Sunday, October 31, 2010

What "Value Added" Can Nonprofits Offer in This Economy to Current and Potential New Donors?

These days, all kinds of businesses, including the nonprofit sector, are having to figure out how to both keep current revenue streams while increasing them.  Many businesses are practicing "value added" which means the customer or in nonprofits' case, the donor, receives a bit more, than they used to, for giving what they have in the past.  Nonprofits can use "value added" to retain donors and acquire new donors and then retain these new supporters, as well.

I'll use the for-profit sector to demonstrate my point.  Let's say that in my local town's for-profit sector, if I've always been a customer of a local restaurant, Pete's Pizzas.  Let's say that Pete wisely saw the economic downturn coming, back in 2006, and began then cutting any unnecessary business costs, tracking which pizzas his customers ordered the most, and then he bought those pizzas' ingredients in bulk, and did other internal business operations to conserve his business' spending.

Pete also wanted to be sure to retain the customers he's had.  So, in addition to cutting costs, tracking where his spending is highest and purchasing in bulk to reduce costs, he also researched and tried out a few different customer benefit programs and ideas to be certain that his long time customers would continue to patronize his business during the tough economy.  Pete tried a customer punch card where anyone who buys a pizza gets a hole punched into their card, until six holes are punched.  When the customer buys the seventh pizza, and presents the fully punched card, it's free.  He also initiated a lunch deal to help his customers spend less on lunch, and keep his customers coming in.  The deal is one large slice of any pizza, a medium soft drink, and a side salad all for $5.99.  The combination of the items in the lunch, if ordered ala carte, would come to $8.75 but the customer saves $2.74 in this lunch deal.  Finally, Pete created a 2 For Tuesday pizza deal.  Any two pizzas, that are ordered together on Tuesdays, will be 'buy one, get one free', where the customer is charged for the more expensive pizza, of the two ordered, and the second (lesser expensive one) is free.

Pete ran the numbers on all of these "value added" programs before he initiated them, to be certain that he would still make money on them, but he also checked, too, that they were good deals for his customers (weighing them: against his former pricing for the same meals, against competitors' valued added programs, and against his business' income needs).  He only implemented the "value added" programs that, after the math was run, demonstrated that he'd still make money and his customers would get some good deals.  It's worked!  Pete is spending less than he did back in 2006 and 2007, saving a bit more monthly than he used to, and has not seen business decline but rather Pete has seen a slight uptick in business since providing customers with the value added offers he has!

In the nonprofit sector, today, it works the same way.

Donors who usually give, let's say $35 a year, in the past (before the economic decline) would most likely simply receive a thank you letter (good as a tax receipt besides providing thanks).  This is fine.

Today, many donors (after giving at common and not particularly high dollar amounts) are getting more than they used to, though, to retain them and demonstrate that the organization knows their contribution at this time (in this economy) is invaluable.  Some nonprofits have adjusted the gift amount level for donors to receive goodies such as totes with the organization's logo, note cards, calendars, and other tchotchkes.

Other nonprofits have increased, in response to donors' support, the detail in communication that explains what a donor's dollar will do this year.  This does not cost anything more (except perhaps one of the volunteers' times in researching and tracking real data).  For example, perhaps when a donor gave to, let's say, the American nonprofit, Save the Starfish, a donor used to be informed, simply, that their contribution would go to: the Wild Starfish Preservation Program, the Starfish Living in Aquariums Support Program, and the Public Education and Outreach Program.  All of this was true.  Three years ago, though, the board of directors at Save the Starfish, being sensitive to donors' hesitation to give as often or as much, wisely decided to be more specific and detailed when explaining to donors where their dollar is going and what it will do.  This is not so much as "value added" (which it is, as it's a clearer report for the donor to understand what exactly their support is going to do for American starfish species), but it could also be thought of "more details added" which is a value to both the donor (who will be connected with the end-result benefit of their contribution) but is also a value to the organizations, too, as the donor wishing to really do some good for starfish will understand exactly what their dollar is going to accomplish, and thus be retained.  Today, in this hypothetical scenario, anyone who gives to Save the Starfish receives a 9x5 inch laminated, water proof, Starfish Field Guide that depicts and describes the 50 most common starfish species that exist along the United States; a thank you letter; and a clear description in that thank you letter where their donation was allocated and what the program it was allocated to will do in explicit terms and numbers.

