Grantseeking

New Legislation Supports "Pay for Success" Model for Government Funding

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The budget act passed by Congress in February has an interesting inclusion: the Social Impact Partnerships to Pay for Results Act (SIPPRA). According to the University of Utah's Sorenson Impact Center, SIPPRA "creates a $100 million federal fund that can support successful outcomes delivered to vulnerable populations via Pay for Success projects or social impact partnerships. Under SIPPRA, taxpayer dollars would only be spent on social programs that achieved previously determined and desired outcomes. The bill will also support feasibility studies and evaluations for launched projects. Recipients will be selected based on state and local need."

Part of the reasoning for the Act is that without such legislation, state and local governments would not have any incentive to measure and evaluate programs on how efficiently they use funds to meet desired outcomes.

The legislation is an outgrowth of a movement called Pay for Success, which advocates for "an approach to government decision-making that supports policies and funding decisions that focus on outcomes over inputs and outputs," and that works to "incentivize innovation and emphasize prevention."

The idea is to promote efficiency in government spending so that the dollars spent have the greatest impact on the targeted populations.

SIPPRA introduces an interesting structure. The Pay for Success model allows the government to repay investors who have supported programs that meet specific outcomes. So funding for projects does not initially come from the government. As a result, communities may see support for programs that never would have gotten off the ground without the help of investor financing.

The Act requires prospective programs to present strong evidence that they will meet projected outcomes. This places a focus on programs that have been vetted to be effective, resulting in a good return on the dollar. Such an approach may provide some additional difficulty for innovative programs to find funding, since many of these types of programs don't have a wealth of research on their methods to back them up. Also, the rigorous data collection required may prevent some smaller-scale programs from coming to fruition.

While the legislation provides funding for feasibility studies and other research, the majority of funds are allocated for on-the-ground projects, including efforts to target issues such as unemployment, child welfare, preventable health issues, homelessness, high school graduation rates, birth outcomes, and early childhood development.

SIPPRA will be administered by the Department of the Treasury, which will issue a request for proposals from state and local governments within the next year.

Keep Giving Tuesday in Your Heart All Through the Year

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Did you or your organization recently participate in Giving Tuesday? Set the Tuesday after Thanksgiving each year, the event seeks to use the power of social media and collaboration in order to encourage more philanthropy. Sometimes styled as #GivingTuesday, it seeks to kick off the charitable giving season and promote a sense of generosity through the holiday season and the end of the year.

But how does your organization leverage Giving Tuesday from just one day or a small timeframe and turn it into something more?

The Giving Tuesday movement got its start in 2012 with an announcement by the technology website Mashable. Other founding partners included Skype and Cisco, and additional partners soon joined on, including Microsoft, Sony, Aldo, the Case Foundation, Heifer International, Phoenix House, and Starwood Hotels. In that first year, roughly $10 million was collected. For 2018, the total will be roughly $400 million.

When Giving Tuesday began, some people were skeptical, including Timothy Ogden of the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Shortly before the inaugural day, he wrote, "I don’t think it will work. That’s not to say that I don’t think the idea will catch on. I think we’ll see a huge number of tweets and Instagrams on Giving Tuesday. And I expect that the effort will grow each year. What I don’t think it will do is materially affect giving in any positive way." He pointed to trends in giving. Average giving for Americans is astonishingly consistent, varying only from 2.1 to 2.2 percent of income over the ten years prior to the first Giving Tuesday. Even if Giving Tuesday ended up bringing in donations, Ogden believed that it would just result in decreased donations the rest of the year. 

Several years ago, Nonprofit Quarterly looked at the model for "giving days" and how they work. The publication points out how giving days are different from the standard model of giving: "Instead of a single group trying to bring new donors to the table, a joint effort around giving on a single day hopes to encourage the idea of philanthropy first and specific charities second. The hope is that the rising tide of donations will lift all the fundraising boats."

However, Nonprofit Quarterly also wondered if giving days actually increase giving, or merely shift the timeframe of donations. Such campaigns may be a way to get attention from new donors, though, who may not have been previously aware of the organization.

In contrast, Classy, a social enterprise that creates fundraising software for nonprofits, states that 15% of new donors picked up during Giving Tuesday will donate to the organization again before the following year's event. These new donors are also much more likely to encourage their peers to donate. The effects of Giving Tuesday don't seem to be confined to the day itself.

Let's assume that your organization was able to use Giving Tuesday to draw in some new donors. How can you turn them into repeat donors?

The Giving Tuesday website offers a toolkit with ideas on how to make Giving Tuesday unique for your organization, and how to use the day as a starting point for continued philanthropy. 

Unlike some other coordinated giving campaigns, the Giving Tuesday organization does not seek to be a central processor for donations; all donations go through a nonprofit organization's own website, if they so choose. So integrating Giving Tuesday into your website is a helpful idea. You could create pop-ups on your website to thank the people who have given to your organization, or to encourage visitors to give in the future. (Wired offers a look at why nonprofit organizations might want to consider using pop-ups on their website.) You could also create a special Giving Tuesday email list. For example, you could develop a "welcome series" for new donors to further involve them with your organization and to increase the probability that they will donate again. You could send updates toward your goal amount, stories about the people affected by your nonprofit's work, or information about volunteer opportunities.

Organizations might also consider using the day to promote a recurring giving program, not just a one-time donation. The overall marketing buzz of Giving Tuesday can help get extra eyes on your organization's work, and there are no rules saying you need to treat the day just like everyone else. Be bold and try some new ideas.

Giving Tuesday has progressively gained in popularity each year and looks like it's here to stay. As more organizations get involved, it will become more and more difficult to stand out from the crowd. Nonprofits will need to be creative to grab the attention of donors and to encourage their giving throughout the year.

Action steps you can take today
  • Be different! In a sea of participating organizations, how will you stand out?
  • Check out the toolkit! It offers guidelines and plenty of ideas.
  • Keep the donors! Check out our Tracks to Success article on donor retention.

Filling the Federal Gap in U.S. Green Grant Funding

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Three years on from the Paris Agreement on the climate, global carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise. Despite the consensus of over 99% of climate scientists that humans have warmed and continue to warm Earth's climate, denial persists in numerous governments. The U.S. has announced its intent to abandon the Paris Agreement, and a proposed 31% reduction to the 2020 budget of the Environmental Protection Agency looms, a move that would cut nearly $650 million in funding for environmental and restorative efforts.

