A group of foundations and other donors have pooled their resources to provide grants and loans that help progressive causes test new fundraising ideas or expand existing money-raising efforts.
The Progressive Multiplier Fund, as the new grant-making entity is called, has raised more than $2 million to be distributed in the next 12 months. Already the six-month-old fund has made two grants of totaling $50,000 to test new fundraising ideas.
Larger loans will be made to organizations seeking to expand promising fundraising programs. In those cases, a charity would repay the loan, which is called a “recoverable grant,” and keep anything over the amount it borrowed. If an organization fails to earn enough to repay the loan, the Progressive Multiplier Fund will forgive the shortfall.
The next deadline for grant and loan applicants is October 19.
“The challenge social change groups face is that they need new ways to generate revenue,” says Linda Wood, a senior director with the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, which donated $125,000 to the Progressive Multiplier Fund. “Smaller groups are especially limited,” Wood says. “Midsize groups underinvest in fundraising, and even large groups leave money on the table. A lot of boards and nonprofit executives are reluctant to invest in fundraising.”
Haas has been working on strengthening fundraising for a while now, a focus that’s rare among grantmakers even as they constantly push nonprofits to become more sustainable. The foundation has generated a number of reports and blog posts on this topic in the past few years. On its website, it says: “We’re taking an integrated approach to strengthening fund development—based on the belief that mobilizing people and raising resources are both forms of power building.”
One of the two initial grants from the new fund went to an organization that provides pro bono legal assistance to people who could otherwise not afford it. The organization is testing the viability of charging fees for courses that provide instruction to attorneys, some of whom participate in its work.
The other grant went to a membership organization with many people over the age of 55. That group is testing a new program that enables members to create a will free of charge online and, in doing so, to leave a portion of their estate to the organization.
As it makes grants and loans, the Progressive Multiplier Fund plans to report on the success—or failure—of the payments so that organizations can learn which fundraising methods work and which ones struggle.
To help organizations interested in applying for a fundraising grant or loan, the Progressive Multiplier Fund is holding free one-hour webinars on the following dates: November 7, December 5, and January 2.
The Progressive Multiplier Fund has set four grant and loan application deadlines for 2019: January 18, April 19, July 19, and October 18. Applicants can apply online, after creating an account.