Almost a Nonprofit…Can I Apply?

shutterstock_101610340Dear Libby:

I'm still working on becoming a 501(c)(3).  Is there any way that I can still apply for grants from organizations?  


Almost a Nonprofit

Dear Almost a Nonprofit:

Your question is a good one and it’s one that we see often at You found a great grant opportunity for your organization, but the grant is only being offered to 501(c)(3)s. You haven’t quite gotten there yet. Is there still room to be hopeful?

The answer, in short, is yes.

As you are probably aware, a 501(c) organization is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization in the United States. There are 29 ways to receive exemption status under the Internal Revenue Code section 501(c), including the 501(c)(3). The 501(c)(3) determination is limited to organizations whose activities relate to religion, education, charity, science, literacy, testing for public safety, fostering of national or international amateur sports competitions or prevention of cruelty to children or animals.

Once an organization establishes its 501(c)(3) status, its donors can claim tax deductions, provided their contributions meets certain regulations.

Before you receive 501(c)(3) status, there are ways in which you can still apply for grants that will not turn off funders who want the IRS tax deduction. Fiscal sponsorship might be a good choice for you right now.  By joining a fiscal sponsorship, you may qualify for more funding opportunities and be able to start your project sooner.

According to the National Network of Fiscal Sponsorship, this process refers to the practice of legal, nonprofit organizations offering their tax-exempt status to groups with similar missions as the nonprofit. It typically involves a fee-based, contractual arrangement between the organization which does not yet have 501(c) status and the established nonprofit. This will give you time to continue working on getting your own nonprofit status, your 501(c)(3).

Fiscal sponsorship has become more common in the past decade as there are many advantages to this arrangement. However, it is important for both parties to understand the exact terms of this set-up before an agreement is final. An organization that is joining a fiscal sponsorship must understand that its project will be controlled by its sponsor(s), who may be held legally responsible for the operations and activities of the venture. Therefore, it is wise to weigh the benefits of immediate tax-exempt status and administrative support against the lack of autonomy and the fees typically charged by the fiscal sponsor.

To find grant opportunities related to fiscal sponsorships for which you may be eligible to apply, search for "fiscal sponsor" at in the search box on the right side of the page.

fiscal sponsor

On behalf of, I wish you success in receiving your 501(c)(3) status, and in funding all of your worthy projects.

All the best to you and yours,

Libby Hikind
CEO & Founder
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Strategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations

strategic planningStrategic Planning for Public and Nonprofit Organizations: A Guide to Strengthening and Sustaining Organizational Achievement by John M. Bryson is a valuable resource for leaders and professionals in nonprofit and public management.  This book offers sound advice for strategic planning and management.  It is a solid choice for clarifying the process of successful strategic planning.

Order this book!

Nonprofit Sustainability

nonprofit sustainabilityNonprofit Sustainability: Making Strategic Decisions for Financial Viability by Jeanne BellJan Masaoka and Steve Zimmerman is considered a “must read” for every nonprofit. It offers practical and sometimes revelatory advice for developing your own unique path to sustainability without compromising your mission. This book will empower your nonprofit towards financial viability for a long time.

Order this book!

Winning Grants Step by Step-Book Review

9781118378342_cover.inddWinning Grants Step by Step: The Complete Workbook for Planning, Developing and Writing Successful Proposals, 4th Edition by Tori O'Neal-McElrath is a great resource.  It covers all the steps you’ll need to gain the confidence of funders.  Offering hands-on tools and practical advice, this is the book to help you perfect your applications in order to get the grants you require for your nonprofit success.

Order this book!

YOU have inspired through our Employee Appreciation Day Contest!

Employee appreciation dayIn honor of Employee Appreciation Day, launched a contest last week. Participation has been pouring in and we are so touched by the responses and admiration that people have for their fellow staff.

