Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tips to Improve and Lessen the Costs of Nonprofit Operations

What Is A Well Run Nonprofit Agency?  I'll Tell You...

How To Find General Operating Funds

Nonprofit's Mission Statement, Program/Project Impact, and Your Field's Current Trends

Creating Model Programs and Their Effect On Getting Grants

Evaluation Methods - How Can A Nonprofit Use Them To Raise More Money More Often

Be Strategic, Yes 'Strategic', When You Write the Grant Proposal

Take That Nonprofit's Grant Writing to the Next Level

Grant Writers, Commissions, Best Practice, and the "Why?"Of It All...

How To Increase the Number of New Donors

Getting Major Donors to Contribute Large Regular Donations Can Stabilize Cash Flow

Burn Out and Its Effect On Your Fundraising...

Who's the Boss At Your Nonprofit?  Not the E.D.  Not the Board.  It's the Mission Statement!

Grants for Independent Family Livestock and Poultry Farmers Working to Improve the Animals' Quality of Life

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: April 1, 2012

Food Animal Concerns Trust Launches Grant Program to Help Farmers Improve Conditions for Livestock

The Food Animal Concerns Trust has announced the launch of the Healthy & Humane Farm Funds Project, a competitive micro-grants initiative designed to empower livestock and poultry farmers across the United States to improve the treatment of farm animals.

Through this project, FACT will provide small grants to qualifying livestock and poultry farmers who wish to improve animal welfare on their farms. The organization will award grants of $500 to $1,500 for projects designed to help farmers 1) transition to pasture-based systems, 2) improve the marketing of their humane products, or 3) more generally enrich the conditions in which the farm animals are raised.

FACT is accepting applications for the first round of Healthy & Humane Farm Funds Project grants that will be awarded in June 2012.

To be eligible, farms must raise at least one of the following animal species: pigs, broiler chickens, laying hens, dairy cows, and/or beef cattle. Proposed on-farm animal welfare improvement projects must impact at least one of these species. Grants will be made only to farmers for a project on a working, independent family farm.

Complete program information, application procedures, and examples of eligible projects are available at the Humane Farm Funds Web site.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How To Increase Fundraising & Spend Less In the Coming New Year

How To Plan Out This Year's Grant Seeking

Want To Spend Less On Your Nonprofit's Fundraising?  Here's How...

Grant Writing And the End of the Year

What A Nonprofit's Annual Report Is, Why It Is Powerful In Fundraising, & How To Create One

June Is Half Way Through The Year - Take Stock, Nonprofits

Grants for Community-Based Wetland, Riparian, and Coastal Habitat Restoration

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: February 15, 2012

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation Invites Applications for Five Star Restoration Grant Program

The Five Star Restoration Program provides modest financial assistance to support community-based wetland, riparian, and coastal habitat restoration projects that build diverse partnerships and foster local natural resource stewardship through education, outreach, and training activities.

The National Association of Counties, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, (NFWF) and the Wildlife Habitat Council, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Southern Company, and FedEx, are accepting applications for Five Star.

To be eligible for funding, projects must include on-the-ground wetland, riparian, in stream, and/ or coastal habitat restoration; integrate meaningful environmental education into the restoration project either through community outreach, participation, and/or integration with K-12 environmental curriculum; and result in measurable ecological, educational, and community benefits.

In 2012, NFWF anticipates that the following funding will be made available by program partners:
The United States Environmental Protection Agency Office of Water will provide approximately $200,000 in total funding for projects in the U.S., with a focus on communities not served by other funders.

Southern Company and its operating companies (Georgia Power, Alabama Power, Gulf Power, and Mississippi Power) will provide approximately $200,000 to support projects in the Southern Company service area (parts of Georgia, Alabama, the Florida Panhandle, and southeast Mississippi).
FedEx EarthSmart Outreach will provide approximately $375,000 in total funding to support urban conservation and restoration projects in the following fourteen metropolitan areas: Boston, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Dallas, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Newark, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, San Francisco/Oakland, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.

