Sunday, August 29, 2010

Difficult Personalities, Conflict, & Politics...Normal All in a Day's Work & A Way to Get Beyond Conflict

Nonprofits, like any other placed of professional business, see their share of organizational conflict, but just because it isn't unusual, it doesn't mean that it's easily allayed or an easy situation to navigate.  In fact, it rarely is, as anyone who's ever worked anywhere, as a staff member or volunteer, can empathize with.

I am stating, here, that if any workplace or person is in jeopardy of harm or real potential harm, the proper authorities should be notified immediately.  Also, if any conflict warrants professional legal advice, proper counsel should be acquired and utilized.  This post, and no other post in this blog, is intended to be used in lieu of first responders, legal counsel, or any other pertinent professional that could assist in a conflict or any other issue or problem.

Conflict is inevitable.  When someone signs onto any organization as a staff member, a contractor, as a volunteer, or even as an intern there is the likelihood, over time, that that person will be involved in some sort of conflict at the workplace, eventually.  A conflict, of course, may be anything from a simple difference of opinion to an all out violent altercation.  Sadly, the latter is not unheard of, but it is also important to keep in mind, it is not a common occurrence.

Conflict has, at least in part, to do with the people involved, and their: emotion, buy in or how much someone has invested in the situation or what caused it, personalities, experience, knowledge, ability to deal with conflict or how they cope with interpersonal conflict, and also the culture of the professional workplace and how conflicts are usually handled there (or whether usually conflict is not acknowledged and dealt with head-on).

Conflict also has to do with the organization it occurs at, the leadership working for that organization, the professional culture there, and what policies are in place to deal with problems, concerns, or conflict.

Often, once in a conflict it isn't tidy, clear how to get out of this jam.  There isn't a clear or an objective process that the people involved in the conflict are looking for.  There's other "stuff" going on.  Sometimes people in a conflict are looking to: be in control, avoid conflict, rescue their bruised ego, act out old personal patterns that come from learned behavior in childhood or formative years, retribution or vindication, validation, or less or more.  So, we can see that a lot of one's personal coping methods, or lack of them, can be a part of the conflict, too.  This is where personalities come into the conflict and have their place in it, too.
 
Often conflict gets broken down (in the minds of leadership and the people involved) into "right" and "wrong" or "he did this" or "she said that".  It isn't unusual and it isn't difficult to see how this is how people evaluate a conflict.  I mean, we all want to try to figure out "where did it go wrong" or "was I wrong or was she" or "we all agreed to X already, why is he now suggesting Y", etc.  Sitting here, not involved in the conflict, and having the benefit of relative objectivity, you and I can see that while it's natural to attempt to understand a conflict by reviewing it this way, this evaluation is actually emotion-laden, perhaps defensive, and likely not terribly helpful to solve the conflict or enabling of the people involved.  In fact, as you and I know, sometimes this kind of subjective analysis of a conflict can cause it to simmer or even make it worse.

We've all gone through conflict resolution trainings: "...be sure to use 'I statements'..."; "...don't accuse...instead clarify by sharing what you heard or thought was said or done..."; "...be willing to meet the other person half way..."; "...find the middle ground...".  Nothing is wrong with any of this advice.  Sometimes, though, this kind of general advice is too...well...general. It often applies best to conflicts between two or just a few more people.  Sometimes an organization wide (or leadership wide or operations team wide) conflict is a bit more difficult to rectify by everyone simply agreeing to be non disparaging.  Sometimes, what's needed is a process that moves the conflict out of the way and the organization forward.

I've been a part of interpersonal and office politics, disagreements, and all out organization-wide conflicts.  I mean, I've seen offices divided by politics generated by differences of opinion between people on the staff and people on the board; interpersonal conflicts between professionals who did not agree on best practices or best courses of action, and still more.  We all have.

Here's my advice (and it will probably include some pointers you've heard before).  This advice comes out of experience both as a participant in conflict and also as a participant to conflict resolution.  Please feel free to add any advice that you have on how a nonprofit organization or team member can help to deal with or cope with conflict in their workplace.  Comment below this post.

First, let's back up and get the big picture for a specific nonprofit's professional conduct.

First, in the least biased or involved way, tone, and wording possible, acknowledge to everyone involved that a conflict exists and then clearly state, too, that everyone involved will next work to move beyond the conflict for the good of the organization, its work, and the beneficiaries of its work.

Next...

__ Communities vary generally, community to community across the U.S., in each one's level of professionalism.  Some towns' and cities' professional culture is: proactive, up on the latest contemporary thinking in their various respective professional fields, and they're inclusive.  Others are perhaps: less open to others outside of their organization or reach of power, reactive, and doing things as they've always been done because that works.  Look at the city that your own nonprofit operates in and ask yourself is this a geographic location where businesses welcome change and new ideas, what is the general feeling among people new to the community about job availability, how welcome a brand new business is in the community, etc.?  If you are operating an organization in a less proactive and perhaps somewhat closed off business community check out continuing education opportunities in the nearest more open and less closed community or city and take some human resource management and conflict resolution courses.  Many community colleges offer continuing education classes on line, even, today.  No professional operation has to be in lock step with the general level of professionalism in one's community, especially if it isn't as vibrant, encouraging, or empowering as it could be. 

__ The nonprofit organization whose leadership doesn't anticipate conflict by officially stating in the volunteer and employee handbooks what the officially recognized and instated conflict resolution process is (including an employee grievance process) isn't helping their team members to be empowered or ensuring the work place's ability to function professionally (or even well).  None of these human resource management ideas are new and should be taken fairly seriously as a normal part of modern day human resource management, if not also professional best (or better) practices.

__ What is the specific nonprofit's general office culture?  Do team members (whether employees, interns, consultants, or volunteers) feel included and valued?  Do their supervisors and other leadership listen to their suggestions, concerns, or ideas?  Are they told when they've done a job well?  Are they repeatedly admonished for the same thing?  Are they given any support or suggestions to remedy their issue, by their superiors?  Are the administration and team members working under supervisors regularly asked to provide the upper most leadership (i.e. the board) with objective, fair, but truthful (usually anonymous) job performance feedback (just like presumably their supervisors provide about these subordinates' job performance, annually)?  Are there open door policies among all leaders, welcoming their subordinates and others to provide fair but truthful feedback or a general sense that one can share problems that they're having and feel safe, heard, and taken seriously when they do?  Is there rampant gossip among the leaders and/or staff?  Are there cliques?  Are there sacred cows that some leaders see their subordinate or subordinates as?  Is there professionalism in day to day operations among staff and leaders, or are some aspects of day to day operations childish, less than professional, retaliatory, defensive, or based in insecurities?  Again, if an operation's day to day culture is less than what it could be, there are many excellent resources to help mitigate and better the problems such as The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation Nonprofit Leadership Institute's Nonprofit Good Practice Guide (click on Human Resources in the middle of the web page); or the Centerpoint for Leaders' Human Resources Guide for Small Nonprofits ; or The Free Management Library's Human Resource Management (and Talent Management) section written by Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD.

