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Monthly Archives: July 2013

Notes from the Philanthropist and the state of youth in Canada

There’s a lot of concern about today’s youth. From Time Magazine’s unsavory portrayal of Millennials to cartoonist Matt Bors’ witty rebuttal, inter-generational anxiety seems to be at an all time high.   Fortunately, this topic was examined with a great deal of candour and respect in the latest issue of Canadian non-profit journal The Philanthropist. Guest editors Irwin Elman and Fred Mathews with their assembled authors weighed in on the challenges and rewards that lie in bridging the widening gap between young people and the philanthropic organizations that seek to serve and engage them.

With a sharp decline in donations and volunteerism between generations and with the perceived lack of opportunities for youth to voice their concerns, the questions raised in this issue will only continue to grow in importance over the coming years. This week we highlight a part of this wider conversation –  how can nonprofits engage with young people?

Barriers to Equality

It can be difficult for young people to feel valued and respected in the third sector. A re-occurring complaint from young leaders is a persistent feeling of subordination within nonprofit and governmental organizations. Joanne Cave suggests that rampant tokenism and managerial hierarchies are to blame, resulting in a failure on the part of the third sector to provide youth with any sense of ownership over the process of change. This sentiment is echoed in Jocelyn Formsma‘s appraisal of this problem among indigenous youth, noting that the unique perspectives of young people are persistently ignored in one-directional mentorship opportunities, board meetings and public forums. Challenging the assumption that experience follows from age could be an important step towards gaining greater youth participation, to even better effect.

Using the Right Message

A different issue altogether seems to lie in the types of messages with which we try to reach young people. Fred Mathews points out that this media-saturated demographic has a low tolerance for insincerity, judgement, and special appeals. A quotidian rather than emotionally alarmist approach may actually be more effective in reaching Gen Y donors and volunteers.

Participation by Any Other Name

Another issue raised in this conversation concerns the forum through which youth engagement takes place. While social media has attracted a lot of buzz within the fundraising world and beyond, April McAllister suggests that presents the ideal avenue with which to increase youth interaction on their own terms. This is no small task, however. As Keenane Wellar notes, an artificial or sporadic use of social media can appear inauthentic to youth, thereby disincentivizing their support and engagement.

Inviting New Perspectives

A good avenue to welcome and integrate new perspectives in your organization may be as simple as hiring more young people. As Mathews notes, nonprofits that target youth should think seriously about reflecting the populations they serve in their own staff. From summer jobs and internships to youth-run programs and grant-making initiatives, providing (and paying for) leadership opportunities will bring new voices into your organization and can cultivate the next generation of philanthropically-engaged professionals. Moreover, these initiatives could be cheaper than you think – check in on Thursday for a special Opportunity Watch highlighting wage subsidy programs available for young hires.


This snapshot only offers part of the picture. You can find more via The Philanthropist, but we’d also like to hear from you. What have been your experiences engaging with and adapting to youth in your organization?

Opportunity Watch: Funding International Development

In this week’s Opportunity Watch, we thought we’d focus on funders that offer grants to organizations committed to international development, social justice and humanitarian efforts.

Based in PEI, the Campbell Webster Foundation supports registered Canadian charities who work in support of social justice and economic equity in Latin America, as well as in Atlantic Canada. Priority is given to projects emphasizing sustainable development.  Examples of previous grants include a women’s community leadership programming in Honduras and an access to justice program in Peru.  The deadline for applying each year is March.  Check their website for more information on what to include in your application.

The Manitoba Council for International Cooperation is a coalition of organizations involved in international development.   It considers funding projects that address a wide range of issues, such as education, literacy, job creation, agriculture, the environment, micro-enterprise business development and health in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Visit their website for more information, application forms and deadlines for applying to the different funds available.

