Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Trends In Giving

One of the most positive people I have come across is Jenai Morehead.  Her energy just spills out in her writings and posts.  Here she talks about how times have changed and how we need to change with them.  On another point, and relevant to this conversation, Charity Channel has just published a new book called Fundraising as a Career:  What, Are You Crazy?  Read more about it at Charity Channel.  But back to Jenai, ok, so I have to pick up the phone?  Raising money for your beloved organization can feel like direct selling sometimes...and hardly anybody likes that, but, if you remember that it is your "beloved" organization, it may help you get past the "I hate asking people for money" gitters.  Bunnie

Trends In Giving
by Jenai Morehead

Times have changed. Nonprofits have been economically challenged to operate and give at a level that continues to satisfy the purpose for which they were created.

So what are they doing?

Over the last year I did some ground level observations and research for my clients. They needed answers to find money and resources to remain sustainable. The basic question: Is there any money out there? If so, how do I access it?

I studied two areas: Private foundations and public nonprofits. Normally known as grantors and grantees; those who give money and those who receive money. I came up with some interesting observations while attending several regional meetings of the Association of Small Foundations.

This wonderful organization is a gathering of small grantors whose members give generously to their regional nonprofits. It is also a resource of education to the founders and executive directors of these organizations. In one meeting founders were finding it increasingly hard to continue to pour money into their private foundations while their businesses were struggling. With employee contributions down they began coming up with creative ways to serve their constituents.

Most of the creativity was in capacity building services. Nowadays grantors are showing nonprofits “how to fish” as well as clean it, fry it and serve it. Services that public nonprofits normally would have to pay for are now being offered as capacity builders in lieu of cash grants. Sadly, a few foundations could not continue into legacy and are seeking advice as to the proper closure of their nonprofit affairs.

Believe it or not, picking up the phone and asking if there is funding available, is now in style. Because of this, I have changed the way I serve my clients. Once I match my client’s mission and goals with a funder, I pick up the phone and call the grantor myself. Executive Directors are now answering the phones and are more available to the public. With recent cutbacks and layoffs people are becoming more accessible. During the last few months I rarely have to go through more than one person to find someone who can answer my questions. If I leave a message or an email I usually get a personal response in less than 24 hours. This is straight across the board for small and large nonprofit foundations. Layoffs are causing a “nervous” productivity and founders are looking for more “bang” for their buck.

I have also found that arbitrarily writing letters does not work. Many nonprofits have wasted time sending out bulk mail without first reading guidelines. It takes more than writing “merge mail” letters to get funding. Showing determination and reading instructions is a quality that will get you a conversation with someone who can answer questions.

When I call a foundation, I introduce myself and my company. I have pen in hand and usually ask a combination of the following questions:

• Name and position of the person I am speaking too (if I don’t already know)

• I tell them briefly about my client’s project and ask if it matches their mission and goals for funding. If not, I ask if their priorities have changed and what are they? Example: One company’s priority switched to green energy projects. Another is only funding projects that are directly impacting people and are not giving capital for equipment or overhead.

• I ask them if they are funding any projects at all and, if so, which ones? If not, when will they expect their funding cycles to begin?

Grantors always give me straight answers and sometimes give me insight to the way their boards will view my proposals. They will never tell you if they can fund your project, but will help you not to waste your time and theirs.

Today, grantor’s expectations are more stringent. The most common conversation I have with foundation administrators is to make sure your program is sustainable, measureable and able to be duplicated. They want to make sure your organization has a plan of financial support before and after the grant; that the program objectives and outcomes can be measured and that the program can be duplicated for the good of others.

With these tips I hope you are on your way to feeling more comfortable about approaching grantors with candid questions that will help you make prompt decisions about funding for your organization.

Contact Jenai at Jenaimorehead at aol dot com

1 comment:

  1. This is fantastic advice, and I am going to pass this page on to everyone I know who works in non-profit. You are absolutely correct about how it is easier to get in direct contact with people today as opposed to how it was just a few years ago.