Donor-advised funds have been of debate within state and federal politics for many years, with various attempts to regulate donor-advised funds (DAFs) to increase their transparency, accountability, and spend down policy. A new attempt to change the policy around DAFs is currently being routed through the United States Senate. Under the proposed Accelerating Charitable Investments (ACE) Act, DAFs would either be allowed to be maintained for 15-years or 50-years. Presently, DAFs can be passed from generation to generation with no requirement that they are spent out over a period of time, or even that a percentage of funds be distributed—unlike the requirement for private foundations to distribute 5% annually.
Under this proposed Act, community foundations would be exempt from certain provisions which would allow them to continue funding their work in their service regions; however, the Community Foundation Public Awareness Initiative recently issued a statement mentioning “proposals to place restrictions on DAFs – including the latest legislation proposed by Sen. Angus King and Sen. Charles Grassley – are solutions in search of problems.”
COVID-19 was a pandemic that had policymakers assure us that “We are all in this together,” but the recent legislative debate in Texas around Critical Race Theory has signaled that unity appears to only be a means to ends in a public health crisis, but not a priority in other aspects of society. Preventing the discussion of these important topics may lead to many nonprofits having to consider how they pick up the slack in light of the proposed censure on teachers.
The nonprofit sector has a longstanding history of educational involvement including fighting against educational inequality, advocating for special education services, protesting to desegregate schools, and often serving as guardrails to work alongside educational institutions to provide basic needs, supplement educational support, and aiding to ensure that no one falls through the cracks. From tutoring programs, scholarship initiatives, or fostering the love of reading — education nonprofits have often helped to supplement the education of young people through various programs and services.
In 2012 I started Colton Strawser Consulting to work with nonprofit organizations to provide them with the tools they needed to succeed. My consulting often included providing services around organizational development, program design/evaluation, and fundraising. I have been consulting off and on since 2012 as both my primary source of income and a part-time side hustle to support vacations and other frivolous spending.
When I started my graduate school journey, consulting became the main gig that allowed me to pursue a Ph.D. and work part-time as a research assistant at the University of San Diego, where much of my work was focused on nonprofit capacity building. My research has, and always will be, focused on applied work to help improve the operations of nonprofit organizations.
Two master’s degrees and a Ph.D. later, I took a full-time job in academia with the promise of being able to do this work and grow the next generation of nonprofit professionals—Plot twist… that is not what happened. While I loved working with my students and doing community research, I quickly learned (what I already assumed) that higher education was not the right place for me. My goal in life is to make an impact, and academia is set up in such an arbitrary way that it does not incentivize or reward scholars for making an impact in their communities. The goal is often to “Publish or Perish,” but my nonprofit soul could not find joy in that—and I was ultimately told that I was not a good “fit” for academia because I wanted to make a difference and was released from my position due to institutional factors beyond my control (Okay, that’s not the whole story, and academia is full of petty and fragile people, but I will unpack that at a later date).
It’s Thursday afternoon. You have a few binders, a few more manila file folders, and approximately 281 pieces of paper lying around your workspace. Your email inbox is starting to look a little scary, and you don’t remember the last time you saw it empty. Your coffee mug from this morning still has a few ounces of cold swill in the bottom because you were called into a meeting before you could finish even waking up. You considered ordering in lunch, but you forgot and now it’s 2:45. Also, your desk is covered in sticky notes and other scraps of paper from all the notes you left yourself last week.
Unless you’re in the (estimated) 0.12% of people that have never made a mess in their lives, I’m sure your own workspace popped into your head while reading that. A cluttered area makes us all more anxious, more stressed, and detracts from the great work we’re doing for the sake of our nonprofit missions. Here are some hard truths for your consideration in becoming a more organized, less stressed coworker:
You and your team have decided to move forward with applying for a certain grant opportunity. Most questions seem pretty typical: “Describe your project.” “Give us a brief overview of your organization as a whole.” and “Please supply us with your mission statement.”
You get down to the financial section and the required attachments that you are to upload before you can submit the final application. You see the request for your budget.
Before you simply upload your internal-use, hundred-line-item, not-even-our-program-managers-use-this budget, consider making this easier for your reviewer and for your use later on once you’re awarded the grant.
So now your application deadline has passed, you’ve received approximately 1,000 applications (give or take a few) for funding from so many great organizations. Once you weed out those that don’t align with your current funding priorities, how do you continue the review and funding recommendation process? With site visits, of course!
As a grantor, consider the following tips for your next round of site visits:
Grantors are as unique as the organization they seek to fund. They can be family foundations, community foundations, donor advised funds, corporations, or local businesses. Some grantors have been grantmaking for years while others are just entering the game.
No matter where the funding originates or how long the funder has been around, the following ideas could lend to a more streamlined grant process for all involved:
You’ve done the hardest part- you’ve gotten the grantor to agree to come visit you in your own space. Congratulations! Whether you’re in the middle of a grant application process or prospecting a new funder, it’s your job to keep the funder engaged and entranced with your programs and mission.
Here are a few points to consider when you’re planning and executing the visit:
What do you do when you find a new grant opportunity? How do you handle those opportunities brought to you by program staff, board members, or volunteers? Are you applying for every grant opportunity that even slightly fits your mission, or are you seeking to be more strategic in your grantwriting efforts?
Below are five ideas to consider when your team finds a new grant opportunity.
Random Fact: I am an award winning poet and I enjoy writing songs in my spare time, none of which will be heard outside of my apartment. My favorite music to listen to and sing along with is pop, country (I am from Indiana you know), broadway, and jazz - my Pandora Radio is better than yours.