Monday, August 29, 2011

Contribute Assistance For Victims of Hurricane Irene

American Red Cross's Hurricane Irene Web Page

The Humane Society of the United States's Work With Hurricane Irene Victims

Grants for U.S. K - 12 Students Attending Museums, Historic Sites, and Cultural Organizations

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: October 3, 2011

Target Accepting Applications for K-12 Field Trip Grants Program

Target Corporation is accepting applications from education professionals for the Target Field Trip Grants program to bring K-12 students in the United States to museums, historical sites, and cultural organizations.

Since launching the program in 2007, Target has awarded $9.76 million in grants -- providing 1.2 million students in all fifty states with the opportunity to enhance their studies in the arts, math, science, and social studies. Grants are intended to fund visits to art, science, and cultural museums; community service or civic projects; career enrichment opportunities; and other events or activities away from the school facility.

Over five thousand grants of up to $700 will be awarded in January 2012. Grants are available to applicants from the U.S. for trips to be taken between January 1, 2012, and the end of the 2011-12 academic year (May/June 2012). Funds may be used to cover field trip-related costs such as transportation, ticket fees, food, resource materials, and supplies.

Education professionals who are at least 18 years old and employed by an accredited K-12 public, private, or charter school in the U.S. that maintains 501(c)(3) or 509(a)(1) tax-exempt status are eligible to apply. Educators, teachers, principals, paraprofessionals, or classified staff at these institutions must be willing to plan and execute a field trip that will provide a demonstrable learning experience for students.

The Target Field Trip Grants program is managed and administered entirely by Scholarship America.
Visit the Target Web site for complete program guidelines and access to the application form.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Watch What Message Your Nonprofit Sends By Being Clear Everywhere It Connects At All With the Public

3. Ouch.  I know what they mean, in the photo here, by their sign, posted on this theater's building.  It's probably this nonprofit organization's attempt at humor, but the message could leave potential supporters (and even attendees) a little unsure of their meaning.  I mean, the message in the photo, here, of this organization's boastful "(Such and such) Theater Is 10 Years Old And We're Still Here!" may be considered cute or funny but it can also come off as surprising or even ironic; and it's the organization, itself, that created this sign (not some local competitor or detractor).  Ouch.  No nonprofit can risk its week to week cash flow and fundraising to such unclear and frankly somewhat unflattering messages stated to the general public.  Imagine how much it cost for this nonprofit theater to come up with a phrase to put on a banner, to have the banner made up, to have someone hang the banner on the business, and that is their message to the community?!  Let's take their choice as an example for the rest of us.  Instead, be clear.  Be positive.  Give potential supporters clear reasons why they would and should support your  nonprofit.  Always watch your organization's messaging and always affirm your organization's viability, potential, its track record, and its goals by asserting your organization's successes and achievements.  Do not equivocate, understate, (or over state) them.

2. On Twitter this morning I discovered a few new nonprofits that "followed" us, there, over the weekend.  If you aren't familiar with Twitter, for each entity that has a Twitter profile, you can state, on your Twitter page, a "blurb" about yourself (or the nonprofit, company, or agency, etc.).  Many nonprofits on Twitter do an excellent job of clearly explaining what their organization does, its mission statement, and even sometimes they can squeeze recent achievements and current goals in, too, into the blurb.  Twitter is just one more social media outlet but anywhere where your nonprofit interacts with the general public is an opportunity (and one not to be wasted).  One of the organizations that had chosen to "follow" The Grant Plant, LLC (the authors of this blog) on Twitter simply had, for the description of their organization, on Twitter, 'A nonprofit to help families out in our community' (I'm paraphrasing to avoid embarrassing anyone).  As someone totally unfamiliar with their nonprofit and as someone being introduced to their organization for the first time, I was left asking, "that does what, for whom, why, and where?".  Again, always take the opportunity to assert a clear, whole, detailed, but succinct and to the point message about your nonprofit, wherever its mentioned, for the community at large to quickly and clearly understand what your organization does, for whom (or what), and why.  Current supporters and potential new supporters are everywhere, including online, and on Twitter.

