Sunday, April 25, 2010

One Quarter of All Nonprofits May Lose Their Charitable Status With the I.R.S. This May

As many as one quarter of 1.6 million American nonprofits, including trade associations and membership groups, will lose their official "charity" status with the Internal Revenue Service, at midnight on May 15, and thereby lose their tax exemption status.  They will lose their ability to raise tax free donations.  Amazingly, this equates to approximately 25% of all nonprofits being in jeopardy of losing their tax breaks.  Why?  Three years have passed, this May, since the Pension Protection Act of 2006 passed, and because of a tax filing requirement included in the law; charity organizations that gross $25,000 or less that have failed to file with the I.R.S.three consecutive years, now, are in jeopardy of having their tax exempt status revoked by the I.R.S.

The I.R.S.wants to avoid revoking charitable statuses if it can.  In 2007, the I.R.S. mailed well over a half a million letters to American nonprofits that gross $25,000 annually, or less, and those that gross above this amount that had not filed, warning them.

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 is a federal law designed to reform pension laws, thereby better protecting American pensions, that officially became law August 17, 2006.  It also reforms other things.  It reforms the Tax Court, the Federal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1977, and it also modifies tariffs and duties on imported goods.  It is Title XII, Provisions Relating to Exempt Organizations, of the Pension Protection Act of 2006, though, that effects nonprofits, as pushed for by Senator Chuck Grassley (R - Iowa), then chairman of the Senate Committee On Finance.

The law does many things in regards to the nonprofit sector.

As of 2008, tax exempt organizations which gross $25,000 annually, or less, must file an I.R.S. Form 990-N (or electronic post card), when low or non-grossing charitable organizations were not required to, before.  All nonprofit organizations that gross $25,000 or more must file I.R.S. Tax Form 990 with the I.R.S., annually.  The law requires that the I.R.S. revoke tax exemptions of recognized charitable organizations that fail to file the Form 990-N three consecutive years.

Also, controlling organizations must report income from loans with the controlled organization and also report all transfers between it and the controlled organizations. 

Private foundation and excess penalty taxes are doubled.

Donor advised funds, supporting organizations, and credit counseling organizations are subject to requirements.

Applicable exempt organizations are subject to new reporting requirements when they acquire life insurance contracts structured to give the exempt organization and private investors an interest in that contract.  These exempt organizations include Tribes and employee stock ownership plans as well as the usual charitable organizations.

The law requires, too, that donors now keep record of each cash donation either in the form of a canceled check, a receipt from the charity (which also includes a thank you letter in response to the contribution, that states "no goods or services were received in lieu of this contribution" in it), or a credit card statement.

The law provides some good for nonprofits, too.

Donors may transfer IRA assets as donations, avoiding the early withdrawal penalty, to nonprofit organizations, without having to account for the funds as income and, as such, no income tax is incurred on these transfers. Anyone seventy and a half years old, can donate up to $100,000 of an IRA without any penalty. Also new in the law, remarkably, is that a donation of taxidermy arts are to now be considered charitable contributions.  

To understand the context of where the nonprofit aspects of the law came from, at the end of July, 2006 Senator Grassley wrote an opinion piece, "Strengthening the nonprofit sector" for The Hill in which he states, "I advance public policies that treat taxpayers fair and square. That to-do list includes my efforts to ensure the nation’s tax laws strengthen Americans’ long-standing tradition of charitable giving and protect taxpayers from subsidizing wrongdoers who misuse nonprofits for their own good."  Further down the piece he writes, "Just as Congress has acted in the public interest to protect shareholders and workers from corporate mismanagement, so too must Congress demand transparency, accountability and good governance from the nonprofit sector. Nonprofit organizations must earn the privilege to keep their tax-exempt status. Tightening the rules and regulations governing the nonprofit sector will help repair the breach of trust that threatens to tarnish even the most reputable charities in America."

Senator Grassley must not have been familiar with the requirements that the Sarbanes Oxley Act of 2002 already provided (and still provides), which requires nonprofit's board members, (along with for profit board members) by law, to be personally accountable for their organizations' accounting, oversight, and reporting.  It already did what he indicated, in his op-ed piece, he was demanding on behalf of the American people.

