HELP! Running a non-profit with restrictive grants?

<p>I'm starting to seriously burn out. We are running a non-profit on a very shoestring budget. Everyone says we're awesome & doing great things with so little but it's really hard running on fumes. Most of the grants I'm trying to apply for specifically state they DO NOT cover travel, operational expenses, or "overhead." It's very tough running anything when all of these are excluded. Anyone with suggestions? We provide free lung health clinics all over the state--have had 1300 people tested in 40 clinics last year. We provide other services as well, but getting very tired of running with virtually no funding.</p>

<p>Would appreciate thoughts and suggestions. My board has suggested volunteers, which we DO use and train, but we also have trained staff that we use for these events and have to pay for travel to outer islands and other expenses. These things all add up!</p>

<p>Do you have any kind of base of individual donors? Individuals are more likely to give with less restrictions than grants. I work at a non-profit, and almost all individual donations (unless they specify restrictions, which is rare) go into the Annual Fund, which is for general operating support.</p>

<p>What would the grants you're applying for give you -- just supplies?</p>

<p>Have no idea what the grantors are thinking we are supposed to use the funds for and it makes me crazy. One of my friends will be starting a new program if she gets the funds and will buy Rx eyeglasses, using volunteer optometrists in donated space for $10K. They MAY fund SOME supplies, but they may also consider those OPERATIONAL. We don't have many individual donors--many of those afflicted by or touched by the condition I am helping with are VERY poor and I have not had an annual fund or other organized fundraising.</p>

<p>For one of the grants, I'm asking for funding so we can have a computer module created in the electronic medical records for COPD and lung health, as there currently is NONE, as well as some funding for a one-time update of our website and some funding for meeting supplies so we can work with the DOH to create a state COPD plan, as there currently is none. All of this is coming from only $10K, IF we get it. :(</p>

<p>It is quite disheartening at times--can't think what these grantors are thinking when they make it so hard for non-profits to flourish. Our economy is still struggling and we don't have rent, storage, or other overhead other than direct expenses to pay staff to work at clinics.</p>

<p>I have directed a health based non profit for 10 years on grants, I totally know how you feel!</p>

<p>How about local health systems or their hospital foundations? Do you have a local united way? Usually another grant process with a paper trail but they do support health initiatives.</p>

<p>Most nonprofits are having to do more with less. I work 30 hours a week - the only paid staff member for my program and I have more work then I know what to do with! What I would give to not have to worry about program $$ for a couple of years!</p>

<p>How about looking for a volunteer grant writer in the community? Someone fresh might give grant writing for your initiative a whole new spin.</p>

<p>Yes, we did get a few $$ from a local health system. Have started conversations with competing local health system foundation, but they also may not fund "operational" expenses. My "staff" are all hourly on-call folks with 35+ years of experience. No one has come forward to volunteer to help write grants, even tho I did ask at our event that had over 160 people present. Maybe I'll ask some of the respiratory therapy students who want to be helpful (they are strapped for time though & most have part-time jobs & other obligations while in school full-time).</p>

<p>I unfortunately don't directly work all that much with grants, but I know that we do have some salaries paid or partially paid out of grant money, although it's still restrictive as to who's and how much and such, so some do support that. Grants can be really varied, and can come from companies, individuals/their foundations, the government... There are just so many nuances. I agree with the suggestion to try to find someone with some grants experience to volunteer a few hours a week, which might at least help you target some that you hadn't heard of.</p>

<p>Do your board members give, or are they part of the community that you serve and thus much more able to give with their expertise than money? I am asking because many non-profits actually have aboard giving requirement, and that amount alone might give you a lot of what you need. If you can get some volunteer time with a development consultant from the community, they could maybe help you strategize around ways to collect donations and fundraise.</p>

<p>HIMom: I know what you are talking about. I have worked for a nonprofit and been involved with the healthcare field for a few years.</p>

<p>It seems that most grants want to cover special projects, and expect that in a few years you will have enough funds to make the project part of normal operating expenses. However, travel can be funded with many of the grants, at least those that I have worked with. </p>

<p>I would also suggest that you look at the community benefit work of local health systems. I would also suggest that you seriously look at a fundraising campaign. it is true that the individual donors can provide funding for the general fund (although there are lots of individual donors that want to specify for a specific purpose).</p>

<p>You might consider getting in touch with a volunteer agency to find you some grant writers. With the economy so tough, there are lots of people looking for grantwriting opportunities to help keep them occupied while they are job hunting, etc.</p>

<p>Have you considered partnerships with community health centers? It seems like this would be a natural fit for their work.</p>

