Poking out from the gloom of financial news is new hope for the fund-raising efforts of Island nonprofit organizations. A partnership of the Martha’s Vineyard Donors Collaborative, the Oak Bluffs Public Library and the Associated Grant Makers of Massachusetts has established the Grant Resource Center at the library, available for organizations and individuals.
The Donors Collaborative, an advocacy group for all Vineyard nonprofits, wanted to make the resources of the Boston-based Associated Grant Makers organization accessible on the Island. Their Grant Makers Directory is an online database of approximately 400 funding sources in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The Foundation Directory Online, a database of more than 97,000 national foundations and corporate giving programs, is also available. In addition, the library collection includes periodicals and more than 35 reference books for researchers.
The current economic crisis has resulted in more demands but fewer resources for most nonprofit organizations. “Very few organizations can be self-sustaining,” Donors Collaborative president and treasurer Inez Janger said. “Money from the state is down. They’re just worried about survival.”
Sixteen volunteers, some allied to a particular organization and others working on their own, participated in a training session on Feb. 9 and another dozen attended the open information session in the evening. Donors Collaborative executive director Peter Temple introduced Martha Moore from the Associated Grant Makers, who took the trainees through the steps to grants research and writing, ending with a hands-on segment allowing participants to access the databases and begin their own research.
In exchange for the training, participants agreed to volunteer their time to train others who want assistance using the databases.
“More organizations are finding that their old funders are saying no and they don’t have a Plan B,” Ms. Moore said. “The solicitation process has to start nine months to a year in advance. You can’t focus on one funder or even just foundations; you have to look at corporate, government, and individual donors.”
And she put the competition in perspective: “There are 4,000 foundations in Massachusetts and 37,000 non-profit organizations.”
Many participants mentioned the tedious process they have encountered over their years of researching potential sources of funding. “It’s been frustrating having to wade through far more information than you need. I get bleary-eyed at the computer,” said Jean McCarthy from Featherstone Center for the Arts. While the summer camp program is filling quickly, she is concerned about money for building repairs and free community programs like the teen after-school program.
An hour of researching databases changed that. “It was almost like a religious experience,” Ms. McCarthy said. “You can cross-reference everything; I found 15 or 20 good prospects. What a saving of time and my blood pressure.”
Olga Church’s background is in health-related government grants from her years at the University of Connecticut; now she helps the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association find support for their ongoing restoration of the Tabernacle. “What was helpful to me was that the seminar demonstrated the search for foundations and private funding sources available is accelerated — and so much easier than anything I had been aware of several years ago,” she said.
“The hands-on session was an eye-opener,” agreed Ellen Eisenberg with the Vineyard Committee on Hunger. “I had used the Foundation Center in New York city more than 30 years ago to find a grant for a nonprofit I was working for at the time. Now that so much information is available on computer, and is so easily accessible, it is infinitely easier to find sources of funding.”
Felicia Cheney, director of the Edgartown Public Library, had two reasons to attend. “Libraries are a hard group to get grants for,” she said. “They are a cross between public money and private money and many people don’t believe that anyone but the government should fund libraries.” Her library is focusing on construction funds but also needs money to support community programs.
On March 10, the Donors Collaborative hosts another daylong session on grants research and writing at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center. Training continues the following afternoon in the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s computer lab. The cost is $25; advance signup is available at the Donors Collaborative Web site at mvdonors.org. The Grant Resource Network center opens to the public March 12 and is available during regular library hours.
Contact the Donors Collaborative for an appointment with a trainer by calling 508-645-3690 or e-mailing email@example.com.