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Ask Slashdot: With Grants Drying Up, How Is a Tech Non-Profit To Survive?

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the unicorns-probably dept.

Education 178

helios17 writes "Non-Profits like this have traditionally gotten started from the money grants provide. Most grants award vehicles, computers, and even pay for organization rental and utility costs. The problem fledgling and even established non-profits are encountering is the dwindling number of grants allowing for Operating or General Support costs. What good is a vehicle received via grant if you can't afford to put fuel in it? With the number of Operating or General Support grants shrinking and those available funds competed for heavily, should we be looking on line for help? Can efforts like this be a better way to approach it?"

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Kickstarter. (3, Interesting)

Narcocide (102829) | about a year ago | (#43901585)

Lobbying is obsolete.

Re:Kickstarter. (1)

slick7 (1703596) | about a year ago | (#43901615)

Lobbying is obsolete.

Not if you're a politician, in fact it's very lucrative. All you gotta do is dump all the your voting constituents.

Re:Kickstarter. (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about a year ago | (#43901637)

I simply meant that its obsolete for non-profits. Obviously, you're right its still working great for the lobbiests and lobbiers themselves.

Re:Kickstarter. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901993)

Ah, the lobbiests, the lobbiest of them all.

Re:Kickstarter. (5, Informative)

Splat (9175) | about a year ago | (#43901641)

"Kickstarter cannot be used to raise money for causes, whether it's the Red Cross or a scholarship, or for "fund my life" projects, like tuition or bills."

Welp, so much for that idea.

Re:Kickstarter. (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about a year ago | (#43901665)

Good catch. But couldn't the same business formula work, in theory, for causes if a similar organization (but with different terms of service than Kickstarter) were to be created?

Re:Kickstarter. (3, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43901805)

You can't raise money for a cause, but you can raise money for a project for a cause. "Donate here to my cause" is not allowed, but "donate here for my cause's project" is, right?

Re:Kickstarter. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902731)

"The Jason Scott Sabbatical":

"I suddenly thought back to Kickstarter and got this crazy idea - what if I simply asked the world and fans to contribute a bit of money towards keeping me somewhat solvent, and give me the opportunity to go full-time with computer history? If I was able to get all these things done over the years, what if I just asked people to subscribe or give me some patronage and in return I fill their free time with cool stuff to look at, learn from, and enjoy?"

Re:Kickstarter. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902121)

Then replace Kickstarter with Indiegogo. They allow pitching for this and for nonprofits [] in particular.

I just understood "kickstarter" in title as "crowdfunding", like "google it" for "search the internet" or "xerox" for "photocopier".

Re:Kickstarter. (1)

Rinikusu (28164) | about a year ago | (#43902199) doesn't curate. A couple managed to crowdsource/fun a baby last year via indiegogo.

Suck dick (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901597)

If you find a good streetcorner, you could start giving head for $10 a pop. It's how I finance my $500 a day crack habit.

Re:Suck dick (-1, Offtopic)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43901729)

50 BJs a day? Thats pretty damn impressive in and of itself. Seems like you could do better in a circus or carnival or something with that kind of speed. Maybe a glory hole at a truck stop?

More important: Why are they drying up? (4, Insightful)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#43901607)

Why are the grants drying up? Despite the much-hyped "austerity", in reality the government has spent more money in each of the recent years than ever before.

So where is all the damned money going???

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about a year ago | (#43901643)

I think we're talking about America here.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (2)

Narcocide (102829) | about a year ago | (#43901655)

(The money got spent on War, mostly.)

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#43901731)

"(The money got spent on War, mostly.)"

Very possibly. Which pisses me off to no end.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901885)

lol leftist faggot, why not hand over the world to china

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (4, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year ago | (#43901997)

lol leftist faggot, why not hand over the world to china

And thus we see the right wing eating its own. Jane Q. Public is one of Slashdot's most reliably conservative posters--but one post that deviates from orthodoxy, and out come the McCarthyite claws. Kind of like how Grover Norquist was accused of being a secret Muslim the other day.