Despite intransigence to environmental funding at the executive level, in the vast and amorphous federal budget dollars for green initiatives still exist. For example, even in the face of EPA cuts, a bill called America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019 has been put together by Congress with support from both parties. It is the largest piece of highway legislation in U.S. history and if passed would supply billions in new funding for reducing carbon emissions, including grants for electric car charging infrastructure along interstate highways.

Of the total allocation, most of the money would go toward reinforcing transportation modes that are part of the global climate problem, so the bill is by no means a victory. It reflects the political tug-of-war between climate change denial and the winning economics of new green infrastructure. There's no way to make up the environmental funding shortfall expected to result from a 31% EPA budget cut, but there are places environmental nonprofits can turn.

Some examples of new state and city programs

At the state and municipal levels grants for tackling climate change are springing up with increasing frequency, for projects large and small. In the state of California, the Parks and Water Bond Act of 2018 freed up $39 million for green infrastructure competitive grants. Local agencies, nonprofit organizations, non-governmental land conservation organizations, and Native American tribes can apply through January 2020.

In Massachusetts, the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program was launched two years ago via executive order by Governor Charlie Baker, and this year made $10 million in grants available to state municipalities. This will be the highest amount of climate change funding disbursed in the state's history. The program aims to provide $1.3 billion over ten years to invest in green infrastructure and nature-based solutions for a changing climate.

In New York City, the New York Community Trust offers grants to assist with the installation of green rooftops. Studies indicate that gardens on urban rooftops can not only reduce municipal energy usage for cooling, but reduce and clean stormwater runoff. New York City has about 62 square miles of rooftops—enough to make a huge difference in regard to cooling and purification, as well helping buildings hold in heat during the winters.

San Francisco has a large grant program administered by its Water Power and Sewer department that offers awards in the millions of dollars for rainwater related infrastructure such as bioswales or rain gardens, permeable pavements, cisterns, and vegetated or green roofs, all of which cleanse contaminants from runoff before it flows into streams, rivers, and oceans.

Federal policy matters, but these and other recent state and regional grant programs are extremely important. If California were a country its economy would rank fifth in the world, so decisions made at the state level have a huge impact there, as well as in other densely populated, high GDP states such as New York (13th largest global economy), and Illinois (22nd).

Private environmental funding on the rise

Last year the Nature Conservancy, with aid from the Doris Duke Foundation, launched the Natural Climate Solutions Accelerator Grant, which focuses on ideas such as reforestation, planting cover crops, and restoring coastlines, with the goal of sequestering greenhouse gases. The next round of these grants will occur in 2020, and the amounts range up $250,000 per project.

Not all new environmental funders are focused on infrastructure. Activism is also a high growth area. The Climate Emergency Fund is a new grant program aimed at groups engaged in nonviolent but disruptive protest, with money to support materials, salaries, office space, and even bullhorns. The Fund, whose main backer is oil heiress Aileen Getty, intends to raise tens of millions of dollars to support a wide array of groups, and takes the stance that, in light of warnings from scientists that time will soon run out to keep global warming below 1.5 or even 2 degrees, drastic action is required.

Another advocacy group is the Climate and Clean Energy Equity Fund, which invests in climate leadership and voter engagement, and mobilizes diverse communities and indigenous groups in the climate struggle. The Fund was created by the New Venture Fund and works in Florida, Minnesota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, but is included here because of its plans to double its budget and expand to additional states.

Bloomberg Philanthropies, which operates on multiple climate change fronts, has set up a group called the Climate Finance Leadership Initiative (CFLI), a coalition of more than forty organizations who will invest in clean energy and climate solutions around the world. The approach is to work toward the goals of the Paris Agreement by making “'financial flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development,” which means making green investment attractive to corporations.

But Bloomberg also focuses on pure advocacy. The group Beyond Carbon, which it launched in June, is dedicated to mobilizing voters concerned about global warming, tracking climate policies state by state, and electing state and local officials who accept climate science. Beyond Carbon claims to be the largest-ever coordinated campaign to fight the climate crisis in the U.S., and brought Bloomberg’s total investment in climate change initiatives to $1 billion.

Government policy always changes

All of these are just a few examples of the growing number of environmental funders. Some new programs state that they came into existence specifically to fill the gap left by the retreat of the U.S. government under its current leadership. Obviously, all of this money is a drop in the bucket of what is needed to mitigate climate change, but it at least means there is hope for environmental nonprofits trying to weather the storm of current U.S. policy. Valuable time has been lost in the climate fight, but the political pendulum swings both ways. If the rising tide of climate change funders have their way, Washington, DC, will soon follow their lead into a lower carbon future.

Action steps you can take today

Why Leadership Skills Are Important Even If You Aren't a Leader

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Everyone knows what it takes to be a good leader; the skills and talents that are necessary to manage, motivate, and inspire the people around you. What most people aren’t aware of, however, is the fact that everyone can benefit from improving their leadership capabilities, even if they aren’t themselves in a leadership position. Let’s talk about why.

Integrity and accountability. Confidence and humility. Empathy and positivity. Creativity and organization. Effective communication.

These are the qualities of an effective leader. They are the traits of someone capable not just of managing the people around them, but inspiring them; someone who can push people to be better than they thought they could be.

Yet these are also traits that I believe everyone should possess.

You don’t need to be a leader in order to make a positive impact on the people around you. You don’t need to be in a position of authority to be inspiring or motivational. And you don’t need to be responsible for managing people in order to help them work more effectively.

We live in what is arguably the most connected, collaborative era in human history. The modern workplace is one in which the ability to communicate and cooperate is critical not just to your own professional success, but to the success of your entire organization. In such an environment, many of the traits that we frequently assign to effective leaders are important at all levels of the organization.

For instance, in a survey carried out in 2018 by the workplace messaging platform Troop Messenger, three-quarters of employers indicated that collaboration is essential to their company’s output. In a similar vein, a joint study carried out by the Institute for Corporate Productivity and Babson College’s Professor Rob Cross found a direct link between effective collaboration and workplace performance. Finally, keynote speaker and author Brent Gleeson identified low levels of accountability and poor communication as some of the biggest productivity-killers in the modern enterprise.

Look at it this way. If you lack empathy and communication skills, you cannot effectively work as part of a team. If you aren’t accountable, positive, and creative, people will not want to work with you. If you cannot connect with and relate to your colleagues, your efforts at collaboration will ultimately suffer.