__ How well trained are each leader in the organization and that includes each person responsible for another person's work, results, etc.?   Does each leader in the organization know: modern leadership skills (and uses them), conflict resolution, effective listening and communicating skills, and how to deal with difficult personalities?  Each leader should also know basic first aid, pertinent employment laws, and who they should turn to when issues pertinent to their own work position crop up.  These questions beg that you also review the same of: the executive director, each board member, and all other leaders that oversee the organization.  This is not just a question that suggests only reviewing the organization's middle management.


__ Does each volunteer, intern, staff member, and consultant have to affirm (in some standard and official protocol) that they have received, have read, and understand the conflict resolution protocols officially in place in your nonprofit organization?

Then, to get specific to the people involved in the conflict, themselves: does the organization have a conflict resolution process or policy in place in either its bylaws, volunteer and or employee handbook, or any other official document?  If so, these should be followed.  Otherwise, consider the following:

__ Not everyone has to: like each other, agree (and in fact, nonprofits and their efforts benefit when their is dissension or disagreement as it causes discussion and discussion can move causes and their efforts forward in new, innovative, and powerful ways), or see things the same way.  Also, conflict is not a "bad" thing but rather how one feels while they are in a conflict is uncomfortable and not preferable.  The fact is reasonable people, acting reasonably, can argue, have differing opinions or points of view, and also get through conflicts reasonably.

__ Can everyone involved in the conflict sit down, face to face, safely, in a professional setting and circumstance; is each person willing to; can someone objective who is committed to remaining objective be present to take official notes; can the setting be a safe zone so that each person receives equal time to speak, agrees to listen to each other person, and can do so without disparaging, attacking, or threatening others; and does each person involved have the skills to share and listen to everyone else at the table?  Should an outside consultant, officially recognized professional mediator, or other type of professional be brought in to assist in solving the conflict?  Can a discussion be held, including all involved people who wish to be present, in a neutral location, in order to at least begin a discussion to get beyond the conflict?  A clear meeting start and end time should be set, prior to the meeting, and clearly stated to each and all persons involved.  These strict start and end times should be followed.  Each person involved (whether attending or not) should receive an outline of the meeting's topics and anticipated proceedings and it should be on point to solve the conflict and not about the conflict, people involved, how it began, etc. Finally, it should be plainly and clearly stated for everyone involved in the conflict (including those not intending to attend) that the goal of this meeting is not to discuss the conflict or people involved in it.  State that the goal of the meeting is to create one's own suggested compromise, to share that compromise, to listen to and consider each and all other suggested compromises, and then attendees (or whomever will vote) will vote on which compromise the majority agrees will stand.  Explain that the vote's finding will be how the organization will proceed.  State that only the compromises suggested at the meeting will be considered in the vote, and state who will vote, who will tally the vote, and when the vote will be held (see below for suggestions).

At the meeting...

__ When everyone who is attending is seated, can each person agree to four basic rules: to share with and also listen to each person involved in the conflict while also not disparaging anyone else present, or not present?  Thirdly, can everyone agree to a 'one person has the floor to speak, only, at any time' during the meeting?  No interrupting, eye rolling, or other forms of interference while anyone else has the floor.  Anything anyone has to say can be jotted down and brought up during their turn to speak (in a mature, non-disparaging, not personal fashion). Fourth, can each person agree that an objective democratic vote resulting in majority rules will be a way to move this conflict and the organization's goals forward? Each participant should be agree to these rules and also carry them out, during the meeting and vote.

__ What is the organization's mission statement?  What are the preexisting, established, ratified (formally set) official organizational values, vision, and what are the current organizational program goals, and for whom or what does the organization do the work that it does?  This is an already established, pre-determined set of 'truths' that each person involved in the conflict can agree upon.  These should be listed on a board in plain view of everyone.  If one of these basic core organizational attributes is at the heard of the conflict, then list the items, here, that are not a part of the conflict.  Also, these can cause or contribute to a conflict if the organization's core attributes are not clear, current, extant enough, or too general.  Are one or some of these issues contributing to a conflict or several conflicts?  If so, perhaps a strategic planning process is in order so that the organization's leadership can get these current, clear, defined, on point, and so that each is effective in the spirit of the mission statement on file with the state and IRS, and to the intended benefit of the beneficiaries of the organization's work.


__ Revisit the organization's mission, who or what is/are the beneficiaries of the organization's work and what are their known (quantifiable and verifiable) current and as yet unmet needs, and what are the organization's current (already pre-established) programs goals?  Given these "truths" each person should silently, to themselves invent and then consider what single compromises, given the conflict at hand, could result from the conflict that would, in practice: a) be in perfect alignment with the mission statement, meet each of the organization's values, and truly achieve the mission statement's goal for the better of the beneficiaries of the organization's work?  A compromise would be partly compromising their own point of view, while compromising just as much as they have their own point of view, the point of view the other people involved in the conflict.  Each compromise should also only deal specifically with each and every person's point of view state during the conflict.  In other words, no one should suggest a compromise that involves anything outside of the scope of the points of view expressed during the conflict.  Finally, each compromise must be viable.  It should not be something that is beyond the ability of the organization to carry out.  Once each person shares their compromise it will stand, unless that person needs to edit it to be certain that their suggested compromise is viable.  Each person should note to themselves what compromise they've invented.

__ Each person should be given the exact same amount of time to explain, without interruption, coercion, interference, or any other obstruction or threat what their suggested compromise is.  Each suggested compromise should be listed on a board in plain view of everyone.

__ Are there any questions (i.e. necessary clarity, details, meaning of words used in) about the listed compromises?  This is not an opportunity to argue, insert one's own point of view, etc.  The point of this step is purely to achieve on topic clarity for all.  Also, are the listed suggestions viable per the mission statement and current needs of the beneficiaries, only?  If some are but others aren't, allow the person or people who formulated the not viable compromises to tweak or alter their suggested compromise so that it is viable per the mission statement.  This is not an opportunity for anyone to change their suggested compromise, edit someone else's, or add new ones.

This is important.  Ask everyone present that will vote to stop and truly weigh each and every suggested compromise with the mission statement and beneficiaries and their needs in mind.  Nothing else, during any work that any nonprofit conducts, is as important or relevant as the mission and the beneficiaries (ever).

__ Vote.  Only compromises listed on the board should be considered during the vote.  Democratic processes for determining the majority's opinion has a way of both acknowledging that no group of individual people wholly agrees on everything (or hardly anything) while also moving a resolution based on 'majority rules' forward.  Voting may be done anonymously as long as its count is conducted by an objective uninvolved party (and can be objectively verified after the fact) in succinct time, or it may be done out in the open as long as each person involved feels safe and included in the vote, and its tally, when doing so.

If a vote is held and it's a stalemate or results in further conflict, then the organization may need to use an outside mediation resource, other process, or involve more time to resolve the conflict.

