Sunday, August 26, 2012

Where Your Nonprofit Has Cut Costs Or Saved In Recent Years Is Just As Important to Share With Potential Donors & Volunteers As Is Your Programs' Successes

If any of the following cost cutting or savings practices are things your nonprofit has done, for a recent time period less than or up to the past five years, tell your nonprofit's supporters and potential supporters.  Toot your organization's horn in its volunteer and donation requests and in its newsletters and annual report (among other places especially like your nonprofit's website). People, today, have been cutting costs and saving more at home over the past five years - and so they now carry that value around with them everywhere, including when they are opening postal mail or e-mail from your organization.  So, be sure to tell the general public, when you reach out to them marketing your agency or requesting support, that your organization does and values saving and cost cutting, as well.

In the first part of your making a compelling case to potential supporters, show recipients of your materials, in clear succinct charts and diagrams or a bullet list, the real numbers.  Toot!  Toot!  If you don't, who will?  Make your organization's successes known to your nonprofit's community.

How?  In any and all fundraising and volunteer solicitations (except those which content is restricted such as some grant requests), public facing reports, reporting web pages, marketing materials, and public relations explain to or show potential new and current: donors, volunteers, community partners and the general public demonstrable numbers expressing:

___ ... generally where and what your nonprofit has cut in organizational spending and expenses and how much that has saved the organization.;

___ ... similarly, for all other savings, generally where and what your organization has saved money elsewhere in the organization's standard operations and expenses such as new or increased sharing costs with other other organizations, re-negotiating contracts such that costs have been lowered, working with new lesser expensive vendors, removing middlemen from previous expenses, etc.;

___ ... generally what savings has been increased and how that level of savings has been sustained, and what the new additional savings is (sum total) that has been retained (this can include a nonprofit's actual savings account, a new or increased endowment fund, a new asset owned outright, etc.);

___ ... if there are furloughs, firings or layoffs, job sharing, extended days off that the entire staff is out and the office is closed for say a vacation (i.e. perhaps the winter holiday break for your staff is now mandatory and a week long instead of none existing before), etc. that allow for normal operation of the organization (as before) but lessen the organization's daily operations expenses (i.e. overhead such as electricity, parking, water, garbage, Internet access, etc.) and what those savings are;

___ ... equitable cost sharing such as anything the paid staff or consultants have agreed to (without controversy) where perhaps staff have less days off than they did but improved health insurance benefits from before or consultants donating more time for their services than they used to, etc.;

___ ... and anywhere else where expenses have been reduced without negatively impacting the nonprofit's services, projects, and items it delivers to the community. 

In the final part of making a compelling case to the potential donor, etc., and to the point of my final bullet list item, above; it is very important that along with any of the above information, that is included in your organization's fundraising requests that you are certain to also include demonstrable data showing at least sustained or ideally, increased number of beneficiaries receiving support, information, item, or etc. from your organization in tandem with or despite decreased spending and increased savings.  Be clear and succinct in reporting both.

It is not enough to simply say 'donate to us because we're better with our money than we used to be', right?  A nonprofit that shows potential new and current supporters what it's saved or cut in costs while maintaining or more ideally, increasing its services provided to the community makes a compelling case to a potential donor.

An organization must have statistics based on factual data on what services have been provided in the current year and that must be tabulated.  This, in part, is why building evaluation methods into programs and services' designs is so important today. Usually evaluations are in part or wholly beneficiaries' feedback to your organization's services, such as anonymous participant surveys.  Once the service stats results are determined, sharing that data, coupled with what cost cutting and savings has been increased shows a potential donor, volunteer, or community partner several things about your nonprofit. It proves your organization's successful track record at delivering its mission, but too, it demonstrates your organization's potential for further success now and in the future.  Second, it demonstrates that your organization is managed and operated professionally and efficiently while remaining effective.  Finally, it shows potential partners (such as donors, volunteers, and community partners) that you will report to them (ideally, openly and honestly at regular intervals) and that your organization understands that part of developing but definitely retaining supporters is communicating with supporters.  These are what you're hoping recipients of your organization's solicitations think of your nonprofit after opening and reading them.  These arguments engender trust and confidence in your organization, and the recipient of the solicitation sees your organization as successful at both achieving its mission goals but too at efficiently operating the nonprofit.  If the recipient of your solicitation cares about your organization and its cause then why shouldn't they give?