1. We've all seen the heart-wrenching commercials on TV and received the tear-jerker solicitations in the postal mail from nonprofits that will save the children, rescue the abused and mistreated animals, or protect the falling rain forest amid tractors tearing whole swaths of rain forest down by acres.  Please don't misunderstand me.  Each of these issues are serious concerns to me; and they are each real and very distressing problems that our communities and world face daily.  The organizations that disseminate these solicitations are not unimportant, and their work is not necessarily unsuccessful or in anyway lesser than any other nonprofit working for any other cause.  Often these organizations are successful at what they do and actually, are even heroes.  What concerns me about these kinds of solicitations for support is that the organization is placing grabbing our attention mostly by jerking our heart strings, rather than approaching us as intelligent, caring, but concerned members of the community, and world at large.  I'd rather not be manipulated, emotionally, into supporting a nonprofit.  First of all, it says nothing of the organization itself (again - what are the specific individual organization's mission, why its work is needed today, what are its organizational successes (recent and distant ones, too), what are its current goals, what accomplished and acclaimed people are a part of its board, volunteers, and staff?  These are the facts that encourage donors to: see that the organization knows what its doing (and is well respected in its cause and professional field), know that it isn't going away tomorrow - it has true potential for great successes today and tomorrow, that the nonprofit sees me (the donor or potential new donor) as a partner in its successes (by virtue of my supporting it) and treats me as such by giving me information (actual success rates, evaluation data of recent programs, and annual reports detailing the organization's operations, budget, spending, and overall management) that I can base smart decisions (like whether I should give to this nonprofit or to another doing similar (or the same exact) work on the same cause or issue), and more along these lines (transparency, accountability, holding one's organization to the highest professional and ethical standards, etc.).  When a nonprofit asks me to support it by only showing heart-wrenching images, it hasn't explained why I should support that specific nonprofit.  Rather - that kind of fundraising campaign simply leaves many of us emotionally taxed (who, especially in this difficult world, economy, and news cycles are already very worn down, emotionally, on average).  That doesn't make for an affirmative message for a nonprofit to proactively raise partners in a nonprofit's successes and achievements.  Instead, it leaves us wanting to turn the TV channel, recycle the unopened mail, or turn away in another fashion.  Instead, leave potential donors with a sincere desire to and confidence in supporting your unique nonprofit.

Grants for U.S. Nonprofits, Tribes, Local or State Governments Studying Value and Impact of the Arts

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: November 8, 2011

National Endowment for the Arts Offers Grants to Research Value and Impact of the Arts

The Office of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has announced the availability of grants for research on the value and impact of the U.S. arts sector, at either the individual or community level.

The NEA is interested in novel and significant research questions that will lead to greater public understanding of the contribution of the arts.

Grantees may use either existing or newly established data sets to conduct their research. The resulting projects will help determine the usefulness of various data sets to arts-related research — including those not previously used for that purpose. Through this grant opportunity, the NEA hopes to further expand the pool of researchers knowledgeable about arts and culture data sets.

Applicants must be U.S. nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations; units of state or local government; or federally recognized tribal communities or tribes. This may include but is not limited to colleges and universities. The NEA encourages applicants from diverse backgrounds, including those who have not specialized in arts-related research. Although applicants must be nonprofit organizations, they are encouraged to partner with for-profit entities and/or use commercial and/or administrative data sets.

The NEA anticipates awarding up to twenty-five grants in the range of $10,000 to $30,000. The grant period is not expected to exceed one year.

NEA staff will be conducting two webinars on the Research: Art Works guidelines on August 18, and October 11, 2011. Registration is required.

Complete program information, application guidelines, and webinar registration forms are available at the NEA Web site.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Why Successes or Having An Accomplished Track Record Is Important for Any Nonprofit to Be Able To Raise Funds

Sometimes the real world provides the best examples. 

The news came out this week that though the nonprofit, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI), before this week was shut down due to reduced state and federal funding; it is flush again due to some fundraising work by none other than SETI, itself.  Before you read the following quote you should know that "ATA" stands for the Allan Telescope Array, one of SETI's newest and more powerful tools used for the search for intelligent life.  It's greatest value is in the speed at which it can study the skies in greater detail than previous technology.  In the fundraising site, SetiStars (where the funds have just been raised), they explain:

"In April, the SETI Institute had to put the ATA in hibernation mode because the program ran out of money.  The ATA is the only instrument available full time for listening for radio signals from possible intelligent sources. Without it, we may never find the answers to our questions."

"In the wake of the shutdown, the outpouring of support from all corners of the globe was staggering.  It is clear that SETI Institute’s mission resonates with people the world over — that the questions we seek to answer are universal.  Without even asking for it, the public responded almost immediately with offers to help, and donations began flowing in.  But until now we haven’t had a way to focus this interest and show of support, nor to allow the public at large to specifically support the ATA."

