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The Giving Common Nonprofit Update – October 2018 Newsletter


It’s Time Every Nonprofit Created A Vibrant Culture Of Philanthropy


Alyssa F. Wright
Founder and Lead Consultant, Alyssa F. Wright Consulting


Every year in Massachusetts, $1.5 billion philanthropic dollars flow to support nonprofits throughout the Commonwealth. In addition to those dollars, 1.3 million Massachusetts residents volunteer for causes that they care about. Add to that the rise of corporate giving and engagement – thousands of Bay State workers are giving their talents and expertise in support of local mission fulfillment.

With all this time, talent, and treasure accessible to nonprofits in Massachusetts, how is it that so many still are stuck in a scarcity mindset and feel incapable of ever achieving true mission fulfillment?

As organizations across Boston seek to answer this question together, it is important we look at the factors that unite many of these nonprofits in their struggle, focusing specifically on those working on development. The answer may surprise you. I’ve spent the last few years with fundraisers throughout New England and I’ve come to find that it’s often not for lack of skill, strategy, or tactics that these nonprofit leaders find themselves barred from creating long-lasting funding partnerships. It’s often the culture within their organizations and the “people problems” that are preventing their success.

With this as truth, how do we move forward? How does a fundraiser effectively create culture change, and often simultaneously address organizational trauma within their workplace so they can rise to raise big money? This seems like a big task for someone whom the organization may only see as a staff person charged with throwing events and sending out appeal letters. Because, that’s how you create long-term funding partnerships, right?


Three years ago, the Haas Jr. Fund joined with CompassPoint Nonprofit Services to produce a study, UnderDeveloped, documenting the chronic fundraising challenges facing today’s nonprofits. The report zeroed in on the exact issues facing many development professionals. Culture, not strategy, plays a big role in preventing fundraising success. The Haas Jr. Fund report made it clear that nonprofit leaders needed to foster and development a “culture of philanthropy” in their organizations to not only have success but ultimately move towards sustainability. This new idea of a “culture of philanthropy” is identified by four core components:

  • Shared responsibility for development
  • Integration and alignment with mission
  • A focus on fundraising as engagement
  • Strong donor relationships

As I meet with fundraisers throughout the Commonwealth, I share these four components and ask them if they make sense and would lead to the creation of sustainable development programs. Most of these professionals say, “yes, but…” and go into intimate detail as to why they can’t implement these critical components for sustainability.

I then hear about complex dynamics, like founder syndrome, organizational trauma and bad board behavior that seem to create a cocktail of confusion, frustration, and sadness for passionate fundraisers. When properly addressed, so many of these dynamics could create the conditions for an organization to achieve its ultimate goal: deeper impact to ensure well being for all people throughout the state.

We can begin to address these complex dynamics by talking about building trust within our organizations. Let’s take strong donor relationships as an example. Most of the development staff I work with are young, bright, and committed professionals. They struggle to build strong relationships with donors because they often don’t get full access to them. I had one eager fundraiser share with me that after a year at an organization in Cambridge, the founder still didn’t trust her to take a few major funders out for lunch. “She told me repeatedly, ‘those are my donors’. Then, in my annual review criticized me for only raising 60% of my fundraising goal that year. How can I be successful if I can’t build strong relationships with our top funders?”

A lack of trust could be core to many of these cultural issues, as could egocentrism and, more generally, poor behavior. All three can play a role in preventing successful fundraising when we look at shared responsibility for development. Recently, a local Executive Director opened up to me about her struggle to get access to her board’s networks, after years of stating that shared responsibility for engagement was critical if the organization was to keep it’s doors open. “I can’t keep working 20 extra hours every week just to access new networks for funding or to steward current relationships. Board service should mean you arrive with the knowledge that you are going to help mobilize a community to give to a mission. This organization is going to lose me if we can’t find a way forward that has board members passionate and excited to fundraise for us.”

The desperation and frustration within our current nonprofit landscape must prompt us to re-imagine how we collaborate together for change. After all, our goal is to ensure social, economic, and environmental issues in our state are addressed thoughtfully and someday eradicated by our collective impact as a sector. How is societal wellbeing ever going to be achieved if we are in our own way?