For example, perhaps now, the Save the Starfish thank you letter to donors states, "...Your contribution of $X will be broken down into thirds.  One third will go to the Wild Starfish Preservation Program, one third to the Starfish Living in Aquariums Support Program, and the final third to the Public Education and Outreach Program.  The Preservation Program funds fifty different Ph.D. researchers across the United States working in three different oceans to document, study, and recommend to local fisheries' management how to best preserve and support these 500 different starfish species and their natural habitat.  The Support Program funds 200 different credentialed aquariums across the United States, a minimum of one in each state (including, Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii, and Alaska), funding research on 200 different starfish species' preferences in captivity to ensure a higher quality of life and longevity for future captive starfish.  Finally, the Public Education Program funds 250 different credentialed public schools, universities, and technical schools who educate students about marine biology, ensuring they teach a unit exclusively on star fish for at least two full school days, including the latest findings and theories on starfish species, their natural habitat, and their future welfare.  X number of people will attend the Public Outreach Program between 2011 and 2012.  The annual report for 2011 and 2012, respectively, will include actual numbers of starfish species studied, preserved, and public outreach students attendance; including what was accomplished (in specific data and numbers) as a result of our three programs."

Value added to a donor's experience should not be gimmicky and should not minimize or trivialize an organization's mission statement, its reputation, or its persona in the public.  Any value added for a donor's experience should underscore for the donor (and even the general public who has yet to give) exactly what the donor's support will accomplish, when given to your organization, in regards to the organization's mission statement.   Donors want to see positive change per the recipient organization's mission, and if they can be shown exactly what their gift will do (even including how much of each dollar that the organization raises actually goes to the organization's programs and services in ratio to how much of each dollar is spent on the organization's overhead costs and administration) they not only feel confident about the organization and the results of their contribution, they buy into that organization, and these are the donors most likely to give again, and again - and that's the idea.

Grants for Marine Microbiology and Marine Microbial Ecology Research

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: November 8, 2010 (Idea Summary)

Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Announces Request for Ideas for Marine Microbiology Initiative


The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's (GBMF) Marine Microbiology Initiative (MMI) has supported research in marine microbiology and marine microbial ecology since 2004. Building on advances in the field, the initiative is preparing to enter its next phase and is seeking input from the international scientific community to identify the most promising opportunities where a strategic, focused effort over the next five years will help to break open "black boxes" in the field and take understanding of marine microbial communities to a new level.

The goal for the next phase of the initiative is to target research on the specific functional roles of microbial community members, functional relationships within microbial communities, and the environmental parameters that affect both microbial community structure and function.

The foundation has issued a Request for Ideas seeking the research community's most creative ideas to initiate the process. While the emphasis during MMI's second phase will remain on marine systems, submissions of ideas using other microbial systems that would contribute to furthering knowledge in the marine field are welcome.

Submitters must be employed at an institution with a track record of externally funded research, have a demonstrated ability to carry out independent research, and a strong publication record in top-tier peer-reviewed journals. Researchers from any country may submit an idea summary. As the idea summary is not a pre-proposal or proposal, institutional approval is not needed at this stage. Institutional approval will be required, however, if the idea is chosen as a topic to be developed into a full proposal at a later date. Thus, the submitter must have an institutional appointment that permits him or her to submit proposals.

Researchers interested in contributing an RFI for consideration should submit a two-page idea summary by November 8, 2010.

Visit the GBMF Web site for complete program information, the RFI, submission procedures, and an FAQ.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

How To Learn What Federal, State, Local, or Tribal Grants Are Available, & How To Apply for Them

You might have heard that applying for a grant offered by a government, any government, is "a different animal" compared to applying for a grant offered by a foundation.  It is true.  Applying for a government grant, especially a federal grant, can be arduous.  Having said this, it shouldn't inhibit any organization ready to apply for grants from researching which grants are available from governments, in addition to researching what foundations offer grants related to the organization and its work.  Grants offered by governments are opportunities to raise funds, as well. 