I have reiterated, again and again, in this blog the importance of professionalism and best practices in all nonprofit operations (no matter the age or the size of the organization), so I understand his concerns.  No one wants anyone using a charitable status to hide or enable wrong doing, in our communities.  Requiring, though, that nonprofits "must earn the privilege to keep their tax-exempt status", as he states in his op-ed piece, is remarkable considering that these organizations, by virtue of having to raise support (in the form of donations) regularly face real scrutiny.  If any nonprofit can not raise enough to cover its expenses and planned goals, it folds and closes, as a for profit company does if it fails to generate enough profit.  In other words, just like with for profit businesses, nonprofit organizations' successes or demise are dictated by its value to the community, its reputation, and how relevant its work and successes are.   If a nonprofit does not provide real, efficient, effective results in the community, or if a nonprofit is not reputable or operates less than ethically, then the public does not have to donate to it.  What's more, like in the for profit sector, if the media is turned onto the poor or even illegal operations of a nonprofit - the press can inform the public who, once informed, may donate in lesser amounts and less often.  For example, see my post, City of Redmond Offers to Bail Out Redmond Humane... 

There is no provision, inherent to being an officially recognized charity, that protects a nonprofit organization from its own demise, if the people operating it doom it to failure.  So, stating that a charitable organization must "earn the privilege to keep" its status is excessive in the least, and perhaps the words of an inexperienced and not fully informed federal representative, at the worst.  Anyone who has actively worked for a nonprofit organization, especially a well run one, for an extended period of time knows that for the most part these organizations neither have it easy, nor exist to bilk Americans.  Most nonprofits operate in the best way that their leadership knows how, and this gets to the heart of the issue that Grassley and I can apparently agree on: nonprofit organizations operate most effectively when they operate professionally and ethically - but getting nonprofit organizations operating as such is likely more a function of the informed making sure that uninformed people volunteering with and working for nonprofits learn and then practice professional nonprofit best practices.  Encouraging better professional standards and ethics in nonprofit operations and less to do with generalizing that all nonprofits must be viewed suspiciously, less they repeatedly prove their worthiness.  The nonprofits with less than ethical or honest intentions should be ferreted out and detected, but perhaps proactively, not by damning an entire professional sector through generalizations.  What a waste of resources it is for nonprofit organizations, that already notoriously have few resources at their disposal, to have to supposedly annually re-prove their worthiness of their federally designated status through anything beyond simply reporting annually. 

If you are the executive of a nonprofit in peril, this May, of losing its official nonprofit designation, contact the I.R.S. immediately to avoid the loss of your organization's status.  You may find ways to contact the I.R.S. on their web site through their Contact IRS tab at the top of their site.

Otherwise, if you are new to the nonprofit sector as a volunteer or staff member, welcome.  If you have no knowledge of them, learn about nonprofit best practices and modern professional paradigms.  Receive mentoring from the best.  Take a recommended class or read a reputable book (I've had picked each book in my Amazon store, to the right, or check with your local library for the titles I've included, there).  First volunteer with or work for a really reputable, successful, efficient nonprofit in order to get exposure to how the best of the best run as organizations, and then take that expertise, skill set, and professionalism with you as your volunteer or professional career grows through your work with other nonprofits.  This is one proactive way to improve the sector.

Grants to Halt Lion Populations' Decline & To Restore Populations

From The Foundation Center...

[If you are interested in more information about this grant opportunity, click "Link to Complete RFP" at the end of this blog post.]

Deadline: Contact Funder

National Geographic Society Announces Big Cat Grant Opportunity

As the first goal of its recently launched Big Cats Initiative, the National Geographic Society seeks to halt lion population declines by the year 2015 and to restore lion populations to sustainable levels. The society has announced that it will provide grants in support of programs working toward these goals.
Grants will be provided for innovative projects that promise quick results for saving lions, anti-poaching programs, projects that test new technology, educational projects focused on community, and projects that establish economic incentives for local people to work toward the long-term survival of lions.
Emergency grants, such as the one made in 2008 by National Geographic to the Maasailand Preservation Trust in support of its Predator Compensation Fund, will also be considered. Potential applicants must first complete a pre-application form on the Big Cats Initiative Web site. Visit the Big Cats site for further information and program updates.
Link to Complete RFP

Monday, April 19, 2010

How Grant Writing Helps Get A Nonprofit Into A Position To Increase and Imrpove All of Its Fundraising

Grant writing, as a process, can help a nonprofit: understand, in real world terms, what grant donors (and logically, also other types of donors) hope to achieve in the community, by donating; can help a nonprofit get its program designed, budgeted, and further planned (and hopefully implemented); and grant writing can help get the organization's leadership providing or at least considering key organizational operations, reporting, and goals.  Needing to raise a grant, for any nonprofit, most likely gets the organization's leadership and key staff thinking, planning, and focused on whatever it is the agency is attempting to raise the grant for, a program, project, or item.  Though, it may not seem like the grant writing process would do this, on its face.