Grants for U.S. Nonprofits Providing Innovative Programs Addressing Young Men of Color's Health & Success Challenges

From The Foundation Center...

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

"Deadline: October 10, 2012 (Brief proposals)

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Announces Forward Promise Innovation Grants to Promote the Health and Success of Young Men of Color

"Forward Promise Innovation Grants: Promoting Opportunities for the Health and Success of Young Men of Color is a new initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to improve the health of middle school- and high school-aged boys and young men of color, as well as their opportunities for success in school, work, and life.

"The program's goal is to identify and support innovative programs that address the challenges facing young men of color and that correspond with RWJF's areas of interest; have potential to change the organization and system(s) of service delivery; be poised for growth and/or replication; and demonstrate the potential to transform social norms within the context of schools and/or communities.

"Applicants must have implemented an existing program model that has a fully articulated theory of change or logic model, have preliminary evidence of improving outcomes for this population, and demonstrate potential to be replicated for broader application and greater impact. Preference will be given to organizations or institutions that apply funds to support program infrastructure and project expansion. No more than 50 percent of the grant request should be allocated to existing program activities.

"The foundation will award funding to projects with preliminary evidence of impact in four areas: alternative approaches to harsh school discipline that do not push students out of school; solutions that focus on dropout prevention and increasing middle school retention and high school graduation rates; mental health interventions that tailor approaches to boys and young men who have experienced and/or been exposed to violence and trauma; and career training programs that blend workforce and education emphases to ensure that students are college- and career-ready.

"Preference will be given to applicant organizations that are either public entities or nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and are not private foundations or Type III supporting organizations. Applicant organizations must be based in the United States or its territories, and must have an organizational budget of at least $1.5 million annually.

"Up to ten grants of up to $500,000 will be awarded for periods of up to thirty months.

"An optional applicant Web conference call will be held on September 11, 2012. Registration is required.
Visit the RWJF Web site for the complete call for proposals, application instructions, and Web conference call details."

Monday, August 20, 2012

No Nikola Tesla Museum Exists in the U.S., Yet - But A New Nonprofit Is Hoping You'll Help Change That

I am a Nikola Tesla fan.  Always have been since I learned about his ground breaking electrical inventions and his life. 

So, I was pleased when I read this weekend the article Nikola Tesla museum campaign earns $500,000 online in two days in the The Guardian U.K (U.S. Edition, article by Adam Gabbett, August 17, 2012).  I had no idea any of this was afoot and so, I thought I'd 'pay it forward' and help the effort by posting this post.

Tesla was a Serbian born in the Austrian Empire in 1856, who in June 1884, by virtue of his extraordinary engineering talents, came to America to to work for Thomas Edison.  Tesla invented the alternating electrical current and in 1894 demonstrated short range wireless electric communication: each were firsts.  Tesla wanted to provide the world with free wireless electricity (and in 1900 was going about doing it, beginning to build the Wardenclyffe Tower to transmit it worldwide), much to his former boss and contemporary's frustration. Thomas Edison, of course became an industrialist/tycoon through the sale of his electric devices.

As students, today, learn American industrial history, Thomas Edison is an inevitable topic while Tesla is usually simply not mentioned if not actually avoided, relegated because of his obscurity to something like a mystic or cult phenomenon - which is ludicrous.  By virtue of Edison's economic success and Tesla's eventual failing health and poverty at the end of his life, Nikola Tesla's discoveries were lost to most.   The historic and scientific canons of thought (and therefore history) did not consider him as important in the story as the light bulb baron.  Yet, Tesla's discoveries and contributions to the industrialized world and even our lives, today, cannot be denied.  This man and his contributions should not just be properly lauded - a museum is just the kind of public outreach tool that would rightly clarify prior misconceptions (and erroneous assumptions about a man whose only apparent misdeed is failing to become an industrial tycoon) and instead properly get his inventions and contributions known to people, and eventually taught in the classroom.  A museum would do the trick.  Yet, no Nikola Tesla museum exists in the United States.