Perhaps it’s time to evaluate both our organizations and ourselves. Many of us may be the problem without even knowing it! Below are a few starting points for various levels of leadership. Let’s come together, (re)build trust, listen better, and begin to shift to a culture of philanthropy.

  • Executive Director: (Re)Build trust with your board. Slow down for a few weeks and book one on one calls or meetings with each board person. Ask thoughtful questions in each scenario that pertain both to you role as a leader but also to his/her role as a leader. Here are a few to get you started:

Remind me of your board story. What was the moment you said “Yes! I’m all in to support this mission” ? Do you still feel this same passion? Why or why not?”

What are your greatest strengths as a board member? How have I nurtured those strengths? What are your greatest weaknesses as a board member? How have I helped you to address those?

If you could change one thing about the dynamics within the board, what would it be?

Listen. Learn. Take criticism. And take follow- up action.

  • Board Chair: Prioritize an activity to practice listening at every board meeting going forward. Let the board know that this is a critical skill set to develop and staff, board, donors and advocates must all feel heard. Here’s one example:

Story Share
15 minute activity

Share a story about a recent challenge that changed you. Talk about WHAT the challenge was, WHO helped you through it and WHAT you value now based on that situation.

Get in pairs. Sit across from each other. Choose who is going to be the first storyteller in each pair. Stories are timed by the group leader, 5 minutes to share each story. The listener is silent, does not interject and seeks to actively listen to the story being shared until time is up. Once time is up, the listener shares only what resonated with them, making the storyteller feel heard. This can be timed for 2 minutes. Statements from the listener start with “It really resonated with me when…” Express gratitude and switch to repeat activity.

  • Development Director: Ensure that fundraising updates, new strategies and (here’s the important one) trainings are offered at each board meeting. This keeps the entire organization focused and on track to build a Culture of Philanthropy.

If you’re looking for the first mini-training to offer the board, take 10 minutes to share philanthropic trends and twenty minutes for a group discussion about them. Conclude with one trend that the organization can agree on integrating more effectively in the coming weeks and map an action item to begin. Here are a few 2018 trends to get you started:

The Rise of Giving Circles: Donors Mobilize
Rapid Response Giving
Growth of Women’s Philanthropy

Local Sector News & Events


“Fast Forward: Preparing the Workforce of the Future”

SkillWorks and its policy advocacy partners at the Workforce Solutions Group are accepting registrants for the 9th Annual Massachusetts Jobs & Workforce Summit, happening in Devens, Mass., on October 24. The summit will highlight the skills needed to compete in a global economy, and how employers and policy makers can work together to meet talent needs. Click here to register.

2018 Social Innovator Encore

Did you miss meeting the 2018 Social Innovators at Social Innovation Forum’s May showcase? Join SIF for the “Encore” event on Thursday, November 8, 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. This free event will begin with breakfast and networking and then the 2018 Social Innovators will take to the stage to pitch their solutions to our community’s most challenging social issues. Register here.

Lawrence Emergency Fund Created

Since the September 13 gas crisis in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, the Boston Foundation has been thinking of our neighbors to the north. That’s why we are glad to spread the word about the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund, created by Governor Baker, city leaders and the Essex County Community Foundation. Visit the ECCF website to contribute.

Associated Grant Makers Is Now Philanthropy Massachusetts

At its annual meeting on Friday, September 29, Associated Grant Makers revealed that it would now be known as Philanthropy Massachusetts. With the name change comes a new strategic plan to advance its work as an organization serving both philanthropic organizations and the nonprofit service providers in the region. Read more about the new direction at the Philanthropy Massachusetts website.

Meet the New CEO of TSNE MissionWorks

The Boston Foundation would like to congratulate Elaine Ng on being selected as the Chief Executive Officer of TSNE MissionWorks (formerly Third Sector New England). As a co-author, technical assistance provider, fiscal sponsor to our grantees and collaborator on many projects and events, we look forward to continuing our partnership with TSNE MissionWorks and Elaine as the organization writes the next chapter in its important work. Learn more about Elaine in this Q&A about her vision for TSNE MissionWorks.

