Can’t you just get a grant for that?
This is the refrain I’ve heard so many times over a career in nonprofits. It is a legitimate question many well-meaning donors, volunteers and board members have asked over the years. The answer, of course, is not so straightforward.
Can you get a grant without my support? Maybe.
Will my donation help? Most definitely.
Grants are an important part of any organization’s funding strategy. Grants of $100,000 are not uncommon, making them larger than most individual donors are able to match. This makes it tempting to think that they are the solution to all nonprofit problems. The truth is that individuals giving and foundations grants aren’t an either / or proposition, but go together like peanut butter and jelly.*
Gifts from ordinary people are the lifeblood of nonprofit work (about 72 percent of total gift giving comes from individuals.) They allow organizations the freedom to pursue their mission without the restrictions placed on grants. They represent a public investment in the mission. Just because a donation isn’t large, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter: if a nonprofit were a body, grants would be the heart and individual donations would be the blood.
Still not convinced? Individuals gave $359 billion in 2014. Foundations and Corporations combined to give $72 billion last year. When it comes to charitable giving and the ability to push nonprofits forward, no one has more power than you.
Here’s where charitable giving hits home for the Coalition for Clean Air. Donations from individuals last year were the highest in the three previous. Those gifts helped us finish our fiscal year and hire new staff in the current fiscal year. With your support, the Coalition for Clean Air is growing again!
In my roundabout path to the Coalition for Clean Air, I’ve had the luxury of working for environmental, cultural and social service focused organizations. While they all share the need for more individual donors to support their work, this is where equity stops. Giving to environmental organizations, like CCA,** accounts for just 3% of all gifts! Considering the fact that climate change has been called the greatest threat to this generation, I know we can do better!
This giving Tuesday, I’d like to ask you to help us move the sector forward by giving to your favorite environmental organization. Whether it is one of our many partners or the Coalition for Clean Air, I thank you in advance for your support. Together, we can restore clean, healthy air to California and begin to turn the clock back on climate change.
* Foundations now look at the number of individual donors as part of their decision making process.
** Though we may be classified as an environmental organization, we look at our work through a public health lens.