Where would this museum most properly be located?  Where Nikola Tesla, himself, worked - his own laboratory, that he bought in 1901 in upstate New York, which still stands today - and is now up for sale for $1.6 million.  The State of New York has promised a matching grant of $850,000 to purchase the land, to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit working, now, to build the museum, Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe (New York) if the other $850,000 can be raised from the public (eh hem, you and I).  Hence, The Guardian's article about the museum campaign - which is more than on track.  The Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, the nonprofit working to create the museum, is raising more than hoped by this time.  It's getting a boost by none other than Internet cultural phenom, The Oatmeal .  His fundraising is being done through Indiegogo of which he is giving the museum 100% of the contributions he receives.  Donors can also give to purchase the land (and eventually to build the museum) through the museum's PayPal page (via either credit or bank cards or a PayPal account), or this same museum web page provides the mailing address if donors would rather postal mail checks, money orders, etc. to the museum itself, to contribute. 

If you have a spare $5 (which doesn't come cheaply, today - I know) and believe in educating the public about those who have contributed to human scientific achievements and to our quality of life, today - or if you just like scientist geeky types - then please give.  It would be good to know that the $5 that could admittedly buy you a treat like a latte with all of the fancy trimmings instead went to insure that people, today and tomorrow, learn factually about a critically important grandfather of modern day science and electricity.  If you do give, I thank you.  I hope to visit that museum!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Do Something Awards Get Youth Involved and Gives Out Grants Perhaps In Part Through Crowd Sourcing Which Isn't Clear - And If It Does, It's Not Ultimately Sustainable Fundraising For Nonprofits

Do Something Awards air this Tuesday night August 21 at 9pm on VH1 (hosted by the guys from New Girl).  I am half with this philanthropic and community support rallying effort and half not.

The Do Something Awards are created by, offered through, supposedly selected by, and managed by Do 

Nonprofit Do, also Do Something, Inc., was founded in 2003 and co-founded by 1980's heartthrob actor Andrew Shue.  Current Do Something CEO, Nancy Lublin founded the well known and successful nonprofit Dress for Success in 1996.  Charity Navigator states the mission statement as: "Do Something believes young people have the power to make a difference. It is our aim to inspire, support and celebrate a generation of do-ers: people who see the need to do something, believe in their ability to get it done, and then take action. Our website is a community where young people learn, listen, speak, vote, volunteer, ask, and take action to make the world a better place. Currently, only 23% of this generation actively volunteers. Our hope is to create a do something generation: a world where more than 51% of young people are involved with community action."

While the organization provides its own support and programs besides providing the awards, youth and youth welfare is its focus.  Award applicants can only be American or Canadian twenty-five years old or younger, and according to Do Something's home page this Tuesday "...up to five finalists will appear on the... Awards ...and be rewarded with a community grant, media coverage and continued support from The grand prize winner will receive $100,000 during the broadcast."

According to the organization's website applicants apply to receive support through the Do Something website, their applications are considered over a three month period, and the applications are reviewed by previous award recipients and staff.  On VH1's Do Something Awards Nominees web page (for the event) they offer the opportunity for website visitors (to log into VH1) and vote for their favorite "Do Something Award" youth contender.  So, it is not clear if these votes are also included in the award recipient consideration or if this is the list of semi-finalists of which VH1 website visitors help select finalists or the grand prize winner.  Either way, Do Something should explain this step on its own Do Something web page, as VH1 should also explain on their Award web page.  Neither organization's Awards web pages explain what this crowd sourcing effort is or how it figures into the selection of the winner(s).

The Do Something Award community grant winners "... receive a minimum of $10,000 in community grants and scholarships. Of those five winners, one will be selected as the grand prize Do Something Award winner and receive a total of $100,000 in community grants."  "The Do Something Award community grant money is paid directly to the nominee's organization or the not-for-profit of the nominee’s choice. All winners have the option of receiving $5,000 of the total money awarded in the form of an educational scholarship." according to their site.

