Monday, May 31, 2010

How to Use Marketing, Affordably, To Increase A Nonprofit's Numbers of New Grant Donors

How can a nonprofit that is brand new to grant writing be as effective and efficient in its grant writing work as possible?  The following four tips will help.

First, be certain that the entire grant writing effort has been planned out and budgeted for (as an administrative overhead cost) and funding is planned for, to support it, prior to starting the actual work. Second, put a lot of time and effort into prospecting for potential grant donors to apply to.  Third, save your organization time and money by hiring a professional grant writer after you and your staff have written and firmed up a final draft of an initial grant proposal.  Having done the prospecting and initial drafts of the grant proposal in house will save your agency costs when working with a consultant.  After a final draft that was written in house, is done the consulting grant writer can then review, re-write as necessary, edit, correct, and make suggestions to finalize a really strong final draft that is ready for submission.  Finally, included in the grant program planning, and initiated before any actual grant writing work begins, it is helpful to put a strong word out in the community about your agency before grant applications are submitted.

When a nonprofit is new to grant writing it is not just ramping up a new fundraising endeavor.  Of course it is aiming to raise some grants.  In general, grant donors like to give to nonprofits who they can feel confident about.  Grant donors are equally concerned about the community and operate to provide the funding to causes and efforts that they understand will best and most effectively address the issue they prefer to fund.  It may seem that donors give when their heart strings are tugged enough, or when they get enough solicitations over time, but in fact, they give when they are asked to give to a nonprofit working on an issue that truly concerns them, personally (or organizationally), and when they feel that a good majority of their dollars donated (like at least 80% of each dollar) are going to actually provide an effective and efficient solution.  This, in part, is why prospecting and really knowing each potential grant donor that your organization is going to apply to helps (save time and money).  If your nonprofit sends a grant application to a foundation, for instance, that does fund other organizations working on the same cause as yours', but does not fund nonprofits serving the geographic region that yours' does, or if they do not fund the types of projects that you are seeking funding for (even if they give to the cause your agency works on): then you've just wasted your organization's time and money, and even worse - no grant will be raised.

The other part of the reason why it' so important to understand that grant donors are motivated to give because they want to provide effective and efficient solutions to the community, too, is that if a donor (any type of donor, actually, grant donor or individuals, etc.) does not feel confident about giving to your nonprofit then they likely will not.  This sounds obvious but the point is that this means that nonprofits applying for grants that are proactive about getting the word out about their organization either in tandem with or prior to and in tandem with a grant campaign are getting a leg up over other organizations.  In part one way to secure a potential donor's confidences and interest such that they actually give (again, any type of donor including grant donors) is to make a compelling case.  The first thing that is necessary to make a compelling case to potential new donors is that potential donor to know your organization's name, its work, and that it's a wise investment in the community, or put another way, a good nonprofit to donate to.

Even if your organization conducts a pretty regular presence in the traditional media, social or tech media, and among its own established donors (perhaps through a regular newsletter and donor thank you letters); do not assume that this is enough.  People following your organization on Twitter, or folks who have donated to your agency, in this case, know about your nonprofit but the point I'm making here is to get new contributors giving to your nonprofit (in this case grants), and they do not necessarily know about your organization.  Never assume that the word is already out about your organization or that the public correctly knows what your nonprofit does and what its successes have been and what its potential is.

The only way to be sure that the correct information is getting out to those who know your nonprofit but also to those who do not; and to also be sure that the message that the public is receiving is correct, is to conduct  a proactive marketing campaign.  Then you control the message and can also formulate the message being told.  This sounds expensive and time consuming but it does not have to be.  What's more, this kind of campaign does not just raise new grant donations.  It literally can additionally raise all kinds of new donors (sponsors, individual donors), new volunteers, or new community partners (i.e. businesses, other nonprofits doing related work, or related government agencies).  If you launch a proactive marketing campaign (again of any kind large or tiny) and track all time, expenses, people-hours, etc. and then after let's say year one and then again after year two you look at what the marketing campaign has brought into the organization (and its potential) and this is assuming you can attribute correctly what has been brought in by this marketing campaign, I am betting that the rate of return on the investment in the marketing effort is well worth it (and perhaps only increasing, after year two).

A cheap but effective marketing campaign may include getting the board and other dedicated and reliable volunteers educated about what a nonprofit marketing campaign is and how to plan one.  Again, none of this has to be high end or expensive or hugely time consuming.  The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause (The Jossey-Bass Nonprofit Guidebook Series) is a good resource whether you purchase it or just get a copy from your local library.  Then plan and again budget for and allocate funding for the work (even if it's a small marketing campaign).