One thing that I find myself telling my clients, each time I initiate new work, is that while the process of applying for a grant may seem like having to jump through a bunch of hoops: it is truly more than that.  Fundraising is a necessary basic, daily, professional, and ongoing operation that every nonprofit that wishes to grow and achieve must do.  I know that no one begins a nonprofit just because they love to fundraise.  They do so because they are passionate about an issue or cause and see a way to help.  The fact is, though, that if a nonprofit, any nonprofit, does not actively raise funds, each business week, each month, of each year, along side providing their programs and administrating the organization, the organization will not have the money to operate as it currently needs to, let alone grow and be able to afford that growth later.  Since grant writing is one fundraising method available to nonprofits, it is important for this discussion to note how critical fundraising is to any nonprofit's survival.  So, jumping through hoops, though it may seem, the fact is that each nonprofit needs financial support.  Instead of looking at grant writing, then, as jumping through hoops, I suggest you look at it as an opportunity.  Maybe to my saying this you sigh, "ugh!"  O.K., fair enough.  But, please stick with me, here.

The process of applying for a grant is an opportunity to the applicant nonprofit in the following ways:

__ Obviously, applying for a grant allows the organization the possibility of raising a grant (or more) and grants are single donations but of larger increments, usually, than a typical donation given by, say, an individual donors.  Also, that grant donor, if happy with the experience of having given to a nonprofit, may very well give to that same nonprofit again, in the future.  This is also why not just raising grants, but also caring for the grant donor, after receiving one, in a way that consistently and professionally provides them with all information, reports, etc. that they request is well worth the effort and time.

__ Once a nonprofit begins to apply to various different grant donors, they begin to understand the grant application process.  By virtue of this, the nonprofit begins to see a pattern.  Most grant donors request, typically, the same type of information, as you apply for one, then two, then maybe five, etc. grants from different grant donors (though, not all will request the same information, as each grant donor is a different separate entity of its own, with its own unique goals, mission, and requirements).  In other words, once you've applied to one grant donor (having provided everything that they request and require in order to apply for a grant) you've probably culled together (from the organization's board, bookkeeper or CPA, and the key staff such as the program manager) commonly requested information or documents such as: the organization's most recent, ratified, quarterly financials; the current list of the board of directors (maybe including, too, each member's employer and job titles, too); the proposed project's operating budget that the funding is being requested for; and audited set of financials for the most recent fiscal year, audited by an independent professional CPA; the current organizational operating budget; the executive director's resume', etc.  While not all types of donors need or will request any of this information, except maybe grant donors, occasionally a nonprofit's major donor or two will phone and ask for the most recent annual report or the audited financials from last year.  From having applied for jobs, in your lifetime, for instance, you can see that once whomever is doing the grant writing for your organization gets a different organizational document or a program document, it's worth it for them to just keep a copy of it on file, because like when we apply for different jobs and must submit our resume' along with an application or cover letter; the grant writer will likely use these documents again, as they apply for other grants.  Having them on hand, next time, will speed up how long it takes to apply (or disseminate to any type of donor who requests the information).

__ Grant donors, like all other types of donors, are giving grants (or other donations) typically for very specific reasons.  Understanding what motivates any and all types of donors can enable a nonprofit's fundraising, across the board (not just grant writing), to be better.  When a nonprofit truly understands why donors are giving, it then can raise more money, more often, by acquiring new donors and then retaining new and long time donors who give, not once, but over and over again.  The key to understanding donors is it is their choice whether they actually give, or not.  So, understanding why donors give (or more to the point, what motivates them to give) is fundamental to successful fundraising (including grant writing).  Grant donors, individual donors, sponsors, and all other types of donors usually give to a nonprofit because: they are interested in or concerned for a specific cause or issue (and one or two other causes or issues, too, sometimes); they have the ability to donate; and because they want to help enable or better the situation surrounding the cause or issue such that their contribution and the organization that they donate to accomplishes what it is setting out to do, through its programs and services.  In other words, donors give because they want to see something specific happen regarding the issue or cause that concerns them.  They do not expect that cancer will be cured, that the environment will be clean of all pollutants, or that everybody who needs safe clean shelter will have it tomorrow.  Most donors truly understand that, while anyone would love to eradicate all bad, providing real, viable, efficient, effective solutions to an issue are the steps necessary to improve a cause.  If a nonprofit provides information and referral, support such as counseling and public education, and therapies such as hydrotherapy, physical therapy, etc. to those diagnosed with multiple sclerosis: that nonprofit's donors are concerned with M.S., specifically, and want to effect change in their community, by enabling those with M.S. and also improving the quality of their lives, given their diagnosis.  Yes, donors also appreciate the tax deduction that comes with contributing to a nonprofit organization.  Yes.  But, again, and again, studies of American donors find that donors do not give only for the tax deduction and the reason that this is so important is that understanding what motivates donors to give allows any nonprofit to inform, thank, and invite their donors to give again.  If their donors understand what their contributions succeeded at doing (and if, also, the donors are thanked, treated professionally during their interactions with the nonprofit, etc.) they will probably give again.  Grant writers, who are explicitly thanked, told what their contribution did in the community, what lessons were learned by the organization of its program through their contribution, but also, what successes were accomplished allows the grant donor to know what they did by donating, and that their contribution is appreciated.  Why wouldn't this grant donor give again to the grant recipient nonprofit that succeeds, communicates, and acknowledges the importance of their donation in the nonprofit's work?

