Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act H.R. 5533

The Nonprofit Sector And Community Solutions Act, H.R. 5533 I.R., was proposed June 16th, to Congress, by Minnesota's Representative Betty McCollum (D), to "...This bill is one of the first federal initiatives to address the nonprofit sector as a whole. It will take the first steps toward integrating the nonprofit sector into the federal policy making process by establishing formal structures in Congress and federal administrative agencies focused on the success of nonprofits." []

To quote the National Council of Nonprofits about this bill, "...Despite the importance of the nonprofit sector to the U.S. economy and to the success of many federal, state and local policy initiatives, no federal agency or congressional committee has responsibility for evaluating, building or maintaining the capacity of the nonprofit sector, and government does not collect the data necessary to make sound policy decisions that have measurable impacts in communities." []

The nonprofit sector is a major part of the United State's economy, as an employer and consumer in our national market; but also, as I state in my blog post Some U.S. States Considering Taxing Nonprofits To Make Up for Empty Coffers , "...the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's 2009 study, "Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities" that found "Research on nearly 70 nonprofits from New Mexico, North Carolina, Minnesota and Los Angeles County over a five year period showed that these groups combined generated nearly $14 billion worth of benefits for their diverse communities, and many other non-monetary gains. The return for every dollar invested in these groups ranged from $89 to a staggering $157.""  This is a sector that is also providing a great deal of public service, assistance, research, and more.  This sector is uniquely vulnerable, as well, as most nonprofits raise funds, year round, to provide their services: of course, at no profit.

This kind of proactive relationship between the U.S. federal government and the nonprofit sector, as a whole, may not just be better for the American public and other beneficiaries of American nonprofits' work.  It might be an extremely timely relationship building mechanism as the difficult economy has trounced the nonprofit sector.

The National Council of Nonprofits, in the middle of their post on this proposed bill, recommends:

"What Nonprofits Can Do

"Sign up to show your organization’s support for the legislation;

"Use the sample letter to contact your Representatives and urge them to co-sponsor the Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act. You can click on the map on this House of Representatives page to get a list of the Representatives from your state;

"Contact your Senators and encourage them to introduce the Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act in the Senate.

"Take advantage of the August Recess to introduce, impress, and influence your Senators and Representatives."

Few Different Grant Opportunities for U.S. K - 12 Music Students & Public School Music Programs

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: October 1, 2010 (Online Pre-qualification Form)

Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation Offers Instruments for School Music Programs

The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation donates both new and refurbished instruments to school and after-school music programs in the United States that lack the resources to keep up with equipment loss due to attrition, depreciation, and wear over time, and to accommodate students on waiting lists or who have to share instruments.

The foundation funds instrument repair and the acquisition of new instruments. It does not provide cash grants. Priority is given to music programs serving low-income communities, programs with little or no budget for musical instruments, and music programs that serve the most students out of the school population.
The foundation offers three programs of support:

The Melody Program helps K-12 school instrumental music programs that take place during the regular school day. Public, private, and charter schools may apply; however, schools must be Title 1 or be able to demonstrate financial need. Schools must have an established instrumental music program (i.e. concert band, marching band, jazz band, and/or orchestra) that has been in existence for at least three years. Schools must have an existing inventory of instruments. Requests should not exceed $10,000 worth (retail value) of musical instruments.

The Special Projects Program helps before- and after-school music programs. Programs must be at least three years old and serve primarily school-age youth from low-income families, or students that attend Title 1 schools. Programs must have an existing inventory of instruments. Requests should not exceed $10,000 worth (retail value) of musical instruments.

The Michael Kamen Solo Award helps outstanding student musicians enrolled in grades eight to 12 who cannot afford to obtain an appropriate instrument. Students must have completed at least five years of study on their instrument to be eligible. Instruments with a retail value of up to $20,000 are awarded. Only students who are still in secondary school may apply.

Applications are made available by invitation only. Potential applicants must first submit an online pre-qualification form to be considered for an invitation. Pre-qualification forms will be available at the foundation's Web site until October 1, 2010. For those invited to apply, the application deadline is November 1, 2010. Awarded programs will receive instrument donations in time for the 2011/12 school year.
Visit the foundation Web site for guidelines and forms.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A New Online Fundraising Management Database and Tool Offers Easy Fundraisng & Social Media Management, Too, But...