If a potential donor of any kind, a grant donor or another type of donor, learns from your organization exactly whatever message, values, description, and successes and strong potential that puts its best foot forward then this is a strong lead-in for any donation solicitation, again, including a grant application submitted by your agency.  If a potential donor receives a solicitation for a donation from your nonprofit but has never heard of it or is not familiar with what it does there is less confidence in your organization, from the start, than is necessary.  If, instead, a potential donor receives a grant application from your nonprofit (perhaps for the first time ever) and has heard of your organization and is familiar with what it does and its strong reputation this is more compelling and has more likelihood getting your application into the "possible grant recipients" pile after the grant donor first receives it.

If your nonprofit has a campaign (again that can be cheap but effective) this could include, let's say, discussing with the traditional press any successes and accolades that your organization receives; or being sure that each board member is regularly providing a message (and the correct message) about why they volunteer with your nonprofit, what it does, and why its an excellent organization; or making sure that your nonprofit has a presence at each relevant professional conference or other professional networking opportunity and that the message is being told there, too.  All of this may not sound like it's reaching everyone it should but with time it can and what's more, if you track what works and what doesn't (again, assuming you can track that relatively correctly) you can weed out efforts that haven't proven fruitful and try something new that will be.

Marketing is a strong way to ensure that donors of all kinds, including grant donors, consider your organization's donation solicitation.

Grants for U.S. Organizations Providing Food, Nutrition, or Housing to People Living With HIV and AIDS

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: June 15, 2010

M·A·C AIDS Fund Accepting Grant Applications for Housing Services and Programs

The M*A*C AIDS Fund U.S. Community Grants Program supports organizations working to address the link between poverty and AIDS through grants for programs that are providing food and nutrition and housing services to people living with HIV and AIDS.

There are two application deadlines per year for the U.S. Community Grants program one for food/nutrition applications and one for housing applications. (The 2010 deadline has passed.) Organizations may only apply for one of the two programs each year.

Priority will be given to direct-service programs. For the housing program, priority will be given to established AIDS housing services providers and programs providing direct housing services to clients.

Applicant organizations must have 501(c)(3) status.

The maximum grant amount that may be requested is $50,000.

Visit the M*A*C AIDS Fund Web site for complete program information and an eligibility quiz.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Compilation of Posts Explaining How to Plan For and Begin Grant Writing for Your Organization

These are some of our best blog posts on Seeking Grant Money Today that explain how to plan for a new grant writing fundraising program within your nonprofit including, what action items to include, the entire time line, assignments, benchmarks, budgeting, and fundraising for it in order to be able to afford it.  See...

Considering Or Beginning A Grant Writing Program?  Here's Some Help...
How To Plan Out This Year's Grant Seeking
Soliciting Grant Money 101 
Planning Your Organization's Grant Writing Expense
Seeking Grants for New Programs Or Start Up Nonprofits
Fundraising, Grant Writing, Mission-Success, Community Building; It's All the Same
Want to Fundraise Better?  Put Processes Into Place
Nonprofit Management's Effects on Operations and Dealing With the Negatives: No Sweat!
Here Are Some Tips To Get Your Board Behind Your Agency's Grant Writing
Intra Office Communication and Grant Writing
How To Coordinate the Executive Director, the Board, the Volunteers, and Staff to Successfully Raise Grants
Coordinating Office Colleagues' Grant Needs
Your New Program Or Project Design Must Be Clear Before Applying for Grants
Tracking Grant Writing Work & Organization
Descriptions of Different Grant Proposal Documents' Formats
How Grant Writing Helps Get A Nonprofit Into A Position to Increase and Improve All of Its Fundraising
What Programs, Campaigns, or Items Get Grants?
What Does Not Get Funded Well By Grant Money?
Pricing Grant Writers - What Should We Pay for A Grant Writer?
That Project, Program, Or Item: Writing In Your Proposal About What You Need the Grant For
Some Free Resources...
Basic Grant Writing 101 Information and Other Ideas To Survive This Tough Economy, Nonprofits...
Some People Who Contribute To Nonprofits Are Made Not Born

Matching Grants for Nonprofits Conserving Native Plants in the Face of Climate Change

From The Foundation Center...

[If you are interested in learning more about this grant, click "Link to Complete RFP" at the bottom of this post.]

Deadline: July 1, 2010 (Pre-proposals)

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Invites Applications for Native Plant Conservation Initiative

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) is soliciting proposals for the Native Plant Conservation Initiative (NPCI) grants cycle.

The NPCI grant program is conducted in cooperation with the Plant Conservation Alliance, a partnership between the foundation, ten federal agencies, and more than 270 non-governmental organizations.

There is a strong preference for "on-the-ground" projects that provide plant conservation benefit according to the priorities established by one or more of the funding federal agencies and to the Plant Conservation Alliance strategies for plant conservation. In 2010, NPCI is particularly interested in projects that focus on the effects of climate change. Projects that include a pollinator conservation component are also encouraged.

Eligible applicants include 501(c) nonprofit organizations and local, state, or federal government agencies. For-profit businesses and individuals are not eligible to apply directly to the program, but are encouraged to work with eligible applicants to develop and submit proposals.