I'll be over here cheering from the sidelines.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (2)

LordLucless (582312) | about a year ago | (#43902049)

Yeah, because Anon. Coward trolls are well-known for their strict adherence to political dogma.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (4, Insightful)

countach74 (2484150) | about a year ago | (#43902189)

What's sad is that "conservative" these days means pro military-industrial complex. There is nothing actually conservative about big government spending on military; the Republicans just want us to think otherwise.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43903143)

Government spending on military in the US is truly ridiculous. Anyone that can look at the US budget reports and not feel the least bit pissed off has something fundamentally wrong with them. We could feed, cloth, shelter, and provide full medical care to every citizen in the US and still not put a dent in the military budget.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (4, Funny)

BenJCarter (902199) | about a year ago | (#43901875)

We aren't at war anymore. You must have missed the president guy's mouth noises on the subject.

so just claim your org is pro-war (5, Funny)

decora (1710862) | about a year ago | (#43902079)


old slogan: we give used computers to poor people

new slogan: by recruiting young people into the Infosec milieu, we help america defend against the goddam commie chinese hackers and the motherfucking russians who are trying to make our power system go offline so they can invade our country, kill our leaders, and convert us to non-americanism.

Re:so just claim your org is pro-war (1)

dyingtolive (1393037) | about a year ago | (#43902201)

I logged in for the first time in months to mod you up, only to find I didn't have any mod points. :(

Re:so just claim your org is pro-war (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902557)

I haven't had mod points in over a year. One day my IP address was changed and I wasn't logged in to Slashdot anymore. Haven't logged in since.

Re:so just claim your org is pro-war (2)

thelexx (237096) | about a year ago | (#43902619)

Don't forget the sapping and impurification of our bodily fluids!

Deny them your essence!

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901755)

So where is all the damned money going???

It is going to The Project for the NO CARRIER

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901777)


Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (1)

lightknight (213164) | about a year ago | (#43901921)

Well, we can do the knee-jerk thing, and randomly shout out guesses of where the funds may be going, or we can examine the various laws passed over the last several years, with a critical eye towards items that appear or disappear during those times. Granted, the language of those bills is...rough, to say the least, and you almost need an indexing service to generate hyperlinks to the original laws / dependencies to figure out what, exactly, they say now....which I imagine lawmakers already have. Actually...if they don't, that might be worth creating...something like $40K / per license, so the good Senators / Representatives can actually know what the current law says (when all the rewritten / redacted language is taken into account). Kind of like LexisNexis, but for the politicians / the people who care for such things. And the general formatting of such laws does lend itself to a parse-able format...


Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about a year ago | (#43901923)

Why are the grants drying up? Despite the much-hyped "austerity", in reality the government has spent more money in each of the recent years than ever before.

He didn't say a word about the government. Private grants are very common, anyone who has ever watched a PBS program through the credits has heard of several big name private grant programs - McArthur, Koch, etc.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (5, Interesting)

grcumb (781340) | about a year ago | (#43902483)

Why are the grants drying up?

In many cases, it's not that the money is drying up; it's that the money is increasingly 'focused' on projects rather than administration.

There's a popular conception among donors that the best way to keep NGOs from existing for their own sake (and growing fat and complacent) is to cease providing core funding, instead providing money for individual initiatives. As a happy coincidence, this also keeps NGOs on the string, having to justify every single little thing they do, which makes it easier to ensure that NGOs don't do anything that might make the donors uncomfortable, like speak their mind, or have a conscience or tell the truth.

The 'no core funding' argument has some merits, I'll grant (heh) you, as there have been NGOs who got caught up in navel-gazing, who got lazy and spent more time feathering their respective nests than actually, you know, doing good. That is absolutely something to be guarded against. But this move toward project funding has the unfortunate effect of keeping some NGOs on the fringe, struggling to stay alive. This applies particularly to those who challenge the status quo.