So how exactly can you develop your leadership skills so that you might better apply them in the workplace? 

  • Be more aware. A large part of what makes one better at communicating and connecting to people is simple awareness. When speaking to someone, take the time to stop and consider what their words actually mean. Learn to read between the lines, paying attention to body language, tone, and context.
  • Look on the brighter side of life. A pessimistic attitude not only brings down the mood of everyone around you, but there’s also evidence to suggest it’s actively harmful to your health. Work on training yourself to be more optimistic, advises active living site Realbuzz. Focus on successes, quash negative thoughts when they surface, stop dwelling on the past, and act more positively. 
  • Be respectful and accountable. Show everyone the same level of respect that you expect of them. If you make a mistake, own up to it, and don’t hold the mistakes of others against them. 
  • Never stop learning. Last but certainly not least, never assume you know everything there is to know about a subject, even if it’s your area of expertise. Always keep your mind open to new concepts and ideas. 

Leaders are not unknowable beings who stand head-and-shoulders above their peers. They’re people just like you or me. Many of the skills that make them effective leaders are every bit as valuable to people who aren’t leaders themselves, perhaps even more so. 

Score. Consider. Launch!

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Three Final Steps to Social Entrepreneurship | Social Enterprise Series #5

We’re now at the final three steps on your journey to effective innovation and entrepreneurship in the nonprofit context. If you’re following steps one through eight diligently, steps nine, ten, and 11 will be that much more fruitful. You can find all of the posts in this series here.

9. Screen ideas to shorten the list.

In this step, we shorten the list of ideas (step eight) into something more manageable. At this point we’ll use the criteria you established in step six to score each idea against each criterion. Here is a link for more detailed suggestions about how to go about this, as well as a blank scorecard.

Early on, this scoring process takes a while. In fact, it can take an hour or two to score a couple of ideas. If you’ve got 50 or so ideas, an hour per idea is not feasible. Resist the temptation to shortcut the scoring process! You will find that the scoring goes much faster after the first few because the team becomes more in sync. You’ll begin to weave in each other’s thinking and the team naturally becomes aligned. This only happens if you muddle through the early few without rushing.

Take the higher scoring ideas, say three, to the next step. NOTE: You may find that in some cases a lower-scoring idea is taken to the next step above the others because of group enthusiasm for an idea. So while each criterion, scored individually, may not add up to a number that is near the top, it’s fine to have select ideas leapfrog the others because of the group’s enthusiasm for it. The enthusiasm and passion for an initiative is every bit as important to success as the market considerations. Many an entrepreneur has been successful principally because of his or her grit in seeing it through.

10. Explore the Desirability-Feasibility-Viability (DVF) Loop.

If you’ve heard of or are familiar with human-centered design and design thinking then you’ll recognize elements of the DVF Loop. Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem-solving and it starts with a deep empathy for the people you are seeking to help. Many failures stem from skipping this step. Any flourishing initiative--in any sector--regularly takes the DFV Loop into consideration, prior to and long after launch.

I’ve found the most productive way to work the loop is through a productive questioning strategy. In his book A More Beautiful Question, Warren Berger argues that questioning is a starting point of innovation. “To me, any question that causes people to shift their thinking is a beautiful one,” Berger writes. Questions “...remind you to slow down and think more, to broaden your perspective, to see past biases, creative blocks, and emotional reactions.” Within an adventure team (step three), I’ve found that Socratic questioning techniques are helpful and intuitive, and are central to critical thinking.

For each idea the team is considering, use the following nine questions to get more specific about it.

  1. Who wants what value?
  2. How do they want it?
  3. What does it take to solve the problem or deliver the solution on the customer’s terms?
  4. How can we do it? (assets, know-how, and capacity)
  5. How can we earn the privilege? (sales and marketing)
  6. How do we keep them as a customer? (customer service)
  7. How can we resource it now? (through fees or other means)
  8. How can we resource it in the future? (enduring nature of payer sources)
  9. Will revenues predictably exceed all costs over the long haul, to an extent that makes it worthwhile?

These questions seem straightforward enough; however, they can spark numbers of other questions based on the answers and the nature of the idea being scrutinized. Here is a link to more questions in each category.

Loop Image

The first two questions—the desirability questions—get to the nature of a problem to be solved or desire to be fulfilled for a population. Value is the critical word. If the prospective customer does not perceive value she will not become a paying customer. And, if that paying customer does not receive the value she expected, that customer will not buy again. The goal is to get deep inside the customer’s perspective and the nature of her needs and desires.

The feasibility questions—numbers three through six—get at the core of what it will take to satisfy the demand such that would-be customers select your solution over others. These are technical can-it-be-done questions. Earning the privilege means delivering the value the prospective customer seeks in a way that is at least a little bit better than the alternatives choices. That is, some things are absolutely critical—'must haves’—while other aspects are secondary ‘nice to haves,’ but not critical. Earning the privilege also necessitates being wherever the prospective customer is as she is considering her options. This is marketing’s task. The case must be persuasive enough for the prospective customer to cross over into customerland. This is sale’s task. Once the customer is in the fold the task is to perform excellently so that the now customer chooses your solution again.

The viability questions—numbers seven through nine—determine whether the whole effort is worth it based on the objectives you established in step five. I want to dwell for a moment on the phrase all costs in question nine. It’s tempting to make general allocations for things like ‘overhead’ however this leads to inaccurate costing. General allocations are easy, uniform, and almost always wrong. Better to do the work of careful activities-based cost accounting in advance of making what could be a big commitment. So much can fall apart here by creating financial models that conform to what we’d like to see, as opposed to what’s really there. It’s one of the decision-making biases mentioned in the third post in this series. Prove the costs assumptions, and calibrate them, with trials and smaller rollouts prior to a bigger play.

If the revenue from fees doesn’t meet or exceed the costs, you still have—if the desirability and feasibility areas are solid—a great case to make to donors and grantors for their support provided the social impacts align with their priorities. You’ve demonstrated that you’re a good steward of available resources while, at the same time, you are seeking to generate more resources.

As you go deeper with the investigation of an initiative, prioritize small experiments to test assumptions within the DFV Loop. We’ve learned enough about lean experiments to apply them in our own corners of the world. This approach has proven far more reliable in determining the desirability, feasibility, and viability of a prospective venture (or program) than the more traditional research approaches we’ve become accustomed to.

