Changes are Afoot

‚ÄčNon-Profits Being Hit

Seems that times are a changing for non-profits, we’ve heard recently that budgeting services have had funding cuts, now we’re hearing that other social agencies will have to ”disclose” details about the people they assit in order to maintain funding levels.

Some of the changes may not appear too bad, with some explanation being for the changes being that it is a way to help reduce operational, backroom costs; something that is perhaps needed. But is a heavy handed approach, as these changes seem to be, the way to go?

There’s no denying that there are duplication of services being provided within the non-profit sector, with each competing for a slice of the funding pie.

If there are several organisations working in the same space, it would make sense where possible for them to work closer to help reduce oerational costs. And, yes, there are organisations now working more closely to help reduce overall costs, but more could still be done.

When it comes to disclosure of client information, names, addresses, gender etc, this becomes worrying. 

With some organisations assisting vunerable people being asked to provide such personal information in order to gain or maintain funding it screams of Big Brother.

What’s wrong with the way things have done previously, a summary of clients assisted seems to have worked well. 

What will Government agencies use the personal information for?

How will clients, particularly those who are vulnerable, victims of crime etc react, will it cause some to not seek help out of fear of their personal information being misused (lost)?

Will your organisation be affected by these changes?

If you support organisations that maybe affected by these changes, will this have any impact on your continued support?

Questions need to be asked of Government agencies as to what are the REAL purposes of these changes?

Funding wows – do you to tell your story

More often than perhaps most realize we’re seeing organizations cutting back in one way or another.

Staff hours are being cut, service delivery is being looked at with the view to reducing hours or services being offered; not only are the staff directly affected but those in need of what organizations offer are also affected – it’s anyone’s guess how far the impact of cut backs flows; it’s likely the cuts could cut deep.

There’s an assumption that the need for cutbacks could have been foreseen, perhaps in some situations that is true, but at a guess not all would have been.

Organizations that have been relient, and almost gauranteed funding from Grants Boards, Trusts appear to have had a rude awakening when they discover that the ‘usual’ funding they had been getting has either been trimmed back or cut completely; often with no forwarning.

Planning should cover most situations, but when an organization has been receiving the same funding from the same source for a long period, the expectation is that it is “money in the bank” – sadly that’s not always the case, and organizations should be prepared with a contingency plan.

Where possible when planning and budgeting contingencies should be a consideration, a “what if” scenario should be in the minds of those responsible for managing an organization. Why some organizations forget this is a mystery.

When funding applications have been submitted and the reject letters arrive it’s in all probablity too late to be thinking “what can we do now” – that should have been in the minds of all concerned before applications were submitted.

A sob story to local media, local business and the community could result in some funding coming through – but it’s a gamble, and one that perhaps shouldn’t be taken.

Why might it be a risk to go to media? Funders may take it ‘personally’ and feel that you are perhaps unappreciative of the support that they may have given previously. Some say, talking to media could ruin any future chances of applications being received in a favourable manner, that they could easily end up in the decline pile without much, if any attention being given to the information contained in it. Perhaps, but in reality funders are aware that applicants struggle for funding and will from time to time talk to media about the difficulties they face, many wouldn’t take it personally, but some may.

In talking about funding issues organizations could likely find that other supporters could come out of the woodwork. People who may not have known the organization even existed, or the extent of the work it does would gain awareness the result of this being that support could come from places not otherwise thought of.

It could be a gamble, but one worth taking – would your organization take the gamble and try to raise awareness of your organization’s plight, or would you feel safer sitting, waiting in the hope that your traditional funders will support you in the next funding round.

Do you have time to wait, or do you have to bite the bullet and tell your story in the hope it will gain you the support you need to continue delivering the services you provide?

Telling your story could open a door (wallet) you may not have been able to open before; sometimes you have to bite the bullet and do it, but be careful you don’t put down support or supporters – remember you may need them again. Diplomacy and tact is needed.

Quick guide to better funding applications

After hearing from organizations about their failed funding applications, I had a look through some, talked to those who had put them together and quickly saw want went wrong. Lack of research and planning.

To save time and the heartache of receiving “sorry not this time” letters avoid these mistakes:

Poorly researched and written applications

Before putting the time into completing the application spend some time reading what the funders criteria is, do some research (if possible) into what other projects they have funded.

Simply pulling out an application you’ve submitted before and copying the information into a new one won’t cut it; more so if you missed out last time.

Ensure your have clear objectives, and ideally everyone involved in the project should be asked for their input.

