After President George W. Bush signed the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002, operations transparency and full disclosure were each demanded more often by American for-profit companies' investors, but also nonprofit organizations' donors, volunteers, and other kinds of supporters (as Sarbanes Oxley requires that board members overseeing U.S. corporations, whether nonprofit or for-profit operations are personally accountable for their organization's fiscal reporting and complete disclosure. This law, among other best practices obligations, is why it's so critical that board members understand accounting and all of their legal responsibilities).

The Foundation Center is a nonprofit itself. It's one of the best resources that exists anywhere in the world, for nonprofits (and also individuals), to research for grant opportunities to apply for. In creating Glasspockets they have decided to take the spirit of increased public demand for full disclosure and organizational transparency and apply it to another type of U.S. nonprofit corporation, foundations which are often grant donors, themselves.

To quote the Glasspocket's website's About Us page,
"With Glasspockets, the Foundation Center and its partners are working to:
  • Inspire private foundations to greater openness in their communications.
  • Increase understanding of best practices in foundation transparency and accountability in an online world.
  • Illustrate how institutional philanthropy is relevant to the critical issues of our time.
  • Highlight the many stories of philanthropy that show how private wealth is serving the public good.
  • Illuminate successes, failures, and ongoing experimentation so foundations can build on each other's ideas to increase impact."
As each of us working in the nonprofit sector often hears, it is imperative that nonprofits (including foundations) understand that their supporters, today, expect results. How does any supporter know if, after their contribution or investment results have been achieved? By having access to real outcomes (quantifiable defensible outcome data sets). Again, outcomes data studies' results should be accessible, too, to current or potential investors. Along these lines, lessons learned are not negatives against the organization but rather a real indication, to supporters, that the organization is listening to outcomes enough to make improvements. This is exactly why transparency is such a buzz word in the nonprofit sector (and has been since the late '90's). It's actually American foundations, themselves, through their grant application processes that have increased the demand for disclosure and accountability. Like any donor, grant donors have more often given, now, to nonprofits that can demonstrate how well run they are, how efficient they are, how successful their work is, that they offer the potential necessary to continue to succeed in the future, and that the applicant organization really meets the need in the community that it's set up to. Foundations' grant applications do differ but on the whole have more often, now, required similar information from applicant nonprofits which, together, give a fairly good snapshot of potential grant recipient organizations' operations and how sound of an investment that organization is for the foundation. The benefit of more transparent nonprofit operations is that nonprofits' communities (the folks who are both helped by but also the donors, volunteers, etc. of these nonprofits) can more easily know what these organizations are doing successfully in their community. This helps the organization because supporters are clearer about which nonprofits are successful at their missions but also run, managed, and planned well. These are the organizations more likely to raise more support, more often, more easily (than lesser run or less successful organizations). This is why in American nonprofit best practices efficiency, honesty, evaluations built into programs and conducted regularly, etc. are so critical in nonprofit operations.

If you go to the Glasspockets website and click on the far right tab, Looking Inside Foundations, there is a blue search box on the right side of the page that allows users to search for foundations (without a subscription, at no fee). This features uses a Google Custom Search Engine to conduct its search which searches both the Glasspockets website and also the Internet for the search term. It has been customized by The Foundation Center for the Glasspockets webiste's goals. In the middle of the Looking Inside Foundations tab's web page they have a feature called "Who Has Glass Pockets" listing many foundations already involved in their project providing the information Glasspockets asks of its participant foundations (to fully disclose their operations to the public).

I find Glasspockets an interesting project. The intention is a good idea on the face of it. As a professional fundraiser, I am often prospecting for potential donors (including grant donors), for clients, or researching major donors prior to clients approaching them, etc.; so I am clear about the value of having complete snapshots of potential donors of all kinds (whether organizations or individuals, etc.). For example, there have been a few instances where I was researching a potential grant donor before applying to them for a grant only to find that their donating had waned in recent years, so it was no surprise when I followed up and discovered that they were not funding at the current time or where conducting less funding cycles than prior years. Also, foundations, themselves, are fundraisers sometimes (if the foundation is not a private foundation or a family foundations, for instance) and this information will no doubt assist their potential donors in deciding to give to them or not.

