Funds for All & All for Funds

Welcome to my blog! I'd like you to consider this an interactive space for sharing information, successes, ideas, strategies, and links to help us all raise more funds for nonprofits.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Grants: Before You Dive Into the Deep End

Before you take the plunge and go after grants, you may want to improve your chances by developing one document that can ensure that you receive serious consideration: an organizational case statement.

What is a case statement? It's a well-written document that collects all the information about your organization and project needed to give credibility to your request and persuade a grantmaker to commit funds. It provides the rationale for making a grant or donation to your nonprofit. It answers the question: why is what you do the best that can be done and what is vitally needed?

A case statement document is usually created by a professional fundraising consultant or executive, and must set your program in the context of the larger world: it places your program not only as the best or among the best in your field, but also in serving the needs of your community or region. It  includes detailed information on the population you serve, the issue you address, or the need for your research project. And it justifies your budget in narrative form (this part is too often omitted from case statements).

It's very important to collect everything in one place. It's also important to set a schedule for regularly updating it: every six months, ideally.

The case statement should include your mission, vision, history, budgetary information in narrative form (including sources of ongoing funding), your values and goals. It should state clearly and persuasively, in jargon-free, correct English, the journalistic basics: who, what, when, where, and why of your fundraising efforts.

Ask yourself:
How does this organization help people?
Who do we help?
What vital or unique services do we offer?
What is our track record?
What are our plans ?
How do we use our money? 
Why do we deserve support?
Who else contributes to our cause/

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pilanthropy picking up?

I won four private foundation grants totaling $158,000 in the last eight months for three different clients. Looks like grantmaking is picking up as Wall Street picks up and foundation endowments again gain strength. Direct mail returns for my clients at year-end also picked up by 10-15% year over year. This year is looking more robust for philanthropy.

It's only anecdotal evidence, but the other grant writers and fundraising consultants I've talked to report better returns in the last six to eight months too. Statistics bear out the recovery of charitable giving that began in 2010 and continued in 2011, as The Philanthropist reported last year, based on Blackbaud's survey of more than 1,400 nonprofit institutions.

It's encouraging to see evidence of this in my own corner, and to pass along more hopeful estimates to my clients. Let's keep our fingers crossed that, along with other hopeful signs in the economy, this trend continues in 2012.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Social Media for Social Good

The Foundation Center has several video presentations on this important topic:

Who's Using Social Media for Social Good

One thing that struck me in the first presentation is the jump in the number of people using Facebook, Twitter, and other social media -- and using it as their first news/communication source of the day. I believe they even cited people who log onto Facebook before they get out of bed. And of course there are people like me who check FB periodically throughout the day on their smartphones.

It's not just a new form of communication, it's a new way of being part of a larger world. And part of maneuvering your cause into the mainstream of that world-feed is crafting short, frequent messages about what you're doing that can join the river of information we are all increasingly swimming constantly.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Donors Intend to Give More

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has an article on a hopeful trend. It surveyed charities in the Philanthropy 400, the newspaper's list of organizations that raised the most from private sources. Donors reported that they intend to give more this year.

Of course, one of the bright spots in 2010's year of giving was the boost in online giving. The survey found that online giving is now such a strong habit that donors at every age level prefer it. They cited these statistics:

  • More than 50% of donors 65 and older said they'd give online
  • 75% of people 35 to 64 said they'd give online
  • 86% of those under 35 prefer to give online
Is anyone surprised by this? If you are, you've been hiding in a cave. To me, the most stunning statistic is that half of 65+ year-old donors would give online. So if your nonprofit isn't making major use of online giving and communications -- and making it supremely easy -- go look into it right now. Even if it's Sunday evening.

I had an online shopping experience recently that made me thoughtful about the online giving experience. It could be entitled, "It's Paypal, Paypal, Payal." I tried to fulfill a retail purchase on my iPhone while in a moving vehicle -- big mistake. If you've ever tried to fill out those forms, input your credit card data, and create a user profile in an online purchase, you know what a pain they can be.

Paypal = one button shopping. Get it on your website today! Next time I buy or donate, it will be to an organization that takes Paypal! Because I'll probably be doing it on my phone or tablet.