Projects require a minimum 1:1 non-federal match by project partners, including cash or in-kind contributions of goods or services (such as volunteer time).

Visit the NFWF Web site for complete program guidelines.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How to Write An Effective Grant Proposal Despite Strong Emotions

This is a case study about writing a strong and compelling grant proposal regarding, in a fair manner, but not overly stating emotion, to create an excellent grant application.  This is grant writing ala Red Riding Hood.  We too are aiming for porridge that is 'not too hot and not too cold'.  For example, people who begin nonprofits usually do so to meet some as yet unmet need in the community, that they feel very strongly about.  So, it's no surprise that it can be tough, sometimes, to sit down to make a good case for why your agency should receive a grant, with a lot of strong feelings existing as part of one's work.

It is a fact that while working in the nonprofit sector, emotion usually comes with the job.  Whether we're discussing a volunteer, a board member, a social worker, or even a grant writer, it is not a stretch to see how emotion can be a major part of one's work experience with a given nonprofit.  Typically, people who work with nonprofits (whether paid or not) care a great deal about their community, about the nonprofit's cause, or both.  While most nonprofit's causes may not be emotional for most of us, some of them probably are.  Why?  Nonprofits usually serve people or things that have not been receiving something that they've needed for their health, well being, safety, education, etc.  While not everything will give us pause, some issues or concerns do - and there's likely a nonprofit working in that field and maybe even one that you've donated to or volunteered with.  Nonprofits, as you know, provide everything from research, to arts, to free and safe rides to doctors appointments, to safe and clean shelter in domestic disputes.  The causes that nonprofits serve range from various different diseases, to clean air, to protection from cruelty, to music preservation, and on.  The communities served are any people, various specific religion's groups, wildlife, historic sites, etc. Once we think about the vast array of populations, causes, and services that nonprofits provide - it is easy to see how emotionality can creep into one's work with a given organization.

As grant writers, it is sometimes difficult to cope with emotions when sitting down to write something "technical" such as a grant proposal.  It isn't so much that I'm suggesting that everyone volunteering with or working for a nonprofit is a "bleeding heart".  What I am saying is that (and I've experienced this) it can be difficult to sit down to write a cogent, compelling, and on point grant proposal about something that elicits emotion (whether the emotion is coming from you or out of others).  This is also a consideration when thinking about who is going to read this grant proposal.

If you are the grant writer for a nonprofit that deals with child rape, animal cruelty, abused spouses, natural disasters and basic needs, or other traumas even if you have a handle on the content that will go into the grant proposal  documents, you are still striving to write content that will allow the reader to get a good picture of the nonprofit applying for the grant, the project that the grant will pay for, and what the grant will do in the community, without the reader being so pained, overwhelmed, or distracted by the emotionality of the population or cause that the organization serves that they miss the opportunity that giving to your organization is for them and the community.  One might think, 'O.K., well then that's simple.  I'll just avoid using any words or information that illicit emotions.'  It's not that simple by virtue of the information typically found in grant application documents.  But, yes, there is a happy medium that can be found.

It's not that we want to avoid emotionality altogether.  What we're trying to do is be certain that we are making a strong case for our organization receiving the grant without hammering some one's heartstrings so that they come away from the proposal too distracted from the strong compelling reasons we state in the proposal, demonstrating why they should give the grant to our agency.

Here's an example of where we grant writers can run into difficulties with emotionality when writing a grant proposal:

"...without your support thousands of local animals will die at the hands of mentally unstable, poorly coping, abusive people..."


"...if we do not receive this grant, it might be on your foundation that tens of local children will go without basic needs that fit such as under garments and also weather-appropriate such as parkas, hats, mittens, and warm socks and shoes; risking everything from ill health to frostbite..."


"...because we did not receive a grant from your organization the last time that we applied, we calculate that one hundred women suffering from breast cancer languished as the disease advanced because we could not, then, provide them with advanced technologies that we are again applying for, here..."

It is understandable that the volunteers and staff  working at a nonprofit might be frustrated when it doesn't get a grant that it applies for, or as it is difficult to watch the population that an organization exists to serve suffer, or even get overwhelmed by the repeated occurrence of witnessing the beneficiary population's suffering, over time.  This is called burn out and is frankly something that the nonprofit sector has not, as yet, been terribly pro-active in anticipating, dealing with, and effectively minimizing or even alleviating among the volunteers and staff within our often uniquely emotional work, in this sector.  In the link, in the previous sentence, and here I've discussed burn out and it's potential expense to a nonprofit and how it can be avoided to both minimize unnecessary additional organizational human resource management expenses, and also improve its own volunteers and employees work place experience thus retaining more effective and happier workers (also 'rescuing' its professional work place reputation).  Burn out doesn't just effect the work day experience, though.  It can also become a part of the office's culture or the volunteers' and employees' thinking regarding the nonprofit, its efforts, and the population it serves.  This is dangerous because as we can see in the hypothetical examples above, that kind of negativity or hopelessness can creep into even an organization's fundraising solicitations and that is not instilling confidence, demonstrating a nonprofit's capabilities, nor demonstrating its strong potential (which is the goal of all written fundraising content, in order to develop or renew donors' interest and confidence to give).