Funding Opportunities


The Live Arts Boston program supports artists like STL GLD, shown here performing at BAMS Fest in 2018. Photo copyright: Kelly Davidson Studio.



The Latino Legacy Fund will distribute up to $75,000 in grants to eligible organizations working to improve quality and access to ESOL, education and career pathway programs in Greater Boston. Please find the Request for Proposals (RFP) here. Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. on October 31 and be submitted through the online application portal to be considered.

We are proud to announce the third round of the Live Arts Boston (LAB) program, created with the support and partnership of the Barr Foundation. We invite performing artists, small performing arts organizations, bands, groups of artists, producers and presenters in the Greater Boston area to submit applications by November 7.

We encourage new and existing nonprofit organizations in Greater Boston that are not currently aligned with the strategies, goals and approaches pursued in the Foundation’s five impact areas to pursue Open Door Grants for support of their efforts to meet existing needs or test new ideas and innovations that address the most critical challenges and biggest opportunities facing our community. Applications are now open for the February 1 deadline.





The Davis Conservation Foundation is accepting applications for its October 10 deadline. Northern New England organizations that protect wildlife, wildlife habitat, environmental protection and outdoor recreation, or strengthen volunteer activity and outreach/community involvement in the above-noted areas, are encouraged to apply.

The Mary B. Grogan Fund is accepting grant proposals from educational and recreational programs for Millbury youth. The application deadline is October 12.

The George B. Henderson Foundation is soliciting proposals for projects that enhance the appearance and preservation of outdoor elements in the city of Boston. The fall 2018 Grant Round will accept requests for projects whose projected completion is on or before December 31, 2019. Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. on October 12.

The Ben & Jerry’s Foundation is awarding one-year grants of up to $25,000 to nonprofit grassroots community-organizing groups in the United States that are advancing social and environmental justice and support sustainable and just food systems. Pre-proposals must be received no later than October 15.

The Boston Cultural Council is offering grants of up to $5,000 for arts programming in the City. Applications must be received by October 15.

The Cape Cod Foundation is accepting applications for the Chatham Fund and for strategic focus grants for the Falmouth Fund. The deadline for both programs is October 15.

The Lenny Zakim Fund is starting a program of increased capacity building consulting services to help nonprofits strengthen their systems. Over 2 years, the LZF cohort will receive individual and group coaching, a capacity assessment and participate in approximately eight workshops that will strengthen the organization’s capacity. Please submit proposals by October 15.

Organizations in Boston and Andover, Mass., are invited to apply for funding from the James M. Cox Foundation. Proposals are due by October 15.

The BlumShapiro Foundation is now accepting grant proposals from organizations based in New England that impact the academic, social and/or emotional needs of families and children. Applications will be accepted until October 31.



Organizations in Boston, Cambridge, Chelsea, and Somerville working to strengthen the education, independence, and/or socioeconomic status of women, children and youth are eligible to submit applications for funding to the Anna B. Stearns Foundation for the November 1 deadline.

Organizations in Billerica and surrounding communities may apply for grants from the Brady Foundation for projects and programs that align with the Brady values of unlocking potential, protecting the future or differentiating through innovation. Grantees will focus on developing leadership, strengthening communities and educational programming. Proposals are due on November 1.

The Clipper Ship Foundation is accepting Concept Papers from organizations serving: individuals and families experiencing or at risk for homelessness; youth entering, in or aging out of the foster care system; and/or youth ages 16-24 who are neither employed nor in school, in Greater Boston (defined as cities and towns on or within Route 128) and the cities of Lawrence and Brockton. The deadline is November 1.

The Funders’ Network is accepting applications for its PLACES Fellowship, a year-long learning experience for leaders in philanthropy that gives them the tools they need to embed an equity lens in their work. Applications are due November 1.

The Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation is accepting applications from educational organizations that provide support for under-served or under-represented populations to prepare for, access and succeed in higher education. The application deadline is November 1.

The Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) is accepting applications for two anti-poverty grant programs. Community Development Grants support nonprofit organizations that nurture the participation of people living in poverty to change structures and policies that affect their lives. Economic Development Grants support economic development institutions that include the voice of the poor and marginalized in developing new businesses that offer good jobs or develop assets that will be owned by local communities. Organizations are encouraged to submit their pre-application prior to the November 1 deadline.

The Conservation Alliance is accepting applications for its Public Lands Defense Fund, which supports organizations working to preserve and defend the integrity of our public lands system. Grants will be awarded in support of efforts to defend existing protections for landscapes and waterways on public lands and oppose the proposed transfer of federal lands to the states or to private hands. Applications are due November 1.

Cell Signaling Technology has several grant deadlines coming up on November 1, for Environmental Grants, Community Grants, and Education in Science Grants. Organizations in the North Shore of Massachusetts are eligible to apply.

The Charles H. Farnsworth Trust, established in 1930 to assist older adults in the Greater Boston area, is accepting grant proposals for housing, services and research, with a deadline of November 15.

The NewSchools Venture Fund is accepting applications to its Innovative Schools program, which invests in teams of educators planning to launch new nonprofit public schools that prepare young people to finish high school prepared and inspired to create and live the lives they want. Planning grants of $200,000 will be provided; at the end of the planning phase, teams may apply for an investment that would support their first two to three years of operation. The application deadline is November 26.



The Frank W. and Carl S. Adams Memorial Fund is accepting grant proposals for “high-touch” programs that support and promote quality educational, human services and health care programming for under-served populations. The deadline is December 1.

Farm Credit East is currently is accepting applications to the Farm Credit AgEnhancement Grant program, which supports organizations promoting awareness of and strengthening agriculture, commercial fishing, and forest products in New England, New Jersey and New York. Applications are due December 1.

The American Association of University Women is accepting applications for its Community Action Grants Program. The program offers one-year grants of up to $7,000 to support community-based projects and two-year grants of up to $10,000 to provide start-up funds for new projects that address the particular needs of the community and provide leadership and advocacy opportunities for girls. The application deadline is December 11.

The American Mathematical Society’s AMS Epsilon Fund Grants for Young Scholars Programs awards grants of up to $15,000 in support of existing summer mathematics programs for mathematically talented high school students. The proposal deadline is December 15.



The Agnes M. Lindsay Trust supports nonprofit organizations that help those in need in the states of Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Grantmaking is currently focused on the areas of health and welfare, as well as dental and oral health.

Belmont Savings Bank Foundation supports not-for-profit groups, institutions, schools and other organizations as a way of adding to the quality of life for people living in the Community in which Belmont Savings Bank serves. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

The Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation‘s Catalyst Fund supports the efforts of community-based healthcare organizations to strengthen their capacity and expand access to health care in Massachusetts. The fund awards one-year, non-renewable grants of up to $5,000 for capacity-building initiatives and projects.

The Brookline Community Foundation is a resource for organizations seeking immediate funding to support initiatives intended to make the city of Brookline a welcoming and inclusive community where the rights of all community members are upheld and protected.

The Richard and Susan Smith Family Foundation will consider requests for support for transformative capital projects in the $250,000-$3 million range from agencies that are well-led, can point to significant accomplishment, and have a mission that is clearly aligned with that of the Foundation.

Grants of up to $1,000 will be awarded by the TD Charitable Foundation to eligible community-based organizations for employees to attend approved classes/courses that will enhance their job performance.

For 20 years, Third Wave has funded cutting-edge youth-led activism across the United States, and has supported emerging organizations that lack access to philanthropy. The Mobilize Power Fund is a rapid response fund for gender justice activism, action, and community mobilization. Applications are taken year-round and reviewed on the 15th of each month.

TJX Foundation accepts LOIs on a rolling basis for programs that provide basic needs (food, clothing, and shelter), access to opportunities outside of school that enable school success for at-risk youth, workforce readiness training for at-risk youth, and/or safety from domestic violence.

