- By Stephen Silha
- Stephen Silha, a former Monitor reporter, is a free-lance writer and consultant based in Washington State. In today's economy, with many nonprofit organizations dying and social service agencies floundering, fund raising is a magic word. Consultants draw high fees for shaking money trees. Some time spent with fund-raising books reveals that the best trees are often close to home, sometimes growing in your own yard. And, with planning, you can shake them yourself. Most organizations fail to assess their opportunities and end up spinning their wheels by looking for foundation grants, asserts Howard Hillman in The Art of Winning Foundation Grants. The book not only tells how to apply for grants, but how and when notm to apply. This trilogy of books by Mr. Hillman provides a lucid look at grantsmanship, which is simply written yet avoids the oversimplification found in most how-to books. The books give good advice: ''Foundation executives almost always react negatively to outside pressure.'' ''Government contacts need not be highly placed as long as they are well placed.'' Mr. Hillman tells how to read The Foundation Grants Index and other specialized books, and gives samples of everything from a good grant proposal to a letter written to a foundation or corporation that turns you down. He constantly reminds the would-be grant recipient to ''reverse the roles'' - think about what's in it for the funding source. His tone is upbeat, encouraging , easy to understand, and generally jargon-free. The book on government grants spends a deserved amount of space listing various federal agencies, and even tells how to write for information and read federal publications. Seven pages offer small-type explanations of the government's alphabet soup of agencies and code names (CBO, DBL, IREX, NCSBCS, R&D, and RD&D, to name a few.) Mr. Hillman may have been dazed by reading government regulations when he wrote this sentence: ''Larger-scale grant-seeking operations, however, should prepare a detailed plan of action if efficiency is to be maximized and internal personnel complex minimized.'' Elsewhere, he gives excellent instructions on how not to write like that. Of Mr. Hillman's three books, the one on corporate giving may be the most useful to nonprofit groups who find foundation and government coffers dwindling or closed. His list of ''10 Keys to the Corporate Treasury,'' including an illuminating debate on the pros and cons of corporate giving, is the most realistic and comprehensive I've seen on the subject. That and his list of questions evaluators ask could benefit corporate grantmakers as much as grant seekers. Despite high expectations for corporate giving, Mr. Hillman explains that there's little reason for corporations to give unless the gift somehow boosts profits. He says influential supporters are almost mandatory, and that getting information from companies on philanthropic matters is a ''frustrating if not impossible process.'' Still, he ticks off a superb shopping list of noncash materials which companies give routinely. And he suggests many other ways, besides grants, in which businesses can help nonprofits - prizes, loaned executives, advertising, or marketing help. All three books use a step-by-step approach that removes to some degree the grantmaking mystique. Because these books were published between 1975 and 1980, a number of his exhaustive listings are out of date: The Council on Foundations moved from New York to Washington, and the elaborately explained Department of Health, Education, and Welfare has split up. Still, the principles remain. But alas, grants are fickle. Regardless of their source, they can't be trusted to keep nonprofit and community groups alive over time. By far, more giving comes from individuals. So, the Woman's Day Book of Fund Raising and The Grass Roots Fundraising Book both take stabs at those most important local means of monetary survival: dues, donations, benefits, products, sales, shows, ''a-thons,'' services, parties, and publications. While the ''Woman's Day'' book is slicker and in some places more readable, it is also more theoretical than Joan Flanagan's book, now in a second 1982 edition. Both books contain a lot of the same information. ''Woman's Day'' quotes extensively from ''Grass Roots,'' and it assumes that the reader is a middle-class woman. It gives neat summaries at the end of each chapter - and includes a chapter on telephone solicitation. ''Grass Roots,'' while sometimes repetitious and occasionally preachy, distills more information, more facts and figures, and a much more complete list of resources. Its bias against ''greedy multinational corporations'' doesn't get in the way of its time-tested ideas for how to save money, keep records, make long-range plans, and have fun while bringing in money for a good cause. Joan Flanagan emphasizes the pragmatic aspects of fund raising: how long it takes to make a profit, how expensive direct-mail techniques can pay off over time, how easy it is to raise money from members (people who need your services) and believers (people who believe in what you're doing), compared with the general public (where you get into such ''indirect'' techniques as bake sales, etc.). She pushes simplicity and self-reliance: ''Why sell somebody else's fruitcake and make 30 percent when you can run your own bake booth and make 100 percent?'' Yet Ms. Flanagan constantly exhorts the reader to ask, ask - ask for advice to avoid making unnecessary, or expensive, mistakes. She herself claims to incorporate the ideas of 800 people into the book. Its section on failures, while short, is particularly good. She gives constructive advice on ''how to rebound from a fundloser,'' and consoles readers with some of her own disasters: the cash box stolen from a costume party, the day 600 pounds of chicken spoiled at the barbecue, and more. The best defense, she says, is a good offense; her book is rich with advice on planning for success. One flaw is the book's typography; its subheadings are sometimes inconsistent and confusing. But the book is well indexed, and the quality of information makes up for the flaw. Where she doesn't give details, she tells you where to get them. After reading example after example of groups that started with $125 bake sales and now raise $25,000 a year from members, you sense there are more money trees to be shaken, even in hard times.
The Art of Winning Government Grants, by Howard Hillman. New York: Vanguard Press. 246 pp. $8.95. The Art of Winning Corporate Grants, by Howard Hillman. New York: Vanguard Press. 180 pp. $8.95. Woman's Day Book of Fund Raising, by Perri and Harvey Ardman. New York: St. Martin's Press. 313 pp. $13.95.
The Grass Roots Fundraising Book, by Joan Flanagan. Chicago: Contemporary Books. 344 pp. $8.95.