Often, applying for government grants all year round but especially at the end of the calendar year (which can coincide with the end of the fiscal year for some government agencies), is a also really good way to raise yet another large single donation (a grant), just like applying for a grant from any other type of grant donor (i.e. foundations).  Why is the end of the year an especially good time to apply?  Again, applying for government grants at any time of year is fine, as stated, but sometimes governments will have surplus in budgets that must be spent down or zeroed-out before the year end in order for their accounting to meet previously set annual budget goals, yet nonprofit grant writers are not always actively submitting grant applications during the final quarter of the year because a lot of people assume that (especially during poor economies) government coffers are empty (and sometimes, indeed, they are, of course).  So, some governments in the position of still being flush, during their fourth quarter, and due to the lack of incoming grant applications, sometimes even have to look for nonprofits (or other eligible potential recipients) to ask them to apply for the funds to be certain the money will likely be donated per the requisite due diligence (i.e. their grant application process), by year end (or whenever they are required to be spent down by).  So, don't assume anything when seeking grants, and instead, call someone at the appropriate agency's office (if they allow phone calls about their grants) and ask where their budget is and whether applying for a grant is warranted.  A call like this can lead to a great large and unexpected donation at the end of the year.

I've compiled the best free resources that teach what governments' grants are (again, from the federal and also state, local, and even Tribal governments), where to research what government grants are available, what the process is to apply for them, and more.  See...

The free and user-friendly portal for all federal grants is Grants.gov and the link takes you to their page explaining: what a grant is, what federal grants are available, and how to research and apply for federal grants (see their links in their left hand margin as well as their new free user training, iPortal (discussed at the July 22, 2010 heading).

To learn about and find out what other governments' grants are available, such as the U.S. states' governments' grant offerings and also what those states' local governments' grant offerings are (i.e. boroughs,  townships, parishes, counties, cities, towns, etc.), and finally, also what the Tribes' grant offerings are, go to the free USA.gov site to find your state and nearest cities' governments, click through to them, and learn and research there.

The Foundation Center provides these free additional government grant resources (if you click the link), as well.

My final comment on government grants is this: they can often be, when won, extremely large injections of cash for the recipient nonprofit, but with that comes the responsibility of recording and having official (as stated by the government that donated the grant) documentation to back up where each and every penny of that government grant is spent.  This makes sense.  It is public money awarded to your organization, after all.  It is worth the management effort to oversee grants in this manner (whether given by a government or not) but often the government grant management is a tad more intensive.  It's doable.  Just be aware of this.  As stated, it's likely worth it and a process that should already be in place for good grant stewardship and to maintain good relations with any entity that donates a grant to your organization - but it's good to be aware of the major differences between applying for and managing received grants from foundations compared to governments.

Grants for U.S. Organizations Helping Youth Adopt Healthy Diet and Exercise

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: December 15, 2010

Applications Open for General Mills Foundation 2011 Champions for Healthy Kids Grant Program


The General Mills Foundation, in partnership with the American Dietetic Association Foundation and the President's Council on Physical Fitness, is accepting applications for the 2011 Champions for Healthy Kids grant program.

This national program annually awards fifty grants of $10,000 each to community-based groups that develop creative ways to help youth adopt a balanced diet and physically active lifestyle.

Applicants must be nonprofit organizations with 501(c)(3) or 509(a) status. Local organizations that work with youth are encouraged to apply. These may include park districts, health departments, government agencies, Native American tribes, municipal organizations, churches, schools, Boys & Girls clubs, etc.

The target audience must be youth between the ages of 2 and 18. Proposals must have at least one nutrition objective and at least one physical activity objective. A registered dietitian or dietetic technician must either be directly involved or serve as an advisor to the program.

Visit the General Mills Web site for complete program guidelines and application.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Seeking Grant Money Today's Top 10 Posts On How Nonprofits Can Get Through This Tough Economy

Top 10 Posts On How Nonprofits Can Survive This Economy

10. What Does A Nonprofit Do That's Facing Being Taxed?
These are strange days, indeed, as John Lennon once sang.  American nonprofits, usually afforded the benefit of not having to collect or pay taxes on their charitable efforts in exchange for the good that they do in our communities, are in some U.S. cities and states facing having to collect and pay taxes on their charitable works, for the first time ever, because of this economy.  Our post, above, discusses some of those organizations' options.  For the background on and more information on this pending taxation, see Some U.S. States Considering Taxing Nonprofits to Make Up For Empty Coffers.

9. It's A Stressful Time of Year for Nonprofits, Especially Now, But Also A Time for A New Survivable View
By virtue of being a part of a community, nonprofits do have resources available to them to weather this economic downturn.

8. Tough Decision Made In the Best Interest of Beneficiaries May Be A Good Solution In This Economy
A survey of all operations options that exist to nonprofits to get through and deal with the economic slowdown.

