So you think you need some money to get your non-profit organization going. Who doesn't like having extra money around or even necessary money for budget? The question is, where is this money going to come from? My friend Will would like to make a movie. Is he eligible for a grant? The movie is a fast paced thriller set in Africa. He has not made a movie yet, although he has written the script by himself. Not having turned a profit yet, does not a non-profit make. In the eyes of the IRS, non-profit or not-for-profit endeavors is a tax status. If you do not have 501(c)(3) status with the US government, you may not be eligible for grant money.
There are other means of funding. Small organizations, such as soccer clubs and babysitting groups can do well with fundraisers. Back in the day, we used to hold "bake sales." Everyone would go home and make cookies or candies or rice krispie treats. We would advertise around the neighborhood and drum up business for a one day event. These days there may be questions about items not prepared in a state approved industrial kitchen. Many groups have moved away from home made stuff to selling candy bars, cookies or coupons for the local fast food place for their sales. These items have the advantage of being recognizable.
People know what a Happy Meal is, what it tastes like, and how much it usually costs where as a homemade treat is an unknown. This makes the tickets somewhat easier to sell. Also the tickets can be redeemed at any time, which is nice for the buyer. On the downside, a portion of the money must now go to the third party, which is sort of a drag. And also, a lot of the corporations traditionally eager to package for fundraisers have truly awful product. Have you eaten a girl scout cookie lately? They are your typical low end, non-nutritious, dry cookie with little to recommend it except the fundraising aspect. The truth is, the scouts are better off if you give them some money without taking the box with you. Then 100% of the money can go to them and all of it is tax deductible to you.
Which is the next step in fundraising: straight donations. If you have a passion about your project you can get on the phone or send emails or postcards to possible donors. You have the best chance if you concentrate your efforts towards someone or some organization that actually has money. Sending endless postcards and "free gifts" with solicitations for money can drain your charity's budget in no time. Focus on large donations.
In Will's case, being passionate about his movie is no problem. Because his intention is to turn a profit he is more likely to find investors than donations. As the real estate market plummeted, and gold lost it's value, many people have become enamored with the idea of person to person investing. They like the idea of owning part of a racehorse or part of a movie, especially if they know nothing about racing.
If you do have 501 (c ) (3) status, getting a grant is another way of bringing money into your operation. A not-for-profit organization, or charity in the vernacular, is tax exempt. The application for obtaining this status is available on line at IRS.gov, http://www.irs.gov/charities/article/0,,id=96109,00.html. Once your application is approved you will receive an Employer ID number known as an EIN, you can use for the organization as you would use your own Social Security number for yourself.
Grants, unlike loans, do not need to be paid back. There are many, bless their hearts, corporations and foundations with money that want to fund good works. They do not wish to be in the business of doing the work themselves, however, and that is why they fund grants. To come to the attention of one of these funders one must first find them. The Internet has made this so much easier than it was a hundred years ago, when people had to subscribe to magazines and newspapers to get the same information. Use your favorite search engine to find funders who may share an interest in your passion. Upon finding a website read carefully the mission statement of the funder.
Read it once and read it twice and make sure you understand what they goals and objectives are. If you have a question on whether the funder is a good match to your charity, do yourself and them a favor, by contacting them first with your questions and concerns before you submit your request. It is a good idea anyway to create a relationship with people who might possible be giving you money. People give money to people, no one likes to be treated as a nameless faceless entity. The final decision on where the money goes is made by a person, not a machine.
If the funder after all, believes in movies, but does not fund projects in your state, it is better to find a more suitable funder than to torque your project to fit the requirements. A little tweaking isn't bad. Major tweaking is. For example, if your day care center services the elderly as well as children, you may be eligible for a wider pool of funding. But if you are taking on one or two elderly people you are totally ill equipped to care for, simply to meet a requirement, you are doing everyone all round a disservice.
Just because the money isn't yours, it isn't nice to waste it either. In my small community drugs, especially meth amphetamine is a real problem. Families are torn apart. Crimes are committed. Property values go down, all because of this nasty drug. Recently a very large grant was funded to a local charity operation which wanted to combat this problem of drugs. The amount of money was about equal to the cost of a house in our area. With that money a rather silly program was implemented where amid much hoopla, the sheriff accepted old and outdated prescription drugs for turn in. I sincerely doubt this program will affect drug use in my community for the following reasons:
1) Responsible people dispose of their unused drugs responsibly already
2) Irresponsible people are not going to turn in their drugs
The program did enable a large number of people to pat themselves on the back however.