Relationships with Foundations

Erica

Erica Ekwurzel – Presenting at the Texas Grants Resource Center

On June 8th, 2018, The Texas Grants Resource Center’s Nonprofit Partner series featured Developing Donor Relationships with Family & Private Foundations, presented by Erica V. Ekwurzel, CFRE. Erica shared tips from her experience leading and supporting family and private grantmakers.

Here are some of the top take-aways from the TGRC session:

  • When it comes to applying for grants – don’t do “mission drift.” Don’t lose sight of your mission by chasing grant funding that reflects the ideas of others;
  • Review and proofread all applications;
  • If you know one foundation…well, you know one foundation.
  • Make sure that the application you send is purposeful and intentional;
  • Have data to support your proposal.

For more information on presentations by the Texas Grants Resource Center, visit Texasgrc.org.

 

Image: Erler

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Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Tips

Qgiv NTEN May 2018

Todd Baylis of Qgiv at Austin’s NTEN Nonprofit Tech Club – May 24, 2018

Nonprofit organizations are getting a little help from friends. More and more nonprofits are inviting their biggest fans to spread the word and help raise funds for their causes.

It is called peer-to-peer (P2P) fundraising and at their May meeting, Austin’s NTEN Nonprofit Tech Club chapter got a crash course from Todd Baylis, Qgiv President.

An organization’s supporters can reach out to their network of friends to introduce them to the nonprofit through crowdfunding, walk-a-thons, giving days and more. Todd’s top P2P tips include:

  • Engage donors;
  • Cultivate relationships;
  • Provide a sense of urgency (this will minimize procrastination);
  • Create templates of messages;
  • Provide training and guides for your fundraisers;
  • Incorporate badges;
  • Also, provide an opportunity for off-line gifts.

Oh, and don’t forget that Qgiv has a peer-to-peer fundraising platform that can help enhance P2P efforts.

Austin’s NTEN Nonprofit Tech Club, a program of the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN), has presentations every month. Click here for info about upcoming events.

 

 

Image: Erler

What Do Funders Think?

Funders Forum

Nonprofits: does it sometimes seem as if there is a cloud of mystery keeping you from finding out what funders want?

All clouds lifted on May 11, 2018  at the Annual Central Texas Funders Forum presented by the Grant Professionals Association – Austin Chapter. Representatives from regional funders were there to answer questions, provide channels of communication and develop ways to work together.

The kinds of funders included: private, corporate, and community foundations. There were panel presentations and small group opportunities to ask questions one-on-one.

This year the themes and tips for nonprofits that kept coming up included:

  • Think of funders as partners;
  • Demonstrate there is a need that you will be able to solve together;
  • Funders want transparent communication;
  • Funders want to hear how their gifts and investments are touching the community;
  • Evaluation of activities is they key to sustainability;
  • Funders don’t want surprises.

It is conversations like these that help both service providers and funders support the community.

 

 

Image Credit: Erler

 

Learning and Networking Opportunities for Nonprofit Professionals

Austin-based nonprofit professionals may already know of the services of the Texas Grants Resource Center – which offers grant-search support, such as access to Foundation Center databases.

But the TGRC also houses the Community Partner Learning Program – which provides events that will uplift, educate and advance in ways that make the Central Texas nonprofit community even stronger. Nonprofit professionals and advocates gain skills and insights to boost their social impact work.

Check out descriptions of some of the recent presentations below. And if you have not already, please sign up to get invitations to future events here.


 

Get Online! Using Google to Drive Traffic to Your Nonprofit with Robin Manas

Get Online! Using Google to Drive Traffic to Your Nonprofit with Robin Manas

Get Online! Using Google to Drive Traffic to Your Nonprofit by Robin Manas (Nov. 13, 2017)
Drive web traffic to your nonprofit’s site by using Google’s AdWords, free advertising offered to eligible nonprofit organizations. Nonprofits use these Google Ad Grants to recruit volunteers, attract donations and share organization information.

 

Susannah Erler of Greater Good Strategies

Grant Writing with Susannah Erler of Greater Good Strategies

Grant Basics: Write. Apply. Repeat. by Susannah Erler (Oct. 17, 2017)
A presentation about the key to finding the right grant opportunities and to writing strong applications! Susannah Erler, a Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE), presented approaches and offered tips for taking your grant strategy to the next level.

 

Marisol Foster of the Webber Family Foundation

Marisol Foster of the Webber Family Foundation

Funder Focus – The Webber Family Foundation by Marisol Foster (Feb. 12, 2018)
A presentation by The Webber Family Foundation – a local funder that focuses on the gap between proficiency and potential in lower income youth. Executive Director, Marisol Foster described the philanthropic work of the foundation and the grant-making process.