Also, the democratic vote can be put to the people involved in the conflict, at the meeting to solve the conflict, or the suggested compromises should perhaps be shared with the board and executive director (if one or each are not present) before the vote, if the vote is one that they uniquely should vote on, then they should proceed (as per the organization's by laws). I've also heard of organizations in conflict putting only the vote to its membership, clients, donors, etc. (without also sharing, officially or less than officially, the conflict, who is  involved, how the conflict began, etc.).  Which ever group of people who are most likely to base their vote on what's best for the organization's mission statement work and the beneficiaries of the organization's work should be at least considered as potential voters.

This kind of organizational disruption occurs and is inevitable, but how an organization's leadership handles it can be critical to the organization's professional reputation, ability to succeed at its work, its ability to recruit talented volunteers and staff in the future, and more.  This kind of conflict can be expensive, too, and not just in monetary value.  Dealing with a conflict head on acknowledges it and expedites moving the organization beyond it. 
After the conflict is moved along by the process of addressing what is best for the organization and its beneficiaries, given the mission statement; the leadership should (depending on how disruptive to the organization's work, professionalism, teamwork, reputation, or whatever that this particular conflict was): review the situations, climate, misunderstandings, lack of policies, lack of protocols, lack of knowledge or experience that (one can objectively note reasonably defend as in part or wholly) led to the conflict.  Perhaps an objective independent committee should be convened to study the conflict and then provide its unbiased findings.  Then the leadership should take objective findings seriously, and learn about what can be done to avoid this kind of disruptive conflict in the future, organizationally.  Next the leaders should discuss what has been learned (contemporary professional best practices options), and finally ratify organizational processes or policies that mitigate against such a conflict occurring again if it's possible to.  Never forget that most occurrences, conflict or other less interpersonal forms of difficulties, that happen in a professional setting have happened before, and the benefit in this is some organization somewhere else may have found an excellent solution or remedy that also happened to really improve their organization and its operations.  Conflict occurs and in all professions.  Do not assume that you have to reinvent the wheel each time your organization bumps into challenges.

A List of Grant and Funding Resources for Non Government Organizations, Nonprofits, Businesses, Individuals, and Families in the U.S. and Outside Of It

Instead of posting a single grant opportunity, in this post today, I've decide to list a few organizations that can assist anyone (in the world, anywhere) in locating potential grant (funding) opportunities and supportive assistance.

For International Non-Government Organizations (outside of the U.S.) U.S. Aid

To search through all United States federal government grants currently available United States federal grants

To see what different types of causes and issues the United Nations provides support to and search what support is currently available for each program, go to United Nations aid

The United States government has listed several of its support, funding, and supportive programs for American individuals, families, businesses, and nonprofits at USA government made easy

For Americans and American companies interested in finding out what federal and state incentives exist in their state to go green, go to this database to look, by state, Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency

Monday, August 23, 2010

How To Create A Nonprofit Annual Report

A nonprofit's annual report is: excellent public relations and marketing (as long as the report is disseminated, correct, the truth, and complete); communicating actual information with current and potential donors, so an excellent fundraising tool; remaining in compliance; a regularly conducted practical exercise that can improve the organization's cash flow and financial growth; a professional best practice (in both the nonprofit and accounting fields); and today, necessary.  Most nonprofits that compile an annual report, annually, are demonstrating their professionalism, ability to manage their organization such that it succeeds and grows, and instills confidence.  A nonprofit that knows to annually produce this report and mails it out to its current donors and any potential donors (or anyone else who simply requests it) is demonstrating that they know that reporting actual income and actual expense for the year, plus any other pertinent information i.e. a list of the year's major donors (whatever the definition is of a major donor for that individual nonprofit); a list of the core mission related accomplishments for the year; any accolades, awards, or official recognition for the organization's excellence received from an entity not affiliated to the organization; listing the organization's mission related goals for the coming year; and anything else such as volunteer recognition, staff recognition, new programs or projects, etc.

An annual report is different things to different professional operations (for-profit and nonprofit) but generally, an annual report is a document that in a concise, clear, but thorough format relates the true (verifiable) accounting or bookkeeping summation of a single nonprofit's entire expense (cost of operations) and all of its income for a single fiscal year.  This includes listing all income, all expenses, all assets, and any other line items that are traditionally standard in commonly accepted professional accounting best practices but are not included in one of these three types of accounts.  The goal of the annual report is to provide a real and complete picture of the organization's financial condition and operations for that given year in a clear, complete, in a relatively easy and quick format for ease of reading.  Often, the income will be broken out per revenue stream (i.e. income from: programs, the different fundraising methods conducted for the year, advertising, etc. or whatever methods the organization is using to raise funds); and too then the expenses are borken out by operations' costs (i.e. programs, services, fundraising, administration, etc. or whatever the organization's expenses are).  It is common that a nonprofit's executive director, bookkeeper, and CPA (and if a finance committee exists) will create, check, and double check an annual report.  It is finally verified as accurate and complete by the board of directors who will receive a final form, review it, and then in the next board meeting put it to a vote for it to be ratified.  Once ratified, it becomes an official organizational document.  It is compiled at fiscal year end (after an independent, professional, financial audit is conducted by a CPA) and is often mailed at the first of the new year to current donors (and any other key partners in the organization's work such as board members, trustees, etc.). As I said above, it is a powerful tool to clearly express to the nonprofit's current donors exactly what the financial health or picture is of the nonprofit that they've supported (and this is one of a few professional steps that retains donors as they are being "kept in the loop" as to what the organization's health and operations have been most recently).  Also, it is often requested by other types of donors (besides individual donors).  Usually grant donors, as a part of the grant application process, will request a copy of the most recent year's annual report, so it's important if a nonprofit is or plans to apply for grants to have a complete and accurate one on hand for ease in applying.  Too, if a potential donor who is new to your nonprofit is researching it because they are considering donating to it, it is not uncommon for them to call and request a copy of the annual report.  It is a great tool to use to demonstrate, again, not just the organization's current financial picture, but also to demonstrate the nonprofit's professionalism and transparency; and transparency is a confidence builder among donors.  If a donor who has never given before is considering giving to a nonprofit, calls and requests the most recent annual report and either gets the run around, is told there is no annual report, or is told one will be mailed to them but they never receive it - the potential donor will wonder if the nonprofit is not aware of standard professional nonprofit best practices, is not well run as an organization, or worse: if there is something the nonprofit is hiding.  This may cause the donor to forgo giving to the nonprofit altogether.  When any donor is considering giving to a nonprofit, the more forthright, complete, and true a picture of the nonprofit that the organization can provide for that donor (no matter whether the year has been "stellar" or not) the more confident the donor will feel because the organization is demonstrating (by providing a true complete picture of itself) its transparency and building a donor's confidence in a nonprofit's operations is one very key component to acquiring and retaining new donors.  Some annual reports are two to four clear but simply formatted pages and simply composed on a personal computer.  Others are created in annual report maker programs (and this is actually sometimes a tool included in a donor/donations database software package).  Still other reports are glossy, bound, and more detailed annual reports that were professionally printed and include glossy photos and more.  The size, expense in creating, or fanciness of the annual report is not as important as the accuracy of the information enclosed, the completeness of the picture given, and the extent of information that will be informative and helpful (without going overboard) to a current or potential donor or other type of supporter.  Finally, while it is an opportunity to thank everyone involved in the organization's effort for that year (and it is), it doesn't hurt to include a donation remittance envelope with each annual report sent out.