The Global Fund for Women works to advance rights of women and girls worldwide by increasing the resources and investing in women-led organizations and women’s collective leadership for change.  They provide grants to organizations that support women in one of five specific regions: Sub-Sahara Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, Asia Pacific, Europe/Central Asia and Middle East/North Africa.   Their current granting period just closed but they will begin accepting applications again as of September 15th, so visit their website for more information.

If you’re working in international development, give us a call at 1-888-406-2524 to schedule a free Fundtracker demo.  We’ll show you how easy it is to identify new funders using filters that allow you to select specific geographic regions and target populations.


Tips for Ethical Storytelling in Fundraising

Last week’s blog entry shared five tips on storytelling for fundraisers. This week, however, we thought we’d focus on another concern of fundraisers: how to tell stories ethically, in a way that empowers both our audience and our subjects – and still demonstrates need to potential funders.

You’re probably familiar with this commercial: it begins with someone down on their luck. The camera zooms in close to focus on the desperation in their eyes, while the voiceover tells a bleak story full of past mistakes, disability, hunger or need. Suddenly, the scene shifts from this individual to a charity or program that could help them. The tone of the story brightens and the viewers receive a powerful call to action. They donate to the charity and the story gets a happy ending, right?

But wait- what about the actual person we first met, whose obvious need stirred our emotions? What happens when they’re recognized on the street, or in a job interview?

The stories and images we share can come back to haunt people long after they’ve served as our characters and subjects. The effects of this legacy, particularly in the employment prospects, social esteem or physical safety of an individual, can be permanent. If you ever feel that there might be a risk attached to telling a story, particularly if you work with vulnerable populations, consider the following tips:

  •  Be upfront about your intentions when approaching someone for their tale, and do your due diligence in informing them about any potential consequences (be it unanticipated exposure or the potential loss of anonymity).
  • Changing names and details for the sake of anonymity is a good idea, and should always be offered as a professional courtesy, if not standard policy.
  • Be sure to obtain informed consent before publishing anything directly from an individual, be it image, biography or quote.
  • Consider sharing the authorship of the story. A participatory approach to fundraising has the potential to further empower those who are sharing and can make for very personable appeals.
  • Don’t write your character as a helpless victim. Not only does this lend itself to poor storytelling, it risks re-enforcing power inequalities. Instead, strive to write stories that your subjects would feel confident sharing with people they respect.

Now that you’re ready to write a powerful story for prospective funders, give us a call at 1-888-406-2524.  We can show just how easy it is to identify new prospects using multiple search filters and the most up-to-date giving histories available today.

Opportunity Watch: Funding community cycling

Here at Ajah, we love our bikes. Through snow, rain and sweltering summer heat, you’ll find most of us peddling to work with a smile on our faces. This week we thought we’d say thank you to Canada’s community cycling associations by highlighting some funding opportunities for anyone looking to put more bikes on the road or just make the urban air a little easier to breath.

Environment Canada’s EcoAction Community Funding Program is a nation-wide source of matching funding for new community projects with measurable impacts on the environment. They look for evidence of strong local participation and skill building in their evaluation criteria (and what could be better than a community bike workshop?). Applications are due November 1st via Environment Canada’s website or regional offices.

Mountain Equipment Co-op has two granting programs that may be of interest to urban cyclists and sports enthusiasts across Canada. Access grants support the development of trail maintenance and conservation while Activity grants support skill development and outreach, particularly with youth. Applications are accepted online from non-profits with and without charitable status on the 10th of September and March. Product and gift card donations are also available for fundraising and volunteer appreciation.

Municipalities and partnering non-profits can apply to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities for support developing plans, studies, and capital projects to support sustainable urban spaces. Its Modal Shift program, in particular, supports projects that reduce urban vehicle kilometers through improved walking and cycling infrastructure projects and bike share programs. Competitive applications are accepted through its website on an on-going basis.

Finally, Norco Bicycles has an ambitious granting program for the benefit of cycling programs organizations across North America. Project-based funding is available for facility, education, and advocacy initiatives that have the support of a local bike retailer. An application guide is available online and proposals are accepted on the 1rst of August, November, February and May.