Perhaps more important is to ensure you have fully planned out the project/programme you are applying for funding for; if you haven’t done this step, put the application away and spend the time planning.

Have you got the budgets sorted? If you haven’t done this – stop what you’re doing and get it sorted, you can’t expect a funder to guess what you’re trying to say with figures if you haven’t worked them out yourself.

And, avoid all jargon, you might know what certain acronyms are but you can almost guarantee that those reading your application won’t – do you want your application filed under “too hard”?

The scattergun approach

If you’re sending the same application out to a multitude of funders – stop it!

You will have more success with well planned and targeted applications, the right application for the right funder will win hands down over a poorly targeted one.

Yes, you might get a nibble or two with a mass mail out of applications, but you’ll gain more with targeted applications.

The right application, to the right funder will do you more good.

Not meeting funder’s criteria

This ties back to research and planning, if you don’t know what the funder’s criteria is, you won’t meet it.

When you’ve got your team together to work on funding applications, the first thing you should be doing is working through the funder’s criteria and ticking off each point – if you don’t meet the criteria save yourself and the funder time, don’t proceed with the application.

Most funders won’t mind if you’re unsure and make contact to clarify anything you’re unsure about. If in doubt, make contact and have the criteria clarified.

Meet and Greet

Some funders have open days, which are an opportunity for organizations to meet and learn more about the funder, their work, their criteria and what projects/programmes they are looking to fund. Make it your job to find out if funders you’re likely to approach hold these, if they do make sure you attend.

Some funders like it when an organization asks for the opportunity to meet – check, and if they are open to it, make the effort to arrange a face-to-face meeting.

You’ve got the funding – that’s the end of it

If you think that once you’ve received the funding that all you have to do is get down and do the work, you’re sadly wrong.

Funders want, expect – and deserve updates.

Your board expect updates – so you should already have something available, make sure you fully meet funders criteria and give them the reports, updates that they require.

If you don’t update funders your chances of winning their support in the future will at best diminish – or worse, you won’t even get a foot in the door.

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These tips apply not only to traditional funding bodies, but also when applying for funding from companies and others in the community.

Write a check list of what you need to do with all funding applications – print it and pin it up on your wall and refer to it when applying for funding.

 

 

 

Fundraisers: Gather a team around you

Fundraising can be a lonely existence, challenging and sometimes even misunderstood (even internally), having support from colleagues makes it all the more easier.

If you’re the person responsible for the fundraising in your organization don’t feel you have to do it all yourself – every aspect of a successful nonprofit takes a team approach, and fundraising is no different.

Before you start your annual fundraising planning, gather a team around you and talk through the needs of the organization and those you’re there to serve.

Who to gather into a discussion team can be a challenge in itself – how about the CEO, someone from the team in the field, maybe a recipient of the work your organization does; I’d even look at an up and coming person in the organization being part of this team could help them further understand the work of the organization and grow their passion for it.

The purpose of this discussion team is to look at the needs of the organization, previous funding challenges and to get some fresh perspective. Don’t let the thoughts and discussion be stymied by fear of others treading on your toes, let all discussion flow. 

Perhaps you could try not speaking during your first get together, just sitting back and hearing ideas from the others – yes, it will be a challenge and you may want to chime in and say ‘been the done that’ when an idea is put forward, but resist speaking, if asked questions simply say ‘I’m only here to listen today’, give the others a chance to have their thoughts, ideas and understanding of the funding challenge heard.

Yes it will be hard to hear the views, ideas and comments from people not normally involved in fundraising talk, perhaps some comments may sound like a criticism of your abilities but don’t take it to much to heart, see it as aiding you your work.

From this discussion session you will likely come up with some ideas for your next, perhaps a rehash of something you’ve done previously, maybe something not thought of before – any of this is good, what it will show is that others have an understanding of your role, the challenges you face – and who knows, maybe the next event you plan will be easier as you already have a team within the organization who are supportive and eager to help get it off the ground.

What have you got to lose, nothing, give it a shot you never know what may come of it – get a team together today and start planning your next fundraising campaign.

Pokies – feeding a habit to help those affected by it

And still the discussion around pokies continues, should the Government allow Sky City Casino increase the number of pokie machines in ‘exchange’ for a convention centre – in short – NO.

Why – we know community groups, charities gain income from pokie machine operators, but what about the people using these machines – low income earners, the marginalized etc. In some cases the organizations gaining income from pokie revenue are the self same organizations saying we need help to improve the lives of the impoverished, the marginalized, so can’t go without the prospect of income derived from these machines.