Common terms used to describe beloved team members were; dedicated, selfless, positive attitude, passionate, encouraging, tireless, going beyond the call of duty, wearer of many hats, compassionate, committed and reliable. Clearly, our nonprofit workers are a unique breed of special people.

We thought that you might appreciate reading a few of the beautiful posts as much as we did. So, we have posted them below.

The contest is continuing for just a few more days.  All entries must be in by March 6, 2015, Employee Appreciation Day.  The winning organization will receive a FREE annual subscription to valued at $199 and the star employee will get a $75 Starbucks gift card!

You can still nominate a valued worker by clicking:

And, now, for a few heartfelt responses (edited for the sake of space):

Christine Castles from Foundation for the Arts and Trauma, Connecticut wrote:“Dear Miss Kendra, All our staff, students, teachers, and administrators cannot thank you enough. Your name says it all: Kind, Enthusiastic, Nice, Devoted, Responsible, Accountable!… you are totally a remarkable woman! Your "List" is phenomenal and all who use it know first-hand how children should be treated, making for a more peaceful world, whose goal is to totally eradicate child maltreatment. Your personal response in penning thousands of letters each year to the children who write you is beyond comprehension. Your dedication to all the thousands of children we serve in Connecticut is a testament to your amazing character, something so rare, yet so necessary in these times.”

Julie Weaver from Amboy Elementary, Arkansas wrote: “Elena Reyes-Lovins is constantly going above and beyond to make learning exciting and hands-on. She shares her knowledge and expertise with the staff and helps new teachers learn how to write grants. She is passionate and is always seeking new opportunities to grow professionally. She is an amazing educator!”

Christine Randall from Philadelphia Senior Citizens Resource Center (PSCRC), Pennsylvania wrote: “Jacqueline Mack, our office manager trainee is the person that I take great pride in nominating for your "Employee Appreciation Day" contest. We thank her for the countless extra steps she takes to make sure that our tasks are complete….She brings us that "Let's Get it Down" attitude each and every day. She encourages all of us with her strength, faith and belief in God.  Even when some tasks are difficult for her she still gives her very best and encourages the other staff members, trainees and volunteers to do the same. To be honest, it is truly because of Jacqueline's cheerleading of our organization that makes us  all be mindful during difficult moments why we do what we do for senior citizens, their families and caregivers.”

Kelli Czaykowsky from Friends of refugees providing education and empowerment, Georgia wrote: “Allen Clark of FREE is always willing to go on short notice for anything that we need. If a mother calls and her baby does not have any diapers he will bring diapers to the mother. If the family is hungry and in need of food, he will go purchase food and take it to them. He is always picking up donated furniture, clothes, and other items sometimes the same day that people will call. He never says no when a person is in need and is always the first to be there to help a refugee. If he sees a child with no shoes he will go to the Goodwill and buy shoes for that child. He has given out hundreds of bicycles for the kids and then he will go and fix the bicycles as they start to breakdown.”

Congratulations to all of the nominees posted above and those we have not yet had a chance to feature.  You are already winners in the eyes of so many! 

(All entries are entered into the contest and one winner will be selected at random on March 6, 2015.  Good Luck!)

How to Write a LOI=Letter of Intent, Letter of Interest, Letter of Inquiry

letter of intent picHow to Write a LOI=Letter of Intent, Letter of Interest, Letter of Inquiry

Many foundations ask for a LOI before requesting a full grant proposal.  This helps the funder to weed out organizations which are the most appropriate to receive their offered grant. Organizations also use the LOI to assess how many staff are needed in order to review the upcoming proposals.  More so, the LOI places you on their mailing list for all future addendums and modifications for that particular grant, including deadline changes.

LOI is a non-legally binding document which includes an introduction to your project, contact information at your agency, a description of your organization, a statement of need, your methodology and/or an achievable solution to the need, a brief discussion of other funding sources and a final summary. 

Although foundations usually provide an outline for the LOI, we hope that the following tips will help you successfully win your applied for grants. 