My husband is a techie and on Mashable , this weekend, he spotted a new online fundraising tool that combines fundraising software, a donations/donor database, and a social media fundraising system combined into one "easy to use" online fundraising tool called Stay Classy (and though it does not matter...the name really bothers me).  Stay Classy refers to social media fundraising like raising donations through a nonprofit's website, a nonprofit's Twitter account, or a nonprofit's Facebook account, etc. as "social fundraising".  To quote the Stay Classy Site Demo video, "Social fundraising happens when an individual taps into their own personal network to raise funds on behalf of a organization or cause."

Stay Classy is in a Beta or trial stage, currently, but is being used (or tested) by some large nonprofits such as the American Red Cross.  According to the article on Mashable, SaaS Startup Helps Non-Profits with Online Fundraising, the software will be released to the general public in August 2010.

It is described as geared towards any sized nonprofit organization for use in mostly online but also special events fundraising campaigns, especially those aimed at social media fundraising.  The software, itself, is free to use; but there is a charge, per transaction (i.e. donation or event ticket/fee) that the organization charges and is described on their website as "2.0% + $0.99 (per ticket or donation) No upfront costs.  Pay only when you make a sale!"  They do not make it clear whether these two specific charges are incurred by both PayPal and Stay Classy, but I am guessing that they are.  In other words, for each transaction on Stay Classy, you are charged by both PayPal (and of course you are always charged for each PayPal transactions) and Stay Classy (which means that each transaction results in income for Stay Classy: no nonprofit will receive 100% of the money they raise or make on Stay Classy).

When considering using Stay Classy, I would urge a nonprofit's leadership to have already researched, independent of any option or policy, and to have already discussed, debated, and then formalized their nonprofit's social media policy and goals.  The nonprofit's fundraising committee, staff, or volunteers should learn what social media fundraising is, how all it is conducted, what the best or most effective methods currently are (i.e. Facebook is fast becoming a powerful tool for nonprofits to raise funds (who know what they're doing) and costs nonprofits who use it only the charge of the online transaction (i.e. PayPal, etc.)); and coordinate what the organization's online social media goals are, with all current fundraising goals and campaigns, and formalize how best to achieve all for the nonprofit's own goals and needs.  For instance, many nonprofits that have their own organization website offer online visitors the option to donate through their website.  This is one form of social media fundraising and may be cheaper than other options, especially when weighed against a specific nonprofit's fundraising budget and current online fundraising goals (and policies).  In other words, every nonprofit's abilities, needs, and goals are going to vary and should be considered before any decision is made for any form of fundraising.  Also, it is a fact that successful fundraising is based in relationships between that nonprofit and its various donors and how this can be best obtained, managed, and developed should be a serious consideration, too.

I am 'old school' having used, as a staff member of a medium sized independent nonprofit, a traditional 'out of the box' fundraising software package that tracked donors, donations, volunteers, all fundraising campaigns conducted, and allowed for the creation of any type of correspondence (so, anything from thank you letters in response to donations, to annual appeal letters (another type of fundraising campaign), etc.), allowed for the organization to create and track relationships (i.e. this donor is related to that volunteer, here), and the ability of the software to query and develop various different types of mailing lists, volunteer lists, phone lists, e-mails, donors giving at different amount levels, who gave at different dates or date ranges, lists of board members and their giving at any selected time or time period, and more.  It came with the ability to upload to or receive downloads from any word processing software or operating system that used the standard database formats (i.e. ASCII, tab delimited, etc.), it merged easily with these operating or word processing systems, and a free training (that was done online and was professional, extensive, and run at the pace of the trainees ability to learn: it was excellent) at any time a new volunteer or staff member needed training on the software.  I'm not stating what the software package is because unbelievably, the maker no longer makes or supports it.  I truly was shocked when I learned, in around 2006 or 2007, they'd decided to forgo this product as it was excellent.  To be clear, I still judge any software package designed to enable a nonprofit to fundraise better, by the software that I used and just described.

Also to be clear, I have not used Stay Classy and I did not receive anything from them in exchange for this post or its content.

From the description in the above Mashable article, their own self description in the video there, and from what I read on the Stay Classy website the product's strengths appear to be:
_ easy of use;
_ this software came out of SaaS conducting their own independent grassroots fundraising campaigns on the streets of San Francisco for nonprofits they chose to support, on their own;
_ any nonprofit may sign up and once signed up a profile is created for donors to find your organization (for free) ;
_ it will track donors, donations, relationships, allow for notes on donors, and recall donor contact info, donation info, and allow for thank you letters to be auto generated/sent upon donation received, and other reports by user, fundraising campaign, and by donation of those who donate or fundraise for your organization via Stay Classy;
_ it will coordinate a presence for a single fundraising campaign or event up to an unlimited number of fundraising events;
_ anyone who wishes to may fundraise online on behalf of your organization and can get your organization their raised funds through Stay Classy;
_ flags or graphics for online fundraising is created in Stay Classy and can be used by your organization and anyone else who wishes to assist, online, with your organization's fundraising for each online campaign;
_ there is no cost to use the software (but there is a fee or two fees per transaction, and its not clear which);
_ Stay Classy software resides online (or as they say "in the cloud") so no loading software onto a computer;
_ you can upload your current donation/donor software database information up to Stay Classy;
_ you can conduct social media messaging and coordinate fundraising campaigns to reach your organization's Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms accounts for messaging to appear in those places, after creating messages once in Stay Classy;
_ and more