I recommend that members of the adventure team use their judgment to take a first pass at the DFV Loop questions above. Then, reconvene and compare responses. I shorthand this process as ‘first-level scrutiny.’ This exercise pushes the team to get in alignment around central aspects of the proposed initiative. At this point the team can re-evaluate it against the criteria established in step six. If the idea is still of interest, the team can use their assimilated responses to the questions to determine the best path forward in illuminating its desirability, feasibility, and viability. Any gaps identified contribute to a research action plan. Executing this action plan is what I call ‘second-level scrutiny.’

Again, I recommend running small experiments in any areas that are ‘testable.’ This combined with other research methods will give you a rich sense of the merits. The team can use its judgment as to how much analysis is enough. If the team is balanced as prescribed in steps three and seven, you’ll avoid the analysis paralysis that can plague any of us AND feel comfortable that all aspects are as accounted for as they reasonably could be.

11. Launch and/or cycle to the next idea.

If you backburner or eliminate an idea, as long as step eight is in motion (hint: it should be!), there should always be a set of ideas to take into the DFV Loop. Most ideas won’t pass this gantlet. That’s the nature of it. The more ideas you have, the more likely you will find ones that are optimal fits.

I’ve used the word judgment several times throughout these posts. This is what it boils down to: good judgment. As a leader you’re constantly honing your ability to discern the next best step. Following the steps I’ve outlined in these posts, you’ll dramatically increase your odds of success with new initiatives (be they revenue generators or excellent programs) and develop your ability to discern effectively as well.

We made it! Here’s to 2021. My dream for you and your team is that you not only dream the impossible again, but feel better chasing down those dreams. Thank you once again for all that you do to make our world a better place.

Action steps you can take today
  • Read Dave Parker’s entire series about social entrepreneurship here.

The Art of the Grant

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Ask any visual artist, writer, or musician what the hardest part of their job is and most will tell you that simply generating an income sufficient to allow a full-time focus on art is the overwhelming challenge. Grants, fellowships, and residencies are ways professional artists can bridge gaps in funding needed to pursue creative careers, but the grant landscape itself has funding challenges, and the future of arts funding, particularly in the U.S., is difficult to predict.

The Challenge of Creative Careers

Official data confirm that art careers are financially challenging. The average U.S. musician derives only $21,300 annually from music, according to a survey by The Music Industry Research Association. The low pay isn't confined to the United States. In Australia only 6% of artists report being able to sustain themselves exclusively via their art. Even in France, where art is arguably more appreciated than in most countries, a study by five writers’ organizations revealed that more than a third of the highest earning writers needed second jobs to make ends meet.

In addition, artists, writers, and musicians are particularly apt to engage in unpaid work. A 2018 study entitled Panic! Social Class, Taste and Inequalities in the Creative Industries found that unpaid work within the arts further exacerbates social inequality. Complicating matters are current economic trends—soaring rents, wage stagnation, high individual indebtedness, and an expanding gig economy that offers insecure employment with no benefits or protections. All this makes staying above water difficult, and makes accumulating enough excess capital to invest in career advancement almost impossible.

These sobering facts might make one question the point of working in a creative field at all. But here's the interesting part: a 2018 study by UBS and Art Basel revealed that the global fine art economy grew 12% in the last two years to $63.7 billion in global sales. 2018 music sales rose for the third consecutive year. Book sales went up 5% last year. There is both interest in and money to buy art. But is there money to create it?

Where Is the Support?

With earning power unsteady many artists look for third party support, a tradition that goes back hundreds of years in the form of patronage. Contemporary artists have the option to seek backing via formalized grants. There are numerous sources of cash. Private grants and fellowships provide direct funding, more than a third of public arts agencies offer fiscal assistance, and artist residencies and retreats exist globally.

Residencies

Residencies are varied in style, but typically involve artists living and working away from home in conditions conducive to creativity. The benefits include focusing exclusively on art, working in facilities purpose-built to nurture artistic output, making connections with peers and non-artist figures important in the art world, and gaining wider audiences through professional exposure. Most residencies last in the range of weeks, but some span years.

An example of a well-regarded art residency is the nine-week program offered by the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture in Skowhegan, Maine. Launched in 1947, the program invites six professional artists to act as mentors to residents, while visiting artists pass through to add their expertise to the mix. This residency is notable for teaching the almost lost art of fresco, the Renaissance era technique of painting on wet plaster that gave the world masterpieces like Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Another high profile opportunity is the Can Serrat Residency for writers, located near Barcelona, Spain. It lasts from three weeks to three months and is open to all writers, regardless of nationality or age. A bit of research will turn up scores of art funders touting residencies all over the world. GrantStation maintains a database of opportunities and we’ve shared a small selection below.

Grants

The advantage of grants over residencies is the ability to remain in a familiar work environment and use grant funds for material needs, for example for art supplies. The competition for grants can be stiff. Despite the difficulty artists have sustaining creative careers, anywhere from 1.4 to 2 million people in the U.S. choose to work in the field, depending on who's doing the counting. When amateurs are taken into account, as many as 10 million U.S. citizens receive at least some income from creating art.

Grants are often highly targeted. This specificity of giving can help creative people choose which offerings are appropriate for their needs. For example, Chicken and Egg Pictures, based in New York City and San Francisco, supports women film directors working on feature-length documentaries. Another example is the Canadian art group CUE, which offers grants to artists and writers in Toronto, Canada, who work on the artistic margins. The small list of grant opportunities below gives an idea of the breadth of possibilities.

The Landscape Ahead in the U.S.

Artists seeking funding from U.S. organizations could soon face greater challenges. Giving to the arts by individuals, foundations, and corporations had been growing for years. In 2015, more than a quarter of the American population donated to an arts, culture, or public broadcasting station. But credible studies by numerous organizations predict a decrease in giving due to tax code changes, something on the order of $13 to $21 billion each year, with concomitant drops to organizations supporting the arts.

Another concern for artists is longstanding targeting of art programs for budget cuts. In the U.S. a proposal was floated to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts entirely, or cut its budget by 80%. The impact of such a withdrawal of support would have been enormous, but in the end the funding cuts did not materialize—a short-term appropriations bill actually increased the budget.

