In response to decreasing resources and increasing demand for non-profit agencies, 9th District Councilman Curren Price, Jr. recently hosted a “Getting the Competitive Edge to Fund Your Non-profit” training event at the Los Angeles Expo Center.
Held on August 20th, the day-long session, held in collaboration with the New 9th Business Resource Center (BRC), featured a two-panel discussion where grant-makers and funding sources outlined successful fundraising strategies designed to meet the expectations of funding institutions.
Representatives on the “Are You Grant Ready and Set to Go after Funding?” panel included Mariano Diaz, vice president of Strategic innovation at the Grantsmanship Center; Ravi Shah, Senior Program and Operations Associate, Community Partners Representative; Belinda Teitel, Vice President of Education and Leadership Development, Center for Non-Profit Management; Donnicus L. Cook, Director of Economic Development, West Angeles CDC; and Byron Reed, Senior Vice President and Director Community Relations, Wells Fargo Greater LA/Orange County Region.
Panel two, entitled “Meet the Funders and Grant Makers”, featured panelists E. Thomas Brewer, Senior Program Officer, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation; Luvina Beckley-Knight, MHM and Associates; Sara Montrose, Program Officer, Weingart Foundation; and Sylvia Castillo, Vice President, MUFG Union Bank, N. A.
“We have banks and corporations here to help you,” said Price, addressing the capacity audience. “We want to help the faith-based and non-profit organizations to continue to deliver services to our communities that are underserved. We want you to be successful in the New 9th.”
Noting the growing proliferation of non-profits that are hard-pressed to locate funding resources, Keynote speaker and President and CEO of the Ralph M. Parsons Foundation Wendy Garen, said that many nonprofits are operating on shoestring budgets of 30 thousand a year.
She urged nonprofits to “get creative” by seeking funding resources beyond banks and philanthropic organizations. ”The money is in individuals, it’s not in institutions,” Garen pointed out. “Seek out your neighbors and recruit business people to serve on your board. Both can be good resources to assist with funding.”
“Think more like a business, because that’s what you are,” she advised. Garen also suggested that forming collaborations was a good strategy when seeking grants. “There are too many non-profit organizations that are not working with each other,” she observed. “Collaborate with another organization to increase impact.”
Representatives on the “Meet the Funders and Grant Makers” panel delivered advice on how non-profits could get grant ready.
“Do your homework,” urged Reed. “Sell us on the mission of your organization and sell us on the people you want to serve. Speak about the things that you have been able to achieve. Tell your story in a concise, succinct way.”
Cook, who added that the CDC offers free tax preparation services for non-profits, said that how a non-profit runs its day-to-day operations was important in the grant process. “Your finances, programs and outcomes should definitely be in order,” he urged.
Site visits are an integral part of the funding process, and panelists agreed that besides infrastructure, the “look and feel” of a nonprofit was also important.
Panelists also urged attendees to think critically about the mission and goals of their nonprofits. “Before you write your proposal, take a look at the impact of your nonprofit,” said Cook. “How exciting is your program? How does your program differ from the next guy’s?’”
Cook urged non-profits to thoroughly research the grant organization they are targeting before submitting a proposal. “You can’t just get information about a grant funding institution on their website,” he pointed out. “Go to events and see who the grant-makers are actually funding.”
“There’s no excuse for good execution,” Diaz said frankly. “Someone has to be in the kitchen. Get your kitchen in order. You have to make sure your non-profit is organized.”
The “Meet the Funders and Grant Makers” panelists also offered advice for grant readiness.
“We want to know the reason why you want Wells Fargo to fund you,” said Castillo. “Make sure that your fiscal house is in order. Sell us on the mission of the organization and sell us on the people who you want to serve. Make sure you leverage your bank because they have foundations and other methods of funding,” said Castillo, who added that Union Bank awards grants to affordable housing, education, environment and human services.
Beckley-Knight, whose MHM firm has generated over $180 million in grant funds, said that many non-profits overlook funding in the state, federal and the private sectors. “If you’re not dealing with these three areas, you are missing out on funding resources,” she advised.
Beckley-Knight also advised non-profits to look into forming partnerships. “Partnerships are where funding is headed,” she pointed out. “I know of five non-profits that received $600,000 because we got them a partner. You need to have an industry expert attached to your organization who can articulate your program in depth,” she said.
Montrose, whose Weingart Foundation awards health, human resource s and education grants to low-income and underserved communities, said, “We want to be your advocate and help you to get a grant, so you must be as open and transparent as possible. We want to know, ‘What is your strategy to keep your non-profit sustainable?’ I need as much information as I can possibly get.”
Brewer, whose Parsons Foundation awards grants to civic, culture and health organizations, said that the Parsons Foundation recently awarded funds to supply 20 additional maternity beds at the newly opened Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.
“We get about 600 requests a year. Out of that number, we award about 200 grants,” Brewer pointed out. “We use a two-step process when proceeding with grants and we must receive a full proposal.”
Even though non-profit founders must often wait six months or longer before receiving a reply from a grant foundation, success stories abound.
“I was told ‘No’ 400 times, so I sat down at my kitchen table and started my own non-profit,” Brown told the audience. “Don’t be discouraged from being creative and finding ways to help our underserved community,” she urged.