Many nonprofits, today, will provide their annual report (year after year) on their organization's website (usually given its own tab and resulting page or .PDF file on the website's donation page) and it is a very quick, handy, and again highly professional and transparent way to demonstrate to anyone visiting the nonprofit's website that it is a communicative, honest, and transparent professional organization.  Again, forthright proactive disclosure builds confidence.  Plus, putting it on the agency's website makes it easy for anyone with access to the Internet to get the information quickly and easily (without having to call your organization to request a hard copy be snail mailed).

Let me demonstrate how to pull an annual report together.  Let's say that you and I work for Baby Booties for All Babies (BBAB) on the fundraising team.  Our fiscal year (the calendar for the organization's accounting), let's say, runs from January to December (so, it's the same as the calendar year).  Let's say, too, that it's January 5, everyone returned to work after the holiday break, and the CPA that BBAB uses to conduct our annual independent financial audit has already phoned our nonprofit's bookkeeper leaving a voice message that they'd like to schedule the audit for the just ended previous year.  Our bookkeeper has already completed her financial year end work (i.e. finalizes totals for income and expenses, finalized final quarter financials and financials for the year, and all of these key financials have already been reviewed, voted on, and ratified by the board).  So, our bookkeeper and the organization is ready to be audited, so she calls that CPA and says, "...great, we're ready when you are...".

Let's say that the auditing CPA comes into our office, borrowing an empty desk for a few days to do his or her work, and finishes the audit after four business days.  They leave on the evening of the fourth day promising that their office will get the completed and accurate independent audit of BBAB's finances for the most recent previous year back to us in a couple of weeks.  After two weeks, our executive director receives the independent financial audit (which, by the way, is also a very powerful tool, in and of itself, to again provide transparent information to potential donors, in order to raise funds usually from larger amount donors such as grant donors or major donors as again, the document demonstrates transparency, but also gives an independently verified accounting of the nonprofit's books).

Once we, in the fundraising office, get the ratified previous year's final bookkeeping numbers and the audit we can sit down to create the just recently ended previous financial year's annual report.  We create it in Microsoft Office on one of our work computers.  We decide to include the following in the annual report: that BBAB is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit, BBAB's federal identification number, our mission statement; quotes from three recent peer reviewed and reputable studies' findings demonstrating what needs exists in the community, that until BBAB provided the services it does were not being met; a couple of photos from the recent year's programs (our staff disseminating knitted slippers and booties to low income new born babies' mothers), photos from this past year's services (clients receiving booties or shoes for their one year's old children); a thank you letter (for supporting BBAB which succeeds at its mission) from one of our clients; a letter from our board president thanking supporters and summing up our organization's year; the complete service statistics for the year's programs and services (including the demographics of the populations served); the financial information standard in any annual report; the ratified, summarized, but complete fiscal year end Balance Sheet; a page listing and thanking all of our volunteers; and a page listing and thanking all of the people or entities that donated $100 or more that year; and a list of the goals and expected outcomes of those goals for the coming year.

For the financial information, we figure out and provide the following breakdown.  We know from our bookkeeper (as the board ratified the following and the independent audit verified that the following bookkeeping was in fact accurate ) that BBAB received the following in income, spent the following in expenses, and also owns the following assets:

Expenses
Programs
New Booties for Newborns - $15,000
Little Shoes for Mighty Small Feet - $10,000
Big Knitters for Little Feet - $8,000
Services
Newborns' Slipper, Shoe, and Bootie Dissemination - $45,000
One Year Old Slipper, Shoe, and Bootie Dissemination - $35,000
Slipper, Shoe, and Bootie Acquisitions - $10,000
Newborn and Infant Podiatry, Shoe Store, and Special Needs Information and Referral Services - $7,000
Overhead - $5,000
Administration - $20,000
Fundraising - $20,000

Income
Annual Appeal Donations - $25,000
Major Donors' Contributions - $20,000
Golf Tournament and Sports Collectors' Memorabilia Auction Special Event Fees & Donations - $15,000
Gala Dinner and Art Exhibition Special Event Fees & Donations - $15,000
Quarterly Newsletters' Donation Remittance Envelope Donations - $9,000
Board Members' Contributions - $12,000
Grants - $20,000
Sponsorships $1,000
Newsletter Advertising Income $1,000
In Kind Contributions' Fair Market Value $1,000
Interest from Endowment $500
Interest from Stocks $100
Interest from Bonds $100
Interest from Savings $200

Assets
Baby Booties for All Babies' two story, 3,000 square foot building - $1.2 million
Endowment - $7,000
Savings - $5,000
Stocks - $40,000
Bonds - $100,000

While listing this all out is fine, to save room and to make reading these breakdowns easier, we put the above items and numbers into Excel, look up how to make pie charts from that information in Microsoft Office's Excel, and render 3 pie charts that we cut and paste into our annual report: expenses, income, and assets.  We include these three pie charts along with the above listed information and wind up creating a concise, clear, but complete, and truthful annual report.

Nominations for MIT Financial Award for Sustainability Projects

From The Foundation Center...

[If you are interested in this grant opportunity, click "Link Complete RFP" in blue, below this post].

Deadline: October 5, 2010

Nominations Invited for Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability


The $100,000 Lemelson-MIT Award for Sustainability is an annual award that honors inventors whose products or processes impact issues of global relevance, as well as issues that impact local communities in terms of meeting basic health needs, and building sustainable livelihoods for the world's poorest populations.

To foster technological invention in the area of sustainability, the Award for Sustainability celebrates outstanding inventors whose technological products or processes collectively enhance human development, mitigate human environmental impact, and/or provide adaptations to environmental changes that are unalterable in the near term. These types of changes often adversely impact the most vulnerable populations. Issues of sustainability in developed and developing countries include quality of air, water, or soil, or pertain to health, energy, agriculture, shelter, biodiversity, or ecosystem management. Through their work, successful candidates help to ensure effective pathways for global coexistence and the vitality of future generations.

Eligible candidates must be U.S. citizens, permanent residents, or foreign nationals currently working legally in the United States. Candidates may be individuals or a team of two collaborating inventors, and they must be nominated by one of their peers.

Visit the MIT Web site for program information.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

How Does A Grant Writer Go About Acquiring Buy In?

I received a question, this week, from a Seeking Grant Money Today reader asking how does a grant writer, as the grant writing work first begins, acquire and achieve buy in among the organization's leadership.  It's a good question because buy in is not always just automatically there, existing, before a grant writer starts a grant writing program up.  Also, even at a nonprofit that has a long-existing established grant writing program, if there have been questions among the leadership about how potentially effective (successful) the grant writing effort can ultimately be, there may exist buy in issues, here, too.  So, a new grant writing effort or not, acquiring buy in from key leaders and staff can be difficult for grant writers.