My questions about Stay Classy are:

_ Everything that this software package does is focused on online or social fundraising which is not the only way or venue in which to raise funds, though it will increase in its use and popularity as it already has over the years (but it will never be the only place or method (and it should not be the only place or method) through which any nonprofit raises all of its funds, even in the future);
_ The fee structure is unclear: do both Stay Classy and PayPal charge per transaction and if so, how much is each charging per transaction?
_ Any nonprofit that uses Stay Classy really should both research what all fundraising software options exist right now; how much each costs (online or a traditional software package that is loaded to a computer); what features each fundraising software package option offers (because many will coordinate both donation thank you letters and online or social fundraising messaging in one place for multiple social media outlets easily, too); and further I'd be sure to then (once you have all of the options' costs and features or attributes) conduct a cost benefit analysis.  For instance, that software package that I used when I was staff cost the nonprofit that I worked for a one time fee and they took no portion of each transaction we conducted as a charge or income.  In other words, I believe it cost about $2,500 but once that was paid the organization never paid the software maker anything else and received unending software support and trainings.  Over time, over the duration that Stay Classy will be used, how much will it cost the user nonprofit?
_ Does Stay Classy include a Mobile Application creator for each nonprofit that signs up with it?  This is a real emerging platform that is also online but specific to anyone using their iPhone or other type of Smart Phone to surf the web and those who own these phones are surfing the web using these specific gizmos.  Also, Smart Phones are the wave of the future, so if Stay Classy is not smart phone or mobile application enabled: when will it be, if ever.
_ How responsive, helpful, and consistent with their support be?  This can often be what makes or breaks a software maker's software package's reputation  (whether the software resides online or downloaded to a user's computer).  Customer service is paramount;
_ What is the volunteer fundraiser who chooses to raise funds for your organization using Stay Classy, and also the donor who donates through Stay Classy to your organization think of the experience;
_ How much does your organization want to manage both the Stay Classy donation software and any 'in house' or 'in office' fundraising administration and campaign management it will need to?  In other words, will Stay Classy help out to the extent that your organization needs, with all of your nonprofit's fundraising administration and management, or will it be one more and additional thing to have to do, each day?
_ Does using Stay Classy improve or help to improve a nonprofit's reputation and interactions with its public or diminish or lessen them?
_ How much does any nonprofit's staff or volunteers considering using Stay Classy really and truly know about online fundraising, social media fundraising, and online fundraising software packages?

If anyone reading this post has either fundraised for a nonprofit using Stay Classy (as either a nonprofit volunteer or staff member) or is a person who has donated to a nonprofit or volunteered to fundraise for a nonprofit through Stay Classy; please share with us, by Commenting below on this post, what your experience was.  It would be greatly appreciated.

As is always the case, it is best to really research a nonprofit's options when deciding to go with any new tool, method, or package, for any nonprofit operation or organizational need.  Any solution that a nonprofit goes with should, ideally, really lessen a nonprofit's expenses, lessen time that a nonprofit's staff or volunteer currently spends on related tasks, and make things easier for the organization and its staff and volunteers.  The only way that this can be determined is to really research what all options are, at the time, and then cross compare also including a cost/benefit analysis (and one that is scaled for two to three years out).

Grants for Music Archiving and Preservation, and Also Scientific Research Studying Music's Impact on the Human Condition

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: October 1, 2010 (Letter of Inquiry)

Grammy Foundation Accepting Applications for Music Preservation and Research Grants

The Grammy Foundation Grant Program, funded by the Recording Academy, annually provides grants for music archiving and preservation efforts and for scientific research projects related to the impact of music on the human condition.

The foundation will award archiving and preservation project grants to organizations and individuals working to advance the archiving and preservation of the music and recorded sound heritage of the Americas. The archiving and preservation area has two funding categories — preservation implementation ($20,000 maximum award each) as well as planning, assessment, and/or consultation ($5,000 maximum award each).