I am a cosmology nerd.  I am absolutely fascinated by astrophysics and the study of our universe.  I'm not adverse to the idea of life on other planets (especially given that most scientists studying the universe, today, now believe that given the great number of suns that we know exist in the universe, and the odds that favors life to have formed and developed, elsewhere, it would be hubris to assume that we are the only life in the universe).  The difference, that exists today in the conversation about extraterrestrial life, is not whether life is out there, but rather - what life one is looking for.  NASA has on staff astrobiologists studying how to find life, on its space missions, and what it might look like or give off, to indicate its there.  NASA is looking for life at the microscopic level and expecting to locate amoebas and the like rather than, say, E.T.  In contrast, SETI is looking for signals sent by other lifeforms, which presumes they're advanced and technological.  SETI looks for alien signals by (as I understand it) reviewing all frequencies of the light/sound spectrum searching for repetitive intelligent patterns indicating a non-naturally caused but rather purposeful 'hello' from Mork, or some such alien.   Don't get me wrong.  Mork & Mindy was one of my favorite television shows in the 1980's.  I'd love to meet Mork!

So, getting back to fundraising and the nonprofit world, as an example, given my affinity for space exploration (and for Mork & Mindy) one may presume I'd be a natural to give to reinstating the ATA and SETI's work, since the state and federal budget shortfalls closed its operations.  I'm not, though.  My issue is not amoebas vs. Mork, or whether I can afford to donate in this economy, or whether SETI needs one more donation (apparently they do).  My issue is professional and has to do with nonprofit best practices.

To be fair, SETI is a bit of an unusual nonprofit as not many other nonprofits (anywhere on Earth, anyway) are doing what SETI is attempting to do.  Usually this is not the case.  Usually a given nonprofit has colleague nonprofits doing similar if not precisely the same work as its doing, nearby or elsewhere.  Also, SETI's goal is a bit, shall we say for now, nontraditional.  Most nonprofits are dealing with needs that exist, right now, on Earth, that can be met.  In other words, the common nonprofit deals with issues or causes pertaining to anything from education, to health and welfare, to safety, to the environment, to religion, to historic preservation, and so on.  Yet, SETI is indeed a nonprofit.  Any and all nonprofits only operate if they are supported.  In order for any nonprofit to raise support, it must demonstrate (to those who decide to actually give) its value to a community  and the worth of its work.  If it makes its case and reaches enough potential donors so that they actually do indeed give - then the nonprofit is fundraising and they become "successful" fundraisers once they are fully funding their current goals and work.  And of course, they must be able to continue to be successful fundraisers in order for the nonprofit to be of value tomorrow, next month, next year, and so on.

The reason that I am writing this post and the reason why this example bares out is that while its donors obviously have faith in the possibility of SETI's goal, I am not donating to SETI because they have not, yet, demonstrated their ability to do what they have been trying to do since SETI began operating in 1985.  They haven't proven that their methodology works or that it should work if someone on Ork is trying to send messages to other civilizations on other worlds.  They can claim that it should work if Orkans are trying to send messages into the universe on one of the light or sound spectrum waves.  Not that anyone should not give to SETI, but personally, I'd rather donate my money to efforts that are more likely to prove fruitful by virtue of them having already succeeded.  This is why a track record (even when a nonprofit is a start up - such as proof of concept) is so critical in fundraising, today (especially among grant donors).  In terms of donors choosing to give to one nonprofit over another, I may be considered a bit of a conservative when it comes to space exploration, and perhaps those who do choose to give to SETI are enabling SETI and the world to indeed find Mork and sooner than a more conservative approach will.  I'd be proven wrong.  There's no harm in donors who see things differently.  Everyone has the right to support whomever and whatever they choose to.

The more common nonprofit, though, should understand that successes indicate a track record that demonstrates the potential for success, now and in the future.  This is what most professional fundraisers make an effort to communicate to any and all potential donors: what is the nonprofit in operation to do (it's mission statement), what is the work it does for what or whom and why (or what need in the community or universe is not yet being met, that this nonprofit can meet and meet well), and what are the current programs and recent successes?  Also, who makes up the nonprofit's team of experts and what are their credentials and where have their successes, as individuals, been over the course of their careers?  If you can demonstrate to a potential donor that their contribution will lead to future accomplishment and ethical, efficient and truly effective accomplishments (that truly meet the as yet unmet need the organization is working to meet) - then you're showing a potential donor (in demonstrable successes) how they can become a part of a successful organization's effort by supporting it.

I like SETI's moxie.  I hope that they prove my conservative concerns antiquated and actually discover Mork's intergalactic billboard saying hello to universal neighbors, on Ork, all the way from here on Earth.  I'm afraid that being who I am, I just won't be one of the team that helped SETI to do it.

Grants for Projects Fully Studying and Finding Solutions for U.S. Unwanted Horse

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: September 12, 2011

Morris Animal Foundation to Fund Research on Unwanted Horses

The Morris Animal Foundation, (MAF) an animal health foundation which provides funding for research designed to protect, treat, and cure animals, is seeking proposals addressing the issue of unwanted horses in the U.S. The funding program follows a 2009 summit convened by MAF on the topic of unwanted horses. The summit was designed to help determine the magnitude of the problem in the U.S. and to identify potential solutions.