On their site they state:
"2.2 million young people participated in campaigns in the past year.

"We'll give away $600,000+ in scholarships in 2012.
"15,000 new donors registered through our 2011 Give a Spit campaign, helping to save the lives of Leukemia patients. 

"4 Star Charity Rating from Charity Navigator (only 9% of U.S. charities get 4 stars) 

"Over 2.5 million jeans collected over the past five years through our Teens for Jeans campaign." among other accomplishments.

Do Something's Grants Database and Grants Database FAQ explain how the organization assists youth to do good in their communities further.

Most of the VH1 web pages dedicated to the Do Something Awards offer site visitors the opportunity to (log in and) vote on favorite celebrities (athletes, comedians, TV, movies, even "cities") who/that are active in the nonprofit sector.  They either win awards or simply kudos for their effort at the Awards.  It is not clear.  Do Something's site offers visitors the ability to see what celebrities affiliated with the organization (it's not clear if they're past winners or current contenders here, either) are doing in the community and lets youth find out how they can get involved with that celebrity's organization or the cause. 

The organization, as it reports (to the IRS in its annual tax filings) and as Charity Navigator has reported on it, appears to operate ethically, efficiently, and on point given its mission.  It appears to do good.  While it is not clear what element crowd sourcing plays in the outcome of who wins Awards (grants), it may simply be a tool to get site visitors involved and excited about the pending Awards, community involvement, and causes supported - but it also may be more involved than that and both Do Something and VH1 need to clarify this.

I've made my feelings clear about Crowd Sourcing as a hardly sustainable method for nonprofit fundraising - meaning crowd sourcing is not a method of fundraising that will allow a nonprofit to raise funds now and in the future repeatedly by potentially retaining some of these new donors.  Crowd sourcing is not advantageous to nonprofit organizations in the long run as crowd sourcing isn't a relationship developed between the nonprofit and the potential new donor.  Nonprofits do not create relationships with those making the funding decisions (the crowd in this case).  The nonprofit's ability, when fundraising, to form relationships with potential and new donors is critical or necessary in order for charities to be able to develop, strengthen, and grow new and current donors and these supporters' understanding of what their contribution does for the organization's beneficiaries, the nonprofit, the goal of its mission, and the outcomes of its programs.  It is in this way that nonprofits bring new donors on board and retains past donors who give again.  Partnerships, in effect, are formed through these relationships that nonprofits work tirelessly to form with potential, new, and current donors.  For more on my take on crowd sourcing, see Is Crowd Sourcing A Viable Sustainable Way for Nonprofits to Raise and Retain Support?  No.

Why then does crowd sourcing exist?  It is terrific for the sponsor and their social media (marketing and public relations) goals.  See, for instance, Huge Inc.'s Pepsi Case Study.  I am not naive enough to imagine that Pepsi's altruism extends beyond its own bottom line (though I applaud its support of nonprofits).  The fact is crowd sourcing and its benefits or outcomes are often weighed based on whether the sponsor (in this case, Pepsi) benefited (by achieving its social media, public relations, or marketing goals) and not whether the recipient nonprofit organizations or community efforts ultimately benefited in the long run or whether the recipient nonprofits are able to sustain themselves beyond say receiving a Pepsi Refresh Project grant.  A nonprofit that is viable has to not just know what its doing with its programs and services, but needs to be able to fund itself so it exists today and tomorrow.  Otherwise, why fund them at all?

Don't get me wrong - getting youth involved and providing innovative, sustainable, viable projects for needy causes and issues is critical and what good philanthropy is about.  In an age, though, where we're still figuring out how Facebook makes money (or whether ultimately it does) we would be wise to stop and also worry about what the ultimate good or even whether there is a long term benefit at all to the nonprofits being put into this supposed altruism (and supposed philanthropy).