I am not sure how necessary a website uniquely focused on disclosing foundations' financials and operations is, right now, as this information was always available from The Foundation Center, or the foundations, themselves (either from their office or their recent tax filings). Also, the nonprofit sector is being completely impacted by this economy like all other American sectors are. While it remains very important that nonprofits research potential large increment donors, such as grant donors; they are in a position of the utmost need for support right now and not likely to worry how transparent the operations are of any donor they are going to apply to for a grant. Nonprofits have other fish to fry, first. Glasspockets attempts to close the transparency circle, by asking the entities who have traditionally required transparency, the donors (including grant donors), to also fully disclose.

In the spirit of the importance of transparency, though, including even the foundations in the legal requirement, by virtue of this Foundation Center's new site (and their own reputation) for the benefit of American communities, is not a bad idea. We expect results of foundations' work, too.

[Disclosure: I was neither asked to review the Glasspockets website, nor was I paid or in any way compensated for this review.]

Grants to Preserve the U.S.'s Most Significant Endangered Cultural Treasures

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: May 21, 2010

Save America's Treasures Announces 2010 Funding for Cultural and Historical Artifact Preservation

Administered by the National Park Service (NPS) in collaboration with the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, Save America's Treasures is an annual grant program designed to provide critical investments in the preservation of the nation's most significant and endangered cultural treasures.

Grants are available for preservation and/or conservation work on nationally significant intellectual and cultural artifacts and historic structures and sites. Intellectual and cultural artifacts include objects, collections, documents, sculpture, and works of art. Historic structures and sites include historic districts, lots, buildings, structures, and objects.

Grants are awarded to federal, state, local, and tribal government entities as well as and nonprofit organizations through a competitive matching-grant program. For FY 2010, NPS has approximately $14 million in total funding to award through the Save America's Treasures program.

Complete application instructions are available at the NPS Web site.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Some U.S. States Considering Taxing Nonprofits to Make Up For Empty Coffers

From The New York Times... Stephanie Strom wrote States Move to Revoke Charities' Tax Exemption, published February 27, describing how now cash poor U.S. states and cities are or are considering charging taxes to the nonprofits within their jurisdictions. Nonprofits, of course, have been granted the benefit of tax free dollars, by the IRS and U.S. states, in reciprocity for the services and programs that nonprofits provide to U.S. communities at no or low costs to the nonprofits' beneficiaries (anyone or anything that benefits from any given nonprofit's work).

This is gravely concerning.

So far, the following cities or states are already taxing their nonprofits or are considering taxing nonprofits within their jurisdictions: Hawaii; communities within Kansas, Pennsylvania, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Indiana; and the Cities of Cambridge, Honolulu, Pittsburgh, and most recently, New York. If I have missed any U.S. cities or states taxing or considering taxing their nonprofits, please Comment with the information, below (thank you).

I wonder if these cities or states that are proposing these taxes have properly researched the cost/benefit analysis, over a year, over three years, over five years, etc. (the cost vs. benefit to their communities) if they tax these organizations.

See most recently Nonprofit Sector Among Few Growth Engines of Michigan Economy, Report Finds, of which the linked article states, "The report, Michigan Nonprofit Employment (24 pages, PDF), found that the sector employs nearly one of every ten workers in the state — eleven times that of the auto industry — and that in 2009 the state's 374,537 nonprofit employees, more than two-thirds of whom work in the health services field, earned nearly $14.5 billion in wages, which generated an estimated $90 million of income tax revenue for state and local governments. The report also found that nonprofit employment in the state grew 17.4 percent between 2001 and 2007, partially offsetting the massive job losses that were taking place in the private business sector, and grew an average of 1.3 percent annually between the second quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of 2009.".

Or, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's 2009 study, "Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities" that found "Research on nearly 70 nonprofits from New Mexico, North Carolina, Minnesota and Los Angeles County over a five year period showed that these groups combined generated nearly $14 billion worth of benefits for their diverse communities, and many other non-monetary gains. The return for every dollar invested in these groups ranged from $89 to a staggering $157." If nonprofits, or even those people or entities that donate to nonprofits, pay for a tax burden, all of that money is money that could have been spent on programs that will not be provided, and in turn, the services, programs, and products that all of the nonprofits within these taxing jurisdictions will have, in effect, raised very expensive tax dollars, indeed.

