Charity Fundraising Tips

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Establishing Your Charity's Grant Writing Program

If your charity is thinking about establishing a grant-writing program, start by taking the time to consider:

  • At the heart of grant writing is the validation that comes from those who do not share your passion, but have been persuaded (by you) that you are “worthy”.
  • While many might believe that writing grants can become routine, those who are successful in acquiring funding know that while facts and figures may be formula—without a comprehensive and compelling case, funding seldom materializes.
  • No proposal stands alone. Mastering the process of planning, conducting research on what you do best and what you believe you should accomplish in the future is essential. In addition, who you outreach to and the impact your program has on them are critical factors in whether or not you have the credible track record to acquire funding.
  • The identification, cultivation and solicitation of potential pubic, foundation and corporate donors who make it possible for you to perpetuate your mission is a continuous process.
  • Grant writing truly is rooted in the partnership between the organization seeking funds and the donor (whether that donor is the federal government, a private foundation or a committed benefactor [individual or corporation]).
  • For those who spend time every single day concerned about funding, you should remember that funders are in the business of gifting funds to worthwhile organizations. In the case of public funds, legislation requires certain funds are awarded. In the case of private foundations, their missions and tax-exempt status are dependent upon their ability to expend funding.
  • While passion and commitment to perpetuating your program's needs is a complex discussion, there are still basis steps within the process of grant writing that can bring you closer to accessing donor dollars.
  • It takes time and persistence to succeed. After you have written a grant, it can take as long as a year to obtain the funds. More often, perfectly written proposals are rejected for any number of reasons.
Raising funds is an investment in the future. Your aim should be to build a network of public and private, foundation and corporate funders, many of which give small gifts on a fairly steady basis and a good number who make significant grants. By persistently following the grant preparation process, you will increase your agency's chance of receiving major grants as well as preparing for a sustainable future.

If your charity is thinking about establishing a grant-writing program, start by taking the time to consider:

  • At the heart of grant writing is the validation that comes from those who do not share your passion, but have been persuaded (by you) that you are “worthy”.
  • While many might believe that writing grants can become routine, those who are successful in acquiring funding know that while facts and figures may be formula—without a comprehensive and compelling case, funding seldom materializes.
  • No proposal stands alone. Mastering the process of planning, conducting research on what you do best and what you believe you should accomplish in the future is essential. In addition, who you outreach to and the impact your program has on them are critical factors in whether or not you have the credible track record to acquire funding.
  • The identification, cultivation and solicitation of potential pubic, foundation and corporate donors who make it possible for you to perpetuate your mission is a continuous process.
  • Grant writing truly is rooted in the partnership between the organization seeking funds and the donor (whether that donor is the federal government, a private foundation or a committed benefactor [individual or corporation]).
  • For those who spend time every single day concerned about funding, you should remember that funders are in the business of gifting fund

       

Charities in Check: You Decide

You see and hear the ads; your mailbox is full of letters and cards asking you to give. How do you know whom to give to? How do decide where your giving dollars go?

If you are like millions of Americans who are solicited through the mail or increasingly on line, you need to educate your self about the business of charities. Before you give, ask for an organization's annual report and take a look at who is giving and how much; what corporations/foundations give and what projects or causes are they supporting. Equally significant, look at who is on the charity's board and their other affiliations. Become informed about where the money goes and what portion of fund-raising dollars are paid to staff and how much goes directly to the charity for its mission. If an agency spends more than 25% on fund raising costs, ask yourself if that is reasonable.

From time to time take a moment to review charities, colleges and universities on Guide Star and Charity Navigator.

Guide Star: provides a great deal of information including 990s, compensation, detailed descriptions of organization, leadership and board members. Guide Star lets you look back at tax returns for approximately five years. Guide Star has advanced membership levels beginning with a basic (and free) service to a fee based membership that provides you with additional information on specific organizations. Guide Star is truly comprehensive and includes any 501 (c) 3 that files a return.

