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33 posts categorized "Grantseeking"

A Framework to Communicate Philanthropy

April 25, 2014

(Jeannine Corey is director of grants information management at the Foundation Center. A version of this post also appears on the GuideStar blog.)

Heasdhot_jeannine_coreyLanguage allows us to communicate complex ideas and acquire information using an agreed-on structure and process. Variations in language around the globe increase the level of effort needed to communicate with people across borders, but it's not impossible if you have a way to translate your ideas into a language others can understand.

The Foundation Center is currently undertaking the challenge of devising a language that can be used by philanthropic organizations around the world to tell the story of their work. That common language is crucial for a field as diverse as ours: not too long ago, we determined that U.S. foundations have more than two hundred and fifty ways to describe "general operating support"!

In 2012, the Foundation Center began to rethink the classification system that has been at the core of our work, a system largely based on the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities structure that we helped create thirty years ago. Given how much the sector has grown and evolved over the past few decades, updates to the taxonomy are critical in order for it to more accurately reflect the work of the field and serve as a relevant tool for a 21st-century global philanthropy community. Why is this important? Because a shared taxonomy makes it easier for grantseekers to find targeted support, helps funders collaborate with each other and identify potential grantees, and assists researchers and academics who are analyzing the work of the sector.

To that end, staff at the Foundation Center have spent eighteen months evaluating our codes, mining the text of the nearly five million grants and one million philanthropic institutions in our database, and cross-referencing that information against other international standards to inform the creation of a revised taxonomic system. Our goal is not to create another standard but to develop a framework that meets the needs of the sector and can serve as a language that organizations use to communicate their work to each other. For example, we've added new subject areas related to information and media, including associated technologies. We've replaced "type of support" with two new categories: support strategy, to reflect the goal or approach behind the actual support, and transaction type, to capture the various forms of philanthropy beyond the cash grant that happen around the world.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (February 2014)

March 01, 2014

Tragedy in Syria. Civil strife in Ukraine and Venezuela. Not enough snow in Sochi and more than enough pretty much everywhere else. The Fab Four at fifty and other reminders of boomer mortality. Here at PND, February 2014 was best summed up by a colleague who dubbed it "the longest short month ever." It was also the busiest month ever for PhilanTopic, as readers flocked to Laura Callanan's four-part series on social sector leadership and found lots of other things to like as well. Here, then, are the six or seven most popular posts on PhilanTopic for the month that just wouldn't end....

What did you read/watch/listen to in February that made you think, surprised you, or caused you to scratch your head? Share your finds in the comments section....

Foundation Fundraising for the 99%

November 20, 2013

(Bradford K. Smith is president of the Foundation Center.)

It’s that time of year again: nonprofit execs are turning over every rock in sight to find the resources they need to close the gap between their ambition to make the world a better place and the hard reality of meeting payroll and paying rent. Many nonprofits rely on government contracts and individual donations, but many also go for foundation grants. Yet a significant portion of the $50 billion in grants made each year by America’s foundations is captured by just 1 percent of nonprofit recipients. Here's something that can help the other 99 percent level the playing field.

FDO_FreeIt's called Foundation Directory Online Free, a searchable database of close to 90,000 foundations and three years of their most recent 990-PF tax returns. Okay, I'm the president of the Foundation Center and can hardly be considered unbiased. But I cut my teeth in this business years ago by using the old Foundation Center print directories and ever since have believed the center to be the most reliable source of information for foundation grant research, period.

Open Foundation Directory Online Free and key in the two-letter code for your state or type a city name to search for foundations in your area. Change the ranking of the list you get by giving, assets, or name. Explore an individual foundation by clicking on its name. The profile will give you contact information, some financial stats, a URL (read on!), and the foundation’s fields of interest. This kind of basic information on foundations is surprisingly hard to come by; 93 percent of America's foundations do not have Web sites. That doesn't mean they don't make grants; they're just harder to find. Moreover, if you really want to dive deep into a particular foundation's grantmaking, FDO Free links you to the foundation's three most recent 990-PF tax returns -- a great source of information that includes a list of all the grants made by that foundation, the recipients of those grants, and grant dollar amounts.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (October 2013)

November 01, 2013

A shutdown of the federal government that lasted sixteen days, the botched rollout of HealthCare.gov, a well-deserved (!) Red Sox win in the World Series -- October was nothing if not eventful. And now that it's history, it's time to look back at the most popular posts on PhilanTopic during the month:

What have you been reading/watching/listening to that PhilanTopic readers should know about? Share your favorites in the comments section....