As Strom asserts, what about the critical services that nonprofits provide to our communities, especially to those people or other beneficiaries (i.e. anything else that nonprofits exist to enable, protect, better, etc.) with no or little resources? The potential harm of losing or lessening these organizations' services to society, if these taxes come to pass, is frightening and frankly will likely ripple out, over time, in a negative effect beyond the nonprofit sector or anyone or anything that it assists.

How can this kind of financial impact cause a negative ripple effecting within taxing cities or states? If, for instance, a hypothetical nonprofit enables single parents and their children who have survived escaping abusive spousal relations in their previous home; but funding is cut at the nonprofit that is enabling them to survive, grow, and live better/safer lives: the single survivor parent may only be able to receive part of the program that the organization previously (successfully) provided because the agency can no longer afford to provide the entire program (due to the tax burden it now owes). Nonprofits only have the benefit of their successes to point to when showing their communities why it's worth while to support them (whether the community member is considering volunteering with that organization, donating to it, or supporting it in another way). Meanwhile, the ripple goes further. What if the surviving spouse receives counseling to cope with the abuse and learn from their experience in order to avoid it in the future, but can not receive vocational training that would have (in the past, before the organization was taxed) enabled the now surviving single parent to return (successfully) to the work force? The survivor parent's situation is better (for their not having to endure abuse nor fear for their children) but the organization's effort's results are not as effective (for the survivor parent; the organization, itself; or for society which may have to support this family via welfare programs instead of this family being able to support itself through the survivor parent's new vocational education, ultimately enabling them to work and support their family, themselves (avoiding welfare programs)). The ripple furthers, still, if the children do not receive the counseling and new skills that they would have, and perhaps they become wards of the county or state, etc. if they do not learn how to survive their traumas. How can I assert this ripple effect is truly possible?

Won't these states, in effect, push the nonprofit organizations taxed by their cities or states out of these taxing jurisdictions, over time, and into other states' communities (that do not tax nonprofits)? Won't a migration of nonprofits leaving taxing jurisdictions eventually form 'welfare deserts' within these taxing cities states (which by virtue of their lack of money in their state coffers have communities residing within them, in particular, that probably need nonprofits' services more than non-taxing cities or states)?

As Strom indicates in her article, U.S. cities and states looking to fund their slow economies by taxing nonprofits is astounding, as most nonprofits can little afford their own operating costs, in this economy. How will nonprofit organizations (some of the leanest efficiently operating business models that exist) afford or raise money to pay these taxes? Most donors prefer to give to nonprofits that are funding their programs and services (per the organization's mission statement). It is a commonly accepted professional standard, in the U.S., that professional (ethical, well operated, well managed) nonprofits spend at least 80% of each dollar raised on its programs and services. If, though, a nonprofit must eat into its 80% of each dollar to programs and services, in some cities or states (but not others), effectively reducing what they can spend on their programs or services in order to pay tax burdens, how will they maintain their excellent (efficient) spending records (that often makes or breaks whether a donor gives to a specific nonprofit or not)? How do nonprofits that pay taxes, then, demonstrate to past and potential donors that their donation contributions will go in professionally accepted ratio (overhead costs vs. spending on the services of the mission statement) to improve communities, especially when similar organizations residing within other U.S. cities or states that do not tax their nonprofits do not need to pay taxes (or increase how much is spent on their programs to offset how much they are now paying in local or state taxes)? Some nonprofits will not receive support because other similar ones, elsewhere, will be able to maintain that 80% or greater ratio of spending on programs.

This proposal is frightening as anyone who already volunteers with or donates to a nonprofit may become disillusioned upon discovering that some of their contributions could go to pay an organization's tax bill. People and other types of donors give to nonprofits to effect change in their communities, based on an organization's success rate, capabilities, and reputation because they are concerned about the issue or cause that the nonprofit serves. Nonprofits already have a lot of responsibility upon them to run efficiently in order to be sure that, at a minimum, 80% of each dollar they raise goes to providing the programs and services necessary to deliver their mission statement well. Now some percentage of each dollar raised may also have to be allocated to some states' tax bases, too, in addition. Again, how will nonprofits make up the difference to maintain the 80% or greater amount of each dollar going to programs?

