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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Tips to manage, leverage, and energize your nonprofit board

Tara

The Texas Grants Resource Center’s May presentation was all about getting the best out of your nonprofit board. Long-time nonprofit consultant Tara Levy shared the top tips for leveraging your board to support your organization’s mission.

Tara is an experienced trainer and consultant on nonprofit leadership and management, including a decade assisting nonprofits at Mission Capital before launching her independent practice (Tara Levy Nonprofit Consulting). She has served nonprofits as a staff member, board member, and volunteer.

Here are just a few of Tara’s tips on board relations:

  • Mentor new board members (pair new members up with established members);
  • Have an annual board self-evaluation;
  • Do board succession planning (for example: consider having an Incoming Board President position);
  • Connect and enjoy each other as a team.

The TGRC provides events that will uplift, educate and connect in ways that make Austin’s nonprofit community even stronger.  This program furthers the mission of the University of Texas at Austin’s Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE). The DDCE’s Community Engagement Center (CEC) houses this program.

 

 

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

 

Award-winning Poems About Nonprofits

For Nonprofit Geeks, like me, who follow the excellent and super-funny blog about nonprofit life titled “Nonprofit with Balls” (NWB), you know that this week the “Nonprofit Poet Laureate of the Milky Way Galaxy” was crowned. Some background: NWB (written by Vu Le) had a nonprofit poetry contest this spring. Over 250 poems were submitted; 15 were picked for awards (and the top poet was deemed Nonprofit Poet Laureate of the Milky Way Galaxy). I encourage you to read the results. They truly are top-caliber; ready for a literary magazine or a liberal arts college poetry class or an emotional movie montage.

I entered the contest. Though I did not win, place or show – I will share the entry here. One note: a running joke in the NWB blog is that hummus is a staple at nonprofit events and functions. I thought by including a running joke, I would win favor with the judges. (Nope).

If you want to be inspired and moved, read the winning entries. Alternatively, read the poem below.

My Dog
My dog runs to greet me at the door when I come home.
Does he seem so happy because I submitted a 36-page grant application on time?
Or because I successfully executed a mail merge for a fundraising appeal?
Or because I typed the monthly board minutes in record speed?
Does my dog show me so much love because he knows I am trying to save the world?
No.
My dog knows not the cares of the nonprofit staffer.
He only knows that I feed him, I walk him…
And I smell like hummus.

-Susannah Erler

P.S. You should know that I don’t actually have a dog. Including a dog was another (unsuccessful) attempt to win favor with the judges.

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Photo: National Library of Australia, 1910

 

Creating a Bus Ride of Zen

I recently took a trip to visit family. They live in a large city. The trip was during the hottest time of the year. There is something about the lack of trees, the reflection of the sun on windows and concrete and riding hot public transportation with hundreds of equally sweaty people that can make me feel like I am being forced to listen to fingernails on a chalkboard.

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Hot bus, summer in the city

In the middle of one of these hot afternoons, I found myself on a city bus on my way back to my family’s apartment. Trying to forget about my aching feet and beads of sweat that would not go away, I closed my eyes. However, my attempts at finding a moment of zen were harshly and frequently interrupted. Every few blocks when the bus driver would open the doors to let people on and off (and keep the doors open for some unknown reason), there was a seemingly-endless round of the following noises:

  • The “stop requested” bell – repeating itself at one-second intervals
  • A recorded female voice saying “please exit through the rear door” – repeating itself at two-second intervals

I expected the bus driver make a general announcement: “stop repeatedly pressing the stop requested button!” No announcement – the dings continued. I expected a bus rider to yell “stop repeatedly pressing the stop requested button!” No yelling – the dings continued.

I decided this out-of-towner needed to take matters into her own hands. I looked around the bus to see if I could send the “stop repeatedly pressing the button” message to someone. I determined the culprit. It was not what I expected. I expected that someone was knowingly bothering the bus or that a technical glitch was happening. What I discovered was neither.

A boy (about 13 years old) was holding one of the polls where the waist-level “stop requested” buttons was located. He was mindlessly and obliviously doing what I could only call the “belly bump” with the “stop requested button.” He was riding solo, so he was not trying to impress his friends with his “belly pressing” skills. I believe on this hot day he had found his own moment of zen in his mindless swaying and leaning. However in his zen state, his ears had become temporarily disconnected.

These discoveries happened in a matter of seconds for me, so for the next few seconds I tried to imagine the scenarios in which the annoying noises would stop. As I mentioned, no announcements or communications were being made to the boy. I was pretty far away from him, so I did not want to scar him for life by yelling across the bus “Hey kid, your belly is ringing the bell. Cut it out!” I did mumble to the guy next to me “that kid’s belly is ringing the bell” in hopes that my seat-mate would have less compunction about yelling something to the boy (he did not). I had an idea that people who live here should take action first, as opposed to an out-of-towner like me. I wanted to do something – but I felt pretty helpless…and irritated.*

The bystander effect

After I got off the bus, I got a flashback from freshman year psychology 101 class. We learned about the ‘bystander effect.’ This term describes a psychological phenomenon when individuals do not offer to help a victim when other people are present. And generally, the more bystanders, the less likely it is that any one of them will help. One explanation for this is that people feel the responsibility is diffused when others are around.

It was clear that no one (not even me) stepped forward to stop that boy from ringing the bell with his stomach. Maybe this was an example of the bystander effect (albeit there was no real harm being done, which is perhaps why none of us stopped the boy. Plus many of us may have thought that stopping the boy would cause harm through embarrassment to the boy. So this situation was ambiguous in those ways). Nevertheless, since I had this occasion to think about the bystander effect – I started applying it to my life as a nonprofit geek.

Kudos to you

It occurred to me that people who work for nonprofit organizations are not bystanders. Each one has jumped in to help; to right a societal wrong; to work on making the world a better place. You have made altruistic and activist choices – and I am giving a big nonprofit geek standing ovation to you for that. Hooray for you!

And there is something else that has earned you bigtime geek points from this nonprofit geek. Your activism has compelled you to learn ways to help even more! (You are reading this blog, aren’t you?) As Dacher Keltner, Ph.D. of the Greater Good Science Center says:

“… much of the bystander research suggests that one’s personality only determines so much. To offer the right kind of help, one also needs the relevant skills or knowledge demanded by a particular situation.”

So feel good! Feel good for helping (and not standing by) and for learning more ways to help. You are making the world a better place – with more bus rides of zen and less annoying ‘dings.’ Thank you for your work with nonprofit organizations.

*So what did I do? I pulled out my cell phone and recorded it so I could maybe smile about it later.

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Photo Credits:

Brett Weinstein, Sundown on a City.

Howard Brier, Coney Island and Brighton Beach

Creative Commons License

Questions:

What would you have done on this bus trip?

Do repeated noises bug you too? Or is it just me?