And as noted here, it has a knock-on effect on all NGOs, who find they can obtain salaries and meet project expenses, but can't own any fixed assets or even keep a vehicle running. Perversely, this increases their operating costs, which have to be met somehow. And that results in bigger grant applications for project funding.

Obligatory software analogy: This is similar to tech companies who see design, tech support, permanent staffing and even updates as cost centres and therefore areas to starve as much as possible. This can all too easily lead to more friction in the gears, longer ramp-up times, slower release schedules, reduced quality and sales, and yes, higher development costs, once everything's factored in.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (1, Troll)

khallow (566160) | about a year ago | (#43902671)

I take it you think there's a problem here? My view is that non profits are an excellent place for parasites to thrive since there's no real accountability aside from whatever donors happen to impose. Donors are merely getting wise to what's been happening over the past few decades to the non profit sector.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43902937)

The problem is that the donors are often themselves large organizations full of people with questionable motives, so an increase in donor micromanagement may actually decrease the quality of services rather than improve it. It's not like either the government or places like the Ford Foundation have particularly strong accountability imposed on them.

In academia at least, I think it's generally made things worse. Whereas previously a lot of interesting research would slip through the cracks and get funded on a DARPA project, now that DARPA micromanages everything, nothing gets done unless a DARPA bureaucrat signs off on it first, so you have research by government committee.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43903079)

DARPA should scrutinize projects thoroughly, as they are using taxpayer dollars and it's a priority that they are good stewards of that money. It's funny how an entire large group of people complain about government waste, and then another large group of people can come along and say the government is being too judicious in the spending of that same money.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (2)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43903097)

The government should broadly decide what kinds of scientific research to fund, but it should not micromanage them, because red tape and micromanagement by bureaucrats is not how innovation happens. The government's job in funding scientific research is to allocate money and get the fuck out of the way.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (2)

PurpleAlien (797797) | about a year ago | (#43903111)

this increases their operating costs

This is the reason we run our non-profit, [] , on a per project basis with basically no running operating costs at all. We find funding for our projects in our spare time, not as an employment deal. We have gathered a team of people from around the globe who put their time and effort into the foundation, nonsalaried. Of course, people willing to do that are hard to find, but the ones that are willing to do this are the ones you really can rely on. We also did not just pop into existence one day, even though the actual body was only launched a couple of weeks ago. We combined the efforts of several companies, their past projects, leveraging their skill sets across the projects we want to achieve and find funding for those on a per project basis. If there is no project ongoing, there are no running costs.

It's goig to bankers and army. (1)

boorack (1345877) | about a year ago | (#43902527)

And deficits will still rise. This "austerity" thing should be called corruption.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (2)

CodeBuster (516420) | about a year ago | (#43902577)

So where is all the damned money going?

Shrinking the National Debt [] ? More still needs to be done, but this a good start. What we shouldn't do is go back to eating potato chips and drinking pop just when our pain at the gym of budget cuts is starting to pay off in the form of a smaller deficit waistline.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (3, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | about a year ago | (#43902711)

Actually, funding for a lot of these types of grants is drying up, this kind of spending has been in the Republican bullseye for a long time, and has suffered during recent budget "crises" due to Republicans picking these kinds of grants specifically to harp on(despite the fact that they make up less than 3% of the overall budget, and probably are one of the few effective government programs...) Basically they are trying to distract people from the fact that Republicans are unwilling to make real cuts and as an added bonus, are focusing on programs that primarily benefit their "enemies" (i.e. anyone who isn't either uber-rich or an uneducated white). Class act those Republicans.

Re:More important: Why are they drying up? (3, Insightful)

stenvar (2789879) | about a year ago | (#43902829)

So where is all the damned money going???

It's going to entitlements, mostly. Increased taxes and spending are justified by progressives with phrases like "taxes buy civilization", but they choose to spend most of the new money coming in on increasing individual benefits (it buys votes, I suppose). A lot of the rest is spent on bailouts and subsidies to failing industries. Infrastructure and non-profits are stagnating or get cut.