Introducing 'FDO Free'

September 17, 2013

(George Ford is Product Manager, Online Subscription Services, at the Foundation Center.)

Fdofree_logoBack in May, the White House issued an executive order and accompanying memorandum which stated that "the default state of new and modernized government information resources shall be open and machine readable." For the nonprofit community, the announcement was intriguing. What would it mean if all that data on foundations and their grants were liberated from hundreds of thousands of IRS Form 990s and, for the first time, made truly open, searchable, and readable by machines?

While it looks like we'll have to wait to find out, here at the Foundation Center we've decided to take a step toward that goal with the release of Foundation Directory Online (FDO) Free, a new search tool that provides free, public access to essential information about nearly 90,000 foundations and more than 250,000 of their 990-PF tax returns. Yes, there are plenty of excellent tools around for retrieving the 990s of grantmaking foundations, including our own 990 Finder. What has been missing, however, is the ability to unlock the rich information available within those forms by searching across them with keywords relevant to your nonprofit's mission and programs. Until now, that was only possible through the Center's premier subscription product, Foundation Directory Online Professional. The launch of FDO Free changes that.

Indeed, FDO Free represents a significant step forward in the Foundation Center's efforts to make more funding data available to a larger portion of the grantseeking public. In addition to the ability to keyword-search across foundation 990-PFs, FDO Free allows you to search the profiles of nearly 90,000 private foundations by name, EIN, or location and to search their last three 990-PFs by name, EIN, location, or keyword.

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The 'More Asking – Less Writing' Approach to Grantseeking

September 12, 2013

(Marilyn Hoyt has been active in the philanthropic sector as a funder, teacher, grantwriter, and consultant for more than thirty years. A co-author of the Foundation Center book After the Grant, she also serves as a trustee of the Association of Fundraising Professionals-New York Chapter and is program co-chair for Fundraising Day in New York. A version of this post appears on the Philanthropy Front and Center - Washington, D.C. blog.)

Headshot_marilyn_hoytWhen I moved from being a grantmaker to a fundraiser, my first thought was "Where am I going to find funders for our work?" Today, after raising over $200 million and working as a consultant, I find it's still the most common first question in fundraising.

As soon as we start researching potential funders, though, the question should be, "How are we going to find time to approach all of these folks?" It's a key question, and how you answer it will determine your success in raising resources to advance your organization's mission and work. Obviously, you can't approach them all. You need to develop a time-efficient method for prioritizing those most likely to fund your work in the near term, and then see what stands between you and securing funds from some of the others.

Funds are not raised by writing; they're raised by asking. Which means you want to increase the time you spend on tasks related directly to asking and reduce the time you spend on writing proposals. To that end, I always tell clients to identify the most fundable parts of their work and learn how to write generic base proposals -- essentially, templates -- that can be revised as needed for individual funders. Just a few of these will go a long way to reducing the time you spend writing proposals and will increase the amount of time available to focus on refining your potential funder list and building relationships with your current funders.

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (August 2013)

September 02, 2013

It's the start of a new month, which means it's time to look back at the most popular posts on PhilanTopic over the last thirty days:

What did you read/watch/listen to in August that PhilanTopic readers should know about? Share your favorites in the comments section....

The Art of the Phone Call: How to Stand Out With Funders

May 03, 2013

(Allison Shirk is a freelance grantwriter based in the Puget Sound region. In her last post, she shared ten tips for making the best use of your grantwriter's time.)

Telephone-largeIn today's world of high-speed communications, it can be hard to make a meaningful connection. Remembering the art of the personal phone call is a great way to stand out in the crowd. Here are some tips when reaching out to a potential funder by phone.