There's also...

" many battered women walk into our office with broken limbs, bruises, and children with other physical harm that you would want to locate their spouses and beat them up, yourself..."


"...our strong staff have gone through it so many times that it is difficult to imagine again being ready for the next earthquake replete with now parent-less children, hunger, diseases, and worse..."


"...the homeless are often even too dangerous for our own staff.  Last year we had one shelter worker who was physically attacked while on duty, leaving most of our staff afraid until some time passed..."

Yes, a lot of nonprofits' workers repeatedly see horrors over and over again.  Also, repeatedly witnessing atrocities can wear workers down.  Finally, yes, some nonprofits' work is dangerous but then again, if the nonprofit is set up to do that work...

Let's re-write all of the above sentences...

"...without your support thousands of local animals will die at the hands of mentally unstable, poorly coping, abusive people..."

...might be switched to: "...our nonprofit is the only organization, in Townville, assisting animals by providing safe clean shelter, age and health specific diet, regular veterinarian care, and proactive adoption services for local animals.  Our thirty years of successful animal care, rehabilitation, and safe adoptions have resulted in over three thousand assisted, treated, rehabilitated, and adopted cats, dogs, and other domestic animals.  With out capabilities, demonstrated by our nonprofit's longevity and successes in this community, we are sure you will feel confident awarding our organization the grant we are herein requesting..."  Instead of putting the animals' suffering on the potential donor (i.e. "without your support" animals will suffer), we are actually making a good case demonstrating why this nonprofit is actually the one to donate to if you care about local animal welfare.

"...if we do not receive this grant, it might be on your foundation that tens of local children will go without basic needs that fit such as under garments and also weather-appropriate such as parkas, hats, mittens, and warm socks and shoes; risking everything from ill health to frostbite..."

...might be switched to: "...our organization has adequately planned the proposed project, already begun fundraising last year for this project, and as a result has two major donors committed to supporting this project up to half of the total expenses of this project.  With your organization's additional contribution, we will have fully funded  two thirds of the total expenses.  The remaining one third will be paid for by already existing (and established) individual donor revenue that has now been allocated to this new project's budget.  Please see the enclosed project budget that details the specific budget income and expense math..."  This has more to do with the organization needing to understand that it is responsible for fully funding the new projects that it initiates.  Fundraising is not about simply conjuring up new projects and then crossing one's fingers and expecting anyone that the organization solicits for the new project to donate funds.

"...because we did not receive a grant from your organization the last time that we applied, we calculate that one hundred women suffering from breast cancer languished as the disease advanced because we could not, then, provide them with advanced technologies that we are again applying for, here..."

...might be switched to: "...after effectively assisting over five thousand women suffering from breast cancer, last year, by providing them with services ranging from shuttle services, to financial assistance for medication, to counseling, to hospice services.  We had a zero mortality rate, and in a client survey last year, eight-five percent of all respondents selected "My quality of life is better right now than it was when I began working with Cancer Kickers nonprofit.".  We are assisting local women suffering from breast cancer so that their lives are actually better."  We're providing compelling information (including a quantifiable fact (the recent client survey result)) that instills confidence in potential donors considering donating to this nonprofit, rather than just frankly, stating the obvious.

" many battered women walk into our office with broken limbs, bruises, and children with other physical harm that you would want to locate their spouses and beat them up, yourself..."

...might be switched to: "...our agency's success rate at getting both battered spouses and their children off the street, into safe housing, to needed medical care quickly, and rehabilitating them so that they can get their lives back and into good order, at 20% lower costs than two years ago, can be seen through this organization's service statistics (enclosed, herein, for your review)..."  Again, this provides hard quantifiable facts that makes the case demonstrating this organization's success rate and its efficiency, too, at providing its services.  Local peoples' needs are being met and also efficiently.

"...our strong staff have gone through it so many times that it is difficult to imagine again being ready for the next earthquake replete with now parent-less children, hunger, diseases, and worse..."

...might be switched to: " the next natural disaster we will have on hand supplies and well trained and supported staff there to assist anyone having basic needs from non-emergent medical needs; to basic food and water needs; to clean undergarments and shirts, jeans, and jackets; to locating loved ones.  Trauma is unfortunately not uncommon to our volunteer response teams, so we have implemented for the past ten years, a state of the art proactive program designed to anticipate, thoroughly deal with and support, and then reduce the trauma to our front line, the amazing volunteers that go into natural disaster sites and assists those in need."  In this situation, admittedly, I improved the organization's volunteer management by placing a long standing proactive program to treat and then diminish traumas to this agency's volunteers.  Obviously everyone only wants to tell the truth in their grant proposals, so I'm not suggesting that anyone lie.  What I am suggesting is that if your nonprofit's internal culture has been to lament the front line's traumas, why not instead, bit the problem in the bud and address serious repeated job stresses head on?