Yet the threat of cuts to the NEA never subsides for long. Taking an axe to the agency would have unpredictable ripple effects. Because NEA funding serves as a stamp of quality, every dollar of funding is matched by up to nine dollars in outside support, according to research by Aaron Knochel, Assistant Professor of Art Education at Penn State University. Though the NEA doesn't subsidize individuals, its high profile inspires gifts to arts in general, including to organizations that do support individual artists.

But even if the NEA were eliminated entirely, other government agencies remain in the business of funding the arts. The U.S. Forest Service supports folk art and craft exhibitions, as well as art residency programs. And the U.S. Defense Department spends $400 million annually supporting military bands, an amount some note is well over double the federal contribution to the NEA.

Regardless of how the U.S. funding landscape takes shape, for artists seeking to boost their careers the best time to seek support is always the present. Sustaining an art career often requires artists to use their creativity in more ways than one. The grants landscape is an area where sustained effort can pay big dividends.

Action steps you can take today
  • Click on the links of funders above to learn more about grant and residency offerings.
  • Visit GrantStation's searchable database to access more opportunities for individual artists.
  • Ensure that your NPO budget has room to pay artists appearing at or supporting your special events and fundraisers.
  • Visit GrantStation’s PathFinder for links to related tools, including the 2018 Guide to the National Endowment for the Arts.

A Philanthropy Facts Roundup

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TrendTrack specializes in publishing detailed looks at specific aspects of the charitable giving sector, but in writing articles we contributors often come across curious or interesting data that doesn't make it into our finished pieces. Yet the information is interesting, as well as useful to know. When considered together it is—like the charitable sector itself—more than the sum of its parts. With that in mind, below is a round-up of factoids related to philanthropy and the nonprofit sector.

Giving is contagious
A study by James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis, originally proposed in 2007 and since explored in disciplines as wide ranging as statistics, psychology, and biology, found that altruism inspires others to behave identically. Mathematically speaking, Fowler and Christakis found evidence of a triple multiplier effect—from the original giver to three other people. Their data suggests that each individual in a network of people can ultimately influence dozens or even hundreds of others, even if they have never met them.

Doing good works
About 77 million Americans—30% of the adult population—volunteer. The top four activities in 2017 were fundraising (36%); food collection or distribution (34%); collecting, making, or distributing clothing, crafts, or other goods (26.5%); and mentoring youth (26%). Most people performed their good works for religious organizations (32%), and sport, hobby, cultural, or arts organizations (26%). Smaller percentages directed their efforts toward educational or youth organizations (19%), and civic, political, professional, or international groups (6%).

Charity auctions have long been considered an effective way to get one-percenters to do good. Car auctions are especially effective at opening pockets. In January at a Barrett-Jackson charity auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, a bidder scored a 2019 Ford GT Heritage Edition for $2.5 million, with all the proceeds going to the Southeastern Michigan chapter of the United Way. At the same auction Toyota's first 2020 Supra sold for $2.1 million, which benefitted the American Heart Association and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.

People will occasionally pay for items a bit more esoteric than gaudy street machines. In mid-2018 a notable auction took place on Ebay, in which an anonymous bidder shelled out $3.3 million in order to have lunch with Warren Buffett, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. The auction proceeds went to the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco charity serving the poor, homeless, and those battling substance abuse.

Global generosity
According to the U.K.-based Charities Aid Foundation, Myanmar is the most generous country in the world, as measured by proportion of the population that gives time, money, and aid. According to the study, 91% of Myanmarese reported that they donated money to charity in 2016. The country's generosity is theorized by many to be linked to its Buddhist culture, in which it is common to give food, money, and various other types of support to monks.

According to Charities Aid Foundation's index, the next most generous countries were Indonesia, Malta, Iceland, Thailand, and New Zealand, all of which saw between 65% and 68% of their populations give to charity in 2016. The top ten is rounded out by the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.

The wealth factor
Of course, metrics used to measure something as nebulous as “most generous” vary. Other methodologies, such as those used by the World Giving Index, place Indonesia at the top of the list. And when measured by total wealth given, the United States is way out front, giving $410 billion in 2017, an amount that was more than the GDP of all but about 40 countries.

It sounds like a lot but...
U.S. corporate giving in 2017 was $20.77 billion, which was an 8% increase from the previous year. That sounds like a lot, but total corporate pre-tax profits in that year was about $2.1 trillion, which means corporations collectively gave about 1% of their profits to charity. To put it in perspective, U.S. companies give less of a percentage of their annual income to charity than regular citizens do—about half as much.

Geographical variations
Different regions of the U.S. give different amounts to charity. According to WalletHub, the least charitable state in the union in 2018 was Nevada, which is rather a surprise, considering all the money taken in at its gambling tables. How much? $1.06 billion in profit, according to the state's Gaming Control Board. That was a nearly 7.5% increase compared to 2017. At the opposite end of the scale, the most generous states were Minnesota, Utah, and New York.

Also in the category of geographical variation is the curious fact that Hinsdale County, Colorado, a region of fewer than 900 permanent residents living in and around a town called Lake City, has the highest ratio of nonprofits to people in the United States. According to data published by academics Robert Christensen and Rebecca Nesbit, for some reason Hinsdale County, billed as “the most remote in the contiguous 48 states” according to the Lake City website, has a nonprofit coverage of 12.65 per 1,000 people.

Christensen and Nesbit's data also shows that nonprofit coverage dips dramatically the farther into the traditional South one goes in the U.S. The vast majority of southern counties have a nonprofit coverage of less than 0.5 per 1,000 people.

The rise of China
According to Forbes magazine, China now has 324 billionaires, up from 64 in 2010 (but down from a high of 372 in 2018). Amongst this wealthy cohort are mega-donors in areas such as medicine and education. And several, such as the high profile couple Tianqiao Chen and Chrissy Luo, who control Shanda Interactive Entertainment Limited, have even added to their focus charitable giving in the U.S., particularly in the area of brain science.

Charitable donations from the top 100 philanthropists in China more than tripled between 2010 and 2016, reaching $4.6 billion. During the decade spanning 2006 to 2016, the number of registered foundations rose to 5,545, a 430% increase. The boost is partly credited to the government's enactment of new charity laws designed to resemble those in the United States. The new legislation eased foundation registration procedures, introduced new tax incentives, and expanded the definition of charitable activities.

Good for a laugh
According to the 2018 report Foundation Giving Trends, in the U.K. the third most prolific independent charitable foundation in terms of cash given was Comic Relief, with nearly £100 million in grants distributed. In addition, the fund possesses another £94 million in assets.

