Helping nonprofits find a bigger piece of more pies

"We already have over 7,000 foundations in our database... so we can quickly and easily find the right funding source for each type of program."

By DAVID SHAMAH
August 9, 2011 00:02
4 minute read.
STUART SAFFER:

STUART SAFFER 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Money makes the world go round, as the old song goes. But nowadays, the world seems to be turning just a bit slower – because money is so much harder to come by. Nonprofits, the organizations that dedicate themselves to raising money so they can do some good, are harder hit than anyone. They rely on donations for the most part, but when money is tight, those donations tend to dry up.

When recession strikes, donors are less willing to donate. But the needs of nonprofits grow just then, as more people come looking for help. And as the pool of money gets smaller, more organizations begin competing for an ever-shrinking piece of the pie. Yet the needs don’t go away.

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Is there any solution? Well, one way to get more money is to find more sources of donations – specifically grants and other forms of funding from a plethora of organizations that exist to give money away.

We’re all familiar with groups like the Federation, the United Israel Appeal and others. But there are many other organizations, well over 10,000, says Stuart Saffer, founder of Israel Strategic Initiatives (ISI), a start-up that helps Israeli nonprofits access more donor “pies” than they would have been able to on their own – and hopefully get access to the funding they need.

“We began building our database a few years ago, and we now have over 7,000 organizations in our database from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, the Far East, etc.

that provide money to projects in Israel,” he says. “And we are constantly expanding our listing of organizations.”

The idea behind ISI is to introduce nonprofits to sources of funding they haven’t applied to in the past. Saffer and his team help nonprofits identify new sources of funding; i.e., organizations they have not applied to in the past. ISI offers a variety of packages for nonprofits, from just identifying prospects to helping organizations write their proposals, if they need to.

One thing Saffer does not promise to do is use his “connections” to get in a decision maker’s face.

“There are others out there who do promise their clients this, but I feel they are doing them a disservice,” he says. “Instead of handpicking a limited number of potential funding sources, we prefer to expose our clients to as many sources as possible. We already have over 7,000 foundations in our database, with the information organized by over 1,000 categories, ensuring easy data retrieval, so we can quickly and easily find the right funding source for each type of program.”

Besides grant hunting, ISI helps nonprofits track down RFPs (requests for proposals), where foundations seek out service providers to conduct specific programs. It’s all computerized and sorted for easy access, so finding the right foundation to apply to is easy, Saffer says, adding, “Without a digitized database of information, this work would be impossible.”

If anyone is qualified to do this kind of work, it’s Saffer. He’s a longtime veteran of the Jewish and Israeli fund-raising scene, having worked for 20 years at the Joint Distribution Committee.

“We know the ins and outs of the application process, so we can help there too,” he says. “But many of our clients are very appreciative just finding out about sources of funding they were not aware of.”

ISI can even walk nonprofits through the entire process from A to Z, although, Saffer says, they cannot guarantee that a group will actually get funding.

“That depends on how good of a grant writer they have,” he says.

“What we can do is guarantee to introduce them to new sources of funding.”

And indeed, many of Saffer’s clients report that they do find potential donors.

“I have had numerous clients tell me that they reached the final round in a foundation’s screening process, although none have called me back to say they received a grant,” he says. “But I suspect that that’s because they don’t want to spread the word that they have found a new funding source, given the competition.”

Currently, the nonprofits ISI has been dealing with the most include organizations that seek to help children with disabilities or that tend to social needs, such as poverty, Saffer says.

Although much of the information ISI can provide is publicly available, most organizations are already pressed for time and don’t have the personnel to sift through thousands of websites for applications and information.

And that fact is what makes ISI a true Israeli start-up.

Saffer began the company after he left the JDC because of cutbacks. He parlayed his experience and knowledge in a very complicated area into a successful business – and one that helps the less fortunate, at that. By finding a better way to build a mousetrap – or, in this case, to make it easier for nonprofits to find new sources of funding – Saffer has built a business that does good for his team and his customers. And that is certainly a worthy idea for a start-up.

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