. . . which right now isn’t foundation coffers but the vaults at Fort Knox, as this excellent summary of how to get yours under the Federal economic stimulus package makes clear.
Posts Tagged ‘grants’
This account from Sunday’s New York Times gives the flavor of life in a community where the supports are all crumbling at once. N.B. the emphasis on the possibility that agencies will have to merge or collaborate to secure support from strapped philanthropies.
Historically, mergers and collaborations driven by funders (the United Way was an early champion of the technique) have been less successful than those initiated by the relevant agencies. But it’s understandable at a time of crisis that philanthropists can’t wait for agency executives to get their egos out of the way, and must press for quick action.
The article also makes a point it may not have intended: that charities reliant on organized philanthropy are at the mercy of same. Only an agency’s own individual donors–who are persuaded of the essential irreplaceability of its particular approach to issues, whether social-service, arts, advocacy or environmental–can sustain it through these tough times.
So if you’re not already raising money from individuals, time to start.
The Foundation Center offers a summary update of foundations’ plans for the coming year. It’s pretty grim–only two of the respondents plan to increase giving, notwithstanding the huge jump in demand for nonprofit services–but just keep repeating to yourself:
“The darkest hour is always just before the lights go out completely.”
A grantor-grantee consortium known as ProjectStreamline.org has just issued a very smart report called “Drowning in Paperwork, Distracted from Purpose.” As its title suggests, the report offers a skeptical take on the current craze for evaluation while pointing out the day-to-day costs of seeking grant support. Those costs are the reason the Nonprofiteer urges her clients to spend their fundraising time soliciting individual gifts instead of writing grants. But the report also makes clear that grantseeking could be a much lower-cost activity without depriving grantmakers of information they require to judge success or its likelihood.
For one thing, foundations could adopt a uniform grant application. It’s not clear why (other than ego) previous efforts to standardize application forms have ended up producing nothing but additional variation. Surely there’s someone in the grantmaking world with enough clout to push through this simple change, which makes up in utility what it lacks in sex appeal.
The report’s most provocative observation is that grantors’ evaluation demands of grantees are the philanthropic equivalent of outsourcing–that is, securing services from underpaid and unrepresented workers. Not only are grantors better positioned than grantees to assess outcomes by the simple fact of their seeing more of them, they’re uniquely positioned–being that it’s their money–to determine what constitutes success. By all means bring grantees to the table in deciding whether “success” is, e.g., having victims of domestic violence leave their homes or remain in their homes, and by all means require grantees to document in what proportions their clients are leaving or remaining. But any more detailed analysis of consequences is properly the work of people who have resources with which to assess them rather than those who–up to their ass in alligators–are trying to remember that the objective is to drain the swamp.
Saddest but truest in the report? The observation that charities get tempted to do things irrelevant to their mission if there’s a big grant available for doing so. The good news is that charities can cure this condition all by themselves, regardless of what the grantors do. Stop letting the fundraising tail wag the operating dog. Do what you do, and find people who want to support that.
Which leads us back to where we started: in the not-very-long run, individual giving is the better deal.