The foundation also will award scientific research project grants of up to a maximum of $20,000 each to organizations and individuals working to research the impact of music on the human condition. Examples might include the study of the effects of music on mood, cognition, and healing, as well as the medical and occupational well-being of music professionals and the creative process underlying music. Priority is given to projects with strong methodological design as well those addressing an important research question.

Visit the Grammy Foundation Web site for guidelines and procedures.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Few Very Good Free Grant Resources, Professional Advice Resources, and Also Job Seeking Resources

Some suggested resources considered standards in American philanthropy that are just good for any professional working in the nonprofit sector and professional fundraising of any kind to know about:

The Foundation Center's Philanthropy New Digest - Jobs: The Foundation Center is one of the preeminent sites, online, for any nonprofit seeking grants.  Available professional nonprofit jobs across the United States and the world are posted, here.  Notice, too, that you can (on their web page) sign up to receive the updated (weekly or daily) jobs list through e-mail or as an RSS Feed.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy Jobs: Again, another very well regarded and quality resource in America's nonprofit sector, The Chronicle of Philanthropy offers a job search tool for nonprofit sector professional positions open anywhere in the United States or the world.

The Foundation Center's Philanthropy News Digest Request For Proposals: Wishing you could get a good comprehensive list of what non-federal grants are being offered to nonprofits (by public and private grant donors of different kinds, to fund various different fields, for various different types of projects and programs) in a handy dandy e-mail weekly (or daily)?  Well, you can, for free.  This web page lists the grants currently available or more recently offered, and you can also sign up on this web page for either a regular e-mail with current listings, or you can sign up for their RSS Feed.

United States of America's federal grants: If the U.S. federal government is offering a grant (in any field for any type of work that they are funding) you will be able to find the grant, here.  Notice that they provide a free tutorial to educate the user as to how to best search and locate the grant opportunity they are seeking.  Also, through this web page, you can sign up for regular e-mails listing what federal grants are newly or currently available.

The Foundation Center's Philanthropy News Digest Talk (public forum): Sometimes it's nice to be able to either read what other professionals in the nonprofit grant writing or other kinds of fundraising worlds are either discussing, asking questions about, or hearing back in response to their questions.  Also, you can post a question (for free) and hear back from some very accomplished, well regarded, and knowledgeable pros in our field, here.  Usually, you'll receive a response to a question within about two to four hours, maximum.

Field Research Grants for the Conservation of Threatened Wildlife & Wild Places in Developing Countries, Native American lands, or Canadian First Persons' lands

From The Foundation Center...

[Note: If you would like more information on this grant opportunity, click "Link to Complete RFP" at the end of this blog post.]

Deadline: January 5, 2011

Wildlife Conservation Society Accepting Applications for Research Fellowship Program

The Wildlife Conservation Society Research Fellowship Program is a small grants program administered by the Wildlife Conservation Society Institute that aims to build capacity for the next generation of conservationists by supporting individual field research projects with a clear application to the conservation of threatened wildlife and wild places.

The program helps train applied conservation scientists from developing countries. Since the RFP's establishment in 1993, over 2,000 proposals totaling over $23 million have been submitted to WCS for funding, of which 300 proposals totaling more than $3 million have been funded. Over 60 percent of the total funded proposals have come from national conservationists (citizens of the country in which they are conducting their research). All grantees are graduate-level students pursuing masters, doctoral, or veterinary degrees (or equivalents). Collectively, these professionals will help to apply field-tested conservation science to the challenges facing conservation today.

In 2010, the WCS Institute re-established the RFP with a focus on supporting projects that directly address WCS conservation priorities. WCS seeks projects that are based on sound and innovative conservation science and that encourage conservation practices that can contribute to sustainable development. Applicants must be citizens of developing countries. An exception is made for applicants who are Native American (United States) or First Nations, M├ętis, or Inuit (Canada).

The maximum award amount is $20,000.

Visit the WCS Web site for complete program guidelines and eligibility requirements.  Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Monday, July 05, 2010

In These Uncertain Times, New Pew Study's Findings May Help Inform Any American Nonprofit's Next Step

Every nonprofit must take stock, each year.  Usually an organization's leadership sits down, at least once a year, and formally discusses: how have programs and services done this year; how has the organization, itself, operated this year; what needs improving (for both programs and services, and the organization's operations and administration); how has our operations budget worked this year; where can we cut costs; and how can we increase fundraising. 

An organization's leadership then often turns to the future and asks what, given what we know right now, does this nonprofit need to do in the coming year or two to improve services and programs and better conduct the work of the organization's mission such that we achieve even more programs' and services' successes, and benchmarks while conducting all work even more efficiently?  Usually this leads a nonprofit's leadership to begin or further organizational strategic planning.