The Five Star program is open to any public or private entity that can receive grants. While partnerships are encouraged to include state and federal agencies, those entities may not serve as the grantee unless the community partners demonstrate that the state or federal agency is best suited to coordinate the community-based project.

Grants will vary in size, duration, and scale. In general, smaller-scale one-year projects will be eligible for grants of $10,000 to $25,000. Larger-scale two-year projects will be eligible for grants of up to $40,000.

Only a very limited number of projects meeting the highest competitive criteria will be awarded in the $30,000 to $40,000 range. The average grant award is expected to be between $20,000 and $25,000.

A minimum 1:1 match of cash or in-kind/contributed goods and services to funds requested is expected.

Visit the NFWF Web site for the complete Request for Proposals and application procedures.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Real World Example Demonstrating Why Nonprofits' Mission Statements Are More Important Than The Almighty Dollar

I write, in this blog, about professional nonprofit best practices a lot.  Best practices are not anything written in stone or some pact that was galvanized by every professional nonprofit volunteer or employee swearing allegiance; but rather, best practices are simply either adhered to and practiced regularly - or not.  Usually whether best practices are conducted depends on what experience the nonprofit volunteer or employee has and what they know about how things are done and why they're done that way.

So, for this reason, I find great value in noting and following real world current events to both track what the community (at large) thinks or how it reacts to the situation (many times no one writes to the Editor when a paper mentions a local nonprofit's bookkeeper bilked the organization out of money).  On Thursday, though, I spotted a news item that I think is, at a minimum, informative and more than that, probably a good example of when and how a nonprofit can run into conflicts of interest when weighing the organization's very reason for existing and operating (its mission statement) against a donor's wishes.

On November 9, 2011 The New York Times published Parks Chief Blocked Plan For Grand Canyon Bottle Ban written by Felicity Barringer and it was carried, at least nationally, by news wire services.  Though you may not, I happen to value this nation's amazing and unmatched great outdoors.  My point in writing about this story, though, is not about the environmental issue (of which I am going to write my federal representatives about).  This story is interesting because last year, as the article states, " Weary of plastic litter, Grand Canyon National Park officials were in the final stages of imposing a ban on the sale of disposable water bottles in the Grand Canyon..." but the top federal parks official, Jon Jarvis decided against the ban because a major donor did not like it.  To quote The Times piece,"...Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand and has donated more than $13 million to the parks, had registered its concerns about the bottle ban through the foundation, and...the project was being tabled. His account was confirmed by park, foundation and company officials..."

If we look at Jarvis' decision objectively, we need to refer to the National Park Service's mission statement (as stated on their website)," promote and regulate the use of the...national parks...which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.".  Jarvis seems to have made a decision about Parks operations outside the scope of the National Park Service's mission statement.  This is not unheard of, by any means.  Sometimes nonprofit leadership makes decisions that are motivated by reasons outside of the organization's mission statement without any controversy.

The controversy, in Jarvis' decision, is that he did what one of the National Park Service's donors wanted which is in sharp contrast to the agency's own mission: it's reason for existing.  In fact, Jarvis was willing to ignore a good majority of the Park Service's purpose as stated it is clearly stated in the mission statement.  This is not my opinion, but rather, his action is in direct contrast to the purpose of the Park Service and this is discernible by the actual facts.  

Even still, perhaps you are saying to me, "well...we are in a recession and the Park Service could use all of the donors and donations it can retain".  This is true and this is not a small point. Coke and its subsidiaries are probably very generous partners with the Park Service as a donor. Jarvis may (I could not find any comment from him on this point) have decided to do what Coke wished irregardless of the Park Service's mission purpose because its own budget has been cut by Congress.  In fact, this may be the very crux of the situation.  These are tough times.  Yet, always, even in poor economic times, a nonprofit's leadership must decide what the organization stands for, what it will tolerate (with regard to the organization's own best interest and future ability to do its work) and what it can not abide.  Jarvis decided in this down economy to do what one of his big donors wanted.  So, perhaps now you are saying to me, "well...doesn't this kind of thing happen all of the time when a major donor helps a nonprofit build a new building, for instance, and wants naming rights for one of the new building's wings?".  This is also true.  Yes, this occurs. Usually, though, naming rights is an actual fundraising method used to help raise the funds for the new building (before the building is built and years in advance, while the fundraising for the new building to be is being planned out).