I've experienced many variations of this very situation and while it may seem off-putting or even become a confrontation between the grant writer and some number of the organization's leadership; it is actually (and don't roll your eyes) an opportunity.  Why?  Whenever anyone launches a new program at any professional operation there are natural aversions (it's even normal and healthy) because it's something new (and that new program costs money to conduct plus everyone wants to see results).  Also, people are usually anxious when a fundraising method needs to have raised $X or $Y by such and such date.  It isn't always a question of whether it can be done or not (but sometimes it is); rather, it's often just anxiety as a certain amount of funds must be in the door from this one fundraising avenue and the natural questions arise causing insecurity ('...will we do it?', '...what if we come in less than or very low?', etc.).  There maybe some general concerns about the specific organization's ability to fundraise at all (whether grant writing or another form of fundraising such as appeal letter response, or a raffle, or whatever) and this has less to do with grant writing, specifically, and perhaps more to do with the organization's recent public relations, recent low success rates in response to the agency's fundraising, or worse (and this is an organizational operations issue and likely deeper and larger than just the purview of the grant writing program).  Finally, as is often the case with adversity or anxiety, there maybe a simple solution to the lack of buy in.  Perhaps all that is going on (or maybe even just part of what's causing the lack of buy in) is that the key leadership does not actually understanding the grant writing process and how it works or they misunderstand (or have it altogether wrong) about how it works, and its potential for the organization to succeed.  Any one or number of these potential causes to adversity to grant writing as a fundraising method can be overcome.

First, the grant writer (like anyone who works with other people) must "pick your battle", and wisely.  Personalities come in to play at work and it's always wise to be conscious of the people involved in the situation, their personalities, and what politics are involved, as well.  It just helps to step outside of the situation as objectively as one can, to observe the entire picture trying to see it, too, from others' perspectives (not just seeing it from your own) in order to: in your own thinking get a little mental and emotional distance from the situation, be able to get a bit objective, understand what in total is at play in this situation (i.e. sometimes there are already existing personality or political issues at play between others involved that frankly, maybe just aren't worth your getting involved in, over this issue), and in order to as objectively as possible try to perceive some of the real causes for the adversity, come up with possible solutions, and deduce what can be done to alleviate the situation.  None of this is easy or a terribly fast or succinct process, and is often trial and error: attempting one thing, seeing the result of that attempt, and finding another new idea is necessary, so you return to the drawing board.  And you and I have gone through this political problem solving before, I'm sure, so this is no different, here.

As a result the organization may do any of the following: 

_ not understanding how a nonprofit affords to pay for a grant writing program (i.e. the overhead costs, staff, etc.)

_ micro-managing the grant writer out of anxiety about needing the grant money (a too hands on approach)

_ thinking that the only fundraising a nonprofit need do is grant writing (though sometimes this might be enough for the time being, depending…)

_ assuming that grant writing will reap a lot of money right away

_ not understanding the entire grant writing process (including initial discovery and then initial prospecting) and the time involved in each step, and then total in order for a truly viable grant program to launch

_ assuming that they can just hand the grant writer some organizational documents and the grant writer will go off and magically cause grants to begin to appear (a too hands off approach)

In practice, in order for a grant writer to create buy in, she or he can: begin by demonstrating their professional capabilities such that the client becomes comfortable and confident about that grant writer’s experience, knowledge, and capabilities; clearly explain (and then explain again and again as this is really a learning curve to summit) what the entire grant writing process actually is, what is normal at each stage and why, what they should expect at each point along the way, and what the realistic time line will be for the entire process; demonstrating (by example of your work or other nonprofits’ successes) how effective grant writing is once a program is initiated by a nonprofit and up and operating (and then conducted going forward so that the upfront costs are lessened by the eventual success rate (acquiring grants)); encouraging anyone involved who is skeptical, critical, anxious, etc. about the grant writing program, process, or prospects to talk with you; and continually communicate regularly and often about the state of the program and process, what has been achieved, what is pending, and what the next action items are (and when they will be completed).  Encourage them to ask their friends and colleagues working for other nonprofits what their grant writing experiences have been, what the process is, how long the process takes, and what the results or outcomes have been.  Encourage them to educate themselves (from professional reputable resources) about the grant writing process, too.

Again, none of this is easy, obvious, or just something that any ol' grant writer worth their salt should just know how to fix quickly, accurately, and to some perfect end.  Every situation is different.  This kind of situation, no matter one's profession, where anyone works, or what they are doing 'right', is a challenge.  But, it is a challenge that can be overcome with some patience, empathy, dedication, and time.

Grants for Family Literacy Building Programs at Local Libraries

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: November 12, 2010

Applications Invited for National Center for Family Literacy Library Grants


Better World Books and the National Center for Family Literacy (NCFL) are teaming up again this year to provide Libraries and Families Award grants for libraries with exceptional family programming.

Through this opportunity, NCFL and Better World Books will reward and enhance existing family programming and expand literacy-building practices of families in library settings. Grants will help connect more families to their local libraries and expand their literacy efforts in new and innovative ways.

NCFL anticipates awarding three $10,000 grant awards, one in each of the following three categories: local friends of the library programs, public/academic libraries, and urban libraries.

In addition, award recipients will receive scholarships to attend the National Conference on Family Literacy in 2011.

Nominees must be existing family library programs. Applications must be submitted by the program director or coordinator — someone who is familiar with the nominated program and the effects of the program on families and the community.

Visit the NCFL Web site for guidelines.

Monday, August 09, 2010

How To Request Any Support: A Donation, A Grant, Etc.; By Making A Compelling Case To Support Your Orgainzation

Raising support is about gaining a contributor's support and not about hammering someone over the head until they give. Nonprofits, who themselves are mired in a tough economy or lulled by their own written rhetoric or phrasing in their fundraising materials, though, can lose their objectivity when creating new, written, fundraising materials and lose their ability (or miss the opportunity) to actually raise support in a fashion so that the donor will not just give this one time now, but will also give again and again, in the future.

We're getting close to the end of the year in fiscal terms.  Often nonprofits get their annual appeal letters out to their donors prior to the end of the year because they want to both get their attention before the onslaught of many other nonprofits' appeals reach their donors' mailboxes, and also because the end of the year is the last opportunity for Americans to do anything to effect their tax liability for that year.  The contribution may be a good tool for donors to use to their own benefit (besides assisting their favorite causes and organizations) to defer some of their personal tax liability for that year through the contribution and its resulting tax write off.

I have received two different requests this past week.  One was from a welfare nonprofit that I have contributed to, before, and the other was from a professional affiliation which is itself a nonprofit.  While each request was heartfelt, meant well, and was sort of compelling, neither really did a good job of encouraging me to actually give and unfortunately this is not unusual among nonprofit solicitations.