  1. The LOI should be a brief, one page, informative letter which summarizes your ultimate full proposal.  There are times, however, when it can be as long as three pages.
  2. The structure of the LOI is a business letter.  Therefore, write the LOI on business letterhead.  Be sure that your company’s address appears on the letterhead or add it to the letter on the right hand side.  The recipient’s address should appear on the left hand side of the paper. 
  3. It is important to use the specific name of the recipient.  It is best to avoid general terminology such as, “Dear Sir” or “To Whom It May Concern”.
  4. The opening of your LOI might be the most important part of your letter.  It should be a concise, executive summary which provides enticing information to inspire the reader to continue.  Include the name of your organization, the grant you are applying for and/or the amount of money you are requesting as well as a short description of the project involved.  You should also include how your project fits the funder’s guidelines and funding interests.
  5. Next, give a brief history of your nonprofit and its programs.  There should be a direct connection made from what you currently do to what you want to accomplish with their funding.  Include a description of your target population and geographic area.  It is wise to incorporate statistical facts about what you are doing and hope to do as well as specific examples of successes and needs.
  6. Elaborate on your objectives.  How do you plan on using the funding to solve the problem?  Describe the project succinctly.  Include major activities along with the names and titles of key project staff.
  7. If you are requesting funding from other sources, mention this in a brief paragraph.  In addition, include any funding already secured as well as how you plan to support the project in the future.
  8. Briefly summarize your goal.  Note that you are open to answering any further questions.  Thank the funder for his consideration in your organization. 
  9. You may attach any additional forms which are helpful to present your information. However, keep in mind that this is a LOI and not a full proposal.
  10. Review the given guidelines for the LOI to assure that you have met all of the funder’s requirements.  Failing to include all requested information can cause your LOI to be disregarded.
  11. When signing the LOI, use proper business salutations such as “sincerely” or “respectfully”.  It is best to avoid an overly friendly closing.

For your convenience, here are some links to sample LOIs:

Short LOI:

Long LOI:

May your LOI open the door to your successful winning of grants. 

Running QuickBooks in Nonprofits

running quick booksRunning QuickBooks in Nonprofits: 2nd Edition: The Only Comprehensive Guide for Nonprofits Using QuickBooks by Kathy Ivens, the senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro magazine, delivers clear well-written instructions on how to run QuickBooks for your nonprofit organization.  It provides vital information on using QuickBooks to track financial data, how to manage donors, grants and pledges. Additionally, topics covered in detail are: allocating expenses to programs, handling donor restrictions, and generating the reports needed for donors and tax returns. This handbook will become an integral reference guide for your organizational operations.

Order this book!

How To Get Funding For Media Equipment?

media equipmentDear Libby:

We need to install a screen, projector, microphones and support equipment in our church sanctuary. This will be used primarily by our youth and senior citizens programs. 

Where may we get a grant of up to $15,000 for this purpose?


Christian Church Subscriber

Wanamaker, IN

Dear Subscriber:

Thank you for contacting with your question.  I am sure that there are many institutions with similar needs who will gain from the following information. 

Though you require equipment for your Church, the focus for your grant search should not be for grants which specifically fund the installation of a screen, projector, microphones and support equipment. The best way for you to achieve your goal is to focus on grants that support the programs you wish to provide for, i.e. youth and/or senior citizens.

If your nonprofit status is under a religious institution, I recommend searching for grants given to faith based institutions.  This information will be included in the grant’s eligibility requirements.  Additionally, searching for intergenerational programs might also be helpful.

I recommend that you check the following grant categories at

Once you find the grants that might be appropriate for funding your equipment, you will need to create an attractive proposal which will help you secure the funding that you need.  The focus of your proposal should be that in order to run your youth and senior citizen programs successfully, you require the acquisition of specific equipment such as a screen, projector, etc.  Be sure to describe the equipment usage in your application objectives, goals and activities and include equipment costs in your excel budget and budget narrative.