If, you live in a city or a state that is considering taxing its nonprofits, and you are in any way (donating, volunteering, etc.), supporting a nonprofit that you believe to be invaluable to its community, and you believe that it should remain a tax free organization (as its status from the state and federal government has been, prior to the economic downturn) from the city or state that it operates within; contact your local city or state senators or City Counsel-people and also your governors' office and make your concerns known to those local or state representatives. Use some of the points made, here, to inform your comments to those representatives, if you wish.

[I posted this to Seeking Grant Money Today, a week or so ago, but because now additional U.S. states and cities are considering taxing their nonprofit organizations to deal with their empty coffers, I thought it was important to update this, re-write it, re-format it, and re-post it. For instance, on 3/20/2010 New York renewed a previously killed proposition to tax its nonprofits. See:]

April 7, 2010: Update: Boston decides to tax the formerly tax exempt organizations in town to help with the coffers:

Need some compelling examples (perhaps to argue to an entity about to tax your region's nonprofits) of what happens to those the nonprofits assist when nonprofits are taxed by municipalities or states or to see how valuable, in fact, the nonprofit sector is to at least two different U.S. states?  See below...

2010: Montana Nonprofit Association's Montana Nonprofit Sector Report

2011: The Nonprofit Association of Oregon's Oregon Nonprofit Sector Report

January 19, 2012: And then there is this "Pennsylvania Demands "Voluntary" Payments From Pittsburgh Nonprofits" 

 July 10, 2012: City Cutbacks For Nonprofits Leave Poor In Lurch 

October 4, 2012: Nonprofit organization warily eying Scranton's feud  with tax-exempt institutions

April, 2013: Oregon legislature proposes bill to end charitable tax deduction 

April, 2013: In response to the Oregon proposal to end the charitable deduction read a Letter to the Editor (The Bulletin, Bend, Oregon) written by executive directors of two Oregon nonprofits - Don't weaken charitable giving by changing the tax code

July, 2013: Communities lose if donations decrease: Opinion

December 2013: Struggling for revenue, local governments look to nonprofits 

January 2014: Nonprofits turn out to oppose bill to extend business tax to them

Large Landscape Conservation Grants for Federal, State, or Local Land/Habitat Important to Fish, Wildlife, and Plants

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: April 1, 2010 annually (Pre-proposals)

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Accepting Pre-proposals for Acres for America Conservation Program

Acres for America, a partnership between Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), annually provides funding for projects that conserve large landscape-level areas that are important habitat for fish, wildlife, and plants through acquisition of interest in real property.

The goal of the Acres for America program is to offset the footprint of Wal-Mart's domestic facilities on at least an acre-by-acre basis through acquisitions of interest in real property. Endorsement of a proposed acquisition by appropriate federal, state, and local government agencies and by nonprofit organizations that the land is of high conservation value is a primary program consideration. Preference will be given to acquisitions that are part of published conservation plans, State Wildlife Action Plans, or Endangered Species Act Recovery Plans.

Approximately $2.5 million in total funding is available annually through 2014 for conservation investments. All grant awards require a minimum 1:1 match of cash or contributed goods and services.

Visit the NFWF Web site for complete program guidelines.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tips for the Nonprofit Applying Again to One of Its Past Grant Donors

When a nonprofit is conducting its grant writing, as time passes, it will develop a list of grant donors to apply to (through prospecting work), it will submit grant applications (or grant proposals), and it will hear back from those grant donors that it applies to. When the nonprofit hears back from a grant donor that it applied to, it either receives the grant or it doesn't. This process then repeats itself. For instance, as long as a grant donor allows a prior applicant nonprofit to apply for another grant again (after having applied previously) when the nonprofit is re-applying; they are re-initiating the possibility to raise another grant (and the applicant nonprofit will want to check with that particular grant donor's giving guidelines to be certain that reapplying now is O.K.). In this way, a nonprofit may both repeatedly approach a potential grant donor (or a grant donor that has donated to the nonprofit, before), while also additionally applying to new potential grant donors (as more new potential grant donors are located through prospecting work).

If a nonprofit that has received a grant from a specific grant donor, in the past; and its grant writer checks that grant donor's giving guidelines, before applying for another grant again; and the grant donor's giving guidelines say prior grant recipient organizations are allowed to apply for another grant no sooner than one year after having received a grant; and it's one year after that nonprofit received a grant, then the nonprofit may go ahead and apply again to the donor in order to possibly raise another grant (and each grant donor is different so you want to check their specific giving guidelines).