Do Something has me in its corner, if not entirely, at least up to a point.  Awarding grants based on credible, demonstrable, quantifiable data that demonstrate the mission is serving a currently unmet but real need, the organization's potential for success, and its expertise to successfully and efficiently solve this issue is one thing.  Do Something does this if not entirely, at least in part.  It's not clear.  An effective grant donor (that enables nonprofits to be viable in successfully and efficiently achieving successful outcomes for the beneficiaries) should be educated, perhaps credentialed, but experienced enough in the causes and issues it assists in order to make viable philanthropic decisions about which organization or effort best merits receiving a grant.  Asking nonprofits to solely fund themselves by throwing their hat into a ring with several or even tens of other nonprofits where some corporation then asks its website visitors to vote (from the hip) which organization should "win" isn't helpful to those organizations' beneficiaries or the organizations themselves, in the long run.  It is not clear whether this is at least in part (or even at all) what Do Something does and it should be clear.

Grants for Music Research and Preservation Projects of the Music and Sound Heritage of the Americas

From The Foundation Center...

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

"Deadline: October 1, 2012 (Letters of Inquiry)

"Grammy Foundation Accepting Letters of Inquiry for 2012-13 Grants in Music Research and Preservation Projects

"Funded by the Recording Academy, the Grammy Foundation's grant program annually provides support for music archiving and preservation efforts and for scientific research projects related to the impact of music on the human condition.

"The scientific research projects grant program awards funding of up to $20,000 to organizations and individuals working to research the impact of music on the human condition. Examples include the study of the effects of music on mood, cognition, and healing; the medical and occupational well-being of music professionals; and the creative process underlying music. Priority will be given to projects with strong methodological design as well those designed to address an important research question.

"The archiving and preservation projects grant program awards grants to organizations and individuals to support efforts that advance the archiving and preservation of the music and recorded sound heritage of the Americas. The archiving and preservation area has two funding categories — preservation implementation (grants of up to $20,000) and planning, assessment and/or consultation (grants of up to $5,000).

"Visit the Grammy Foundation Web site for complete program guidelines and the Letter of Inquiry form."

Sunday, August 05, 2012

NASA/JPL's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity's Landing (Or Not) Tonight: A Great Example of Donors Watching for Mission Based Success In Deciding Whether to Give Again Or Not

Amid the American Presidential race, the Olympics, and summer goings on, my husband is baking a key lime pie, today, to celebrate NASA/JPL's Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity's expected landing, tonight, on the red planet, Mars (at approximately 10:14pm PDST with confirmation of the safe or failed landing only getting back to NASA/JPL here on Earth in a nail-biting 15 minutes later (due to the distance from Mars to our planet and the time it takes for light to travel that distance)).  We go all out for NASA ventures at the Spencer household. 

I repeatedly explain in this blog about how nonprofit organizations (which include government agencies) best increase and further their support (including financial support) through demonstrable achievements and mission-based successes.  It only makes logical sense that donors (in NASA's case - elected officials wringing hands over a federal budget) feel confident further investing (donating) in successful operations that demonstrate they are viable, efficient, relevant, and successful.  Too, current success demonstrates to potential supporters that the organization has the talent on staff to achieve further new successes in the future: this demonstrates that the organization is viable going forward.  To see a list of NASA's past and future missions see the right hand side of NASA Astrobiology Mars Science Laboratory.

So, it is with great hope that I will watch, tonight, as NASA broadcasts live the Curiosity landing on Mars because I want NASA to continue to receive funding and federal support by our leaders because our nation's ability to advance science is critical in part to NASA's future in the U.S.'s standing in: international competitiveness (financial in the private sector and in academia), employment in the sciences, science education, and finally, and in our understanding of Mars.  Curiosity's mission is to look for (microbial or fossil) evidence of life on Mars (that once existed or still exists) and to better understand the red planet's formation and natural history through geologic study, among other sciences.  Curiosity's unique feature, rolling along on board, is a state of the art laboratory.  Its findings will allow us to know more about Mars but to learn, too, about how planets form and even  to understand more about Earth's own formation.  Having data from not just another planet in our solar system but a planet that is very similar to Earth will give scientists data with which to compare Earth to and discover more.