__ It forces planning.  Sometimes it is difficult to do anything without a bit of pressure.  For instance, yes, I wish that I cleaned my entire house every week, but I don't.  What motivates me to actually get it done?  A little pressure.  Whenever we have guests coming over or visitors coming to stay - I get the house cleaned.  I think most of us are like this.  Grant writing, very similarly, will get nonprofit leadership and key staff to get some critical and actually very enabling work done that it may have always wanted to get to, but had not, yet. Anything from updating the nonprofit's organizational vision, goals, or programming; to going through a strategic planning process, etc. may occur based on the information requested or questions in a grant donor's grant application (or their giving guidelines).  Sometimes grant donors will ask an applicant nonprofit for the organization's current vision and goals.  If none exists, it is critical that the grant writer be given honest and complete information to provide in the grant proposal (or grant application) such as, "our executives are initiating strategic planning this May and will be addressing X, Y, and Z"; or "our current organizational goals are: A, B, and C".  When a nonprofit applies for a grant and the potential is that it could receive, say, a $25,000 grant (and others), this motivates the leadership and staff.   Also, like compiling key organizational documents, once planning or goal setting is done, it's done for as long as the resulting decisions (that have been ratified by the board) are relevant.  Applying again, and again, for grants can help implement a regular routine for a nonprofit's leaders and staff to revisit these organizational concerns, regularly, maybe every two or three years.  What motivates key staff and leaders to get their planning and vision updated regularly, too, is when they understand that the information that comes out of these regular leadership processes is not just helpful in raising grants, but in fact, it is helpful in raising money and support from all types of donors.  Returning to the donor care suggestions in the paragraph above, if a donor (of any kind) is thanked, acknowledged, and informed about what their contribution successfully did in the community, but is also told what the nonprofit's current (or even maybe new) organizational (programs, services, etc.) goals are: the donor is not just informed but is made aware of why they should give again and what else their next contribution will hopefully achieve.

So, yes, grant writing or rather, the information often requested by grant donors may seem like "they just want applicant nonprofits to jump through hoops" but in fact, especially today (because donors are so much more informed about nonprofit operations, how to achieve results in a community, and more) grant donors' requests, during the grant application process, can be viewed as helpful to the applicant nonprofit.  Any donors who understand anything about nonprofit organizations are not usually looking for ways to expend nonprofits' resources or time.  They aren't just saying "jump" because they have money to donated.  Really, everything that a nonprofit is asked to report in its grant application is requested to get a real, true, and extant picture of a nonprofit that they may donate to, so they then use the information given by each applicant, during a giving cycle, to determine which nonprofit should receive a grant.  The information that they request can be used to raise other money from other grant donors, and also from other types of donors.  The information can also probably be used in the nonprofit's public relations, marketing, and recruitment of new volunteers, board, or staff, also.  So, the efforts to complete a strong and competitive grant application are actually well worth the time taken, so long as the information is recognized as potentially very powerful in additional ways, and is utilized.

Bridging Cultures Grants to U.S. Nonprofits (Incl. Schools, Libraries, Cultural Instit.s, Et.c), State, or Local Governments

Deadline: June 1, 2010

 (For more information on this grant opportunity, click on "Link to Complete RFP" at the end of the post).

National Endowment for the Humanities Announces Bridging Cultures Forum and Workshop Grants

As part of its recently announced Bridging Cultures initiative, the National Endowment for the Humanities is inviting proposals to plan and implement a program consisting of a forum and workshop on one of two humanities themes — "Civility and Democracy" or "The Muslim World and the Humanities."

Project proposals for both program themes should consist of two elements — a forum that engages scholars and humanities practitioners in discussion among themselves and with a public audience; and a workshop at which humanities practitioners, scholars, and teachers collaborate to devise content, formats, training strategies, and education and dissemination methods for a nationwide or regional program that engages people in communities across the country in reflection on, and discussion of, the forum theme.

Successful applicants will be responsible for planning and implementing all aspects of the forum and workshop, including, at the program's outcome, a plan for a public program designed to engage a broad, diverse regional or national audience in discussion of the forum theme. Successful applicants will each be awarded a grant ranging from $100,000 to $250,000 in outright or matching funds. All forum and workshop programs should take place between October 1, 2010, and March 30, 2011.