Leave a short but detailed message. Most funders receive dozens, if not hundreds, of phone calls a week. Voice-mail messages that don't include the right amount of detail will be ignored. Leave your name, phone number, and the elevator pitch for your organization/project. Speak clearly and slowly.

Make a plan to connect. Be sure to include a time (during regular business hours) when you can be reached. Mention that you'll call back in two days if you haven't heard from them. Follow up with an e-mail that includes your contact information and a link to your organization's Web site.

Don't drop the ball. If they call back and you miss the call, call them back within forty-eight hours and follow up with an e-mail. Be persistent but respectful.

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Ten Ways to Make Your Grantwriter’s Time Count

April 25, 2013

(Allison Shirk is a freelance grantwriter based in the Puget Sound region. A version of this post appears on her Web site.)

Alarm-clockThe decision to use a freelance grantwriter can be a smart investment for a nonprofit organization, especially if it knows how to use that freelancer effectively.

With that in mind, here are ten tips (plus a bonus tip) to help you make the most of your freelance grantwriter's time:

1. Get organized. Make sure your grantwriter has everything she needs to be as autonomous as possible. This is likely to require a substantial amount of time in the beginning, but it will also save you time in the end. Ask your grantwriter for a checklist of things she needs, as well as a wish list. The basics include audited financial statements and organizational budgets. Go a step further and provide her with project budgets for every program or capacity-building initiative that may be eligible for the grant. Also, be sure to provide letterhead, photographs, .jpegs of logos, and anything else she'll need to tell your organization's story.

2. Single point of contact. When working with a contractor, it's always best to have a single point of contact. Make sure the individual assigned to be that person is a decision maker who can delegate effectively to every department/function within the organization. Development directors of small organizations may be too busy with special events to give grant proposals the attention they require on a regular basis. Having the grantwriter report directly to the executive director is optimal, in that it will give him/her better access to the "big picture" and help ensure that the information he or she needs is produced in a timely fashion.

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Rules to Communicate By

February 11, 2013

Darts_bullseyeAs former foundation CEO Martin Teitel reminds us in The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants, success in grantseeking boils down to two things: great organizations doing great work; and effective communications.

What does the latter entail? Teitel offers these three easy-to-follow rules:

Be Clear

  • Eliminate jargon
  • Write for your real (as opposed to imagined) audience -- i.e., funders who don't know your organization that well
  • Leave out the math and formulas

Be Concise

  • Not one word more than the length specified in the funder's guidelines
  • Use a spear, not a club -- i.e., make your point and move on
  • Revise, revise, revise

Be Compelling

  • Share your enthusiasm for the work you and your colleagues are doing
  • Base your request for funding on facts, not hopes or wishes
  • Put your organization's story at the center of your appeal

Sound advice. What would you add to the list? Use the comments section to share your thoughts....

-- Mitch Nauffts

The Grantseekers Guide to Foundation Transitions

September 05, 2012

(Bradford K. Smith is president of the Foundation Center. In his last post, he wrote about philanthropy's data dilemma.)

Foundation_transitionsThings are going just great for your nonprofit. You've painstakingly constructed a stable group of foundations that is providing a steady stream of grants to your organization, program officers like you and invite you to their convenings, and you've achieved that much-desired goal of having a diversified funding base.

Then comes the press release: "Mary Doe, president of the Acme Foundation in Anywhere, USA, has announced that she will retire after twenty years of service. The foundation’s board has contracted the services of Russell Reynolds/Spencer Stuart/Heidrich & Struggles/Issacson Miller to conduct a national search." The Acme Foundation is your main funder and the future is in doubt. The headhunters call you to inquire about what qualities the foundation should be looking for in their next leader, and you have to stifle the urge to scream, "Just find somebody who won't feel s/he needs to change everything and screw it up!"

Then the first symptoms appear. Big-name consulting firms start lining up at the foundation's door. Foundation communiqués include phrases like "no new commitments will be considered while the foundation undergoes a strategic review." Your program officer is unable to commit to your proposal. It's difficult to get a meeting with someone at the foundation who can tell you what's going on. After a year or more, a letter from the president explaining how the foundation's new priorities will further its mission appears on the foundation’s Web site. Eventually, you learn that the "urban poverty" program under which you've been funded is being phased out in favor of a new "innovation economy" initiative.