My parents are very fond of remembering that I was twenty-three days old as I watched the 1969, NASA, Apollo 11 moon landing with them.  I don't remember watching it, but of course Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took first steps for all mankind as they, the first humans to walk on the moon, stepped off the moon lander.  As President Kennedy insisted of America in his speech on September 12, 1962 (at Rice University in Houston, Texas), "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

As I said, it is with great hope that I will watch, tonight, as NASA broadcasts live the Curiosity landing on Mars because I want that rover to land safely and have a long and successful mission, because I want to know more about the red planet and planet formation; but too, in no small part because I know that NASA's future funding and federal support probably depends a good deal on how this landing goes.  And Earth's attempts at Mars have been failures more often than successes.  Of sixteen total attempts to either land rovers on Mars or place orbiters into its orbit only six succeeded - all of which were U.S. programs so, our record is pretty reassuring for Curiosity's odds tonight.  This unique American record among the wealthy scientifically minded nations of the world demonstrates why NASA is so critical to not just American science or planetary knowledge but really how critical NASA is to our all of Earth's scientists knowing more.  I do not want our nation's place in furthering scientific knowledge to falter to other nations willing to fund science and space exploration.

I am of the generations of Americans who are exceedingly proud of our nation's achievements in science and the space race (see Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity headed for Mars landing.  Are you ready? for broadcast times and channels).  I am also pleased that space exploration is conducted, now, in multinational space programs of collaboration and also among private companies.  Look at footage of the Apollo 11 landing's live transmission around the globe and you find people of all nations up at all hours to watch the Americans land on the moon (with the computing power used to land and return Apollo 11, at the time, of less power than one of today's cell phones, by the way).

This was an American achievement that uniquely united humanity.

In the coming months an American rover called Curiosity rolling around the red planet will probably in some smaller degree unite humanity in awe again, if it succeeds in landing safely tonight.  Please join my husband and I and cross your fingers: for Curiosity to land safely, for its mission successes, and for our U.S. leadership to continue to support and fund NASA.

Update: It is 10:55pm PDT August 5, 2012 as I type this, and I am proud to say that NASA/JPL was successful across the board.  Curiosity is landed on Mars, it sent its first Martian images back to Earth that NASA posted to its site [and NASA/JPL just announced (on its USTREAM channel) that NASA's site has crashed from all of the attempts people are making right now to see them]. 

I am so very proud to be an American right now.  Congratulations, NASA/JPL and to all of our partners in other nations that put different technologies on board Curiosity.  We've all succeeded!

Fellowships for U.S. or Japanese Citizens Researching Topics of Pressing Global Concern In Multidisciplinary Teams

From The Foundation Center...

[For more information on this grant opportunity, click "Link to Complete RFP" or the live SSRC web site link in the last paragraph at the end of this blog post.]

"Deadline: September 1, 2012

"Abe Fellowship Offers Support for International Multidisciplinary Research on Topics of Pressing Global Concern

"The Social Science Research Council, the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership, and the American Council of Learned Societies have announced the annual Abe Fellowship Program competition.
The Abe Fellowship is designed to encourage international multidisciplinary research on topics of pressing global concern. Applications for the program, which provides research support to individuals, are welcome from scholars and non-academic research professionals.

"The fellowship program committee seeks applications for research explicitly focused on policy-relevant and contemporary issues with a comparative or transnational perspective that draw the study of the United States and Japan into wider disciplinary or theoretical debates.

"Applicants are invited to submit proposals for research in the social sciences and related disciplines relevant to any one or any combination of the program's three themes — traditional and non-traditional approaches to security and diplomacy, global and regional economic issues, and social and cultural issues.

"The competition is open to citizens of the U.S. and Japan as well as to nationals of other countries who can demonstrate strong and serious long-term affiliations with research communities in Japan or the U.S.

"Applicants must hold a Ph.D. or the terminal degree in their field, or have attained an equivalent level of professional experience at the time of application.

"Terms of the fellowship are flexible and are designed to meet the needs of researchers at different stages in their careers. The program provides fellows with a minimum of three and maximum of twelve months of full-time support over a twenty-four month period. Candidates should propose to spend at least one third of the fellowship tenure in residence abroad in Japan or the U.S.

"Visit the SSRC Web site for complete program guidelines and application procedures."