Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Reading grant announcements

A nice lady called and wanted to know if I could write up an application for $500K for her small, one year old organization. Here is the entire announcement as it was forwarded to me:

Blackstone Charitable Foundation
Program(s):  Employment, Economic Development, Job Related and Business Grants
State(s):  National
Maximum Grant Amount: $5,000,000 Total Funding Available
Deadline:  October 12, 2015

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is accepting applications for the 2016 Blackstone Innovation Grants program, an annual program that awards a series of targeted grants to innovative organizations focused on entrepreneurship and job growth. Now in the fourth year of the program, the Foundation will award up to $5 million in grants to organizations that are tackling the big challenges facing entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial ecosystems.

Eligible organizations and programs may apply for one of two funding tracks:

BIG Program/Project Grants - Organizations with an existing track record of success may apply for funding for a specific program/project (new or existing) that addresses a major systemic challenge facing an entrepreneurial ecosystem and has the potential to be scaled and replicated.

BIG Event Grants - Established organizations may apply for funding for a specific event or convening that accelerates the conversation around entrepreneurship on a regional, national and/or global scale.

Organizations will be evaluated and selected by a committee and subsequently approved by the Board of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

To be eligible to apply, organizations must be at least three years old and have an annual operating budget greater than $1,000,000. (Italics are mine).

Obviously, the lady's brand-new organization doesn't qualify. Now don't get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with shooting for the stars. But hiring someone to write a grant you can't possibly qualify for is just plain bad business.

Moral:  read the whole grant announcement.  The lady got as far as the first 2-3 paragraphs and quit reading at "(new or existing)".  The good news is, I have been able to find her a grantor that does match her organization well, although the amount is certainly not as large as she wanted.

Big grants normally require substantial organizational strength. That's normally why I don't write Federal grants or large foundation grants for new organizations.

Yes, it would be nice if these grant announcements would lead with the eligibility guidelines first. Federal grants are historically notoriously bad for being ambiguous or at least indefinite about what level of nonprofit they are written to attract.  Just saying you have to be a 501(c)(3) to apply  leads to a lot of wasted time, money and ink.

Still, if you read the whole announcement, at some point you can probably get a clue that your organization can't complete the requirements.

The good news is, there are almost always grantors out there that will match up well with your level of development.

In fact, one largely overlooked area is in development grants. For some reason, people just aren't  looking for grants specifically designed to improve their overall organizational capability or provide board or staff training.

It's true that only about one in ten grant applications are funded. You can improve your chances by making sure that your organization and the grantor match up well and that includes reading the entire announcement. 

If you have a question about applying for a grant, feel free to contact me at

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Are donors and nonprofits contributing to income inequality?

A  lot has been said recently about the shrinking middle class, the stagnation or even decline in middle class wages, and the job nonparticipation rate.

Meanwhile, businesses are complaining that the skills they really need are being ignored or even denigrated by both politicians and educators.

Case in point. During one area development group's public meeting they asked existing and prospective business owners what they needed to consider relocating or expanding their businesses to the area.

They responded with answers that largely followed this vein.
They need people that are willing, able  and trained to do hands-on "blue-collar" tasks. They need mechanics, welders, manufacturing assembly line workers, and even freight handlers. As one business owner commented "It doesn't do any good to design a better mousetrap if there is no one to build, box and deliver it." reports that an entry-level welder with 0-2 years experience can expect a starting salary of over $ 27,000/yr. or $13.24/hr and a top salary of just under $48K, which is not exactly minimum wage. 

One area college responded by sending out a press release touting their current and future  increases in STEM classes. One of the clips played was that of someone saying that they were in business to train "the labor force of the future, and the future is not in a field or a factory."

This single incident illustrates the disconnect between the realities of day-to-day business needs and a certain intellectual naiveté about the future.
Nonprofits offer a funding avenue for some low-income students. Since they don't produce a revenue stream of their own, they are totally dependent on the largesse of both the government and private donors. These gifts and grants (or contracts) are the source of some truly big funding pools, such as the $20 million dollar scholarship fund established at Notre Dame.

That money tends to follow what's trending at the moment and that trend isn't money for trade or vocational schools.

While no one would argue that the future does indeed indicate a need for a well-educated workforce with different skills than those of the 20th century,  the yardstick that we use to define "well-educated" needs to reflect an awareness of functional reality.

When education-based nonprofits set their program goals, and donors at every level write their checks or set up their trusts, it would behoove us all if they could keep that perspective in mind.

Philanthropy without relevancy is as counterproductive as no philanthropy at all. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Grant information - Animal Shelters and rescues

Rescue Bank is accepting applications from qualified 501(c)(3) rescues and shelters for their pet food distribution and assistance program.

The group has an ongoing application period.  To view the eligibility requirements see:

Please note that there is a phone number given that you can use to see if your organization qualifies as to geographical and organizational status. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Shifting focus

There comes a time when everything that can be said on a subject has been said, at least in the absence of new data.

That's kind of where this blog is at now. When you start repeating yourself, it's time to move on.

The purpose of the blog was, and is, to assist new or struggling organizations in achieving greater success. In many cases, my mail tells me that mission has been accomplished.

I am aware that every day brings new people into the marketplace, whether it is in the nonprofit or for-profit sectors. If this blog was monetized, then prospecting for new fledgling businesses to advise would be useful, to me if not to you.

That was never my intention. The primary reason the blog exists is to provide free information and hopefully to prevent the readers from making expensive newbie mistakes.

Lately however, most of my mail has been from people looking to game the system.  The only mission most of them have is to scam the public and incidentally, figure out how to get rich doing it.

Those are not the people that any legitimate grant writer or consultant wants to help.

In the future, the blog will probably focus on RFP notices, trends and legislative issues that impact nonprofits and small businesses. In some cases it might stray into political climate changes affecting those groups.

Readers that specifically request "Climbing the Ladder  to Nonprofit Success" can still receive a PDF copy by emailing me at, and of course I am still available at that email for grant writing, business plans and funding research services for qualified entities.

To those following the blog, if you have specific, germane questions about the process of running a successful nonprofit or small business, feel free to ask questions using the comment section. I'm always available for consulting services as well.

It's been a great ride. To all of you struggling to make the world a better place, my hat's off to you.