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Making Your Case

Making Your Case

First, know all you can about the foundation/business from which you seek funds. And remember that if you have talked to one foundation, you have talked to one foundation only. They are all different—research all possibilities. If they've funded something similar, demonstrate the link. Link the crime and violence issue to what a particular foundation has funded in the past. “I wouldn't change other founder mandates; rather, I would take what a particular foundation does, let's say family support, and show them how it is linked to long-term violence prevention,” said Cathy Weiss of the Stoneleigh Foundation. But even if a foundation has funded nothing like this before, don't let this hold you back. The horrors of Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo., have created a new climate. As pointed out above, philanthropic entities that had not previously funded anything in the violence prevention arena have now begun to do so.

Second, know clearly what you want. Tell them what will change because of their involvement. Equally important, be able to describe why you want support, and how your work fits into a larger goal, a more compelling social purpose, like cutting juvenile deaths, helping to restore crime-ridden communities, reducing immobility through trauma-based care, helping kids get to school without fear, or getting a positive adult into the lives of kids who have never had one. If applying in writing, provide a short, cogent summary, for example: “Project Hope requests $150,000 to train, hire, and support four ex-inmates who will work nights to reduce violence in Antioch's Cantwell District.”

Third, be clear about what results you are seeking. Results can include outcome measures such as a reduction in homicides and shootings in a certain neighborhood, process measures such as number of third graders being tutored or ninth graders being mentored, civic measures such as safer, more usable parks, or youth who don't fear going to school and adults who don't fear shopping at local stores. Ground it and make it local. Note that “some projects have two audiences: the direct participants and the indirect beneficiaries.”1 Direct participants might be youth on the edge of gang activity. Indirect beneficiaries might include people living in violent neighborhoods.

Fourth, be clear about the work, and who will do it. “Describe the activities. Tell the funder about the project's ‘output,’ or how many ‘units of service’ you intend to deliver over a specific time period.”2

Fifth, know how your work fits in with or complements the work of others. Foundations love to see synergistic efforts, agencies working together and maximizing each other's work. Ideally, a petition for private support should be part of a larger citywide, comprehensive plan blending prevention, intervention, reentry, and enforcement. Demonstrate backing from others—the mayor, police chief, schools, or peer agencies. “One key reason is the mayor. He's shaken most of the hands in this city. When the mayor visits, he always brings funders … its trust. The mayor is fully in back of it along with the business and foundation community,” said Jennifer Maconochie, Director of Strategic Initiatives and Policies, Office of the Police Commissioner, Boston. Efficiency and effectiveness are key watchwords. Violence prevention work takes all of us.

Sixth, be creative about showing how their investment will make a difference in human terms. Take your potential donor to a crime-ridden community or city school, or bring along a person who might be positively affected by your work—a youth, a mother, or a returning inmate. If in writing, the Minnesota Council on Foundations recommends describing “a problem that is about the same size as your solution.”3 You are proposing to do something very specific in a specific area, not eliminate poverty. In addition, “don't describe the problem as the absence of your project.” Not having enough mentors is not the problem. Mentoring is a proposed solution. The problem is the number of youth without positive adult support and the problems they have as a result.

Seventh, if your prospective donor shows no interest in your initiative, ask for capacity-building assistance such as record keeping, data collection, staff training, or communication. The business community is especially amenable to this sort of support. Think about a “loaned executive,” a volunteer from a business' legal, financial, or management resources as possibilities.

Eighth, promise full communication and partnership. People need that they are doing something important and worthwhile. Foundation executives are not ATMs. A check alone does not meet this fundamental human need. Ask for financial support and personal involvement. The real vision is to form a partnership, not just ask for a little here and there … to invite the private sector to be part of the governance of the project. We need to engage, not beg, to forge a partnership, not just ask for a check,” said Mario Maciel, Director of the Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force in San Jose, Calif. Get your potential funder caught up in your passion and mission.