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I often suggest that when an organization goes to plan anything, they take stock.  It's good to research the organization's relevant region's (or regions':): economy, fundraising climate, a nonprofit's beneficiaries' current but as yet unmet needs, etc. every year, to be armed with current and pertinent information as a nonprofit's leaders sit down to plan whatever they're planning for the coming year(s).  So, I encourage you to and your nonprofit's leadership to read, before planning for next year, Life in 2050: Amazing Science, Familiar Threats because this very kind of survey (while it was national) is pertinent because, statistically, it indicates the attitudes of each nonprofit's American: clients, donors, volunteers, board members, staff, consultants, and community partners.  Also, it's only 26 pages long.  While no study is conclusive or 100% accurate for any one person, it is a good way to get a sense of where people are, today, when thinking about the world and its future.

To quote this study's PDF page 3, which is the document's page 2, "...a new survey of attitudes and expectations about the future, conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and Smithsonian magazine in conjunction with the magazine’s 40th anniversary (see "40 Things You Need to Know about the Next 40 Years"). The survey, conducted by land line and cell phones April 21-26 [sic.during 2010] among 1,546 adults, was informed by a 1999 survey on the future that explored many of the same topics (see “Optimism Reigns, Technology Plays Key Role,” October 24, 1999)."

The study found that most people polled believed cancer will be cured by 2050; computers will be speaking with people as people do; most think we will no longer be getting power from coal, oil, or gas; people indicated that race relations will continue to improve; most people believe we will have a female President in that time; and most also believe that we will have a Hispanic President, too.  This is inspiring since, frankly, hearing anything optimistic is really powerful, right now, with news like ours' these days, right?

The information in this study that can help your organization's leadership includes the following:

"Thinking ahead 40 years, 68% say race relations in the United States will better, which is unchanged from the 1999 survey. And in the wake of the election of the nation’s first African American president, large majorities say that the election of a woman (89%) and Hispanic (69%) will definitely or probably occur. [PDF page 3, document page 2]

"Notably, far more Americans think that health care will be more affordable in the future than did so in May 1999. Currently, 50% say health care will be more affordable in 2050, while 46% say it will be less affordable. In 1999, just 36% said health care would be more affordable compared with 60% who said it would be less affordable. [PDF page 3, document page 2]

"While a clear majority (58%) expects the gap between rich and poor in the United States to grow by
2050, fewer people say this than did so in 1999 (69%).  About a third (34%) now says the rich-poor gap will get smaller, up from 27% 11 years ago.  [PDF page 4, document page 3]

"However, Americans are less optimistic about long-term prospects for public education than they were 11 years ago. About half (49%) say the public education system will improve by 2050, down from 66% who expressed that view in 1999. [PDF page 4, document page 3]

"The public expresses mixed views about America’s role in the world in 2050. On the one hand,
people are divided over whether China will overtake the U.S. as the world’s main superpower – 46% say this will definitely or probably happen, while 49% say it will not.  However, most Americans (53%) say that the United States will be less important in the world 40 years from now than it is today; 40% say it will be more important." [PDF page 4, document page 3]

This information is a summation and the details of the study follow, in the actual document.  I encourage nonprofits to use this and other well conducted studies to both gauge their constituents' mindset, and their beneficiaries' mindset; while getting a glimpse, too, where at least today Americans perceive needs will exist, tomorrow. 

If this study is read and its findings weighed along with other regional or local studies for your organization's particular geographic service region it can help any nonprofit's leadership get an informed snapshot of how those who both benefit from and also those who support that agency are thinking about tomorrow, today.

Grants for Literacy Programs Educating Adult Primary Care Givers and Their Children

From The Foundation Center...

[If you are interested in more information about this grant opportunity, click "Link to Complete RFP" below.]

Deadline: September 10, 2010

Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy Accepting Applications for 2011 National Grant Program

The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy is accepting applications for its annual national grant competition. The grantmaking program is designed to help develop or expand projects that support the development of literacy skills for adult primary care givers and their children.

To be eligible for funding, the applicant organization must have nonprofit or public status and must have been in existence for two or more years. The organization must operate an instructional literacy program that has been in existence for at least two years and includes one or more of the following components: literacy for adults, parent education, pre-literacy or literacy instruction for children pre-K to grade three, and/or inter-generational literacy activities (parent and child together time).

A total of approximately $650,000 in grants will be awarded in 2011; grant requests should not exceed $65,000.

The National Grant Program application and guidelines are available at the foundation's Web site.