Think of it in terms of getting the envelope opened. Same deal. Don't make it hard for your donors.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Inspiring others to give

Fundraising is getting professionalized, and I wonder if with the arrival of letters after our names (well, not mine), the essential art of raising funds quietly slips out the door, letter by letter. In the latter case, I think it's the letters of communication slipping away. Much fundraising I see has the character of arm-twisting or advertising, and is moving farther and farther away from the humane work of simply inspiring people to give.

I had this in the back of my mind while searching for information on bequest marketing, (yes, I admit I was googling the term "marketing"), and I came across the blog of one English fundraiser named Ken Burnett. Pretty far down in his article was this stunning quote, which I want to print out and paste on my monitor:

  • "The secret of success is to realise that at its heart fundraising is little more than telling great stories very well. And it is nothing less than the inspiration business. For we don’t just ask for money, we inspire it."

Burnett goes on to quote from a book: 

"George Smith put it in his brilliant little book the Tiny Essentials of Writing for Fundraising (White Lion Press 2003), which will make our donor’s heart soar. What he actually wrote was
"‘I suggest your heart would soar if – once in a while – you received a letter written in decent English which said unexpected things in elegant ways, which moved you and stirred your emotions, which angered you or made you proud, a letter which you wanted to read from beginning to end, a letter apparently written by one individual to another individual. For you never see these letters any more...’"
Burnett and White Lion Press are based in England, but fundraising principles are based on human nature, so I don't think it matters whether you're raising pounds or dollars, the "Tiny Essentials" would be the same. I'm going to get it for my library.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How to Beat the Recession and Raise More Funds by Planning

Giving USA Foundation, which has released reports on philanthropy in America since 1956, cites 2009 as one of the worst downturns in charitable giving in a long time. The Executive Summary of their 2009 report stated:

Total charitable giving fell 3.6 percent (-3.2 percent adjusted for inflation) in 2009, to an estimated $303.75 billion. This is the steepest decline in current dollar terms since Giving USA began its annual reports in 1956. Last year was also the worst year economically in America since the Great Depression. At least through mid-year, financial transactions of all kinds slowed while people considered and worried about the future. Nonetheless, Americans continued to give—less often perhaps, more quietly than in the past—to charity.

That's the bad news -- and the good news. Giving was down, and despite the worst recession since the Great Depression, people still gave to charities.

Last year will doubtless show an improvement in giving, to judge by reports from a number of nonprofits. Still, in this environment, it makes sense to do everything you can to position your organization's fundraising program to make the best use of its strengths and to minimize its weaknesses.

Most nonprofits get a failing grade in one critical element of fundraising: long-term planning. Planning ahead might only mean looking 12 months out, but looking ahead and making a plan, and a budget to go with it, can set you up for success where others are floundering and losing donations and donors.

Another key to succeeding in this economic climate is to rely less on foundation grants and more on individual donors. Foundation giving dropped 8.9% in 2009, while individual giving dropped only .4%. That's easy math to do -- yet many nonprofits don't do nearly enough to mail appeals for funds to their existing donors, let alone to prospective donors. While it's a tough time to prospect in the mail, if you stop completely, your donor universe will shrink.

If you want to download the report and read it for yourself, it's free and can be found here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Good news on the horizon for fundraisers

In a recent issue, The Chronicle of Philanthropy predicted a jump in giving in 2011 from top donors. The article talked about what I think of as "the Warren Buffett club," a group of top billionaires pledging to devote half or more of their wealth to charitable causes. It said that few made big gifts in 2010, but the author predicted a better outcome in 2011 by this group's philanthropy. The article pointed to fading fears of a double-dip recession (but since when are billionaires so worried about a recession?) and the resolution of tax issues that concerned the mega-wealthy as contributing to a probably improved giving climate.

Ironically, of course, the non-wealthy continue to give more generously than anyone expected, given the economic climate. It seems that the widow's mite still matters most in this world. The article gives these statistics on the downward trend in mega-giving:

*  In 2010, just nine people on the top-50 wealth list committed more than $100-million, compared with 16 in 2007, and 18 in 2006.

*  The median gift was $39.6-million, down from $41.4-million in 2009, $69.3-million in 2008, and $74.4-million in 2007.

All in all, I'm glad I work more with non-mega-wealthy donors. Their philanthropy didn't take a similar big dip during the recession, despite the fact that most middle-class people were much harder-hit by the recession than the ultra rich. If it weren't for generous "small" donors, many small nonprofits would have gone under in the last two years.