7. We Nonprofits Must Rise to the Economic Occasion
Specific options for nonprofits to raise more, adjust spending, and even save more in this economy.

6. How To Raise Grant Money, Even in This Economy

5. How To Raise Money Better, In Your Region...Even In Tough Times

4. This Tough Economy Is Not Lost On Donors And A Real World Fundraising Boon In This Economy For Us All
An actual nonprofit's real experience conducting an annual special event fundraiser after the economic downturn, the differences in funds raised (or not), and their suggestions based on the lessons learned from the experience.

3. "Focus On The Economic Crisis" Web Page To Keep Us Nonprofits Up To Date
A good free resource provided by the excellent Foundation Center to keep nonprofit leaders and staff up to date on the latest trends, forecasts, opportunities, and resources during this tough economy.

2. Top Ten Tips to Raise Grants in a Down Economy

1. A Community's Confidence In A Nonprofit Is The Ultimate Key To An Organization's Future
It doesn't matter whether the economy is bad or not, whether a nonprofit is having a difficult time fundraising or not, whether it's a start up organization and brand new, or whether it is over one hundred years old; how a community perceives a given nonprofit (it's performance, mission success, efficiency, effectiveness, and how much it knows (or doesn't) about the organization) is what determines whether it succeeds at fundraising or not - most usually, in any economy.

Grants for Nonprofits or Artists Promoting Social Change, Resisting Oppression, and Empowering Marginalized Communities

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: October 25, 2010

Left Tilt Fund Invites Applications for Social Change Work


The San Francisco-based Left Tilt Fund is a philanthropic foundation whose mission is to promote social change, resist oppression, and empower marginalized communities.

The fund supports 501(c)(3) nonprofits and individual artists with fiscal sponsors, whose work addresses the root causes of economic, political, and social injustice.

The fund generally does not support conferences, governmental agencies, or animal welfare organizations. Individuals seeking grants must have a sponsoring organization.

Grants of up to $20,000 are awarded.

The deadline for the final awards cycle for 2010 is October 25, 2010.

Visit the Left Tilt Fund Web site for complete grant program information and the application.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Foundation Center Now Provides Free Website That Teaches How To Do Grant Writing

The Foundation Center, one of the finest resources, world wide, that enables nonprofit organizations to: learn how to conduct grant writing, search for grant opportunities that match the organization's work and goals, and conduct research related to grant writing and fundraising; now provides a free website, GrantSpace, that provides direction to anyone who visits the site on how to do grant writing (all steps, principle behind the work, and what the best practices entails - which, when understood and implemented and done in practice, often leads to a higher number of grants raised). 

The following is the GrantSpace site's press release:

"New York, NY — October 5, 2010. The Foundation Center, the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide, has launched an online learning community for the social sector. GrantSpace (grantspace.org) provides free access to the most comprehensive set of information and resources available to anyone seeking grants on behalf of nonprofit organizations. 

"The Foundation Center, which maintains offices in Atlanta, Cleveland, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, has long been known as the premier resource for fundraisers and others seeking grants. In addition to housing the most comprehensive database on grantmakers and their grants, it also offers a robust curriculum of education and training — much of it for free in locations nationwide and online — to help grantseekers effectively navigate the grantseeking process. GrantSpace brings this unparalleled depth of information and educational offerings together with even more resources designed to meet the needs of grantseekers, including: recent news, published reports, podcasts, videos, statistics, sample documents, job listings, and requests for proposals.

""GrantSpace continues in the Foundation Center tradition of helping grantseekers succeed by giving them tools they can use and information they can trust," said Bradford Smith, president of the Foundation Center. "But GrantSpace is anything but traditional, harnessing the power of technology to build community, share ideas, and offer knowledge that is indispensable in today's nonprofit landscape." 

"Resources featured on GrantSpace are organized under the 13 most common subject areas of funding research — including health, education, and the arts — so visitors can easily access the most relevant content. Visitors are also offered the option of approaching the content by focusing on a particular skill they want to hone, including proposal writing, corporate fundraising, and collaboration. Video and audio recordings of on site Foundation Center presentations, along with links to the most relevant FAQs in the extensive Knowledge Base, accompany each topic. The "Ask Us" link on each page connects visitors to expert assistance from Foundation Center staff via live chat or e-mail.