Try the private sector. (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901645)

Create a product, something that people want and fills a need. Sell it at a reasonable profit. Stop stealing money from society. The gravy train is ending, don't wait for it to jump the tracks. People are wising up to these criminals taking all our hard earned cash and pocketing it.

Re:Try the private sector. (4, Insightful)

RogueWarrior65 (678876) | about a year ago | (#43901687)

Assuming that this isn't sarcasm, there's a lesson to be learned here. If you are willing to operate on a shoestring budget, you can accomplish a lot. But you also have to be willing to look at your idea and honestly assess it's value and whether or not it's time to close up shop and move on to something else.

Re:Try the private sector. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901821)

i made 100k off the derivatives market in the past week. i'd say the gravy train isn't ending for all of us.
  and lol 'product': the system is geared for arbitrage.

Re:Try the private sector. (1, Informative)

Bremic (2703997) | about a year ago | (#43901857)

If you want to maintain the 'gravy train', then become a religion. You get all the benefits of being a business (scaling from a small business to a multi-national corporation), and you get massive tax breaks, lack of governmental oversight, immunity to many laws where Industrial Relations or Health and Safety are concerned, and the ability to seek legal action against anyone who says your goals aren't good for the community.

What I am really trying to say here is, until Religions lose their special exemptions with regards to money, people and property - the gravy train still exists. It's just only for the very special few. Mostly those who don't need it.

Re:Try the private sector. (2)

ub3r n3u7r4l1st (1388939) | about a year ago | (#43901897)

Your description fits the bankers perfectly.

Most charity started from a very little budget, have no expectation of profit, and created for the sole purpose of benefiting the society. Those who started up for some maligned purpose are easily AND quickly caught up by IRS or their state's attorney general.

Besides starting a non-profit have several purposes:

1. Re-define your character, especially if you have a shady past

2. If you have monstrous (federal) student loans, you can qualify for PSLF [] for TAX-FREE forgiveness after working 10 years full time in any 501(c)(3) organization, including those you started. (Orgs that are tax-exempted on other sections of the tax code, such as 501(c)(4), does NOT count.) You must be making payments (Hint: use income-based repayment) and in good standing in order to count. If you have private student loans, too bad.

3. If your org involve in running a business, and as long as you are not breaching any contracts or engage in obviously fraudulent behavior, anyone who try to pull a McDonald-coffee-style lawsuit [] against your org can be getting very bad publicity given the fact that you are a non-profit. It acts as a very good natural shield against nuisance, NIMBYs and other pests that comes in your way when advancing your noble purpose.

Re:Try the private sector. (1)

Phillip2 (203612) | about a year ago | (#43902849)

This is actually at the root of the problem. The general ideology is these days moving toward the idea that the private sector is the only plausible way to function. A marked change from the days when we a mixed economy with different kinds of entity were considered important; this is why we invented the legal frameworks for charities, not-for-profits and so forth. Perhaps all of this is pointless. Personally, I think not. There are some things that are worth achieving, could be achieved but for which is is hard to find a business model for.

One solution to this problem is hope that a few people earn pots of money, and then give it away in a fit of philanthropy. This can work, although there is a problem; generally these sort of entities are only willing to give money to things on which it is possible to attach an advert saying who bought it. This is, I think, the core problem here. Easy to stick a label on the side of a new van; much harder to do so with the diesel.

I think we will be, and are becoming, a poorer world for this. Perhaps the trend will turn back again.

Easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901647)

Call your non-profit "American Freedom Overseas" and wait for the fund money and volunteers to come flowing in. And those volunteers know some shit. They could set up a self-contained command center in Cuba in 5 minutes! The only problem is that they'll try to convince everybody else they talk to how the free market will fix things and how their leader Erik Prince got the Order of Merit [] recently which fairly recently was posted and quickly taken down from Cryptome.