Fundtracker supports the all manner of pedal-powered dreams. Give us a call at 1-888-406-2524 for a free demonstration on how to gear up your prospect research.

Storytelling for Fundraisers: Five tips to crafting a good story

Once you have completed your research and identified potential new funders, you will have to craft your case for support in the form of a grant application.  It can sound scary, but in essence, you’re telling a story to your potential funder about why your organization needs their support.

So, what makes a good story?   Pixar screenwriter Andrew Standon suggested in his recent Tedtalk that a good story is just like a good joke: it should drive towards a punch line. For fundraisers, our punchline is the call to action. The details, emotions, and problems you lay out in your story should all build to a point of tension that is released in asking a potential funder to give. This structure not only invites them into the narrative as the heroes of your story, it also creates a palpable wave of relief and good feeling when they respond to your call.

But, how to weave such a tale that makes your audience – a potential funder – want to be a part of it? It’s easier than you’d think.

1)    Start Small

Ten thousand underprivileged youth is an overwhelming idea. The story of one such child, however, can be evocative and inspiring. Beginning your story on an individual level will engage your audience far more than a multitude.

2)    Find a Relateable Character

We connect better with people than with concepts. If your audience can instantly recognize the challenges and emotions of your character, you’re well on your way to creating a powerful impact. This character may be a client you serve, an amalgam of several people you know, or one of your staff. In the hands of a convincing and creative writer, this character might not even be human.

3)    State the Personal Problem

What challenges are faced by your character? How have they been affected personally? Be direct in how you describe this experience. Name the emotions your character is feeling, the lengths to which they have struggled, and the concerns they have for the future. Open and honest emotion will foster empathetic connection.

4)    State the Wider Problem

What is it about this story that sums up the problem you are seeking to address? How far reaching are these effects? Here’s a good place to add statistics and expert opinions to build credibility and explore the problem from a wider angle.

5)    Invite Your Audience/Prospective Funder  to Finish the Story

People – and funders – genuinely want to help other people when they share a connection. If you engage your audience effectively, they will experience an empathetic pull. Plan for this in your story by involving them in its resolution. A clear call to action will open the door to inspired giving, good feelings and a shared experience between your organization, its mission and your funders.

Tune in next week when we talk about how to stay true when it comes to storytelling.

If you need more help identifying new funders to send your story to, give us a call at 1888-406-2524.  A free demo will show you just how easy it is to find a new audience for your story in Fundtracker!


Opportunity Watch: Canada’s Top Foundations

We told you last week about Canada’s top corporate funders.  We’re still basking in a maple leaf glow, so this week, we wanted to explore funding opportunities from a few of the top foundations in Canada.

The J. Armand Bombardier Foundation, a private family foundation, was established in 1965 to carry on the humanitarian work of Joseph-Armand Bombardier. The Foundation has since been an important source of funding for a variety of programs across Canada with current assets of about $136 million. Donations focus on education, community support, healthcare and the arts and they accept applications year-round.

Registered as a charity since 1967, The George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation currently has assets of about $138 million that it uses to support the Performing Arts, the Environment, and Local Economies. The Foundation also offers an Innovation Fellowship and the Renewal Program to help support ongoing and up and coming projects in the non-profit community.  Eligibility and deadlines vary by granting program, so visit their website for details.

The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation was the second family foundation in Canada when it was established in 1937. The Foundation supports a number of initiatives with a special focus on education, the environment, and building strong communities. Their grant-making strategy covers these programs through four key streams: inclusion, sustainability, resilience, and innovation. Their Social Innovation Fund is open year round and grant requests are processed through an online application form.

Fundtracker made finding information about these major foundations easy and comprehensive.  Need help doing the same kind of research? Give us a call at 1-888-406-2524 and we’ll set you up with a free demonstration.