And the not-so-funny
Of the companies listed on Britain's FTSE 100 Index (the 100 companies with the highest market capitalization on the London Stock Exchange), only 26 donated at least 1% of their profits to charity in 2016. On the whole, charitable donations by FTSE 100 companies have fallen 11% since 2014.

Jobs aplenty
There were 1.56 million nonprofits registered with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as of 2015, and those organizations employed 11.9 million people—or about 10% of the American workforce. But the total number of nonprofits operating in the States is actually unknown. Religious congregations and organizations with less than $5,000 in gross receipts are not required to register with the IRS, which means the 1.56 million figure, as well as the number of people employed, is low.

Not only is the charitable sector a volume employer—it's expanding. The Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies shows that the nonprofit sector's rate of job growth is more than three times greater than that in the for-profit sector. Between 2007 and 2016, nonprofit employment grew by almost 17% while for-profit employment grew by less than 5%.

Oversight is overlooked
Monitoring of the nonprofit sector is a matter left to individual states, and most states have fewer than three full-time employees working on it. In total, there are a few hundred people charged with overseeing one of the largest employment sectors in the country.

There you have it. If you ever find yourself at a pub quiz and the category is the global nonprofit sector, you're now equipped with enough trivia to help you win. In a field so large and diverse, facts like these come up often. Presenting them in this way, touching on many subjects in brief, can be helpful in stimulating thought and providing a fresh perspective on the field in which we all spend so much time.

Action steps you can take today
  • Take a look at nonprofit density per 1,000 people in every county of the United States on the interactive map at this link.
  • Visit the Pathfinder website and browse the Articles and Reports section to discover more interesting facts related to the nonprofit sector.
  • Read the James Fowler study about influenced giving here.

Grantseeking Facts and Findings

| GS INSIGHTS

This year’s State of Grantseeking Survey had over 2,800 respondents, and their grantseeking experiences can help inform your grantseeking experience. Here are some takeaways from the 2019 State of Grantseeking Report.

The individuals who took part in the survey on grantseeking are actively engaged in grantseeking. If you are not yet involved in grantseeking, these benchmarks can serve as guides or goals as you embark on a grants program for your organization.

Last year, 90% percent of respondents applied for grant funding, and among those organizations, 74% reported that one to two people were directly involved with the grant process. Compared to the same period in the prior year, 53% of respondents applied for more grants and 44% were awarded more grants. In addition, 41% reported the receipt of larger awards.

Active grantseeking results in more grant awards – simply put, apply more to win more.  Applying for at least three grant awards increased the frequency of winning an award. Twenty-five percent of organizations that submitted one application won no awards. However, only 6% of organizations that submitted three to five applications won no awards, and 2% or fewer of organizations that submitted six or more applications won no awards.

And certainly, the more applications one writes the more experience one gains. Even not winning an award can be turned into a valuable experience if you are willing to dig into what didn’t work and learn from it. For example, a perfectly good application for an excellent program will still be turned down if your location is outside of the grantmaker’s stated geographic scope, or if it is submitted past the due date, or if does not fall within the grantmaker’s interest areas. This seems obvious, but our grantmakers tell us that type of basic error occurs daily – so do your research homework before applying!

Although competition for a specific grant award can be stiff, organizations that make grantseeking a priority do win awards. Let’s look at some award size information:

  • Total awards of $100,000 or more were reported by 56% of respondents.
  • The median of total grant funding was $160,000; the median largest individual award was $69,100.
  • The median largest award from non-government funders was $35,000 (an aggregate of private foundations, community foundations, corporate grantmakers, and “other” funding sources).
  • The median largest award from government funders (an aggregate of local, state, and federal government) was $223,450.

I’m sure you all know the phrase “one of these things is not like the other” – well, that is especially true for nonprofit organizations and expected award sizes. Two things, your annual budget size and your mission focus have a major impact on grant award amounts.

Organizations with larger annual budgets consistently reported larger award sizes. Median total awards ranged from $9,600 for small organizations with budgets under $100,000 to over $4 million for extra-large organizations with budget over $25 million. The median size of the largest individual award ranged from about $7,350 for small organizations to $1 million for extra-large organizations. You can see how important it is to manage the expectations of your board and stakeholders so that your grantseeking success is compared to that of similar organizations. So even though I previously stated the median largest award from non-government funders was $35,000, if you are a small organization you can be proud of an award of $7,350.

Award sizes also vary by organizational mission focus. For example, educational institutions reported a median award total of $6.7 million, while animal-related organizations reported a median award total of $19,000. The median size of the largest individual award ranged from $10,000 for animal-related organizations to over $1 million for educational institutions.

Thus, it is terribly important to obtain fair and accurate benchmarks that reflect your organization’s budget and mission when “grading” your own grantseeking success.

Grantmakers are making awards – make sure that you are engaged in grantseeking for your organization!

Action steps you can take today

Nonprofit Annual Reports: Four Strategies for You to Remember

| GS INSIGHTS

Your nonprofit accomplishes a lot in the course of a year. Telling your supporters about these accomplishments and the impact of their contributions is a great way to express your gratitude and to show them the value of their support. 

Your annual report is one of the most effective methods to communicate the story of the impact of their gifts. This document gives you the opportunity to provide donors with the financial information for the year and tell them what those finances accomplished. 

This year, nonprofit annual reports are especially important. Expressing to supporters the steps that you took during the COVID-19 pandemic to keep doors open and continue serving your constituents will be vital information to communicate. This will likely make up a substantial portion of your report.

Too many nonprofits fail to make the most of their annual reports each year. These resources are a great way to increase trust and transparency among supporters. 

In order to ensure your nonprofit crafts an awesome and effective nonprofit annual report this year, we recommend the following strategies: 

  1. Include vital annual report data. 
  2. Pick a smart reporting platform. 
  3. Don’t exclude financial data. 
  4. Discuss your nonprofit’s projects. 

Ready to learn more about annual reports and how to help yours succeed? Let’s dive deeper!

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1. Include vital annual report data.

Every year, your nonprofit needs to report on your financial standing and other organizational information through your Form 990. Because these forms are publicly available, nonprofit supporters and donors can access this information to learn more about your organization’s overhead and leadership. 

However, the annual nonprofit tax forms don’t provide adequate space for explaining projects, campaigns, and other measures of success. Therefore, crafting your own annual report in addition to the official form is an important measure to take for effective and complete communication with supporters. 