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Foundation Center Adds CSR Data to Foundation Directory Online

June 04, 2012

(Andrew Grabois is manager for corporate philanthropy at the Foundation Center.)

FDOWhen Deep Throat advised Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward to "follow the money" in that underground garage back in the '70s, he could just as well have been dispensing advice to a corporate grantseeker. That is, until recently.

For many years, individuals and organizations looking for funding from companies or their foundations were only concerned about the availability of funds and meeting a company's grant requirements, not whether a grantmaker was a "good corporate citizen" (with the exception, perhaps, of anti-apartheid activists). And while notions of corporate social responsibility (CSR) have been around for decades, CSR only recently has gained traction with the general public.

According to a 2010 CSR Perception Survey conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, 55 percent of survey respondents said they would be more likely to purchase a product with an added social benefit; 70 percent said they would be willing to pay a premium for a product from a "socially responsible" company (and 28 percent said they would pay up to $10 more); and, perhaps most surprisingly, 34 percent said they would be willing to take a pay cut to work at a socially responsible firm. It would appear the CSR train is leaving the station. Indeed, in the last month alone, Morgan Stanley announced the launch of a new "impact investing" platform to "help clients align their financial goals and personal values," while Bloomberg LP, which already provides more than one hundred CSR indicators through its Bloomberg terminals at no extra cost, announced that it will publish the results of The Civic 100 survey conducted by the National Conference on Citizenship and Points of Light in the November issue of Bloomberg Businessweek.

Recognizing the importance of corporate social responsibility information to today's grantseekers, the Foundation Center has been busy collecting over forty separate CSR data points, including carbon emissions and energy usage metrics as reported to and analyzed by folks at the Carbon Disclosure Project, employee volunteer hours, workforce diversity percentages, and recognition by eleven "green" or "best practices" lists, including those compiled by Boston College, Corporate Responsibility magazine, DiversityIncHuman Rights Campaign, Newsweek, and Working Mother. We're also collecting corporate CSR pledges tracked by the Global Reporting Initiative, the United Nations Global Compact, and A Billion + Change. And, starting tomorrow, we'll be making all that data available in Foundation Directory Online. Appearing as a separate tab on individual company profiles, more than fourteen hundred companies will have at least one CSR measure that users of FDO can incorporate into their prospect research.

We think the addition of corporate social responsibility data to FDO is the most significant enhancement to our company information in years, and we know it will provide FDO users with the most complete profiles of corporate citizenship and transparency in any single database around. For today's corporate grantseeker, just following the money is no longer enough.

-- Andrew Grabois

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts of 2011

December 28, 2011

As we put the final touches on our special year-in-review issue and clear the decks for 2012, we thought it would be fun to look back at the most popular PhilanTopic posts of the year. Written by a diverse group of bloggers and covering a broad range of topics, here are the ten most popular posts of 2011.

What were your favorite posts -- here on PhilanTopic or anywhere else, for that matter -- of the year? Inquiring minds want to know...

A to Z Survival Guide for Uncertain Times

December 16, 2011

(Michael Seltzer is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. This post originally appeared on this blog in October 2008, shortly after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Michael's last post was a Q&A with David Jones, president of the Community Service Society of New York.)

AbcsEach time the American economy has suffered a downturn or government has cut back on funding for social programs, the media has focused on how those of us on "Nonprofit Street" are being affected. Those of us running nonprofit organizations don't need newspapers to tell us how things are going or how our constituents are faring. Instead, we want to know what our colleagues are doing to address the financial challenges we each face.

The "A to Z Nonprofit Survival Guide for Uncertain Times" is compiled from my past writings and strategy recommendations I learned from grantees, clients, and fellow consultants. To all of you, I am grateful for your generosity and wisdom.

_____

Accentuate the positive
There's enough doom and gloom in the media and on Wall Street. The public doesn't want to hear how poorly nonprofits are doing; they want to know that nonprofit organizations will continue to be there for them.