When a nonprofit applies to a grant donor that has given to it, before, there are a couple of things it can do to increase the chance that it will receive yet another grant from them.

__ After receiving a grant from any grant donor the recipient nonprofit should proactively (conscientiously) manage the relationship with that particular donor (and this is the case with any type of donor and is why a donor/donation database is so helpful for a nonprofit to manage its relationship with each individual donor, even in large numbers). Usually the grant writer or the development associate (or both, through their different responsibilities respective to each position) will oversee the nonprofit's relationship with its grant donors. The nonprofit will want to conduct donor development (or donor care); be certain to get to the grant donor all reports, information, etc. that it requests, in a complete fashion, and on time; encourage peer to peer interaction between the nonprofit's leaders (probably the executive director and maybe a program manager in the grant donor's organization); and of course a thank you letter must be sent. Copies should be made of all correspondence and replies received and filed into a hard file. Notes should be taken during each conversation that the nonprofit conducts with the grant donor organization and also filed. If a nonprofit applies to a grant donor, receives the grant, and then two years later wishes to apply again for a grant; without a paper trail it is exceptional to be able to accurately remember who all the nonprofit's representatives spoke with within the grant donor's organization, what the nonprofit exactly wrote in its application or end of grant report, etc. and submitted to the grant donor.

__ When applying for a grant from an agency that gave a grant to a nonprofit before, it is helpful to include in perhaps the first paragraph of the letter of introduction (if one is submitted), in the grant proposal, and anywhere else that is appropriate simply saying something to the effect of, "The clients, volunteers, and staff of the National Society for the Science of Clams remain grateful for the grant that Sea World Conservation donated in April 2008 for our then new Public Outreach and Education program." Including this kind of simple but on point acknowledgment in the documents that a nonprofit submits to raise yet another grant does a few things. It reminds the grant donor, in a conspicuous location in the document (maybe in more than one document that it submits to the grant donor), that they have given to the nonprofit before. Yes, they probably will recognize the applicant nonprofit's name, etc. and know that in the past they've given a grant to it, before. Yet, never assume that the donor organization's files are entirely complete or accurate. Errors get made, so a reminder is compelling. Also, the applicant nonprofit is saying 'thank you' once more. Finally, including this sentence demonstrates the nonprofit's professionalism: it practices a professional culture, in its operations, of inclusion, gratitude, a long-lived memory, recognition, etc. All of these professional qualities do lend towards indicating that the nonprofit may operate transparently (inclusion, acknowledging the need for partners for its operations to succeed (such as donors' donations), long- memory, etc.).

__ Conversations may be easier between a nonprofit that received a grant from a specific donor organization and that donor, than for a nonprofit applying for the first time that the donor is not familiar with (though, this situation is not a deal breaker). When a nonprofit's executive director, for instance, phones a grant donor and says we are about to apply for a grant for this program and 'oh, by the way, we receive a grant from you four years ago (or whenever)' the contact at the grant donor organization will get a few things. First, they will know that this nonprofit met all of their standards back in time. It won't be a stretch for them to imagine that it could, today. Second, they will likely have a file on this nonprofit and will be able, then, to easily access the record (why the nonprofit was awarded the grant, how the nonprofit followed up, etc. This demonstrates why it's important for a nonprofit to interact with a donor that gives a grant professionally, gratefully, etc.). Also, the grant donor agency's representative will, frankly, probably view the nonprofit in a positive light. Others working within the donor organization probably will, too. All of the possible positives for any applicant nonprofit add up. Finally, when a grant donor has given to a nonprofit that is applying again - there is a sense of an established relationship existing. Any positives that a nonprofit can put on its side when it applies for a grant are pluses (and they may be pluses that other applicant nonprofits do not have on their side).