When any nonprofit sits down to write any kind of donation request, whether it is a grant application, an annual appeal letter asking donors to give for the year, a sponsorship solicitation, an in kind item request, or anything else asking for support there are a few fundamental bits of information that must be included to make a compelling case for anyone receiving the request to give to your nonprofit.  They are:

1. Know to whom the letter should go and address the letter and envelope to that person, correctly.  I know I sound obvious or even condescending when I say this, but I don't mean to.  This advice is borne out of my own experience.  I have missed this very basic but powerful step in the fundraising process and paid the price, so I'm imparting my own experience.  Your donors names and contact information should be in a database of some sort in correct form; but if you are writing to a local business requesting a sponsorship or to a foundation requesting a grant, then know who (currently) is going to read the letter, spell their name correctly, get the mailing address right, and also get their current title correct and include all of that in a proper address block (on the envelope and on the letter per business letter formatting) and in correct form in the salutation in the letter. 

2. Be clear, succinct, thorough, and to the point in the letter's content.  I never read a four page donation solicitation.  I neither have the time nor the energy to, by the time in the day that I typically pick up my mail, get in the door of my house, and take a second to go through it.  It's usually after work and I'm tired.  Think about your own routine with snail mail and consider the recipients of your letter.  You want to be effective in raising funds through this solicitation so I'd do whatever makes good sense to reach them, inform them, make a compelling case why they would want to give, make the request, and thank them in a clear, 'to the point', and succinct fashion.  Also, include a remittance envelope with your request so that it's easy for them to give.

3. There is some very specific information that should be stated in each solicitation and every time.  This is where the two solicitations that I received this week missed an opportunity.  Always include in each letter that solicits for any kind of support:
a.) Open with a "...thank you..." - I try to at least in the opening paragraph and then also again in the closing paragraph of each and any solicitation letter that I compose to say "thank you".  Each of the people who are going to receive a solicitation have either indicated that they care about the cause your organization works for, or have given something to your organization in the past.  Either way: the recipient cares and for just that alone, a thank you is warranted (whether they have given or not, before, and whether they gave thousands and thousands or five dollars).
b.) "...this is what we have accomplished this year..." - Each time this is omitted in a solicitation of any kind, sent to me, I'm astounded.  Many nonprofit fundraising materials writers substitute 'heart wrenching' or 'hitting someone over the head with their heart strings' for this content and in my opinion (not just as a professional fundraiser, but as a recipient of nonprofit solicitations) it is a huge mistake and a missed opportunity to develop a potential repeat donor.  People give because they care about a cause or issue but they give to specific nonprofit organizations because of that organization's success rate, potential, integrity, reputation for effectiveness and honesty, and for their achievements in the cause or issue.  Repeat donors (donors who give once and then again, and again) give because a nonprofit is successful at achieving the goals of its mission statement.  The only way a potential donor will know what a nonprofit's recent successes and achievements are is if that organization tells its current supporters, clients, and the potential supporters in its communities.  This information is compelling and by virtue of it making the case why someone who gives to your specific agency is making a sound investment in the community (rather than pulling on heart strings which any nonprofit could do to raise funds and by virtue of blending with the rest makes no real compelling case why that single nonprofit should receive a donor's support over the next organization working on the same issue).
c. "...this is what our nonprofit's goals and anticipated outcomes are for this coming year and here's why we have put these goals into place..." - Again, the two solicitations failed to mention these in each of the solicitations that I received this week and it leaves me, the potential donor, wondering what my money is supposed to do in the community if I give it.  Do not make the same mistake.  Do not leave potential donors wondering what their money will be invested to do in the community.  Tell them explicitly.
d. "...the population that benefits from this specific organization's work are..." and then provide current factual demographics and other descriptions of whatever it is that the organization exists to assist and enable and include the clear, current, honest reason that the organization's work is still needed (succinctly).  For example, if I work for an environmental nonprofit working to preserve prairie land I might write, "...four thousand natural prairie land acres were acquired, protected, and preserved for future generations, this past year; but we have studied current unmet needs and located twenty thousand local wild prairie land acres that still need our protection and this year our programs are designed to do x, y, and z to achieve this goal..." and provide specific clear objectives.  If you don't impart what the entity, people, thing is that needs assistance and what it is nor what the real, current, but as yet unmet need is that exists, today, warranting more work or effort; why should a potential donor believe their support will 'do anything'?  Nonprofits are in partnerships with their supporters: they are the formal organization set up to do something about an issue and the supporters are the ones that enable that organization to succeed at the work of its mission statement.
e. Clearly state what it is that you are requesting by sending the letter and make this request in both the opening and closing paragraphs; and do not limit what the recipient might give.  If I am working for a nonprofit that provides clothing to low income school children I might write to our donors, "...Since our goals include providing winter parkas to 20,000, local, low income, school children, as we did this year, but also an additional 5,000 more school children this year please give a cash or an asset contribution today, partnering with our organization to achieve this goal."  I did not state, "...give $35..." or "...give generously...".  I asked them to give.  If you ask for $35 based on some amount that the donor has given for the past five years, but they were considering giving $100, as they read the letter, because they believe in the goals and programs your organization is going to offer; but they come to the request in the letter and are only asked for $35, then you may have just lost $65 for your agency.  Make a request but don't make any assumptions or place any unforeseen limits on what they may or may not contribute.
f.  Say "...thank you..." again in the close.  As I said above, thanking anyone for both their interest but also their considering giving is not just polite, it's acknowledging them and their ability to help solve the issue or cause and it's worth doing.

Finally, because we are in the midst of a recession, I must say a word or two about emergency solicitations.  In 2001, I was working on staff at a medium sized nonprofit.  It always did an excellent job of maintaining its usual cash flow by fundraising well.  After the attacks on 9/11, most nonprofits, world wide, that were not working in causes related to first responders, emergency services, or other efforts related to the attacks suddenly saw their usual cash flow diminish (understandably).  I worked for a nonprofit that provided direct services to local people suffering from multiple sclerosis and while each of us working at that nonprofit understood what motivated people world wide were giving after the attacks, we faced a momentary but nonetheless real crisis.  We needed to raise what we expected we would for the months after 9/11 and had to figure out how to do so, and quickly.  I created an emergency solicitation letter with our executive director and it was a big success (raising what it needed to, for that organization, and more).

Emergency solicitations are not unusual right now, sadly (because of the state of this economy), and I don't mind receiving them because I really appreciate the work that the nonprofits conduct, that I have chosen to support.  If they are having difficulties raising what they need to conduct basic operations, then I want to know because I want to do what I can to help.  Also, emergency solicitation are reasonable requests by these organizations as, to be clear, these aren't organizations facing closing because they are poorly operated or because their leadership haven't done yet what was necessary to get the organization through this recession.  These are nonprofits that are facing not raising some finite amount of money that, once raised, will 'right the boat' and allow their operations to remain on track.

Sending an emergency solicitation to a nonprofit's donors is not just a forthright and reasonable thing to do, sometimes it's a necessary thing to do and it's O.K. as long as it's clear.  State what has occurred, what is needed, why the organization needs X or Y amount, and clearly state what that amount (once raised) will honestly do for the organization such as, "...once this agency raises the now needed $50,000 we will have rectified the gap that is currently sitting in our fundraising budget, and fixed our temporary but vital revenue discrepancy, putting this nonprofit back on track to meet all of its programmatic budgets and achieve its mission goals for the year...".