Be bold
The pressure to scale back programs and to promise less is real. But it's important, when possible, to find new ways to provide value to clients, funders, and supporters.

Collaborate
In normal times, many nonprofit leaders view collaboration as the most unnatural of acts. These are not normal times. There is much to be gained, including cost savings and enhanced impact, by working more closely with others.

Deepen relationships (with elected officials, in particular)
Unfortunately, local, state, and federal governments will be forced to make cuts in their budgets as tax revenues decline. Be sure to make the case with your elected officials and their key staff for continued government funding of your organization.

Experiment
Look for opportunities to experiment and/or pilot small-scale initiatives. Such opportunities are likely to be a less expensive investment in change than grand, large-scale progams or initiatives.

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The Foundation Center Turns 55!

December 09, 2011

(The following post was written by Inés Sucre, reference/outreach librarian at the Foundation Center-New York.)

FC_LogoFive years ago, when the Foundation Center celebrated its 50th anniversary, we published a nifty timeline that looked at the history of the center side by side with milestones in U.S. and world history. Take a look -- it's quite wonderful!

The idea of change can sometimes be over-hyped. Even so, the last five years do seem to have brought rapid shifts in the way the Foundation Center serves its mission. Maybe I'm wrong, but consider that…

Back then, in 2006, we didn't have any blogs, not one. Now look at us! The Foundation Center communicates through eight blogs, including the Nonprofit Literature Blog, the first of our blogs to launch; PhilanTopic, a blog of opinion and commentary that draws contributors from all over the country; and our field office/library blogs.

Back then, we didn't tweet -- no one did. But today we're tweeting from our offices in San Francisco and New York -- and lots of places in between, too, like Cleveland, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C. And our main Twitter feed (@fdncenter) has more than 15,000 followers, from all over the world!

Of course, foundations are tweeting and blogging as well. So Foundation Directory Online Professional now has a Social Media tab for feeds and links to all this great content.

Back then, we had one Web site -- foundationcenter.org, which I've always loved (even before I worked here). Now, in GrantSpace, we have a new site dedicated to nonprofit grantseekers, to forging an online community, and to offering a "a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector."

Back then, we did very little training online. Now, our full curriculum of free classes is available in the form of webinars, with classes conducted by the same wonderful instructors who lead classes in our five learning centers.

Back then, we didn't have a standalone Web site to promote greater transparency in philanthropy. Today, Glasspockets opens the world of foundations and philanthropy to all.

Back then, although we focused our training and reference work on the topic of collaboration, we didn't have an online portal dedeicated to it. Now, thanks to our partnership with the Lodestar Foundation, we maintain the Nonprofit Collaboration Database. Check it out!

Back then, we had about 230 Cooperating Collections in our Cooperating Collections network. Today, we have over 450 and have even opened Cooperating Collections in nine countries. This network of libraries, service organizations, and community foundations provides funding information and training -- as well as access to the center's databases and core publications -- to nonprofits across the U.S. and in an ever-growing number of countries.

Back then, we didn't have the highlighted text below as part of our mission statement:

To strengthen the social sector by advancing knowledge about philanthropy in the U.S. and around the world.

Now, we do, and our data collection and dissemination efforts are being expanded and becoming more international in scope. This not only serves to broaden the audience for our servces and publications, it also helps to inspire an open flow of information about global philanthropy and global needs. Our data is also being put to greater use in our new mapping tool, Philanthropy In/Sight®, which maps the impact of (and shows the need for) philanthropy around the world.

On December 10, 1956, the Foundation Library Center, as we were known then, opened its doors with the goal of collecting, organizing, and making available to the public "reports and information" about foundations. An article in the New York Times heralded that beginning as "an important event in the history of American philanthropy … it can and should do a great deal to forward the cause of 'full disclosure' in a field where it is needed" (New York TImes, 12/11/1956).

As Foundation Center president Brad Smith wrote in announcing Foundation Center 2020, our new strategic plan, "If you believe, as we do, that philanthropy is an engine for positive social change, then please join us in our effort to nurture it, to support and advance the work of those around the world who transform lives and make the world a better place."

Happy fifty-fifth anniversary, Foundation Center!

-- Inés Sucre

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