Any U.S. nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status is eligible, as are state and local governmental agencies. Eligible institutions include but are not limited to public, academic, and research libraries, museums, disciplinary and professional associations, cultural institutions, state humanities councils, and institutions of higher learning.

Visit the NEH Web site for grant program guidelines as well as further information on the Bridging Cultures program.

Link to Complete RFP
Primary Subject: Arts and Culture

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Top Ten Solutions For Issues That Might Arise While Writing A Grant Proposal

Top Ten Solutions For Issues That Might Arise While Writing A Grant Proposal
10. Did you miss a deadline?  If you were so diligently working on a grant proposal that the grant proposal submission deadline came and went there is still hope.  First, look at the grant donor's current giving guidelines (often on their website) and confirm that yes, you have indeed missed their deadline.  Sometimes I panicked only to discover moments later that I had only thought I'd missed the deadline, but really had not.  If, yes, you missed the deadline, then (if the potential grant donor allows phone calls to their office) call them.  Do not demand anything as you are the one who made the error, but rather be honest, and also ask if they could accommodate your submitting late.  Some might.  Finally, if you call their office but they can not allow you to submit late, ask them when their next giving cycle deadline is.  Larger grant donor organizations often have a grant giving cycle, once a quarter.  It might only mean that your organization has to wait another three months for the next giving cycle (and submission opportunity).

9. Having a difficult time getting key program or even organization information from colleagues?  Sometimes grant writers are just that rather than programs staff, executive directors, etc.  When this is the case, we rely on our colleagues in programs or running the office to get key information, such as financials, program designs, or even evaluation methods' descriptions to us in a timely manner.  Yet, even the best meaning co-workers, who promise to get specific information to you by a certain date can miss that deadline.  You'll want to remind them that you need the information in order to effectively work towards raising money for their program.  We can go on, in our grant proposal and finish most of the document, but at a certain point we must have the key content that we require.  It is true the squeaky wheel gets attention.  Be squeaky.  Or, does someone else have a copy of the very document or information that you need?  Ask them for it.  Afterward, be proactive and work with the colleague that missed getting information to you, so you two can determine how this will go better next time.

8. Not feeling inspired?  Writer's block?  Take a break.  I know that a deadline is looming - that's part of the job.  Yet, if you don't writer a strong grant proposal the deadline is the lesser of your worries, really.  The key to good writing, or writing quality content, is knowing what you're talking about.  Take fifteen minutes with one of the nonprofit's key programs staff and ask questions about the organization's work, the beneficiary(ies) of its work, and the intended outcomes.  Ask a board member or two why they personally volunteer as a leader with the organization.  Look at the nonprofit's current strategic plan, its current organizational goals (program goals), and its recent mission successes.  If it's ethical and the nonprofit's leadership is O.K. with it, even speak to people who have benefited from the nonprofit's work.  Ask for their personal experiences.  Ask what they would have done without the organization's work.  Ask what they avoided by the nonprofit doing its work.

7. Feeling overwhelmed?  Take a break from everyday work, tomorrow morning, and do the following.  List out every project you have pending this month, next month, and for the next three months.  Take the time to map out on a calendar what is coming down the line.  List all deadlines next to each project.  Next, list all "To Do's", keep this handy, and then check them off as they're accomplished (also called an Action Item List).  If you know you aren't good about looking at your calendar or paying attention to Outlook or other automated calendar alarms, ask an organization-nut colleague to note only your very key important dates on his/her calendar and tap you on the shoulder about them the day before.  Often, getting organized and knowing that you can relax because you've noted what you need to have done by when helps alleviate being overwhelmed.

6. Have key information that you left out of an already submitted grant proposal, or are you missing key information and about to submit the proposal to be on time?  Don't fret.  If the donor allows applicants to phone their office, call them, and tell them what has happened or what is going on.  Depending on the circumstance the grant donor will often try to help you as much as they can (even if grant applications are submitted to them, online, through prompts that take you through the submission process).  If the donor does not allow phone calls, pull the information together as possible and submit it including a clear and honest explanation, with it, why the information could not be included as it should have been.

5. Have nervous superiors or co-workers anxious to learn whether anyone has heard if the grant application that you submitted for their project was awarded the grant?  'Heard anything?  Now?  How about now?  Now?'  I know.  By virtue of working in fundraising, one of the tough aspects of the work is feeling others' anxiety about getting funding raised, and grant writing is very much included.  If you can, sympathize; promise to let them know as soon as you know anything; and possibly be proactive such as e-mailing once a morning everything new going on in the grant office.  Being confident for the nonprofit, even when others are not (with reason), helps, too.  Another option is to create and maintain a regular communication protocol between your office and the programs' peoples' office or your leadership and keep it up.  Make sure that they know, before you submit a grant proposal how and when you will notify them, either way, after you hear back.