The Vela Foundation is a private grantmaking foundation dedicated to promoting improved nutrition and wellness.  Vela supports entrepreneurial programs that provide nutrition education and improve access to healthy foods.


Community Events and Webinars


Live Trainings


Fabville Design Center is offering a free six-part course on Javascript at Somerville High School. The first course will take place on October 11.

The Foundation for MetroWest is holding its 2nd annual Fundraising Accelerator for development professionals at the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority on October 16.

Interested in taking the next step toward equity in your organization, but not sure how to move forward? Join the Greater Worcester Community Foundation for Diversity Equity Inclusion: Getting Started on October 16.

Presented by Bank of America and Philanthropy Massachusetts (formerly Associated Grantmakers), the Nonprofit Learning Institute each year brings twenty nonprofit organizations from a broad cross-section of​the nonprofit sector together to participate in a series of technical assistance and capacity building sessions. Applications are due on October 28.

The Foundation for MetroWest will hold an Understanding IT Risk and Security training on October 23.

Navigate your next staff transition with ease with help from The Foundation for MetroWest. The Foundation will host Staff Transitions – Covering Your Bases, on November 1.

New to grantseeking? Philanthropy Massachusetts is holding an Introduction to Grants Research at the Essex County Community Foundation on November 6.

Join Stanley Pollack, co-author of Moving Beyond Icebreakers, for a session on How to Run Effective Meetings hosted by Community Health Training Institute on November 7 in Worcester (venue TBD).




Getting ready for #GivingTuesday – October 9, 2018

How Your Nonprofit Can Get $10K/Month In Free Google Advertising – October 9 & 16, 2018

7 Steps for Getting Started in Major Gifts (Even in Small Shops) – October 10, 2018

Tax Reform and Charitable Giving: How Finance Can Help Sustain Giving – October 10, 2018

Engaging Pro Bono and Skills-Based Volunteers – October 10, 2018

Giving Tuesday Webinar Series – October 16 & 30, 2018

How to Attract, Cultivate and Wow Sponsors – October 16, 2018

How to Choose a Database Management System – A Primer – October 17, 2018

How to Avoid Fundraising’s Quiet Killer: Donor Attrition – October 18, 2018

Measuring Success: How to Strategically Assess Your Program – October 18, 2108

How to Turn Event Guests Into Donors – October 24, 2018

An Introduction to Online Fundraising for Small and Medium-Sized Nonprofits – October 25, 2018

5 Trends Shaping a New Reality for Nonprofits – October 31, 2018

Introduction to Grants Research – Essex County  – November 6, 2018

How to Captivate and Engage Constituents with Your Website – November 14, 2018

Leadership Styles & Impact on Your Nonprofit with Marc A. Pitman – November 13, 2018

Online Tools that Help Nonprofits Learn, Listen & Engage – November 20, 2018

What We Are Watching/Reading


The Game of Nonprofit Is Flawed. Learn to Play It So You Can Change It.

What Makes Fraud in Nonprofits Lethal? New Findings Get Specific

The Science of What Makes People Care

7 Things Nonprofits Can Do to Support Millennials of Color in the Sector

31+ #GivingTuesday Ideas (That You Haven’t Thought of) for 2018

2018 GuideStar Nonprofit Compensation Report

Peacocks, Hummingbirds, Or Chickens — How to Present for Racial Equity

How New and Traditional Media Can Work Hand in Hand

Partners in Philanthropy: How to Work with Donor-Advised Funds

Nonprofits Have Technology but Aren’t Using It Well

5 Actions Nonprofits Should Take Based on Facebook’s #GivingTuesday Report

How to Engage Supporters with Instagram Stories (With 5 Nonprofit Examples)

Blurred Boundaries: A New World for Some Foundation/Grantee Partnerships

How to Build an Effective Tech Foundation for Your Small to Mid-Sized Nonprofit

Data Strategies for Nonprofits: Choosing the Right Technology at the Right Time

20 Ways Majority-White Nonprofits Can Build Authentic Partnerships with Organizations Led by Communities of Color