"...the homeless are often even too dangerous for our own staff.  Last year we had one shelter worker who was physically attacked while on duty, leaving most of our staff afraid until some time passed..."

...might be switched to: "...our staff only works directly with our clients after completing forty hours of volunteer education specific to working directly with the mentally ill; and then also only after working forty hours under the direct supervision of a professional mental health social worker who must, them self, have over ten professional years working directly with the homeless and mentally ill..." Again, I've embellished for the sake of making a point.  I've also, here, switched this nonprofit's operations or improved them.  This version of this organization trains its volunteers in preparation of giving them the education, experience, and tools that they will need to do their volunteer work safely and go home at night, after.  Clearly explaining why our volunteers will be better off in their volunteer work demonstrates how much this organization values having well trained, supported, and probably more effective volunteers.  It shows how seriously this organization takes its volunteers and their work, and gives insight to the level of professionalism and internal regard for volunteer work that it operates with.  All of this is very compelling when fundraising, like raising grants, too.

Of course emotions aren't "bad" or "wrong".  They are a part of most nonprofits' workers' realities.  They creep into all of the content that we write for our organizations, usually.  The key, though, is to make our cases in a compelling fashion rather than beating someone over the head with the pain that is often a part of these organizations' work.

Grants for Nonprofits Providing Young Teens With Studies Assistance, Leadership Skills, or Relationship Development Skills

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: July 1, 2010

Applications Invited for Best Buy's @15 Community Grants Program

Through the @15 Community Grants Program, Best Buy teams across the United States select nonprofit organizations that provide positive experiences designed to help teens excel in school, engage in their communities, and develop leadership skills. This year, Best Buy Children's Foundation will give a total of $2 million through the program.

Best Buy seeks applications from organizations that have current 501(c)(3) tax status and are serving a diverse population of young teens in the areas of learning, life skills, leadership, or relationship development.

Special consideration will be given to programs that serve a diverse population in local or regional communities; build social, academic, leadership, and/or life skills in early adolescents ( ages 13-18); show positive results against a demonstrated community need; and reach at-risk children in working families.

Visit the Best Buy Web site for application guidelines.
Link to Complete RFP

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

$10,000 Grant for Individual Using Design for Positive Change (U.S.)

Eco conscious clothing company, NAU, is offering it's annual grant, Grant For Change, to any legal U.S. resident (or nonprofit organization that the winner chooses to direct the grant to).

This year's theme is "design for positive change".  NAU's description of this concept is, "Through the lens of the 2010 G4C we seek to draw attention to those who are using design to instigate positive change; provide creative, compelling, effective, and replicable solutions to the world's most pressing challenges; and challenge assumptions about the way even the most basic things are done."

"Design as a tool for positive change applies to many sectors. Examples include but are not limited to: Architecture, Energy, Graphic Design + Multimedia Communication, Performance, Product + Industrial Design, Transportation, Urban Planning and Visual Arts."

Ten finalists will vie for the grant. Five of the finalists will be chosen by votes, online, and the other five will be selected by a panel.  If selected as finalists, the nominees will be contacted and asked for additional materials to support their application for the grant.  "The Sponsor will review these additional materials during the month of July 2010. The final Grantee will be selected by July 27th, 2010 at 8:00 a.m. PDST. All decisions of the Sponsor concerning all matters related to this Contest are final. The Grantee will be notified via phone by July 27th, 2010"

When chosen, the grant recipient gets one grant of $10,000 and a trip for two to Portland, Oregon (NAU's headquarters hometown); and the remaining nine finalists will each receive a $300 gift card for NAU and mention on NAU's website for their contributions. 

Anyone wishing to nominate themselves or someone else who is doing design work for positive change can do so from May 10th through June 11th, 2010.  Nominations must be received by June 11.  Winners will be finalized June 22, 2010, 8pm PDST.  Whichever nominees have received the most votes on NAU's website win.  The grant will be issued July 27, 2010 and is to be used through to July 27, 2011.  The winner will be required to submit regular reports over the duration of the grant to explain what they have done to design for positive change.

To nominate someone, go to NAU's web page, "the collective, stories about movement..." and in the middle of the web page, to the right where it says "2010 Grant for Change Nominations" click on "Click to Nominate".  A web wizard will take you through the nomination process.  Before doing so, be sure to look at the people and projects that have already been nominated, so far, for 2010 so that nominations are not duplicated.

Anyone visiting NAU's website may vote for their favorite Grant For Change nominee, so if you have been nominated - be sure to get your friends to log on and vote for you!  On NAU's web page, "the collective, stories about movement..." look under the "2010 Grant for Change Nominations" at the listed proposed projects and people.