4. Tired but up against a deadline and need to finesse a proposal?  It is O.K., if you have a grant proposal in it's mostly final draft, to ask a colleague to look it over for you to help you smooth out any rough edges. I urge you to use a proof reader, always, for each grant proposal, anyway (and ideally at least two different sets of eyes who write well, themselves, review each final draft before you submit).  But, this is a little different than asking someone to proof read.  You're actually asking someone, at the end, to collaborate with you in a minor roll.  I know what it's like to have written a document and be so familiar with the content and many sentences that I'm no longer objective, enough, to put final touches on it without another day (or at least a good break) from it.  Sometimes, I don't have that time.  So, asking someone else who writes well, too, to come in and back me up by finishing the unrefined wording, long or unnecessary sentences, etc. is very helpful (and time saving).

3. Need a typewriter?  I know.  In this day and age it doesn't seem possible, but some grant donors require that applicant nonprofits fill out a paper application that it be included along with their application.  In this case (if the application is not online or something that you can't fill in online) you do want the application to be filled in, and filled in looking professional.  If your nonprofit does not have a typewriter on hand, and doesn't want to buy one, call your nearest public library branch and ask if they have one available for the public.  If they don't, call a local community college, ask for their library or also try their computer center, and ask if you (as a nonprofit and fellow community member) could use a typewriter.  In a real emergency, call local government or other local nonprofits' offices that your agency has partnered with, recently, and ask if any of them has a typewriter.  One will.  Community partners are valuable for so many reasons!

2. Can't find a quiet spot at work or even at home to get the writing done?  It can be tough.  Nonprofit offices might be wide open or small offices with a meeting room in the middle.  Maybe there's construction next door.  Try listening to music, in headphones, while you write.  It may seem contrary to your goal for solitude, especially if you don't typically write while listening to anything, but try it.  You might like it.  It's actually not distracting (especially if the music is relaxing, ambient, mellow, or anything that you don't find terribly stimulating).  There's something of a rhythm that can get established, too, when writing to music.  Many headphones, today, are noise suppressing or noise canceling.  While you don't quite hear, in them, as if you and the music are the only things in the world; they really do quiet ambient noise while listening in them.  If you don't own any of these, maybe a colleague or co-worker does and as long as you promise to clean the headphones' cans after each use, they'll let you borrow them (clean them before you use them, each time, too)!

1. Need assistance with the work load?  Especially right now, in this difficult economy, many nonprofits have more work to do (including in the grant writing office) and less resources to get it all done.  Ask your nonprofit's volunteer coordinator if they know of a volunteer who is interested in doing office work, and maybe has research, writing, or even grant writing experience.  If none exists, train a volunteer.  Or, contact your nearest university, community college, or vocational technology schools and find out how to go about interviewing potential interns.  Finally, there are always adults who are switching careers or are maybe new to volunteering with nonprofits and are interested in learning about grant writing.  Finding someone who is committed, has a regular schedule that makes them available to you, and is grateful for the opportunity will probably be a great prospect.  Help is out there and the better help is the more dedicated, committed, and available help.

Grants for Innovative & Culturally Diverse Art Facilities in Planning Stages

From The Foundation Center...

For more information on this grant opportunity, click the link at the end of this post that says "Link to Complete RFP"

Deadline: Vary - see final paragraph, below.

Ford Foundation Launches Funding Initiative to Develop Arts Spaces

The Ford Foundation has announced a ten-year, $100 million initiative to support a new generation of arts spaces nationwide. The new initiative, Supporting Diverse Arts Spaces, will provide funding for projects that incubate and produce creative work across all disciplines. Grant funds will support both new projects and the revitalization and expansion of existing arts spaces.

As part of the initiative, the Ford Foundation has joined with LINC (Leveraging Investments in Creativity), and the MetLife Foundation, to call for applications for the first round of Ford Foundation Space for Change predevelopment and planning grants. Through an open Request for Proposal process, grants will go to organizations that are in the early stages of planning facilities that support artistically innovative and culturally diverse endeavors that will strengthen relationships between the community and artists.

Nonprofit arts organizations with strong track records of artistic excellence, who are intending to buy, build, renovate, partner in the development of, or become anchor tenants in a vibrant artist space can apply for grants of up to $100,000 each over two years in capital and/or planning support. All applicants must, at a minimum demonstrate a track record of excellence in their programming and artistic production; be 501(c)(3) organizations that directly serve both artists and communities; demonstrate strong community ties; and have the fiscal and organizational capacity necessary to partner in or carry out a facility project.