<p>^^ Good advice crizello. The bottom line is you can't subsist on grants alone you will need to build a donor base and build some General Fund. Fundraising for non-profits is an art...and those that are good at it are in high demand but it's not impossible to find someone. Also good to build a diverse volunteer base that can assist with communications, PR, fund raising etc. as well as grant writing. Colleges are good sources of support. If you have a local college and can work with the healthcare majors and professors you might be able to plug some gaps.</p>

<p>Kwhen I was hired for my. Current position I was hired for only 5 hours a week - 5 hours a week to write grants with the hope being that I could find enough money to expand the program a bit and then fund my position of 30 hours. That was a great incentive!</p>

<p>Perhaps you could get a one time donation to fund this type of idea. Just a few hours a week - one or two new grants and the initial invest,ent may pay off! </p>

<p>Another idea is to connect with a public health or health care management grad student to do work, write grants, etc. for you. Or contact your local university with a research idea and they may be able to use their grants people to find collaborative $ to benefit both of your efforts.</p>

<p>Have you tried McKesson and other big corporations and the Feds?</p>

<p>McKesson</a> Foundation Donates $30,000 to Nonprofit Organizations in Boston Area | McKesson</p>

<p>IBM does a lot of small grants re to computers - try to find an employee for details.</p>

<p>I have the same experience as eireann. At the organization where I used to volunteer and am now a trustee we receive small grants from the State and the city where we are based which go toward the rent for our office and some staff costs, but the majority of our general operating costs are paid for by donations from individuals and corporations. </p>

<p>On top of that we have grants for specific programs like the ones you mention. Some of these specific program grants do include funding for salaries and supplies that are used only for the particular program, and travel if it is necessary to carry out the activities of the program, but usually not for general operating costs, such as maintaining an office where we can conduct the program. </p>

<p>For grant writing, I think it is important that there is one person who takes it on as their responsibility, whether they are a paid member of staff or a volunteer. A lot of grant applications require very similar information and you learn the kinds of 'key words' and so on to use that funders look for, so one person who has learned all those things can put together a better application, and do it more quickly, than several people who have to reinvent the wheel every time there is a grant to be applied for. </p>

<p>The organization spends a great deal of time fundraising from individuals and corporations. We have an annual fundraising drive which is to raise funds for the organization as a whole and usually between three and five more drives in the year aimed at particular activities which are linked to our campaigns. </p>

<p>To target individual donations, we use our mailing list of people who have signed up to support our campaigns, because we know they at least have some sympathy with what we are doing and might be willing to donate a few $ here and there. People can donate through our website or contact us in person. We do a small amount of merchandising. It is not a big money earner, and we give a lot of it away for free, but it is useful for increasing visibility when people attend community events.</p>

<p>For bigger donations from corporations, we have someone within the organization who takes responsibility for that. They are one of our paid members of staff and it is a specific part of their job (but not all of it). A lot of their time is taken up phoning/emailing/writing to people asking them for money or other resources. They also do a lot of networking - attending various events, lunches and so on that bring together business leaders, talking to people and handing out packs we have made explaining what the organization does, why it's important and how they can get involved. Being out there and getting known is really important, so that even if someone has nothing to give right now, when they do, they think of you. </p>

<p>Sometimes it can seem a waste of time to divert your staff into these kind of activities when they could be doing hands on work with clients, but it does pay off. You can go on courses to teach you how to do this kind of fundraising which can be good if you are starting out, but you can get good advice simply by approaching other non-profits and asking what they do. Really, in our case, the guy who does it is just really good at it, he has that kind of personality. He started on a fractional post working only with clients, but as we expanded, his hours were increased and fundraising became part of his job. </p>

<p>Before that we did much of our corporate fundraising on a completely ad hoc basis, with people writing letters on their home computers in the evenings. We tried to make it efficient by having only one contact name, email, phone regardless of who sent out the letters, but it is much easier having someone who is doing it as part of their job and can contact people during the day. A decision was made that we could use volunteers for a lot of the hands on activities of the organization, with support from salaried staff, but for the more business-related activities, it was better to have someone who was not a volunteer, so when money became available, using it for more back-room activities such as fundraising was temporarily prioritized over expanding our number of paid staff working directly with our users, as part of a long-term strategy to eventually have the money to increase paid staff in this area too.</p>

<p>We are also part of various networks of organizations working nationally, or at the state or local/city level. Sometimes we make joint applications for grants with them, and we share information about grants that are available either individually or through a mailing list. Whenever it is possible, we try to make sure we have a representative on any forums designed to bring together people who might be useful, so when they are looking for partners for their grant proposals they think of us because they know us.</p>

