One question that comes up frequently is this: “How can I find money I need to keep my organization going?”, or “We’re worried about ending the year in the red. Help! How can I find a grant to help us out?”
Writing a grant proposal shouldn’t happen in a vacuum, in response to a potential crisis. It should be part of a plan of continuous improvement for a nonprofit organization. That plan includes, but isn’t limited to, a cyclical or annual fundraising plan.
A step-by-step approach to developing the fundraising plan should include
- presenting a strong mission statement and vital programs.
- conducting an assets inventory for your organization.
- creating a dynamic case statement.
- setting realistic fundraising goals.
- diversifying the funding mix for your organization.
One critical element to a successful fundraising plan is buy-in from the organization’s leadership team – often, the executive director and board members. Without their commitment, and a clear understanding of how development work fits into the overall success of your organization, your fundraising success may be spotty, unpredictable, and a large source of anxiety.
It really is a team approach. If you don’t have a fundraising plan in place, there is no time like the present to begin that process. Grantspace.org is a good place to start.
Welcome to our blog! Let’s begin with some observations from our first two years of service.
What Grants Are Available, and From Where?
In 2012, local foundations and corporate giving programs (Auburn, Syracuse, Ithaca, Rochester areas) provided nonprofits with over $90,300,000.00 through grant awards. Information about these locally based foundations: who they are, where they give, and so on, is readily available in the Grants Center office by accessing the Foundation Center database.
Some needs are very local and exist in every community in the country. A church needs a new roof, the local food pantries are low on staples, neighborhood parks have equipment in dire need of repair to ensure safe use. It’s unlikely that out-of-state charitable foundations will be poised to answer the call for such a local concern. Frequently it is the local business community, the United Way or a community or private foundation based in town that steps in to help fulfill those needs.
There are other initiatives and programs that call out to a wider universe. Consider some of the many topics driving funding searches at the Grants Center: history and historic preservation, the arts, autism and other compelling health issues, scientific study (water quality, ecology and environment, planetarium), poverty, aging, recidivism prevention, private education, and aging. Foundations throughout the country have interest in these areas and may be potential funders. It’s through searching the unique database, networking with others at training events, and utilizing online and library resources that successful grant proposals can move good initiatives forward. Local foundations are invested in strengthening the local communities and can be an excellent resource; it’s worth a conversation. Sometimes a local foundation will offer a challenge grant, to help the nonprofit stimulate interest in the project and help attract other funding from local or non-local foundations.
A Good Partner
Each month, Nancy Sumner of Brush Bow Consulting, compiles a timely list of current Grant Proposals for a variety of areas. They are posted on the www.flgic.org under “Grants” and provided through the Human Service Coalition of Cayuga County. Be sure to check that out!
How Foundation Giving Was Affected By The Great Recession of 2007- A Broad Stroke
The Finger Lakes Grants Information Center was established four years after the Great Recession took hold of this country, when the subprime mortgage crisis led to a housing bubble in the United States. That crisis was quickly followed by the collapse of some of our largest financial institutions and the controversial bailout of the auto industry by the government. Good employees lost jobs and some never returned to pre-recession level employment, but stay unemployed or underemployed.
Our most vulnerable populations were hit hardest, when nonprofit agencies throughout the country lost much of their government funding. Organizations began to look more closely at foundations to help fill the funding gap. Private foundations represent a very significant percentage of nonprofit funding in this country. It doesn’t, however, match the level of funding the U.S. government provides. As reported by the National Center for Statistics in 2010, the government provided nearly 33% of contributions to nonprofits compared with 13.3% from private foundations. After 2007, there were more groups looking for funding to help more people. If you’ve applied for a grant recently, you may have noticed that private foundations – and the government – are looking for nonprofits to show they can work together, and that they can demonstrate measurable success. Grant-making isn’t a one-and-done activity, but rather a partnership between organizations that want to see positive change happen.
The Finger Lakes Grants Information Center is a Funding Information Network partner of the Foundation Center, and people visit us to access a unique database of over 133,000 private foundations and corporate giving programs, to find prospective funders with similar missions. When people entered our newly opened doors, they found that many of the foundations had added to their profiles a footnote about how they were coping with the recession. Some were not accepting any proposals and were only giving to a select group of previously funded recipients. Some were continuing to give to the same number of organizations, but at only 50% of their previous levels. Others were temporarily limiting their giving to the neediest causes such as health, homelessness, food security.
Today those foundation profile “footnotes” are gone. In general, portfolios are robust once again and foundations are happy to report that they are inviting proposals at pre-recession levels, or more. Our local nonprofits should feel confident that they will find support for their program or initiative, armed with a strong proposal and backed by a well-governed nonprofit organization.