Examples of the wide range of facilities that would be eligible for support include work- and/or live-work spaces for artists; performance facilities; rehearsal spaces; gallery spaces; community arts and educational facilities; and any other type of spaces where artists work, where art works are made, or presented, or where educational activities associated with the arts and involving artists take place.

Letters of Inquiry will be accepted on a rolling basis. For the Spring 2010 Cycle, LOI will be reviewed from April 14 to June 22, 2010 (for LOI received on or before May 28, 2010). For the Fall 2010 Cycle, LOI will be reviewed from September 22 to November 3, 2010 (for LOI received between May 29 and September 17, 2010). LINC will invite organizations with strong LOI to submit a full proposal within 30 days of receiving the LOI.

Visit the LINC Web site for complete program guidelines.
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Site Visits Or the Meeting With A Potential Grant Donor

It is a common step, in the grant application process, especially when the amount requested is a large amount, for the potential grant donor to request to visit the applicant nonprofit's office or the site where the proposed program (that the grant is requested for) already does or will occur.

A nonprofit's key staff may feel a great deal of anxiety or even outright jitters prior to the meeting. It's normal. Even still, I'm hoping to alleviate some of that, in this post.

Let's say that you and I work for a nonprofit, Music Fans For Country Music Memorabilia Preservation. Let's say, too, that our board of directors working with our organization's program manager, has been preparing launching a brand new national program called American Country Tunes' History Campfires. Let's say that the planning has been underway for about three quarters of a year, so far, and we submitted grant applications to three different grant donors (foundations, in this case) about a month ago.

Included in our organization's planning was enough time to be certain that the new program, prior to its launch, could be fully researched, thought out, planned out, budgeted for, and enough new fundraising would be completed before it began, to initiate a strong and viable new program. Grant writing is one of the methods that we included in this program's fundraising plan. In total, American Country Tunes' History Campfires' operating budget comes to $100,000 (which is the operating cost for one year). The fundraising staff decided that the fundraising would involve raising: $20,000 of this budget from major donors; $20,000 from a new direct appeal letter sent to established long time donors that our organization knows are interested in public education; $50,000 from grants (which you and I are working on), and $10,000 from the program's sponsors, eight different country music businesses: music labels, magazines, and national instrument store chains. For the grants portion of the fundraising plan, we applied to three different foundations, to one for $45,000; to another for $5,000; and to another for $5,000. We decided to hedge our chances of raising enough grant money by applying for $5,000 more than is necessary (as the program's budget demonstrates) but we also included, in the spirit of transparency and full disclosure, in all three of the grant proposals (submitted grant applications) a clear statement in both the proposal, itself, and on the budget, stating which foundations we applied to, and how much we asked of each. We figure they will talk with each other about what each foundation's decision making body thinks of the proposed program and whether they're considering funding, and if they are - how much they're considering granting (which is normal).

Let's say that our executive director received a phone call, this morning, from the board president of the foundation that we asked for $45,000 from. Indeed, their president confirmed, their staff has spoken to the staff of the other two foundations that we applied to; and all three are interested in supporting the program, though, they are not sure, yet. This, of course, is terrific news, but it is also no guarantee of anything. Still, encouraging news is a good sign. The foundation's president explains that she is calling because their foundation would like to conduct a site visit, where the new program will be taught, and also meet with our nonprofit before they make a final decision. She explains that the other two foundations told her that they will make their respective decisions about granting or not, and how much, after their foundation meets with our organization and shares their notes and findings with them. In other words, whether we get any one, all three, or none of the grants that we applied for hinges on this one site visit and meeting.

As I said, above, it's completely normal and understandable for our co-workers who will conduct the tour or be in the meeting to get nervous. The key to ensuring that the visit and meeting go well, is for the nonprofit's representatives who will conduct the site tour or be in the meeting to be researched, informed, prepared, and rehearsed. Their having key information, knowing what to say, and having practiced all of this will give the representatives of our nonprofit a sense of confidence and clear talking points, which will help formulate a professional positive experience for all involved and reflect well on the the nonprofit for the foundation's board.

Why is the grant donor interested in seeing the program's site, themselves? Why, too, do they want to meet with the nonprofit? First, this is not always the case. Some grant donors, even when considering granting large sums of money, in response to a grant application, do not request visits or meetings. This is another example of why it's so important for nonprofits to fully research and know a potential grant donor's preferences, interests, and what their grant application consideration process is; in order to be fully prepared. Of those that do, the grant donor requests a meeting to weigh whether or not the grant requested should be donated to your nonprofit. They are not trying to make life more difficult. They are also not trying to be tough on any one organization. Instead, this is a common part of how this particular grant donor considers of all of the organizations that apply for a grant, in a give granting cycle, which to donate to. They want to see where the proposed program will occur. Is the facility safe, accessible by all, are there enough bathrooms, are all safety precautions in place, etc.? Also, they want to see that this proposed program is viable, well thought out and planned, professional, likely to achieve its goal, etc. Seeing a program's site, for instance, can help them formulate this kind of information. They meet with the nonprofit to get a sense of the organization and the people running it (or working for it). Is this a professional, accountable, success-achieving, honest, talented, experienced, etc. group of people working for and volunteering with this organization; or do the nonprofit's representatives demonstrate to the potential donor that their donation would be better spent with another better run organization (for the benefit of the community and the goals of the organization and its proposed program)?