Nonprofits: Forget About “Better Late Than Never”

Last week the Greater Good Geek blog focused on nonprofit researcher Penelope Burk’s findings. This week “The Geek” will highlight another of Burk’s ‘best practices’ in writing thank you letters to donors – which can be summed up in two words:

Be prompt.

Burk conducts surveys of those who donate to nonprofit organizations. Getting a prompt thank you note is something donors do expect. Burk’s research on thank you letters, by the way, culminated in a list of the 20 Characteristics of Great Thank You Letters which was published in Burk’s Donor-Centered Fundraising.

But donors’ expectations is just one reason to be prompt. Another reason comes from the IRS. They state that a donor is required to “keep a contemporaneous written acknowledgment for a charitable contribution.” That key word – contemporaneous – essentially means “be prompt.”

Mentioning the IRS is always a good excuse to point you to their handy Charitable Contributions Guide for Tax Exempt Organizations. “The Geek” suggests having this guide at your fingertips and reviewing it periodically.

So because the Greater Good Geek is always looking for fun ways to remember nonprofit best practices, here is a haiku poem to remind you of this important thank you note element. Have a great #HaikuTuesday as well!

10 Haiku Tuesday

 

One proven tip for thank you notes to donors

Nonprofit researcher Penelope Burk has written extensively about fundraiser best practices, including “donor-centered thank you letters.” Today’s “Greater Good Geek Nonprofit Haiku Tip” focuses on one of these proven tips for a great thank you note. In fact, here is more info on and the citation for Burk’s research (check out number 9 – the inspiration for today’s poem).

9 Haiku Tuesday

Are your donations wasted?

You have made cash donations to charities. You have probably thought about how those nonprofits are spending the dollars you give. But you trust them to use your donation wisely (otherwise you probably would not have given).

Landscape

In your mind, you might picture the organization using your money to buy cans of soup or bandages or other items to help those in need. How would you feel if your donation was used to buy advertising for the charity, to pay for the nonprofit’s fundraising activities or for other ‘overhead’ costs? Would you feel your donation was wasted?

Overhead Costs

There are two conflicting opinions on the question of overhead. Briefly summarized, they are:

  1. The less a charity spends on overhead costs, the better
  2. A nonprofit’s effectiveness at solving problems is more important than the amount it spends on overhead.

Charity Watchdogs

There are a number of charity watchdog groups that help people decide how to donate their money. Charity Watch is one such group that takes the first position (the less a charity spends on overhead costs, the better). In fact, a nonprofit’s spending is a big factor in the rating Charity Watch gives. If a charity spends 36% or more on overhead costs, that organization will receive an efficiency grade of C+ or lower (all the way down to an F).

Charity Defenders

A number of people and organizations are starting to speak out on the other side of the “overhead” question. The founder of the AIDS Ride and self-described “Charity Defender” Dan Pallotta gave a TED Talk (that garnered over 3.5 million online views) supporting the second opinion (A nonprofit’s effectiveness at solving social problems is more important than the amount it spends on overhead).

In this TED Talk (titled “The way we think about charity is dead wrong”) Pallotta says “…the next time you’re looking at a charity, don’t ask about the rate of their overhead. Ask about the scale of their dreams, their Apple-, Google-, Amazon-scale dreams, how they measure their progress toward those dreams, and what resources they need to make them come true, regardless of what the overhead is.”

Define “a wasted donation”

This is a fascinating debate, and I encourage you to visit Charity Watch’s web site to see how they calculate their ratings and I encourage you to take a look at Dan Pallotta’s TED Talk to hear more about his experiences and thoughts about overhead. Taking a look at these positions may even change your definition of a “wasted donation.”

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My position on this is closer to Pallotta’s than to Charity Watch’s. Although it makes my stomach hurt to watch reports on 60 Minutes about charities that abuse the trust of donors by pocketing donations for the personal benefit of the administrators instead of serving those in need, I think that a Charity Watch-type black and white grading system is not the solution. How a nonprofit achieves its mission is a nuanced road – and as Pallotta points out, there are some “unwritten” rules that need to be rethought. I believe, for example, that one “rule” is that grant funds should not be given for overhead costs. As a grant writer, I have seen this rule backfire. I have seen, too often, a nonprofit decision-maker hope that creating a new (and unneeded) program will somehow obtain a sliver of funding for vital overhead costs. Trying to “game” the system in this way demonstrates that there are many “unwritten” standards constraining the work of nonprofit organizations. And if a nonprofit is constrained, how can it achieve its mission?

Questions: What goes into your decision to make a donation? Have you consulted Charity Watchdog ratings? If so, what did you think?

Images: U.S. National Archives, Internet Archive Book Image