For further details, click on "Terms & Conditions" under the phone number in the large gray bar at the top of the web page, here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Resources for Donors and What Information Federal Law Says A Nonprofit Must Provide to the Public

Exempt organizations officially recognized by the I.R.S. as such, must allow people who request them to see the organization's tax return forms 990 or 990-T or the nonprofit's tax exemption application materials (i.e. anything that the nonprofit provided to the I.R.S., along with it's application for nonprofit status (form 1023) such as the organization's articles of incorporation, etc.).  Read the these two I.R.S. brochures explaining what a nonprofit must provide to someone who requests it, when, and what the repercussions are for organizations that fail to do so at I.R.S. Bulletin 1999-17 and I.R.S. EO CPE Text (update and summary of these laws).  The I.R.S. can also provide a certain amount of information for each tax exempt organization as well.  To see the break down between what the organization must provide and what the I.R.S. must provide, see Form 990 Resources and Tools for the General Public.

If anyone wishes to know whether a nonprofit is really an exempt organization, they may call the I.R.S, toll free,. at 1-877-829-5500.  Anyone may also check with the State that the nonprofit operates in.  Look up the Department of Justice and then the Attorney General's office, for that state, and either online or by phone, check with them whether a nonprofit is an official exempt organization.  Here is an example of the State of Oregon's Department of Justice's Attorney General's page on exempt organizations.  You can see, midway down the web page, that they have a database of official (or legal) exempt organizations.  Anyone curious about any nonprofit operating legally within Oregon, could check that.  Charity Navigator takes informing the public about a given nonprofit one step further, providing information that an informed donor (or anyone researching a current exempt organization) may want to know.

If anyone believes that a nonprofit's activities are outside the boundaries of its tax exempt status (i.e. its actions are questionable if not perhaps illegal), they may share their concerns with the I.R.S.  The I.R.S. charitable organization complaint process is outlined here.  The I.R.S. states on this web page that they take very seriously allegations of abuse of the tax exempt status.

Have you recently donated cash, a non-cash item such as a household item in good condition or an asset such as land or stocks; but you are not sure what you are allowed to deduct in your tax return for it?  See Tax Information for Contributors.

Not sure what you should do to properly deduct your charitable contributions on your tax return?  See the I.R.S.'s Ten Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions. This article includes a link (at the bottom of the web page) explaining how to determine the value of a contributed item.

Are you aware of a local organization that has been soliciting for donations but you are not sure what kinds of organizations are considered legal exempt organization, according to the I.R.S.?  See the I.R.S.'s Types of Tax Exempt Organizations

Grants for U.S. Based Nonprofits Working in Innovation in Cardiovascular Health

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: July 31, 2010

AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation Announces Connections for Cardiovascular Health Grant Program

The AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation has received a $25 million charitable contribution from biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for Connections for Cardiovascular Health, a new program designed to help improve cardiovascular health in the United States.

The program will award grants of at least $150,000 to U.S.-based nonprofit organizations that are doing innovative work in the field of cardiovascular health.

Applicant organizations should be engaged in work that addresses patient cardiovascular health issues, seeks to address an unmet need related to cardiovascular health in the community, responds to the urgency around addressing cardiovascular disease or conditions contributing to cardiovascular disease, and improves the quality of patients' and caregivers' lives in connection with the services provided and work done.

Organizations can learn more and apply for a grant at the AstraZeneca HealthCare Foundation Web site.
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Case Study in How To Write Different Kinds of Fundraising Materials' Content

This post explains general writing tips for all kinds of different fundraising writing such as grant writing, appeal letter composition, sponsor solicitation letters composition, and more.  The formats are different, as is the solicitation or request, but the need to describe what is needing funding and why is universal to each of these different types of funds solicitation letters.  So, the following applies to many different types of written solicitations.

I am asked so many questions through this blog that I thought it was a good idea to begin writing case studies.  The case studies, in this blog, will be hypothetical fake scenarios that exemplify real world nonprofit needs and the professional best practices that address them.  One such nonprofit need that must be met is writing fundraising solicitations, of all kinds; and this is what I am addressing today.  My intention in creating case studies is to set up the case study scenario, provide my recommendation, and also getting your take on the same scenario and if you would, comment, below this post.  I'd like to hear what my colleagues on the web have to say about this case study.

General Fundraising Writing Case Study:

Let's say that you and I work for a nonprofit called Nostalgic Television Fans for Pre-Digital Television Shows' Preservation (NTFPDTS).  You and I work together in the fundraising department and we have just been made aware of a new program that the board and head of our organization's programs have decided to begin, Conserve Campy Television.  Conserve Campy Television will begin next year but our task, as fundraisers, is to begin soliciting support for this new program, now.  We work with the executive director and also the Conserve Campy Television program manager and figure out how we are going to go about the fundraising, for this particular program, especially prior to and during its first year being offered.

