Thursday, September 09, 2010

Conflicting Trends in Grant-Making: What do you think?

Chicks hatching (Gallus gallus domesticus)Image via Wikipedia
Popularity funding vs. greater outcome accountability
Years ago, when I lived in Chicago, I read an article detailing the method used for determining the most popular exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry. The method was simple -- how often the tiles in front of the exhibit needed to be replaced.

The most popular exhibit was the incubator where chicks were hatching day in and day out. How did the tiles play into it? People stood there quite fascinated, watching the miracle of birth, shuffling their feet, wearing out the tiles in front of the exhibit. (Perhaps this was the origin of the concept of voting with your feet.)

This story came to mind when I read yet another article about funders looking for ways to hold agencies, museums, arts programs accountable. We've talked about the struggle to find meaningful, short term, and do-able measures of accountability before. It's a challenge.

The same afternoon I received an email from a local soup kitchen asking me, and everyone else on their email list, to vote daily for their program in Pepsi's Refresh Everything campaign. And, get all our friends to do the same. Pepsi is giving away $15.6M in grants ranging from $5000 to $250,000 -- all based on which agency got the most votes. Kohl's retail chain ran a similar popularity-based grant program this summer, Kohl's Cares, $500,000 to 20 public and private K-12 schools.

Whether we're talking $5K or $500K, we're talking real money here. Money generating a lot of publicity for the sponsors, Pepsi and Kohl's, without any accountability for whether that money will "do good." Is this a viable program that will benefit the community? All we really know is that the winning agencies can get out the vote.

This "social media grant-giving" is heavily weighted in favor of communities that are digitally sophisticated, the digital-haves,leaving behind those with less access to digital tools and a social media-savvy population -- the digital-have-nots.
So, there we have two conflicting trends. Traditional foundations seeking ways to hold grantees more accountable while corporate foundations seek ways to make grant-giving into tax-free advertising. (Pepsi Refresh site on Facebook notes 92,000 monthly active users. KohlCares indicates 2,729,440 people "like" this.)

Hmmm. Your thoughts?
If you liked this post you may want to sign up for automatic updates. You can choose the RSS feed or an email subscription at the bottom of the sidebar.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

#76: What should a grant writer charge?

337/365: The Big MoneyImage by DavidDMuir via Flickr
How do you determine what to charge a client? I can tell you that my rate is an amalgam of what I need to live, what the market will bear, what I think the competition is charging, how poor the nonprofit is, how complicated the RFP, the turnaround time, and a bit of hocus-pocus, divided by the phase of the moon.

That's not a rational way to develop a fee structure, so I was interested to read a post by Alan Mutter at Reflections of a Newsosaur. He was writing about the exploitation of journalists -- writing for "exposure," not money. While arguing that writers should resist the exposure argument, he addressed what to charge and included a spreadsheet-calculator for determining freelance fees.

The post generated a lot of comments, including one from Greg Smith with a link to an alternative calculator developed by the National Press Photographers Association for for freelance photographers that will work for writers; just change some of the expense categories. Greg offered a rule of thumb that sounds about right -- you need to bring in two-to-three times what you expect as salary to cover your overhead and expenses.

How do you determine your fees? If you try one of these calculators, let us know how what you actually charge compares with what the calculator suggests you should charge.

Personally, I hate thinking about fees and would probably do this for nothing if I could. So, I'll probably stick with the phase of the moon.
If you liked this post you may want to sign up for automatic updates. You can choose the RSS feed or an email subscription at the bottom of the sidebar.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]