As you can see in the image below, the ingredients that make up the recipe for an effective annual report include your organization’s mission, financial information, project reports, and major donor appreciation.

Example

But what does this actually look like? 

Your organization’s name and mission statement are standard elements to include in your annual report. They’re unchanging and easily added. However, the other ingredients to the winning recipe might seem a little more confusing. Here’s how we recommend including vital information: 

  • Nonprofit financial information. Tell supporters exactly what they want to know. It’s a good idea to make the information readily available and easy to read. A simple pie chart visually expresses your overhead expenses compared to program costs. Break down your overhead by operational expenses, fundraising expenses, and other expenses for additional explanation. Similarly, break down your programming costs by specific projects and initiatives.
  • Nonprofit project report. Let supporters know about the specific projects and programs you’ve accomplished or are working towards. This acts as a progress report so that supporters aren’t left in the dark about the campaigns they’ve been part of. For example, if you started a program to tutor underprivileged kids at a local elementary school, tell supporters when the program launched, how many kids you’re helping, and results you’ve seen from the tutoring program. Or, if you’ve launched a capital campaign, tell supporters how close you are to reaching your goal. 
  • Major donor appreciation. Your annual report is a perfect place to give a shout out to your major donors. It allows your entire community of supporters to recognize the major efforts, which helps communicate your gratitude publicly. Consider conducting a small interview of a particular major supporter to dive deeper into their motivations to give, the campaigns they’ve supported, and their personal connections to your nonprofit. Be sure to save this donor information in that donor’s profile within your CRM so that you can reference it later. 

As mentioned earlier, this year’s report will likely also include information about COVID-19 and the actions that your nonprofit took to ensure safety and continue operations. While this isn’t a usual section that you would include, it’s important to mention that extreme external circumstances, such as the global pandemic, should not be ignored in your annual report. This is especially true if the external circumstances had a direct impact on your regular activities. 

Your annual report is an incredible opportunity for your nonprofit to express a comprehensive review of your annual activities. Be sure to clearly express the data that supporters want to see and to use the communication platform strategically.

Header 2

2. Pick a smart reporting platform. 

As nonprofit software and technology have advanced over time, so has our potential for creative annual reporting. 

Annual reports used to primarily be in a physical book format that was sent out to all (or a select group of) supporters through direct mail. Not only is this expensive, but not all of your supporters are likely to find this format engaging. They may lose focus partway through and never absorb all of the information you’ve included. 

That’s why we recommend choosing a platform (or a couple of platforms) that your supporters are more likely to engage with. Plus, this is a great opportunity to save some additional funds. 

Some of the platforms that your nonprofit might consider for your annual report include: 

  • Classic book. Many of your supporters, particularly your more traditional ones, will still prefer receiving a book format of your annual report. Consider, also, sending this book to offices and places where prospective supporters may come across it and start reading, such as doctor and dentist offices.
  • Online PDF. If you use the book format for your annual report, we also recommend you create an online version of the publication as a PDF. The well-designed report can be published on your website and emailed out to your supporters. This saves money that would have otherwise been spent on additional printing and mailing of report booklets. 
  • Video. If you’re feeling especially creative, you may consider publishing your annual report in a video format. This is a highly engaging format that draws in your supporters and engages them with minimal effort on their part. However, if you decide to film a video, keep in mind that you’ll need a high-quality video camera and a well-practiced editor to make sure the report is professional looking. 
  • Postcard or self-mailer. Postcards and self-mailers are great if your audience prefers direct mail, but may not want to page through an entire book. These are condensed versions of your annual report that highlights the most sought-after information for supporters. If you go this route, we recommend that you also post a full-length report online and direct supporters to it within the direct mail if they’re looking for additional information. 

Survey your supporters to ask them which annual report format they’d prefer. Save this information in your donor database and create specific segments for each response so that you know how to best communicate the information to them. Bloomerang’s donor database guide explains how you can use your donor profiles and segmentation strategies in situations like this.

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3. Don’t exclude financial data. 

One of the fatal flaws that nonprofits run into for their annual report is excluding key financial data. If you had a fundraising campaign that didn’t hit its goal or a project that was more expensive than anticipated, it can be tempting to try to cover up these little blunders. 

However, if you exclude financial information from your annual report, your nonprofit risks coming across as insincere, nontransparent, and untrustworthy. 

Make sure to include all relevant financial information in your annual report, whether it’s good or bad at first glance. If you do have a few blunders from the year, you can use your annual report to communicate some additional context that will ease donors’ minds about the situation. Some of our favorite strategies to add context include: 

  • Explain what went wrong. Sometimes, there are things outside of our control that impact goals and plans. For example, your capital campaign may have been put on hold with the downturn of the economic climate. Explaining that the economic crisis forced you to postpone plans is a justification that supporters will understand. 
  • Tell donors how you handled the situation. Explain to your donors the remedial actions you took the moment that things started going wrong. To use the capital campaign example again, you may have lined up calls with your major supporters to confirm their continued interest in the campaign. This can act as an expanded feasibility study but would also help ensure a successful campaign when it is launched. 
  • Express how things will be different in the future. This simply shows donors that you’re always learning as an organization. If you’ve postponed your capital campaign this year, you may decide to include a contingency plan for future campaigns, explaining how you’d handle unexpected situations and stay on track. Tell donors about the progress of this plan and how it will help handle similar problems in the future. 

To confirm you don’t leave something out of the report by mistake, talk to your accountant to make sure you’ve collected all relevant information that you should include.

Jitasa’s review of working with a nonprofit accountant explains how your financial expert goes over your accounts to catch incorrect information and makes sure everything is complete on the financial side of things. Working with this individual for your annual report can also ensure the data you communicate is accurate and complete.

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4. Discuss your nonprofit’s projects.

When you talk about your nonprofit’s projects in your annual report, this is an opportunity to brag about everything you’ve accomplished. Compare the information for your annual report to your nonprofit’s strategic plan (a guide for which you can find here). This will show you what you planned vs. what you accomplished during this year. 

While your strategic plan may not be public knowledge, it’s always good to have a comparison point for your own team’s analysis. It can also remind you of the various activities you completed earlier in the year, which may have escaped your mind at the end of the year. 