You and I are responsible for the writing and submitting grant proposals (or applications) and also for writing an appeal letter to our donor base.  We decided to work together to develop the written content describing the new program, including the request for support, since each fundraising solicitation will require these.

The following are the facts:

Program description: Conserve Campy Television will both provide for the preservation of the specific television camp genre by providing from between fifteen to twenty-two, 17 to 21 year old, film students with hands on preservation education at no cost to them.  The students will come from public education, private education, and home school art programs. There will be no requirement of the students selected except that they are committed to the opportunities that the course content offers which they will be asked to indicate in an 100 word or less essay that will be required in order for them to be considered for the course.

The education will be provided by two experts from Columbia and Warner Brothers film studios, over the course of eight weeks, one night a week, for three hours, in our state of the art film lab (which is complete with all necessary equipment, per the industry's standards), located on bus lines, offering ample parking, and all expected disable persons' accesses to the film lab.

The course curriculum was created by our executive director, a professional film editor with thirty successful well regarded years in the industry and a well regarded and world renown art professor, from the University of California Los Angeles, who has specialized in film and film preservation her entire teaching career.  Students will preserve film reels and audio tapes, including all of the standard formats common from the professional pre-digital film age.  They will learn commonly accepted professional film skills and concepts, over the course, and be responsible for a final individual project which will involve the preservation of an actual, pre-digital era, camp genre, film short (generously offered for student use by FOX Searchlight, as their archives needing preservation, at the current time).  Students will be evaluated based on their individual attendance record, capacity for the skills and concepts taught, and the quality, care, and how complete their final individual project is.

At the end of the course, the students will each be asked to anonymously evaluate the two instructors, the course, and then they will also be asked to fill out an anonymous survey asking about their experience in the program, through our organization, asking about whether they learned what they hoped to learn, what they liked, what they'd change and why, and for their personal demographic information.  All of this information will be tabulated, compiled, analyzed by our programs director, respecting anonymity, and then the findings will be presented to the executive director, program manager, the two course educators, and the programs committee.  The information gathered from the surveys will be used to gauge whether the program (or course) is meeting pre-determined program goals as created by the professionals who created the course's curriculum, such as meeting the need for more professional preservationists coming up through the industry; to determine what is working and to address, improve, and implement improvements where changes are needed.  Evaluations will be conducted, compiled, analyzed, and reviewed after each time that the course or program is provided.

The facts, as I've called them above, are really important for anyone who is being asked to write any kind of fundraising solicitation to have.  If a fundraiser is writing a solicitation of any kind without having the real facts - their ability to raise support is already at a disadvantage.  Why?  Notice that we have some really well regarded and credentialed professionals who created the program and who will teach the course.  Notice, too, that there are intended outcomes and goals, and an evaluation method built into the program.  Also notice that the 'who (all), what, where, when, why, and how' is covered.  Having this information is crucial to any successful fundraising as this is the content necessary in order for the fundraisers to write (in this case) a compelling case inspiring those asked to give.  This kind of information instills support, clearly states what will happen and why, and also provides for real data (outcomes) to be gathered and tabulated to better the program, over time.  This is why again and again, in this blog, I state how important it is that prior to any fundraising (especially for brand new programs) that all program designing, planning, budgeting, and fundraising plans are finalized well in advance of the program's start date.  Work on being able to provide the program should begin well before the program actually starts.

I sit down to write a first draft and having the above facts, now, I consider what approach with the letter recipient do I want to take, in the content, in order to really raise as much support as possible.  I could hit them in the heart strings.  Marketers often say that the best way to reach the public is through emotional reaction to content.  This may be true in marketing but (and some will disagree with me here) I do not believe that the same tact provides for successful fundraising.  Hitting potential donors in the heart may raise some money but I submit that it does not create committed donors who give now, but also again and again, as well as does the method I'm about to outline.

You and I review my first draft and it says "Nostalgic Television Fans for Pre-Digital Television Shows' Preservation (NTFPDTS) requests your contribution, now, for our new program.  If you do not give generously now, for this new program, Conserve Campy Television, tens of original television show video reels will fall into obliteration; and potential professional film preservationists will not be exposed to a potential career choice.  This would be disastrous culturally and historically."

After you read it you scrunch up your nose.  I nod, getting it, and we decide that you should write a second draft.  Let me also say that this was a first stab at taking a tact or 'tone' in this solicitation.  This is not the extent of any one of the documents we'll ultimately write.