If you do not have experience with writing a grant proposal, it might be worthwhile to retain the services of a professional to either assist with writing the entire proposal or review the proposal which has been created.  Professional grant writers are experts in determining the best way to present information so the application is accepted and the grant is awarded.  For further information, please visit

Another possibility for you to receive the equipment you need is to ask the Executive Director of your organization for assistance.  He/she should network and set-up private meetings with the CEO’s of your local stores or corporations.  A request can be made for these companies to donate surplus or open box equipment.  They may even be able to get a tax deduction for their donation to your church.

I hope that this information will be helpful to you. We wish you much success in not only acquiring your needed equipment but also in implementing quality programs to benefit all the members of your church. 

All the best to you and yours, 

Libby Hikind

CEO & Founder

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day-Celebrating Nonprofits and Volunteers

 Martin Luther King Day“Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Most of us are intrigued by dreams.  On that rare occasion when we remember a dream had while sleeping, we might ask ourselves, “What was that all about!?” or “Is there a message in my dream for me to act on?”

Then, there are “goal dreams”, which are light years ahead of night dreams or even day dreams.  Goal dreams occur when we are awake.  They might come to us while sipping our morning coffee, driving in traffic, listening to a tragic news story or any number of other ways.  Goal dreams get our juices flowing.  “If I do this, I can change the world!”

One of the greatest goal dreamers in our time was Martin Luther King, Jr.  A pastor by trade, he managed to shake up a nation by bringing his dream of equality for all to the forefront of our consciousness.  Yes, this is written clearer in the U.S. Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”  But, somehow, nearly 200 years after our forefathers signed this infamous document, people were still not being treated properly.  Martin Luther King, Jr. decided to take action.

On August 28, 1963, more than a quarter of a million people from all ethnicities and walks of life gathered to declare that it was time for our forefathers’ assertion to become a reality for all.   This was the largest gathering of protesters in Washington, D.C.'s history up to that point.  As the saying (almost) goes, “Dream it and they will come.”

For those dedicated to the nonprofit sector, turning dreams into realities might have been mixed into their baby food.  Not everyone has the vision, passion and energy to take action on the hopes for a better world.  By choosing to use your time to help friends, communities and nation, you become part of a great historical team of leaders who took their dreams and created real solutions to real problems.

Last year, over 571,000 people participated in a “day of service” in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy.  Backed by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the idea is to start the New Year off right by giving to those in need.  This year’s date for service is January 19, 2015.  Each year, more people participate.  For many, volunteering on this day is a springboard for continuing a life of service, whether on an individual basis or through nonprofit organizations.

For those who are already nonprofit staff and volunteers, would like to take this opportunity to commend you for acting on your hopes and dreams.  Though there may not yet be a day named after you, your efforts are still celebrated by those touched by your devotion.   Surely, our dreams for a brighter future are materializing with every great deed you perform.  May all your dreams come true!

Why Do I Need a Professional Grant-Writer?

grant writerGrants can greatly enable a nonprofit organization's ability to provide services, create innovative programs, and fund operations. Finding and winning grants can prove to be a difficult challenge. Finding grant opportunities and preparing proposals takes time and skill. Grant guidelines and requirements can be confusing and difficult to navigate. The biggest challenge of all is that applying for grants is a competition and the competition is stiff.

Professional grant-writers are experienced in the grant-writing process and know what it takes to create a winning proposal. They can assist your organization in understanding the application process and prepare you to be successful. To win a grant, the funder must have confidence that the program being funded is going to successful and sustainable. Professional grant-writers can use their experience to objectively present your program's successes and sustainability and thus increasing your potential for winning the grant.

Most importantly, a professional grant-writer is a member of your team. They are invested in your organization's success and exist to help you help others. They are there to work along side of you as a resource and as one of your biggest supporters. The professionals at have won millions of dollars in grant funds for organization's just like yours. They are knowledgeable of every step of the grant-writing process and are eager to assist you in acquiring the funding you need to continue your success.