Hitting a potential donor over the head with emotions rather than snatching the opportunity to truly engender in a donor the clear reason why their contribution will make a good improvement to the community by virtue of their giving to your specific agency is not just a lost opportunity to raise more money; it's a lost opportunity to bring someone interested in doing so into achieving successes for the community - and that's a shame for the community, the donor, and whoever or whatever it is that your organization exists to enable and better.

Grants for Soccer Programs in Underprivileged U.S. Communities of 50k+; Nonprofits, Schools, Municipalities, Colleges, Universities, or Tribes May Apply

From The Foundation Center...

[If you would like more information about this grant opportunity click "Contact: Link to RFP" at the end of this post].

Deadline: October 29, 2010

U.S. Soccer Foundation Announces Guidelines for 2011 Grant Cycle


Since 1995, the U.S. Soccer Foundation has awarded grants to more than six hundred organizations in all fifty states. The grants support projects throughout the U.S. that focus on keeping children in vulnerable communities active, healthy, and safe from the dangers of the streets.

For the 2011 grants cycle, the foundation's focus will be on projects and programs that develop players, coaches, and referees in economically disadvantaged urban areas encompassing populations of 50,000 or more. The foundation is especially interested in organizations that incorporate a youth development element such as anti-violence, anti-drugs, healthy lifestyles, etc. into their soccer programs.

The foundation's annual grants cycle includes the following grant types.

Program Grants will be awarded for player and team equipment from Kwik Goal and Eurosport (shoes, shin guards, uniforms, traveling goals, balls, cones, etc.); travel costs for games and practice (excludes expenses for professional games); facility rental costs; registration costs; training fees for coaches; and training fees for referees. This grant type does not include any project that contains a construction element. For the 2011 grant cycle, there is a $100,000 maximum request amount for Program Grants.

Field Grants will be awarded for irrigation products from Hunter Irrigation, sports lighting from Musco Sports Lighting, field maintenance equipment from the Toro Company, and modular surfaces from Sport Court. This grant type does not include upgrading an existing field with a synthetic grass surface; these fall within the parameters of the Footprint Fields (Synthetic Field) Grant type. For the 2011 grant cycle, there is a $100,000 maximum request amount for Field Grants.

Footprint Fields (Synthetic Field) Grants will be awarded for the installation of a synthetic field surface from FieldTurf. This grant type includes both new field construction and the upgrading of existing fields with a synthetic field surface. For the 2011 grants cycle, there is a maximum $200,000 request amount for Synthetic Field Grants.

To be eligible for consideration for a grant of any type, applicants must apply on behalf of a program or project operating in the U.S., and be a not-for-profit organization, school, municipality, college or university, public school, or sovereign tribal nation that meets the established focus for the 2011 grant cycle.

To be eligible for consideration for a Field or Footprint Fields (Synthetic Field) Grant, applicants must own or have a minimum ten year lease/land use agreement on the land where the field building project will take place, and have written authorization from the community where the field-building project will take place to add lights to the field(s) (if applying for lights as part of the project).

The grant application will open October 1, 2010. The foundation is holding Q & A Calls in August to answer questions and prepare applications for the upcoming grant cycle. Information is available at the foundation Web site.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

What Does A Nonprofit Do That's Facing Being Taxed?

These are difficult times verging on a recession.  Without a doubt these are extraordinary times, with national and local unemployment levels at record highs for recent years; municipalities, including cities and states facing daunting budgetary shortfalls; and nonprofits in some U.S. cities and states may be the first in recent history to pay taxes.

As nonprofits by definition do not make any profit whatsoever, most states and municipalities (like the federal government) have not taxed nonprofits operating in their jurisdiction because these organizations provide services, products, and other benefits in the public's interest (arguably adding to any state or town's infrastructure, economy, and quality of life) at no profit.  The nonprofit most often provides the work and goal of its mission statement by raising its own funds and providing its efforts at either no fee, a sliding scale fee relating to the beneficiary's income level, or at a fee that is lower than the private sector's charge for the same service or product.  In other words, these organizations' efforts are usually not cost prohibitive to the benefactors.  These public services are accessible.  Taxation on an organization that makes no profit, funds its operations by raising funds, and provides its efforts to the benefit of the community has traditionally been seen as a double hit to the nonprofit sector.  As such, it is not difficult to imagine that nonprofits who raise all funds for all expenses would find paying taxes an additional financial burden in an already extraordinarily difficult economy.  Nonprofits face the exact same near recession economy as they fundraise, right now, as any other entity: for profit, municipality, or other nonprofit tries to stay afloat.  It isn't easy for any of us.

In my March 21, 2010 blog post, Some U.S. States Considering Taxing Nonprofits to Make Up for Empty Coffers, I report on what cities and states have been considering taxing nonprofits within their jurisdictions.  These states and municipalities are from outside of these nonprofits, adding an extra expense line into the operating budgets of every nonprofit they tax.  These nonprofits will have to spend money to raise that additional (tax) money, which is an additional overhead (internal operations') cost for the nonprofit that is not raising new additional money for operations, but of course instead purely passing through the money they raise to pay their tax bills to the state or municipality that taxes them.  Put another way: the state or city that charges nonprofits taxes that operate within its boundaries is putting the burden of raising that state's or city's funds, for its coffers, on organizations that exist to provide the services or products that they do, at no profit.  In effect, these jurisdictions are saying to nonprofits, 'hey, our leadership could not trim our spending enough nor cut costs enough, or bring in any new revenue; so, would you please go out, at your expense, and get us some revenue?  We're laying this problem at your already poorly funded feet.'

Yes, nonprofits are active businesses operating in the cities and states that they conducting their business in.  Yes, some nonprofits that contract with those states or cities, receiving the benefit of having that business.  Yes, all state or municipal services, utilities, etc. are made available to nonprofits like any other taxed entity; but here's the thing...no nonprofit makes money paying dividends or other forms of profit to owners, shareholders, or investors.  By virtue of them being nonprofits, these are very lean efficient organizations that operate to either meet costs or spend down at the end of their fiscal year.  Now, though, they must besides doing so for their operations, also fundraise for the state or city that taxes them, too.  Yet, as I state in my March 21 blog post,

"I wonder if these cities or states that are proposing these taxes have properly researched the cost/benefit analysis, over a year, over three years, over five years, etc. (the cost vs. benefit to their communities) if they tax these organizations. See the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy's 2009 study, "Strengthening Democracy, Increasing Opportunities" that found "Research on nearly 70 nonprofits from New Mexico, North Carolina, Minnesota and Los Angeles County over a five year period showed that these groups combined generated nearly $14 billion worth of benefits for their diverse communities, and many other non-monetary gains. The return for every dollar invested in these groups ranged from $89 to a staggering $157." If nonprofits, or even those people or entities that donate to nonprofits, pay for a tax burden, all of that [sic. new additional] money is money that could have been spent on [sic. the nonprofit's] programs that will not be provided, and in turn, the services, programs, and products that all of the nonprofits within these taxing jurisdictions will have, in effect, raised very expensive tax dollars, indeed."  [2012 Addition to this Post: The State of Oregon did a similar study which may also help any nonprofit working with its legislators to demonstrate that the value of the nonprofit sector is extant and important.  It is Study Finds Oregon Nonprofits $13 Billion Industry  It is not a sector to take lightly in any state, I'm sure.]