If we look at this situation considering nonprofit operations, from a purely professional practical point of view, the Park Service's leadership's decision to do what one of its major donors wanted despite the clearly described purpose of the Service, stated in its own mission statement, which contrasts with the purpose; this is not a good decision and not within best practices.  This can apply to any nonprofit in any similar situation and nonprofit leadership actually sometimes have to say to a donor (even a major donor), 'thank you but we have to return the check' (see my post, Is There Really A Grant That Our Organization May Not Take?).  Here's why:

__ No organization operates without referring to its mission statement.  Without the mission, the organization is a ship directionless in the night.  There is no guiding principle or reason the organization operates or even exists.  (This is why mission statements are of value).  When an organization does strategic planning, considered what new programs or services to implement, or weighs what its beneficiaries need and can receive from the nonprofit - only the mission statement clearly defines the organization and so this definition clarifies for the organization's leadership what should and should not be considered worth doing.  If a nonprofit, though, only refers to its mission statement in a cursory or even inconsistent manner then its leadership is likely not making decision based on the best interest of the organization's beneficiaries or the organization's own welfare (as stated, for instance, in the Sarbanes Oxley Act which all American nonprofit boards are required by law to uphold).  The best interest of the organization and its beneficiaries, as the law describes it, come before the interests of others (including donors).  How would the law know what the organization's best interest is?  The nonprofit, in order to be an official charity, per the IRS, files its mission statement (and must update it with the IRS if and when the mission statement is updated or changed in any way).  This is how clear the law is about the importance of the mission statement.

__ What should other donors or contributors of any kind (such as volunteers or community partners) think about the nonprofit that puts its beneficiaries second to the interests of one of the organization's major donors?  Why would you or I give to the Park Service, right now, if we agree with the organization's mission statement and see the purpose of the Parks exactly the same as it is stated in the Park Service's own mission statement?  We wouldn't right now and would, instead, divert that donation to another charity that will use the money in a manner that I am more comfortable - one in which I (a contributor) understands the organization is supposed to operate by looking at other potential recipient organizations' operations and weighing how consistent each other potential recipient organization's leadership make decisions or conduct operations with each organization's mission.  Donors are truly investors who want to see their money result in real positive outcomes as the donor understands the organization's goals to be (one way donors or anyone among the general public, outside the organization, does this is by looking at an organization's mission and its recent track record).

__ How much money does anyone or any corporation have to give in order to have sway over what the nonprofit does or does not do and why is that amount worth that kind of power over the organization's welfare and its beneficiaries' welfare?  Any nonprofit that is willing to do what a donor wants beyond the scope of the organization's mission, values, or purpose needs to seriously evaluate its own leadership and perhaps train those leaders in modern professional best practices, or even let them go.  Making decisions that do not proactively induce the organization's purpose or goals may be (and often actually is) an indication that someone at the top is either unaware of what professional best practices are and why, or does not care and is a dangerous liability to the organization's public image and future potential to raise any kind of support.  Is any donation worth this?

__ As of the date and time of my writing this post (10:30am PST 11/11/11) the Times states in its article that a law suit is now going to be brought forward, given Jarvis' decision.  How much money is it going to cost the Park Service to fight this court case, regain the general public's trust (who are the beneficiaries of the Park Service), regain donors' confidences that the agency operates according to its mission rather than the wishes of major donors, and fix this image issue through marketing and  public relations?  A lot.  How much money is the Park Service, then, spending to avoid its own purpose all because Coke gives so many thousands of dollars a year?  I bet more than whatever it is Coke donates.