Charity Navigator is a great site. Charity Navigator "rates" charities according to efficiency, percentage of fund raising, program, and administrative costs in relation to total budgets, dollars raised and income received. CN has a star system with zero raising a red flag to all stars for those who efficiently operate from the financial perspective. Give a little room for some of the organizations that might rank low one year and then pull up the next. Based on how much funding is raised from year to year stars can vanish because fund raising costs might be the same, while an organization might simply have had a bad year for raising money.

What should you gather from this? Both donors and organizations truly are stewards of the funds they give and receive. So, the next time you decide that you want to give or you are solicited to give; please due your own due diligence and find out how the organization is managed. You don't have to turn away if they aren't winning the race every year, but search your own value system and even question your pending beneficiary if you see something that you think is out of the ball park of reason.

   

Endowing the Future

Charities that are planning for the future should strongly consider establishing an endowment. While your organization may be focused on day-to-day operational expenses not covered by grants, fund raising dollars, or other income streams, building endowment increases the overall health of your organization and its reputation as a solid organization. An endowment is a fund, which is structured to preserve and invest principal. Endowments also provide interest and dividend earnings for the benefit of your organization.

Consider how creating an endowment can strengthen your agency:

  • Endowments can serve as sources of stability
  • Endowments are extremely valuable in advancing a charity's mission in areas such as teaching, research, public service programs, or capital projects in areas where grant or donor funding does not meet all financial goals
  • Endowments are attractive to donors wishing to make gifts that will perpetuate the charity long after
  • Endowments are in fact attractive to grant funders interested in supporting program needs but also organizations who are financially stable
If your organization is thinking about establishing an endowment:

  • Establish a board policy for the minimum needed to establish your agency's endowment

  • Speak with your accountant, investment adviser or independent auditor to determine what costs will be involved; your investment strategy; policy for non-invasion of principal and any other

  • Seek advice from other membership organizations that have policies and procedures and information that you will find invaluable. Sample organizations include NACUBO (National Association of College and University Business Officers) or The Association for Health Care Philanthropy

Who should take the lead in supporting endowment?

  • Board members
  • Foundations
  • Individual donors making outright gifts of gifts through their wills
Extraordinary Endowments Every organization began somewhere. While Harvard University (Cambridge, MA) has an endowment of more than $25 billion; and your local church might have an endowment of $100,000; be aware that they all had a starting point.

   

Taking the Reins: Transforming Philanthropy into a Family Affair

If you and members of your family are making numerous gifts to charities every year, you might want to consider pooling your resources in order to maximize the impact your giving has. If you are collectively giving away $25,000 or more each year, there are a number of different giving structures (approved by the IRS) that can turn the routine of making donations annually into a lifetime experience of philanthropy! Setting up a Family Foundation:

Depending upon how much you money want to establish your family foundation with (ask your accountant or tax attorney for all costs involved) you can fuel your fund with gifts from either a single-family member of a number of family members. Understanding just how much will be given to charities and which ones—will be determined by family members who serve as officers or board members and actually control where the dollars go.

The Family Foundation will create a powerful group of givers making thoughtful decisions about giving.

You can do this on your own through a bank or brokerage house however, if the minimum principal balance is less than $50,000, you might want to consider what is knows as a Donor Advised Fund.

Donor Advised Fund:

Most communities have Community Foundations (previously knows as Community Chests) that are focused on the financial support of programs that improve the quality of life in communities, and oftentimes—across multiple counties. For many years, individuals made gifts to Community Foundations entrusting the decisions of who would receive support to Community Foundation board members.

More and more donors are assuming the control and input that a Family Foundation has without the expense or administrative tasks that a Family Foundation involves, and that's where the Donor Advise Fund becomes a positive alternative.

Administered through the Community Foundation, the Donor Advised Fund involves the inputs of the family or individual or corporate donor regarding the magnitude of gifts and the gift designation, but the CF manages the investment, reporting and dispersing of funds.

Whether you choose a Family Foundation of a Donor Advised Fund you can be certain you are establishing a legacy of giving for your family and making a values statement through the choices you collectively make!

   
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