The benefit that any nonprofit brings to the region that it serves should not be underestimated nor taken for granted, and I would argue that these states or municipalities that are taxing their nonprofits are doing both.  Perhaps, to be fair, these states' or municipalities' leaders are not clear on what all a nonprofit does that is a low cost benefit to its community (and contribution to that economy); or perhaps they are not clear on what a nonprofit corporation is, how a nonprofit operates, or how one funds itself in a given year.

Any nonprofit that is being taxed for the first time, should do a few things before the taxation begins.  Face the situation (perhaps forming a new volunteer committee responsible to learn about, plan for, and address the new taxation).  If I were the executive director of such an organization, I would:

1. Contact my nonprofit's executive leadership and the organization's bookkeeper and CPA and sit down to meet to discuss this new additional financial burden and liability.  Request that everyone read up on their own time, on the situation, and also learn what is next for your local taxing government and its plan.  Meet and talk.

2. Contact my colleagues working at other local nonprofits, and ask the board to reach out to their colleagues and friends working for other nonprofits in the region, and ask them what their organization's discussion about raising taxes has been and what they are anticipating doing.  I'd also share the same information.

3. Research what the tax equation will be that our nonprofit will be asked to pay, determine what (in a realistic and fair estimation) our actual tax bill will be for the current and then following fiscal year (so, for two years), and then build that new additional tax expense into the current and coming organizational operating budgets for this and next year (and operating budgets should anticipate sluggish economy or even inflation with some padding, etc.)

4. Next, request face to face sit down meetings with each and every representative that represents our organization's street address in that taxing state or municipality's government body (i.e. state senator, governor, attorney general, or city counselor, or county commissioner, mayor, etc.) and share with them what your nonprofit's research and networking has borne out.  If you do not speak up on your organization's interests with the people who represent it in the government taxing it: no one else should be expected to - and an avenue for potential resolution is shut.  Share with the reps what the new additional burden will be, what the economy has already done to slow down or even end some of your nonprofit's fundraising, programs, and services; and make a case for them why this is an extraordinary burden to be laid at the feet of the nonprofit sector through facts, numbers, and the outcomes and results of the new tax burden and this economy's effects on the organization.  If you need compelling examples (perhaps to argue to an entity about to tax your region's nonprofits) of what happens to those the nonprofits assist when nonprofits are taxed by municipalities or states see the recent related news stories posted at the bottom of this blog's post, Some U.S. States Considering Taxing Nonprofits To Make Up For Empty Coffers

5. Continue to network with colleagues at other organizations sharing what you learn and asking what's new in their efforts to fight and pay the new tax.

6. Sit down with leadership and our bookkeeper and re-tool the expenses and look for new or better deals for our expenses so that the new additional expense (tax) burden can be mitigated to some degree.

7. Sit down with fundraising volunteers and staff and discuss what the outward facing (or public) message will be to donors and other supporters, given that now the money our nonprofit raises will be taxed (truly anticipating what their perceptions, concerns, and questions supporters may have, also anticipating hesitancy that might result because of the new tax; and discussing how this can be addressed head on (perhaps via a 'to the point' and forthright letter sent to all donors and supporters speaking solely to the new tax)) and then plan how this will be brought to fruition and follow through.

8. Continue the discussions or follow up with any results that came out of meeting with each representative.  Consider forming a coalition of concerned nonprofits having leadership also willing to meet with its representatives to discuss what can be done.

9. Truly consider whether any major donors would be willing to donate towards the organization's estimated tax bill for that fiscal year, removing the burden altogether.  Consider, too, passing the tax on to the beneficiaries (and if this is not a feasible way to raise the taxes, demonstrate why by showing the real/actual math when meeting with reps).

10. Pay the taxes when they are due.  Yes, there is a battle here.  Yes, these are strange days.  Yet, any entity that puts its organization into jeopardy by ignoring their tax bill is taking on a new battle...a legal one.  Also, not paying bills may become a reputation issue.  You don't want it to start to get out that your organization doesn't pay its bills (which can make everyone from community partners, to donors, to beneficiaries nervous about whether continuing work with your organization is a sound idea).  Hope that paying taxes will only be a temporary thing and that your reps will get it, speak on the floor and vote in the nonprofit sector's best interest, and hopefully this new tax will be ended in the near future.

I'd consider speaking to the press, but I'd only do it if it is not a public relations, brand, or marketing risk for the nonprofit, your cause, and any other community partners that are publicly affiliated with your agency.  Think before you speak.  Determining all of this will take each nonprofit's leadership researching, discussing and weighing the option to speak to the media.  Also, I'd speak to the press only when we have a compelling fact-based data that makes our case well and clearly (through data (shared with the press) that prior to meeting with the press has been checked, re-checked, triple checked, and has been peer reviewed and determined to consistently come out with the same findings).  Just keep in mind, bringing the press in can be a strength - but if not thought out, prior, can become a double edged sword.

In the end, keep a few things in mind: yours' is not the only nonprofit now liable for taxes, and in adversity: partners are made.  There is a coalition, whether your nonprofit joins it, or not, of other nonprofits who are equally under additional new financial burdens, due to taxes, as well.  Whether your organization takes up any relationship with the other local nonprofits also facing taxes, now, too (such as anything from just a simple conversation to forming a formal coalition of organizations) or not, is your choice and perhaps one that should not be dismissed quickly.  There is power in numbers.  Especially in an election year and those come around sooner or later.

Grants for International Programs that Promote United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: August 19, 2010

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


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

The second cycle of the fund's 2010 Moving Rights Forward grant program is directed at DPOs in the following countries and regions: Ghana and Uganda, Africa; Bangladesh, Asia; Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Peru, Latin America; and Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu, Pacific Region.

Applicants can apply as single organizations or partnerships for small grants, and/or national DPO-led coalitions for national coalition grants.

Single organizations or partnerships can apply for twelve-month grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000. Grants may be used to increase DPO skill in addressing the CRPD by building more inclusive organizations or partnerships and/or internal capacity building, and to accomplish rights-based advocacy and monitoring through increased DPO participation in decision-making processes regarding the CRPD at state or local levels and/or directly addressing implementation of CRPD Articles National DPO-led coalitions can apply for twenty-four-month grants ranging from $30,000 to $50,000 per year to work on ratification of the CRPD, passage of specific legislation to accord with the CRPD, or the production of an alternative/parallel report.
Cross-disability and other partnerships in-country are strongly encouraged, as are projects which address particularly marginalized sectors of the disability community.

Visit the DRF Web site for complete program information.