<p>We don't really do anything related to healthcare, so I'm not sure how relevant this is for that area though. For your computer plans you might consider approaching a college - it might be the kind of thing a student would do as a project or just for work experience. Some colleges are very helpful. We get all our computers for free from a local college because they will only keep them for a few years before they are deemed to be outdated, whereas we don't care about that at all. We used to have to pay to get them wiped, but that became free when the college signed up to some program to do it.</p>

<p>Thanks for all of these thoughts. Lots to think about. We do network a great deal, which is why we have been able to leverage to much to date. We do need to start fundraising but that takes a considerable amount of time and energy too. Nearly all my staff have full-time jobs already and only work a few hours/month for our organization.</p>

<p>We have had one main grant for two years that was renewed for another three years. There are so many requests and so much that needs to be done but folks are NOT stepping forward to help with resources. My board does NOT make financial contributions, though I have mentioned it is needed and I have made financial contributions as have some staff members and we DO use a lot of volunteers, which we do train.</p>

<p>Our community health centers are struggling for funding themselves, to keep as many of their staff funded as possible. We do have many community partners.</p>

<p>one suggestion ... I'd suggest visiting the donors sharing your budget at a very high level ... outline the disconnect of the % of the budget that is restricted and how your expenses work. Perhaps they can make some adjustments in their rules like allowing travel to screening sites to be included in the restricted budget (I think travel is typically excluded to avoid financing things like seminars and conferences) ... I would think you have a shot of getting expenses used for your day-to-day delivery of service relabeled. You could make personal visits to the biggest donors and call/write smaller ones. Good luck!</p>

<p>I agree that sometimes travel = conferences/training. </p>

<p>My program has two main costs - my salary and a consumable product that must be delivered to the different offices. I often use language in my grants that explains something like, "We have secured $$$ for our consumable product for FY2012. Now we need the manpower (i.e. salary) to deliver this product to the various programs". Or vice versa - we have the manpower, now we need $$ for the product. </p>

<p>Non profit is TOUGH these days. So little money, so many causes. Most of the causes are worthwhile, but tough to fund everyone. Is there another non-profit you can collaborate with to cut/share some costs?</p>

<p>It is not common for people from my orgnization to apply for travel, but I know when someone had to travel to various places across the city to provide some services it was all written out very specifically, like '6 trips to place x at a cost of $5 per trip. 6 trips to place y at a cost of $7 per trip. 4 trips to place z at a cost of $3.50 per trip' and what we based our cost per trip on.</p>

<p>If you know in advance what trips you need to make for your screening, perhaps you could intemize it like that to show donors you are trying to convince in the way 3togo said. Then they would be able to see clearly that you were asking for money for travel that was essential for the delivery of your services and weren't planning to use the money for conferences, etc, as well as showing them how expensive and difficult it will be for you to carry out your screening if no funding is provided for travel. </p>

<p>I would also make the point that delivering services where you are has quite different travel implications than it might for a lot of organizations in other states, and see if they might give you special consideration for that.</p>

<p>"My board does NOT make financial contributions"</p>

<p>As a donor, this is one of the criteria I use when making grants. If the board does not feel the cause is important enough to make financial contributions, I don't see why I would. </p>

<p>You need to expand your board. Pull in the top three donors, and put them on the board. Not only will it show your donor base that there are people that feel the cause is good enough to open their pockets, you will also get the insight on how to find more donors from people on the inside.</p>

<p>Thanks--appreciate these additional insights. Am expanding my board and disappointed and surprised that current board contributes so little financially, especially when they talk about contributing to other causes.</p>

<p>To get from Oahu to other islands to deliver services, we HAVE to fly @ $250/flight, round trip/person. These really add up quickly! Have spoken with several that I'm applying to grants with and they uniformly say NO wages or funding, even if that is for delivering services. :(</p>

<p>We already are partnering with many, many orgs--governmental & non-profit to stretch our dollars as far as we can, don't have to pay for publicity or some of the other organizational expenses (tables, chairs, venues for clinics, meeting spaces, etc).</p>

<p>Will have to think about asking major donors to join our board.</p>

<p>Some airlines have designated non-profits that people can donate their air miles to. It might help a bit with the cost of flights if you could get on the list for whatever airline you are flying with. You could even ask them if they might donate flights for free or at a special low cost.</p>

<p>You need to re-write the board agreement to include a minimum contribution. I agree that it's standard with all the non-profits I'm involved with. (minimum of $250 is what I see and for larger organizations $1000 is standard). Given the geographic challenges Hawaii presents, perhaps you can approach your grantors about approving travel.</p>