Having met pub owners who have pokie machines and heard the income the earn, and how they feel about the machines being “beneficial” and “needed” – no this wasn’t in references to propping up their business, but to the needs in the community, the people benefit through the monies dsitrubuted, I, like Sir Bob am gob-smacked and repeat his words “What outrageous hogwash”.

If you’re an organization helping people who have alcohol, drug, gambling or other issues that can impact on the family’s wellbeing should you be calling on funds from pokies? 

Sure funds are needed, there’s no denying that – but there are other ways to go about gaining the funding needed to fulfill the purposes of an organization than putting the hand out to an organization(s) that encourage people to use hard earned, and in many situations, much needed money.

Organizations can work with their supporters to build income streams that will soon negate the need to source funds from sources that are not seen as ‘beneficial’ – who are pokies beneficial to, the pub owner, booze suppliers, are the really that beneficial to the wider community?

Sure, there will be argument that pokies generate jobs, that they generate income for the wider community, but these ‘benefits’ need to be weighed against the negative impact they also have. And, organizations dealing with community ‘issues’ need to think where the money the get for fulfilling their ‘function’ comes from. Is ‘dirty’ money what they really want to be associated with?

Bob Jones in the NZHerald Pokies nothing to do with charity 

Selling space on your body for charity

We’ve seen plenty of talk recently about the young woman ‘selling’ space on your butt with the aim of raising money to help clear her debts – but in the ‘pitch’ she’s giving she says part of the money from the ‘sale’ will be donated to charity.

Since this hit the news there’s been copycat listing on TradeMe, with the ‘sellers’ also offering a portion of the winning bid being donated to charity.

Is this a charitable thing, or is it just a business transaction with the addition of a portion of the sale being set as a donation just an attempt to smooth the waters with people who think it’s not a great idea? 

Will charities benefit – sure, and as SPCA Auckland executive director Bob Kerridge was quoted in the NZ Herald, “What a wacky world we live in,” but says there’s no harm in it. 

“People do what they want to do, and if in doing it they can benefit their charitable cause, then that’s good. And if that charitable cause happens to be the SPCA, even better.” 

Sure – it’s great people support charity, but sometimes the way they do it may have a reverse effect and turn some supporters off. 

The other downside to this ‘campaign’ is that of copy-cats can dilute the impact, and people will turn off and lose interest in what’s happening, the charities could also run the risk of being associated with the wrong ‘image’. 

Have any of the participants sought advice, guidance or talked to the charities before going ahead? 

If you’re a charity and someone offered a part of their body to help raise funds for you, secondary to helping themselves, would you want to be associated? Why, and would you offer any guidance on how the ‘sale’ should proceed? 

Do you think multiple activities like these dilute the original campaign? 

What will people offer to ‘sell’ next, are there any limits people won’t go to, and at what point will charities say – thanks, but no thanks? 

Charities need to be cautious, there needs to be boundaries – some people will pick up on the charity because it’s been in the news and could become supporters, but this is likely to be short-term. 

Whereas longer standing supporters who are turned off my this type activity could walk away, is it better to retain the longer term supporter and lose the potential new support, who may not be in it for the long haul?

 

Don’t give discounts, make a donation instead

Do you offer prompt payment discounts? Ever thought that instead of giving a discount; you tell clients you will make a donation of the percentage normally given, to a charity in their name?

An accountant spoken to about this has said it’s possible to do, and it could a way for you to get paid on time; while at the same time showing your support for local causes.

Imagine you normally give a 10% discount to clients who make prompt payments, a bit like utility companies do. If your invoice is $1200.00, and you normally give a 10% discount, you’d be making a contribution to charity on behalf of that client of $120.

The other way this can be done, is to break the discount in two; give your client a 5% discount, and make a further 5% contribution of the total invoice amount to charity in your name. This way you’re able to claim the 5% as a tax rebate.

In the current up and down market we’re still seeing, it makes sense to look at other ways to encourage people to pay on time; so why not look at something like this as a way to help you and charity at the same time.

Selecting a charity or charities could be the hard part; but most people have an idea of the types of causes they support. A while ago I posted Not-for-profit – Giving Survey Results, this should give an idea on how to select a charity.

Imagine how the charity you give to would feel, seeing extra money coming in on a regular basis. Think how much more they could do with these extra dollars; and has it really cost you? It doesn’t if you normally give a discount.

Doing something like this can help with staff morale, ask your staff what charities they support, get staff buy in and you’re definitely on the road to a win – win – win situation.

What have you got to loose? Nothing, you can only win adopting something like this in your business.