When you talk about your nonprofit’s various projects and programming activities, be sure to: 

  • Explain exactly what the program does. Be specific in what the program or project is as well as how it does. How many people are impacted? Is there a specific story of an individual you can draw on? Process and impact are key elements to include in your explanation. 
  • Talk about how it relates to your mission. Relate everything back to your mission. Even if it seems obvious how the project connects to your overall mission, reiterate the point for your readers. This ensures they keep your mission at the center of their attention while they read. 
  • Communicate plans for the future. Tell supporters how you plan to keep the program going and continue making it better for the future. This reminds them that the job of your organization is never done. It also gives them an actionable “next step” to keep contributing to that particular project in the future for your nonprofit’s continued success and growth

When you talk about your projects, make sure to put it in terms that further congratulate your supporters for their help. Saying things like, “Your generous contribution helped provide 100 children with backpacks for the upcoming school year” shows donors the impact of their dollars. After all, you couldn’t run many of your successful programs without their help and funding! 

Nonprofit annual reports are incredible opportunities for organizations to express their successes, provide context for blunders, and to show their donors that they care. These tips are the first step to ensuring your report is as successful as possible. Good luck! 

Action steps you can take today
  • Conduct research in your donor database to decide what annual report format is best for your organization. 
  • Check out the links throughout this article to complete additional research and start planning for your annual report.

What the For the People Act Means for the Nonprofit Sector

| GS INSIGHTS

In early March, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the For the People Act—also known as H.R.1—by a ten-vote margin largely along party lines, with all congressional Democrats save one voting for it, along with both independents, and all Republicans voting against. The bill is understood by the public to be mainly a voting rights and campaign finance reform bill, but every piece of prospective legislation that comes out of Congress is filled with complexities. This one has items that impact directly upon 501(c)(4) nonprofits.

While 501(c)(4)s are allowed to engage in political campaign activities, their primary purpose must be to promote the common good and social welfare. Some 501(c)(4)s push right up to boundary of this rule by spending precisely 49% of their resources on electioneering. 501(c)(3) organizations, by contrast, are prohibited from engaging in any political campaign activities, though they can, according to the IRS, “conduct educational meetings, prepare and distribute educational materials, or otherwise consider public policy issues in an educational manner.”

Up until 2018 nonprofit organizations of all types were required to disclose the identities of people who donated $5,000 or more. But in July of that year, the IRS and the U.S. Department of the Treasury suspended the requirement. Opponents of the disclosure rule had long claimed that the burdens and costs of collecting the information outweighed any benefits, an assessment with which some IRS officials agreed. But as with anything in the political sphere, it's all a matter of perspective.

Objections against collecting donor information centered not only on cost and effort, but the potential for accidental public release of private information, which in turn could increase the threat of harassment donors might face—no small concern in this era of bitter partisanship, outing, and doxxing. But ditching the reporting requirement allowed donors to anonymously funnel large sums of money to 501(c)(4)s. It also removed any guardrails against the influx of foreign money. Accepting funds from a non-U.S. citizen or green card holder is illegal, but after July 2018 nobody could know whether a 501(c)(4) was taking in foreign money except the 501(c)(4) itself. H.R.1 would change that by requiring 501(c)(4)s to disclose to the IRS the identities of anyone giving more than $10,000 per election cycle.

Notably, H.R.1 would also create a new category of regulated speech—that which promotes, attacks, supports, or opposes candidates or elected officials (dubbed PASO by some). The PASO requirement stems from what Democrats see as a loophole in current campaign finance law, whereby ads do not have to be reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) as electioneering if they are run outside certain time periods and don't expressly tell citizens for whom to vote. In practice, this means ads that don't contain specific phrases like “vote for” aren't classified as campaigning.

What percentage of political ads manage to slip through this loophole? One analysis showed that in 2020, $38 million out of the $41 million spent on ads by the Democratic-aligned nonprofit Majority Forward was not required to be reported to the FEC. The PASO requirement throws a loop around any 501(c)(4) originated ads that promote, attack, support, or oppose candidates, radically shifting the ratio of what legally qualifies as campaigning.

There are several exceptions to the new reporting requirements. Nonprofits would not have to report the identities of donors if that person restricted usage of the money (for example specifying it cannot be used for campaign ads), the funds were received during the course of normal business, or if disclosure would result in harassment or reprisal. This last provision is intended to assuage the concerns of modern privacy advocates, but actually has roots that extend back decades to when supporters of organizations such as the NAACP sometimes risked their jobs and physical security, but were finally protected thanks to federal court decisions dealing with donor privacy and freedom of association.

As noted earlier, H.R.1 is Democrat-backed, and Republicans are united in opposition. Critics on the right believe the law simply gives the IRS too much power. Many also say it would restrict political speech and activity, including by nonprofits, with some suggesting that federal overreach could see PASO speech parameters eventually applied even to 501(c)(3) groups engaged in what is currently legally protected advocacy. Yet another criticism has to do with H.R.1's vague language around danger to donors. Donor information would be withheld in cases where harassment or reprisals were likely, but how can this be known unless the donor has already suffered harassment or reprisal?

However, a nagging problem for Republican opposition is that American citizens of all stripes are concerned about the effect of dark money on elections, an area in which 501(c)(4)s undeniably specialize. As of January 2021, about 67% of likely voters across the political spectrum were in favor of passing the law, with 56% of registered Republican voters in the yea column, along with 77% of registered Democrats.

As of this writing, H.R.1 is under consideration in the U.S. Senate, where it's named S.1. If passed, the law would have a profound effect on how 501(c)(4) nonprofits do business. Such groups have spent more than $1 billion on federal elections over the last decade, and just as in the case of Majority Forward, many of those expenditures weren't categorized as electioneering because the groups were adept working around campaign finance rules by avoiding specific phrases, and airing ads during time periods not covered by existing laws.

Of course, for nonprofits the only pertinent question is whether H.R.1 actually has a chance to make it through the Senate and to President Joe Biden's desk, where he has already promised to provide his signature. In its current form the odds are slim. There's no clear indication that 48 Democratic senators plus the two independents who caucus with them will all vote for the bill, and no indication they could overcome Republican filibustering in any case.

But whether it passes or not, H.R.1 represents one of the increasingly rare occasions where public sentiment and legislative priority are in some semblance of alignment. Whatever the fate of the bill, the momentum toward reining in dark money is growing, both among the general voting public and on the Democratic side of Congress, which means 501(c)(4) organizations probably haven't seen the last of legislation aimed directly at them.

Action steps you can take today