Ninth, make sure they know that you're a credible agency. Your board, legal status, and financial history will empower you to steward their money responsibly. The Minnesota Council on Foundations advises that almost all funders will need an IRS letter validating your tax exempt status; a list of your board of directors; a financial statement from your last complete fiscal year; a recently completed audit; and a budget for this fiscal year and next (p.4).4 If you don't have all of this, admit it. This might be where you need the most support.

Tenth, let your funder know that you want to be held accountable. If your funder won't join your board or advisory committee, or sign up for a full partnership, work on an accountability plan with them. This might mean monthly calls, periodic reports, or a site visit. Know that they have to justify their decisions to their superiors or board, so help them.

Eleventh, remind your funder that their other investments are being eroded or vitiated because of violent crime—funding for afterschool programs means little if kids are afraid to attend school. In a similar vein, investments in restaurants, grocery stores, or drug stores are lost when crime forces businesses to pack up and leave. “Our ‘Neighborhood Funders Group’ wants to know more about public safety because they're worried about their investments in other areas. Detroit's major energy provider will help with summer jobs, but they want to do something during the year to better protect their customers and their investment,” said Annie Ellington, Chief Service Officer, Office of the Mayor, City of Detroit. The local business community should be extremely interested in your work.

Twelfth, make the cost-benefit case. The data that follows is national in scope. Applying the cost figures for your particular jurisdiction can buttress your economic argument, which is critical for engaging the business and philanthropic partners.

According to the Center for the Study of Violence Prevention at the University of Colorado (http://www.colorado.edu/cspv/):

  • Homicide is the second-leading cause of death for youth between the ages of 10 and 24.
  • Homicide has been the leading cause of death among African Americans between the ages of 15 and 24 for more than 10 years.
  • Half of all juveniles murdered are killed with a firearm.
  • Twenty-two percent of U.S. teenagers (ages 14 to 17) report having witnessed a shooting.
  • Youth are three times more likely than adults to be victims of violence.
  • On a typical day, six or seven youth are murdered in this country.
  • Youth 24 years of age and under constitute over 41 percent of all firearm deaths and non-fatal injuries.
  • Youth 7 to 17 years old are as likely to be victims of suicide as they are to be victims of homicide.
  • Violent victimization of juveniles is greatest between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
  • The cost of youth violence exceeds $158 billion each year.

In 2009, The Justice Policy Institute reported that approximately 93,000 young people are held in juvenile justice facilities across the United States. Seventy percent of these youth are held in state-funded, post-adjudication residential facilities, at an average cost of $240.99 per day per youth. Added to this are enormous medical and “lost productivity” costs associated with violent crime estimated by the American Public Health Association to be roughly $15.270 billion. With states facing serious budgetary constraints and Attorney General Eric Holder's advocacy for sentencing flexibility for “low-level, non-violent drug offenders,” the time is opportune for investment in evidence-based, cost-effective community-based programs.

Additionally, there is significant research on “return on investment” for implementation of programs and strategies intended to prevent and mitigate youth crime and violence. The Washington State Institute for Public Policy lists a variety of successful programs such as Nurse Home Visitation, Mentoring, Job Training, Diversion, Drug Courts, Intensive Probation, and In-Prison Therapeutic Communities that reduce crime and recidivism, thus saving the taxpayer money. Cure Violence and the National Network for Safe Communities, each of which targets the most violent offenders and most violent neighborhoods, can point to impressive and often dramatic results.

 

Davis, Barbara. 2013. “Guidelines for Writing a Virginia Literacy Foundation Matching Grant Proposal.”
Ibid.
Davis, Barbara. 2005. “Writing a Successful Grant Proposal.” Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Council on Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.mcf.org/system/article_resources/0000/0325/writingagrantproposal.pdf (PDF, 6 pages)
Davis, Barbara. 2005. “Writing a Successful Grant Proposal.” Minneapolis, MN: Minnesota Council on Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.mcf.org/system/article_resources/0000/0325/writingagrantproposal.pdf (PDF, 6 pages)