"GrantSpace also provides a comprehensive calendar listing of all upcoming Foundation Center training opportunities in classrooms around the country and online. Visitors who register with the site for free can leave comments and share or rate the content throughout. And, for a limited time, anyone who registers will receive a gift card good for a free 24-hour subscription to the Foundation Center's Foundation Directory Online Professional, its searchable database of nearly 100,000 grantmakers and more than 2 million grants.

"About the Foundation Center
Established in 1956 and today supported by close to 550 foundations, the Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide. Through data, analysis, and training, it connects people who want to change the world to the resources they need to succeed. The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and, increasingly, global grantmakers and their grants — a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. Thousands of people visit the Center's web site each day and are served in its five regional library/learning centers and its network of 450 funding information centers located in public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions nationwide and beyond. For more information, please visit foundationcenter.org or call (212) 620-4230."

Grants for Professional Nonprofit Fundraising Help, Mentoring, and Resources for U.S. Nonprofits

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: November 12, 2010

Grants Available to Help Nonprofit Organizations With Fundraising


Achieve, an Indianapolis-based consulting firm that provides fundraising, strategic planning, and management counsel to nonprofit organizations, is offering service grants to nonprofit organizations seeking assistance with fundraising. This is the third year Achieve is offering the program to organizations across the United States.
Seven grants are available for 2011: one for Achieve consulting services (value to be determined by scope of services, up to $20,000); two grants to the Achieve Academy, which includes a five-part webinar and one-on-one coaching on either Millennial engagement, developing a fundraising plan, or online engagement (valued at $350); and four grants for premium subscriptions to Achieve Access, an online resource library of more than 270 templates and guidance pieces, an annual pass to twelve webinars, and a subscription to Achieve's monthly newsletter (valued at $199).

Grantees will be selected based on each organization's level of need, type of assistance requested, and organizational readiness as described in the grant application. Selections will be made by Achieve's advisory board.

Achieve will offer an informational webinar on this grants program on October 14, 2010. Complete program information is available at the Achieve Web site.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Is Crowd Sourcing A Viable Sustainable Way for Nonprofits to Raise and Retain Support? No.

Nonprofits are feeling out this brave new world of technology, like all other sectors, and determining through trial and error (and evaluation and follow through) what tech achieves real goals and provides effective, efficient, and affordable options to conduct each nonprofit-specific operation, like: fundraising, public outreach, partnering with the community, recruiting new donors and other types of supporters and then retaining them. 

The nonprofit sector is always seeking effective methods that will connect them with supporters and their greater communities at large and like every other professional sector, there is much to be read today (in print and online) about what options technology, the web specifically, offers.  Technology often offers effective and extremely affordable, if not free, options to conduct much of a given nonprofit's administration (i.e. fundraising, public relations and marketing, etc.).  For examples, see our post, Some More Free Resources for Your Nonprofit Office.

Jane Wales' September 28 article for the Huffington Post, "If You Want an Answer, Ask Everyone:" The Rise of Crowd-Source Grant Making provides a survey of some of the latest discussions (in print and online) about technology trends that, so far, appear to both 'have legs' and provide viable solutions to community issues. 

Wikipedia defines crowd sourcing as, "... the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call." and also says of the phrase, "The term has become popular with businesses, authors, and journalists as shorthand for the trend of leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals. However, both the term and its underlying business models have attracted controversy and criticisms."  And so it goes with anything that is new, right? 

The Internet as we use it, today, only really began in the early 1990's and the time that's passed between then and now is but a percentage of a second, in overall the vast history or time line of the advent of all human-made technology (computer-based or otherwise).  What anyone who considers it for a moment can see is the history of humankind and its technological achievements (from the civil engineering of Babylon, to the printing press, to the Industrial Age, to the automobile, and of course the personal computer) demonstrates again and again that humans will innovate and invent solutions to meet their needs.  What happens after invention, the discovery phase - is the period of time that every single person who tries out this new invention takes to determine: does it really work for me, and is it viable (able to achieve success again and again)?

And this is where we, in the nonprofit sector, are with computer-related tech, including crowd sourcing.  How does a nonprofit determine what is working for their organization and whether its viable?  By looking at their own mission statement, their organization's current mission-based goals, and by conducting a cost/benefit analysis of the effort taken to achieve the goal (whether its public outreach such as marketing and PR or whether its fundraising or volunteer recruitment, etc.).  Each organization is of course different (as is each organization's goals and budget) and each nonprofit's leadership is wise to weigh new modes of outreach before implementing it.