Do all of these attributes guarantee an applicant nonprofit a grant? No. There are never any guarantees in any form of fundraising, including grant writing. The name of the game, here, is to increase the likelihood of receiving a grant. Also, some grant donors do not give grants to a nonprofit that they've granted to before, even when their own giving guidelines say 'prior grant recipients may apply again, in the future'. Being allowed to apply is no guarantee that an applicant is automatically viewed as a potential recipient candidate. Each grant donor is different and their own policies or internal operations may change over time. A good way for an applicant nonprofit to gauge how a grant donor may interact with them (whether they received a grant from the donor before, or not) is to research their recent (perhaps past two years, for instance) giving history and patterns. What other nonprofits have they donated to? How much did they give? When? For what types of programs or projects? Did any of these nonprofits receive another grant from the donor, recently? If so, how recently, and for what kind of program (is it support for the program they contributed to before, or a new project)? Is there networking chatter, in the nonprofit community in the region, that a recent grant recipient nonprofit applied again for a grant from them (per their giving guidelines' directions) and was told something like, 'we would grant to your agency, except that we have decided to only give grants to nonprofits once every twenty years' (even when their own giving guidelines say 'past recipients may apply for a grant again X months after receiving the grant)? This kind of information can be invaluable for the applicant nonprofit. Anything that helps increase the likelihood that a grant will be awarded is a plus.

Grants for U.S. Nonprofits and International Non Government Organizations Promoting the Rights of Persons With Disabilities

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: Various (See below...)

Disability Rights Fund Offers International Grant Program to Promote United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Disability Rights Fund seeks to strengthen the participation of Disabled Persons' Organizations in the advancement of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities at the country level in the Global South and Eastern Europe/former Soviet Union.

The fund's 2010 Moving Rights Forward grant cycle will consist of two rounds. The first is directed at DPOs in Indonesia, Mexico, Ukraine, and eligible states and cities in India (Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Kerala, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi). Applicants can apply as single organizations or partnerships for small grants and/or as national DPO-led coalitions for national coalition grants.

Single organizations or partnerships can apply for twelve-month grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 each. Grants may be used to increase DPO skill in addressing the CRPD by building more inclusive organizations or partnerships and/or internal capacity building, and to accomplish rights-based advocacy and monitoring by increasing DPO participation in decision-making processes regarding the CRPD at state or local levels and/or directly addressing implementation of CRPD Articles.

National DPO-led coalitions can apply for 24-month grants ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 each per year to work on ratification of the CRPD, passage of specific legislation to accord with the CRPD, or the production of an alternative/parallel report.

Cross-disability and other partnerships in-country are strongly encouraged, as are projects that address particularly marginalized sectors of the disability community.

The deadline for small grants applications for the first funding round is March 24, 2010. The deadline for National Coalition Grants applications for the first round is April 12, 2010. The RFP for the second grantmaking round will be released in July 2010.

Visit the DRF Web site for complete program information.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, March 07, 2010

How Proof of Concept Can Improve Fundraising for a New Program and What Proof of Concept Is

When a nonprofit organization is either launching a brand new program or project; of if a new nonprofit organization, itself, is beginning it is extremely powerful to raise funds (including grant writing and other methods) in part by providing a proof of concept that clearly demonstrates the efficiency, viability, and strong potential of the new program or organization.

Proof of concept means formulating a very similar or exact replica (or model) of an established similar program, organization, or innovation that works, when replicated demonstrates that this new project (or nonprofit) that is being implemented (or launched) works elsewhere. For instance, let's say that you and I are launching a brand new mentoring program at a local community college. We are going to pair local volunteer business people with our college students whose grades are suffering, in the afternoons, so that that the students receive tutoring, improving their grades.

Let me interrupt my example for just a moment to point out that it is often the case that new nonprofits or brand new programs are launched with the best intentions to address a current and as yet unmet issue. Whether a brand new program or agency succeeds at its new effort is the result of several things, such as, how well designed the new undertaking is (how well it truly addresses the needs of the beneficiaries in their experience), how well it is supported by its community (i.e. volunteer hours, financial or in kind contributions, community partners, etc.), and ultimately the results it actually delivers (does the new endeavor actually work or does it not do what it set out to). A nonprofit that has a proof of concept for its not yet launched new work allows that nonprofits to demonstrate the actual potential of its new program or agency because it can point to another nonprofit, elsewhere, that has conducted either the same (such as when an organization replicates what is called a model program) or a very similar recent program. The power in having this recent previous success story to point to is that (ideally) there is verifiable (quantifiable) data on the previous program's: participants (such as demographics that demonstrate the need that exists), results, outcomes (perhaps determined through anonymous client surveys and their findings); and a clear program design that has already gone through the benefit of being conducted, having its results reviewed, and the benefit of having improvements being made to that program after each review.