I use this situation as an example to demonstrate why professional nonprofit best practices are just that - best practices.  They are not something someone somewhere comes up with and then beats over the head of others.  They are practices that many different nonprofits (of all sizes and ages) try (in different regions of the U.S. and world) and happen to be what work.  They are the most effective because they are repeatedly successful practices for any other nonprofit that adopts and conducts them.  The proof is in the outcome.  Let's watch what happens next in this current event.

December 15, 2011 Update:

April 3, 2013 Related Story: Mt. Rainier Moves to Ban Bottled Water, Big Bottle is Pissed

Grants and IBM Expertise for U.S. and International Cities' Governments' Offices and Districts (i.e. Port Authorities, School Districts, Etc.)

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: December 16, 2011

IBM Invites Cities Around the World to Apply for Second Year of Smarter Cities Challenge

IBM has opened the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge to new applications for 2012. Launched in 2010, the Smarter Cities Challenge is a competitive grant program that will award $50 million worth of IBM expertise over the next three years to a hundred cities around the globe.

The program provides select applicant cities with access to teams of IBM employees who are expert in a variety of urban-related matters (e.g., finance, public safety, citizen services). The teams will help the selected cities analyze the unique opportunities and challenges they face as municipalities in today's difficult economic climate. After conferring with officials, citizens, businesses, academics, and community leaders, the IBM teams will recommend actions to make the delivery of public services more efficient and innovative. Issues addressed might include jobs, health, public safety, transportation, social services, recreation, education, energy, and sustainability.

Each grant provides an equivalent value of approximately $400,000 in talent and technology.

Key factors for a successful grant application include strong municipal leadership, willingness to collaborate with many stakeholders, and the desire to make the city smarter and more efficient. Cities also will need to champion actionable and measurable efforts that have the potential to make a real impact on the lives of its citizens. Winning applicants will identify areas that are closely connected with a city's top priorities and involve a range of disciplines and departments.

Only general-purpose governing bodies may apply. Special districts (such as port authorities, school districts, or utility districts) are not eligible for the program at this time. In addition to uploading a completed application form, each applicant is required to submit a brief letter from the mayor (or equivalent executive officer of the municipal government) affirming the validity of the submission.

Applications will be accepted in English, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Chinese (Simplified), and Japanese.

Visit the Smarter Cities Challenge Web site for complete program guidelines, case studies that describe IBM's recommendations to 2011 grant recipients, examples of successful applications, and the application form.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Grants for Communities Using Arts and Culture to Revitalize Their Community

From The Foundation Center...

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

Deadline: February 1, 2012(Preliminary Applications)

Kresge Foundation Invites Preliminary Applications for Arts and Community Building and Artists' Skills and Resources Grant Opportunities

The Kresge Foundation's Arts and Culture Program seeks to foster the power of arts and culture to recharge and rebuild communities of all sizes in the United States.

As part of this effort, the program is accepting preliminary grant applications from nonprofit organizations for its Community Building and Artists' Skills and Resources focus areas.

The Arts and Community Building focus area is intended to help develop a systematic way to support arts and culture as a tool for revitalizing communities. To achieve this goal, the program will invest in exemplary efforts and identify and share best practices within the field. At the national level, the foundation wishes to fund exemplary organizations dedicated to integrating arts and community-building activities and identifying new methods as models for the field; commission and publish research on efforts to integrate cultural organizations and artists into community-building efforts; elevate the visibility of arts and community building, and disseminate best practices through meetings, publications, and other means as appropriate. The foundation is accepting preliminary applications from grant seekers for national-level projects.

The Artists' Skills and Resources focus area is based in the belief that community transformation would be more widespread if more communities embraced artists as important contributors to the identity, vitality, and cohesion of the places where they live. The program seeks to boost artists' skills and resources by supporting leading practitioners as well as efforts to increase the number of live-and-work spaces for artists.

Preliminary applications for both funding areas will be accepted and reviewed on an ongoing basis through February 1, 2012. (After that date, the grant opportunity may be modified.) The preliminary application contains a data-entry component and several attachments, including a narrative. Applicants with promising requests will be asked to complete the second part of the application process.

Visit the Kresge Foundation Web site for complete program information and the preliminary application form.