Wales provides examples of contemporary real-world uses, in the nonprofit sector, of crowd sourcing.  As she demonstrates, many nonprofits and foundations (grant donors) are using crowd sourcing for everything from innovating new solutions for real-world issues, to deciding what criteria a grant applicant should meet in order to receive a grant, to deciding which of a total pool of grant applicants should receive a grant.  For example, Pepsi decided to forgo advertising in the 2010 Super Bowl and instead diverted that budget to the Pepsi Refresh Project which encourages nonprofit organizations and other socially conscientious operations and people to apply for Pepsi grants by providing their solution to one of society's concerns, and then asks the public to review the applicants' ideas and vote for which grant seeker should get a grant.  The social innovator gets a grant to do their work and Pepsi gets a huge number of visitors to its site and some good PR.  This is fine.

As I read Wales' article, though, I found myself thinking the same thing that I did after I received and read press releases from Pepsi about the Pepsi Refresh Project. 

The ability to innovate solutions that successfully protect people, commerce, the environment, or anything else from threatening catastrophes, or even simply discomforts, is the genius of our specie.  I do not believe, though, that crowd sourcing, alone, is an innovation that successfully achieves good for a community or a nonprofit's beneficiary(ies).   The resulting vote from a majority is not, compared to the decision making by credentialed, experienced, reputable, talented, and successful professionals, informed enough or experienced enough, to be qualified to reasonably provide effective viable solutions for our communities' issues and better the world again and again, more consistently.

Let's say that twenty-four reputable, long existing, successful, efficient, well operated, applicant nonprofits are selected as finalists in a given foundation's current grant cycle.  These are each organizations that would likely do really great things, if any one of them receives the grant.  If a crowd, let's say the general public (like the Pepsi Refresh Project) is asked to vote online for which of these applicants should get the grant, what happens is each applicant nonprofit attempts to get the most people that each can to vote online for their specific organization.  Each nonprofit might include a request in their print newsletter, post on their website, Tweet, post on their Facebook page, e-mail supporters and clients to request, conduct a phone call campaign to request, and even mail through the postal mail a request asking that the public log onto the pertinent website and vote for their organization so that they can get the grant.  Even if each nonprofit uses professional nonprofit best practices to develop the written content (or copy) for each mode of outreach that they use to request that their supporters vote - in the end, which nonprofit receives the grant depends solely on which nonprofit most successfully gets their supporters to: log onto the grant donor's website, find the specific nonprofit's profile on the grant donor's website, and then click a button to vote for that nonprofit.  Read that last sentence again and then consider what nonprofit (let alone multiple numbers of nonprofits) includes, in their mission statement, a phrase like, "...and the such and such nonprofit also exists to direct traffic to a grant donor's website and get our web traffic to click a radial button..."?  None.  Not one.  The mission informs the work and goals of a nonprofit.  The leaders of that organization utilize the mission to make decisions and set goals for the organization, in the best interest of the organization and its beneficiary(ies).  Driving traffic to some website and requesting invaluable supporters to click on another entity's website takes that nonprofit's resources and time.  The cost benefit analysis of this exercise (especially if it's done again and again) for that nonprofit, if studied, probably does not add up to the nonprofit's benefit (especially given that there are other ways to raise grants, reach out to the public, and any other operation that crowd sourcing allegedly does for nonprofits or the greater community).

The nonprofit sector relies on its communities to function.  There is no nonprofit that operates successfully in a vacuum.  Each nonprofit that operates, succeeds at its mission, grows, and flourishes successfully acquires community support on a constant and ongoing basis. The only way, after thousands of years of nonprofits operating, best practices has determined that any one nonprofit successfully recruits and then retains supporters (of all kinds, including: donors, volunteers, community partners, and even excellent staff) is by each nonprofit achieving the goal of its mission statement, on an ongoing basis (forming a track record or reputation of excellence), for contemporary but as yet unmet needs, in an efficient, effective, evaluated (and founded by verifiable real data), ethical, and professional manner.  There are no two ways about this.  If a donor does not see that their support achieved success as per the organization's mission statement in a current and efficient manner, there's no guarentee that they will ever give to that organization again.  If, though, a donor sees that they are not just a means but rather an investor in a given nonprofit's achievements and successes they are confident giving to that organization again.

If a nonprofit is concerned about raising and retaining support for today and then again and again tomorrow and the time after that, it must direct its invaluable resources towards achieving the contemporaneous or relevant goals of its mission statement.   