All proposals should consider an objective identification (e.g. prevalence, incidence) of unwanted horses within defined regions and systematic estimation of the magnitude of the problem; an identification of risk factors and characteristics associated with unwanted horses and owners who relinquish these horses; the socioeconomic impacts of unwanted horses; the economic impact of the problem and its potential solutions; and the potential impact of educational programs directed at responsible horse ownership and the issue of unwanted horses.

The program will provide up to $70,000 (inclusive of 8 percent maximum indirect costs) for studies of up to two years in duration.

Full proposal guidelines and the application are available at the MAF Web site.

Grants for Nonprofits Innovating Address the Issue of Coal Waste Providing Transformative Change

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: August 15, 2011

Educational Foundation of America Invites Proposals for Work Pertaining to Coal Waste

The Educational Foundation of America (EFA)has a tradition of promoting public awareness and participation in the restoration and defense of the environment. Since 1959, EFA has awarded over $70 million in grants to protect the environment.

The foundation's environment program aims to reduce climate change pollution by funding projects focusing on policies and practices that will result in the reduction of greenhouse gases. The environmental focus of the foundation for the next few years will be in the areas of coal waste, ocean acidification, and cement plants. Of particular interest to the committee is work that involves strategies including litigation, building constituencies, grassroots organizing, and policy/advocacy work.

The foundation has chosen to direct funding to address the issue of coal waste as one avenue in addressing greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction. Through this Request for Proposals, EFA invites innovative ideas to address the issue of coal waste within the U.S. Proposals will be considered for efforts that are innovative or "out-of-the-box" and could produce transformative changes for the benefit of the environment and natural resources. Proposals that include collaboration among multiple nonprofits and address the issue from a variety of angles will be given higher priority.

Applicants must be nonprofit 501(c)(3) organizations. The foundation does not accept proposals from individuals.

EFA is willing to commit up to $1 million per year for three years to this program; awards will be made to one or more grantees. The number of proposals supported and the total amount of support will depend on the nature and quality of proposals received.

The complete RFP and application procedures are available at the EFA Web site.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

What the U.S. Losing Its Credit Rating Means, An Example of How (In Part) Our Nation Got Here, and What Is the U.S.'s Next Step

We all know this is terribly important for all of us nonprofit sector volunteers, clients, members, donors, staff, and consultants to understand - what has just happened to our nation's economic standing:

Wall Street Closes Worst Week Since '08

United States Loses Prized AAA Credit Rating From S&P

Explanation of the lowering of the U.S.'s credit rating by Standard and Poors (or "S&P"), United States of America Long-Term Rating Lowered To 'AA+' Due To Political Risks, Rising Debt Burden; Outlook Negative

Standard & Poors explanation of what credit ratings are and how they work: Standard & Poors Guide to Credit Rating Essentials

What to do if your bank fails, by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) When A Bank Fails - Facts for Depositors, Creditors, and Borrowers

An example of how, in part, our nation arrived in this situation (note: "WaMu" is an acronyms for the former bank, Washington Mutual, which Chase bank acquired):

Part One  Reckless Strategies Doomed WaMu

Part Two WaMu Hometown Bank Turned Predatory

and the incredible fall out of WaMu's business practices?

WaMu Execs Won't Face Criminal Charges, Justice Department Says

(sidebar: yes, this call by the Justice Department bothers me - I will be contacting my federal representation to let them know so)

and going forward...

AP Source: G7 To Discuss Central Bank Action

G7 Major Powers to Confer On Major Markets Crisis: Source

Grants for U.S. Educational Institutions or Nonprofits Researching the Economic Impact of Bicycling Facilities

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: September 30, 2011

Bikes Belong Foundation Offers Research Grants to Study Economic Impact of Bicycling

The Bikes Belong Foundation, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit arm of Bikes Belong, concentrates its work on bicycle safety projects and children's bicycle programs. The foundation aims to support its mission by funding a limited number of research grants each year.

Grants of $5,000 to $10,000 will be awarded for research that examines the economic impact of additional or improved bicycling facilities or bike-related events, and for special opportunities and innovative or unique research efforts considered on a case-by-case basis. (Applicants interested in the special opportunities priority area should contact the foundation's research analyst before submitting an application.).  Applicants must be U.S. colleges, universities, other institutions of higher education, or nonprofit research organizations. Individuals will not be considered for funding.

Bikes Belong Foundation reviews applications twice per year. The next application deadline is September 30, 2011.

Visit the Bikes Belong Web site for complete program guidelines, application form, and information on previously funded research projects.