So Many Questions, So Little Time

Cecilia Garcia
January 26, 2004

January 26, 2004

From the number of questions and traffic to our site
on January 14, it's pretty clear than fundraising
is a top-priority issue for many of you. Your questions
proved there is no shortage of great ideas and enthusiasm
for addressing issues and conditions that concern
children.



Several of you asked if we thought funding in 2004
for social programs for children was increasing or
decreasing and shared experiences of receiving far
more rejections of requests for funding than ever
before. Molly from Denver asked what we thought were
the three major concerns regarding funding, aside
from the obvious.

There's no question that tough economic times
have had an adverse impact on foundations, big and
small. Some development officers are thinking that
we may have weathered the worst of this, but it's
difficult to say that with any certainty. From Connect
for Kids' experience, I'd say that funding
for 2004 has neither increased nor decreased significantly.
Funders are looking very carefully at outcomes, as
they should, and those of us who spend most of our
time raising money must work very hard to justify
our "ask" and verify our claims.

The ability to diversify our funding base is another
major concern. Connect for Kids and other organizations
are moving away from a reliance on foundation grants
and developing strategies to involve the corporate
sector and attract individual donors. What we've
learned over the past 18 months is that our board
of directors is key to our fundraising strategies
and we work very carefully to engage our board as
full partners in this enterprise.

Since we fielded a few questions about funding for
after-school and rural programs, we thought this new
document
from the After School Alliance would
be helpful. Available online, this publication contains
detailed information on 30 sources of federal funding
from a broad spectrum of less visible programs. These
programs range from the Small, Rural School Achievement
Program to the Carol M. White Physical Education Program.

Starting From Scratch

Many questions that we didn't have time to answer
related to one aspect or another of starting a new
nonprofit organization. There are excellent online
resources that address everything from understanding
the steps in the process of creating a new organization
to developing and recruiting a board of directors.
Connect for Kids has included a good number of these
in our article, Thinking
About Starting a Nonprofit?

We can't emphasis enough the need to spend
time doing your homework. It's always difficult
to know where to start. Here are two strong resources
for those of you who are either starting a new nonprofit
organization or thinking about it.

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) is
a group of funders with the common interest of supporting
nonprofit effectiveness. Although Tool
for Assessing Startup Organizations
is written
for grantmakers, it provides good information for
those of us seeking funds for new organizations as
well. You can learn what funders worry about when
it comes to supporting startup organizations and address
those right from the start. Spend some time on the
GEO Web site and take a look at the range of foundations
whose members serve on the board of directors and
work groups. Then, try an Internet search on those
foundations to get a clearer idea if they are likely
to support your particular project. The time spent
will be worth it.

The Alliance for Nonprofit Management offers helpful
information on a range of governance and management
issues in its list of Frequently
Asked Questions
.

Local Support

A number of questions asked how best to tap local
and community support for a range of activities. Researching
your own backyard and strong involvement of your organization's
board of directors are critical. Apologies for sounding
obvious, but conducting a thorough assessment of the
businesses and social organizations in your area is
an important first step. I know a person in Michigan
who has invested twenty-odd years in cultivating the
community surrounding her recreation center. She is
relentless in keeping track of new businesses (big
and small) in her area and has succeeded in getting
strong support year after year for the various activities
her center sponsors. It takes a lot of work and keeping
in touch year-round, not just when she needs funds.

A number of corporations support the interests of
their employees. Keep this in mind as you research
your community. Look at the utility and telecommunications
companies that service your area. Call and ask if
they have a community relations department or person.
(If they don't, ask why.) Larger corporations
have information on their corporate Web sites and
often support local activities in those towns and
communities where they conduct business.

Research, Research, Research!

The lesson here is that there is no shortcut to identify
funding sources and the Internet offers literally
thousands of resources. See what happens if you google
"fundraising." Of course, not every thing
that comes up in your search will be helpful.

The following are great places to start:

The Foundation
Center
is an excellent resource for starting your
research, regardless of your issue or geographic area.
When you go to this web site, check the "Quick
Links" section for individual grantseekers.
This section will help you use this online resource
effectively. This site has a great section called
"SearchZone" that can be very useful.

The Chronicle
of Philanthropy
is another "must"
web site for your research. Even if you don't
subscribe, you can go to the section called "Deadlines"
and browse through current postings by foundations
on what their funding priorities are.

Grants.Gov
is a really good resource for finding federal grants.

And for those of you looking for new and creative
fundraising activities, check out All
Fundraising Companies Directory
. Organized by
products and by states, this resource is sponsored
by more than 1,200 fundraising companies. The site
includes free fundraising information, a newsletter
and tips.

Process

We learned a lot from this initial Talktime. We were
pleased that so many of you participated; but
we also heard that the process of joining the on-line
discussion was confusing for some. We're working
on making our description of how to participate clearer
for the next go-round. Thanks for your feedback.

We've
posted a transcript of all of the questions that we
were able to respond to during the one-hour chat
.

Talk
Back

If you've got comments or questions about
this story, we'd like to hear them. Send
your response to Cecilia Garcia (ceciliag@connectforkids.org).



Cecilia Garcia is the executive director of Connect
for Kids.



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