The goals, when meeting with any potential donor (including a grant donor), are: to be oneself; not schmooze anyone or try to sell anyone, but rather provide compelling, confidence-raising, true, and complete information; to listen to the potential donor (being sure to note what transpires in the meeting (to keep in the donor's file, in the grant writing office, for future reference); to note what, if any, documents or further information they request, during the meeting, that you don't have on hand in order to be sure to follow through and get to them, after the meeting, in a timely manner); and to relax as much as possible. Do not dominate the tour or meeting. Rather, offer up pertinent case-building information but also listen and answer questions. Also, the focus of the tour or meeting should not be on one person (i.e. the nonprofit's founder or the executive director). Rather, the focus should be on the beneficiaries of the organization's work, more specifically of this program; and why this program and its intended outcomes (or successes) are necessary and important to our community (or in the example, above, the nation).

Returning to my example, above, you and I help our executive director, the new program's manager, and two board members (which are the people our leadership decided will meet with this potential donor) prepare. The program manager preps the reps meeting with the foundation by being certain that each person knows what the program is going to provide to the public, what the demographics are of the intended students, what the goals of the program are, how the program will be conducted, where, and other key information such as the program's budget and fundraising plan. The reps do not have to memorize all of this material, but they should have it on hand in the meeting, but also be relatively familiar with it in order to be prepared to answer questions. We help prep the reps by being sure that they know what this particular foundation's recent giving history is (especially granting for programs similar to ours' with other nonprofits similar to ours'). We also provide them with four or five key talking points that each one of them may want to express during the tour or meeting such as some really compelling point that clearly states why our organization (above any other) is the best nonprofit to provide this particular public education; or the credentials or experience that we retain in the team that will design the lesson plans or actually do the teaching; etc. We arm them with anything that will help the donor see that their money will be wisely spent with our organization because we are going to achieve the goals of the program, operate efficiently, be completely proactive in our communication and reporting to the donor (including being honest and transparent), etc.

After our reps are educated and prepped, we spend a couple hours with them pretending that they are on the tour and then also in the meeting with the foundation, and the reps each rehearse. This may sound extravagant or unnecessary but it is actually normal for nonprofit leadership to rehearse any meeting with a potential large increment donor. This kind of rehearsal provides the reps with a level of comfort and confidence, allows them to nail down some logistics (i.e. who will lead the meeting, the executive director or the board president? who will speak to which portion of the tour or specific different topics during the meeting?), and it will also allow everyone to work out kinks and ask for assistance from the prep team, if they aren't sure how to proceed if they hit a snag, such as maybe discussing a specific topic, during rehearsal, or touring a specific room or part of a facility.

Meeting with potential donors, including grant donors, can cause any nonprofit's leader's heart to race; but there are tried and proven steps that can help anyone lessen those the jitters; while improving the likelihood in getting that donation.

Grants for Youth Led Projects Serving People Most At Risk for HIV in the U.S. and Other Countries, Too

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: May 1, 2010

For more information on this grant, click on the link (in blue) at the end of this post (below) that says, "Link to Complete RFP".

HIV Young Leaders Fund Announces 2010 Request for Proposals

The HIV Young Leaders Fund seeks grant proposals from organizations in all countries working to address the needs of young people most affected by HIV in their communities, including young people living with HIV.

Young leaders and youth networks drive the funding priorities and governance of the HIV Young Leaders Fund. The Tides Foundation is the fiscal agent for the HIV Young Leaders Fund, and the HIV Collaborative Fund serves as an advisory body.

Only youth-led organizations or youth-led projects are eligible for funding. Youth-led is defined as the project or organization leader being 30 years of age or younger. Key activities supported by the fund include local, national, regional, or international HIV advocacy; local peer-based HIV services; and community mobilization. Applying organizations and projects must serve young people most at risk for HIV in their community and/or young people living with HIV. Groups can apply for funding even if they are not registered organizations in their home countries, but will need to identify a fiscal sponsor if selected.

There are two application tracts — one for core funding (grants of up to $30,000) and one for project funding (grants of up to $20,000).

Grant application materials are available in Arabic, English, French, Russian, and Spanish at the Tides Foundation Web site.

Link to Complete RFP