Back to my example... Perhaps the need for our mentoring program came out of several of our community college's professors coming to us saying you know, we have a few students slipping through the cracks, who don't need to be. We think that if they had both extra tutoring outside of class but also the benefit (from whomever tutors them) of increasing these students' self confidence, their grades would improve. Sadly, but understandably, our professors explained that they are concerned for these kids but only have so much time to give per student and the relationship necessary to potentially assist develop a student's self esteem is not available to them. So, before we begin to dream up a solution to this issue, we decide to conduct some research. You and I each speak to colleagues working at other community colleges, research the latest study findings in our professional journals in studies related to this very issue, and even speak to a few counselors at different local high schools and ask what they are doing to deal with this issue. Once we find some examples of actual programs that are working elsewhere, we begin to research these potential model programs that each have operated long enough and enough results and findings have been gathered from each, and also what their expenses are, what lessons they learned, etc. to help inform us in our work. Once we have gathered enough data, we sit down with our community college's curriculum designers, social workers, a few student representatives from the school's Associated Student Body, some of the concerned professors, and a few of the would-be volunteer business people from our community. This is our brand new Mentoring Program Committee. As a committee we conduct the research, discussion, and planning necessary to design, budget, fund, and implement our new Mentoring Program.

Having proof of concept provides not just potential donors but also others, including the nonprofit itself, with a certain amount of confidence, despite it either itself being a brand new operation or despite a program being completely new to an organization. In our example, above, our school's administrators, educators, and executives feel a certain amount of confidence in this new program because we have demonstrated that it should work.

(Ideally, at least a year or two before it is started so that we have money available to pay for at least its first year budget before it begins), when we begin to raise funds for this new program, we are coming from a very compelling standpoint. Having proof of concept can inform our communication with potential donors with demonstrable proof of potential success (the data that our committee gathered from other similar successful student/business people volunteers mentoring programs) to include when we write appeal letters, perhaps; or when we write grant proposals; or to include in our executives' conversations with potential major donors. Donors who feel confident not just about the nonprofit that they are supporting but also about the potential of a new program are comfortable giving. It's the same with other types of supporters, such as volunteers, etc.

Finally, when the nonprofit advertises its new program to its beneficiaries, (if the program is one that the beneficiaries attend such as in this example), the proof of concept can be included in the program's brochure and other press releases and marketing to instill confidence. If the posters on campus, for the new program, say something, for example, like, 'based on similar successful programs at other schools' when describing the program indicates to attendees that the program has proven effective for others.

Having proof of confidence frankly saves a lot of time, trial and error, the expenses that come with that, and the risk of a nonprofit losing its credibility over a potential program that does not work, ultimately. Not all new programs or organizations need be replicated from other programs, of course; but one way to both save resources and instill confidence among a nonprofit's constituency (its community) and its beneficiaries (in the example, here, the students) is to have, from the outset, a proof of concept.

Grants to Expand Under Utilized Child Nutrituion Programs

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: April 1, 2010

got breakfast? Foundation Announces Silent Hero Grants for Summer Food Programs

The got breakfast? Foundation, whose mission is to ensure that every child, regardless of background, starts the school day with a nutritious breakfast in order to learn, grow, and develop to his or her fullest potential, has announced the expansion of its Silent Hero Grant Program to participants in the federal Summer Nutrition Program.

The Silent Hero Grant Program is designed to encourage schools and nonprofit organizations to expand the reach of underutilized child nutrition programs, including the School Breakfast Program and, with this expansion, the Summer Nutrition Program.

Grants ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 will be awarded to public schools, nonprofit private schools, local governments, national youth sports programs, and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations participating in the Summer Nutrition Program. Grant funds can be used for such needs as serving equipment, program staffing, and nutrition education materials.

To be considered for the summer grant program projects must be centered around creating, continuing, or expanding federal Summer Nutrition Programs. Priority will be given to organizations creating a summer program where one did not previously exist.

Visit the got breakfast? Foundation Web site for the Request for Applications.

Link to Complete RFP