You wisely suggest the following tact: "To ensure that original camp genre television show reels are accessible today and tomorrow, Nostalgic Television Fans for Pre-Digital Television Shows' Preservation (NTFPDTS) invites you to partner with us and assist in providing a new program, Conserve Campy Television, by contributing to this new program's fund, now.  Your contribution will allow NTFPDTS to provide fifteen to twenty-two 17 to 21 year old film students with hands on preservation education at no cost to them.  The goal of this new program is to both expose students to this invaluable skill and to also ensure that young people, today, will be exposed to this much needed profession; as each television and movie studio, today, retains archives awaiting professional preservation.  Our hope is that a few of our students will enjoy this preservation work so much, that they pursue the profession through further professional experience or advance education, afterward.  The camp genre is being used as it is a fun genre, for instance television shows such as The Munsters or H.R. Puff N Stuff are cultural icons and also entertaining, still today, as they will likely remain, over time.  The course was designed by our executive director, Phil Schmill, a professional film editor with thirty successful well regarded years in the industry; and a well regarded and world renown art professor, Shirley Whirley, PhD from the University of California Los Angeles, who has specialized in film and film preservation her entire teaching career.  After the course, we will ask the students to anonymously give us feedback and their impression of the educators and the course.  We will ultimately want to know whether we have truthfully accommodated their goals and hopes or why they took the course.  All survey findings will be fully reviewed by all of the organization's pertinent staff and volunteers to both understand all findings and then determine what improvements can be implemented, as needed, and that the improvements are implemented in a timely manner.  As is always the case with any new program, we anticipate the need to make some improvements (as found through feedback) but we also anticipate success (as our organization's programs' success rate remain at 90% of all participants of each of our organizations' programs expectations and more have been met over the past three years).  Please give to NTFPDTS' new program, Conserve Campy Television to both enable a young person's goal to become a  professional film preservationist thereby ensuring thousands of endangered original television film reels will be professionally preserved for now and the future.  Thank you."

Even though, this is not extant and is only meant to demonstrate the point, here, we read your draft and decide that yours' is much better.  Why?  You make a case in your version of the solicitation that demonstrates why the donor's contributing to this new program is not just an investment in television, preservation, education, and young people; it also demonstrates that our organization is working with very talented experts, has built feedback mechanisms into our program to ensure that we both find out what needs improving and that improvements will be implemented; and we indicate the extremely impressive success rate typical of our organization, across all of the programs that we offer.  In other words, if the recipient of the solicitation is concerned with film preservation and wants to give to an organization that is really going to make a positive improvement in the industry, in this work, this is a pretty sound way for the donor to give to make sure that happens.  This solicitation content is honest, compelling, and inclusive.  We don't ask for the money saying 'if you don't give thousands of film reels disintegrate so give' and we don't ask for the money saying 'our organization will provide this program with your support or without it'.  We make it clear that there is a real need, why our organization is a good resource to provide this training, what the intended goals are, and how we'll know whether we are doing, in the community, what we hope we're doing.  We're also clear that we're open to finding out what our program really winds up doing (from the participant's experience of it) and we're also going to listen to their feedback.  In fact, we'll use their feedback to help us know what needs improvement (and what new program doesn't need improvement).  A donor can feel confident about giving rather than feeling that they've been hit over the head with a threat ('give or thousands of original television reels disintegrate').

Marketing is a valid profession, of course.  It's just not fundraising, necessarily.  I will say that emotion has its place in fundraising, but it's not how to fundraise effectively.  Once a donor has given, they should be thanked.  After they are thanked, whenever it is eventually possible, the donors that enabled the organization's various successes should be made aware of the successes, as donors give in order to help cause improvements in our communities.  Let the donor know where their money was spent, what it did, and what the outcomes are of the program that they supported (and how your organization knows the outcome, such as through participants' surveys' findings).  If donors are informed about what their contribution did (and the success it enabled) they can see what their contribution did, explicitly, in the community.  This is one of the most compelling ways to ensure that donors will give to your organization again and again.  This is called donor retention.  There connection to an organization's mission success is where a donor's emotional connection comes into fundraising.

Grants for Nonprofits Enabling Young People With Disabilities

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: June 1, 2010 (Concept Papers)

Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation Offers Support for Programs Benefiting Young People With Disabilities

The Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation is dedicated to helping young Americans (newborn to early 20s) with disabilities maximize their potential and participation in society. The foundation supports organizations and projects within its mission that address important needs, have broad scope and impact, and demonstrate potential for replication at other sites.

The foundation's funding priority is inclusion — enabling young people with disabilities to have full access to educational, vocational, and recreational opportunities and to participate alongside their non-disabled peers.
Funding is available for both project costs and operating support, and is open to both disability-specific organizations and those that serve the general population. While requests from all parts of the United States will be considered, priority will be given to communities where Mitsubishi Electric U.S. companies are located. Preference is given to organizations and projects that reflect collaboration among groups and that actively involve people with disabilities in program planning and implementation.

Grants are made only to U.S.-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations.
Grant amounts vary based on the nature of the project/organization and the duration of proposed activities.
The foundation accepts and reviews concept papers throughout the year; however, concept papers should be submitted by June 1 to be considered for funding in the following year.

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