Taking a nonprofit's resources and time to drive its supporters' attention to some other entity (even to raise a large grant) is arguably a waste of that nonprofit's resources because many grant donors exist that require applicant nonprofits to be able to demonstrate ethical and efficient mission success in order to qualify to apply, use credible reputable professionals (in the pertinent professional sector) to decide which applicants are finalists, and then decide who receives the grant based on the latest professional practices, thinking, ethics, and more for that organization's specific professional sector.  Most often these grant donors give grants in larger dollar amounts than those who use crowd sourcing to issue their grants.  Then, after the grant is spent, recipient organizations are asked to evaluate the project or program that received funding (by acquiring participant feedback, for instance), quantify and share findings and lessons learned (and what improvements will be made to the funded project and when).  This kind of professionalism, these requirements, and the follow through do not just ensure the donor that they are investing soundly in a quality recipient nonprofit (and its achievements), this kind of professionalism (and respect for the applicant organizations' beneficiaries and their circumstances) ensures that the community at large (our world) is actually benefiting (by virtue of each nonprofit's respective profession's best people and best practices being key in the process). 

So, a nonprofit's resources spent on driving its supporters' to vote on some other entity's website to raise a grant could be better spent.  Any moment that a nonprofit engages its supporters should be used (according, again, to professional best practices which are such because they work again and again for millions of nonprofits everywhere) to: thank them, let them know what the organization's recent successes and achievements are, what the current but as yet unmet need exists in the organization's beneficiary(ies) today, what the organization's current goals are, in what various different ways they can help, and again, thank you.  Retaining donors is the key to the longevity and success of a nonprofit having cash flow.  Finding viable ways to raise grants that keep donors free from having to use their personal time to execute some online activity on some other website is a better way to raise grants.  Keeping a donor's attention and keeping them aware of their contribution's success is a better use of a nonprofit's time and resources used to engage that donor.

Is it "bad" or "wrong" for a foundation or nonprofit to jump in and try out new popular methods of outreach or community building, such as crowd sourcing?  Of course not.  I just happen to not see the benefit to the community, at large, in it.

The best interests of any nonprofit's beneficiariy(ies) are not served by, for instance, leaving the decision of which (hopefully) best applicants should receive resources that could really address a current issue up to the vox populi.  While a majority vote is a fair voting option, in and of itself, and crowd sourcing engages the community, a majority vote such as crowd sourcing does not responsibly guarantee that the knowledge, experience, and perhaps credentials necessary to best determine which applicant a community will be best served by.  Crowd sourcing, solely used as a community building tool is one thing if it is used to create a movement behind a mission statement-related program developing tool such as recruiting new volunteers, educating the public about a disease and its effects, or informing clients (or potential clients) about what services and programs an organization offers are appropriate uses of online groundswell.  Leaving major community and welfare effecting decisions such as solutions to issues, or where donations (grants) will be spent, up to what amounts to a popularity contest is irresponsible, at best.  I remain skeptical of the viability and effectiveness of crowd sourcing because in part of its lack of requirement for qualified, experienced, professional decision makers or innovators (who are qualified to decide on recipients or innovate safely and effectively), and the drain on resources that campaigning for crowd sourcing responses places on nonprofit organizations.

Grants for U.S. Public Schools Providing Excellence in Math and Sciences

From The Foundation Center...

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


Deadline: February 17, 2011

Applications Open for Intel Schools of Distinction Awards


Every year, Intel honors K-12 schools in the U.S. that demonstrate excellence in math and science education through innovative teaching and learning environments. To be considered as an Intel School of Distinction, schools must develop an environment and curricula that meet or exceed benchmarks put forth by national mathematics and science content standards.

Up to three schools at each level — elementary, middle, and high school — will be named as finalists in the math and science categories. These eighteen schools will receive a cash grant of $5,000 from the Intel Foundation and a trip to Washington, D.C., for a four-member team from their school and district. Six winners will be selected from the finalists and receive a $10,000 cash grant. One of these winners will be selected as the "Star Innovator" and will receive a $25,000 grant. All five winning schools and the Star Innovator will also receive products and services from program sponsors.

The program is open to K-12 public, private, charter, and parochial schools in the United States, Department of Defense Dependents schools, and Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Eligibility is limited to accredited schools that are publicly funded and/or not-for-profit.

Visit the Intel Web site for complete program guidelines.