Oh well, at least we know that delusional idiots either believe in or are exploiting other delusional morons who believe in imaginary gods, like in the crusades, but now! This hot on the heels of the Rabbis who have blessed female Mossad agents to Fuck the enemy. []

-- Ethanol-fueled

Find a big donor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901649)

A dotcom multimillionaire - should be plenty kicking around Austin TX. S/he could bankroll the operations part of it so you can get the rest through volunteered time and donations in kind. That also has a PR aspect, since you can publicize that someone with a reputation and money on the line vetted your charity. Otherwise, let's face it, lots of charities and non-profits have been started by people with good intentions, who were unable to deliver on them, for many of the same reasons that small (for profit) businesses fail within the first few years.

merge with a larger organization (1)

D1G1T (1136467) | about a year ago | (#43901719)

Donors and grant-givers are increasingly more careful about who they give money to. Even ignoring the scams, they want to know that they are having the greatest effect for their money. Of course it is not always true, but larger organizations tend to have less overhead and better accountability in showing what is being delivered for the money they receive. Then of course there's the elephant in the room: Are you really sure you are helping? Perhaps you should be doing something else that the community you are serving needs more.

Re:merge with a larger organization (1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43901761)

but larger organizations tend to have less overhead and better accountability

What reality do you live in? In my experience that is exactly the opposite of how it works at every organization I've ever seen. Be it an organization of friends, a shoestring non-profit, or too-big-to-fail businesses.

The larger ones may have more paper trails, but that doesn't actually mean ANYONE is accountable, as we can see the world over as big businesses fuck up economies left and right and the only thing that happens to them is ... nothing. They don't even get fucking fired for needing the government to save their asses.

Re:merge with a larger organization (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901783)

In fact the larger than organization, the less accountable they become. The federal government is the largest non-profit organization out there, and you know how accountable they are.

Re:merge with a larger organization (1)

D1G1T (1136467) | about a year ago | (#43901877)

What reality do you live in?

Like I said, the new reality where grant givers are making larger but fewer grants. Groups of friends and "shoestring non-profits" don't get those very often in my experience. I'm not saying he has to merge with the red cross. Just that perhaps his current charity could become a project of an already-grant-receiving community redevelopment organization in his area. A small piece of a $200,000 grant is better than nothing, and he's probably end up with more exposure, volunteers and resources than he has now.

Specific question about the Reglue donation page (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901725)

Knight suggests that you donate the $3 you would have paid for the book straight to Reglue/Helios. I'm just curious if they get the full $3 or how much of a cut and the credit card company gets. Anyone have any ideas?

Follow the Rolex model (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901739)

Declare yourself a non-profit. Make a product. Sell it for a ton of money. Do what you want with your tax-free money.

Get a government job (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901763)

You never hear about the government laying people off unless they misbehave, and government salaries and benefits are way higher than the private sector.

Re:Get a government job (3, Informative)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | about a year ago | (#43902025)

You never hear about the government laying people off unless they misbehave, and government salaries and benefits are way higher than the private sector.

Can I move to your planet? It sounds like a good place to get a job.

unless you actually work for the government (1)

decora (1710862) | about a year ago | (#43902091)

i have seen people get layed off and fired all the time in the government.

Re:unless you actually work for the government (1)

countach74 (2484150) | about a year ago | (#43902207)

Really? I used to work for the State of Oregon and I never saw anyone laid off for anything and believe me there was much misbehaving.

Re:Get a government job (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902187)

I used to be employed by the government as a research scientist. I am one of several hundreds of thousands of government employees laid off due to state and federal austerity. Next week I start my new position in private industry doing pretty much what I did while in the government employ, only my salary is more than double what I got as a government scientist, I get much better medical (and now dental! And vision!) benefits, plus a matching 401k, and four weeks more vacation.

Uhm, do something people believe in? (-1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | about a year ago | (#43901827)

WTF? Get your ass to work and do something to earn the money you want to blow.

Why the hell should any one give you money when the most effort you appear to put into it is asking someone else how to do it on slashdot.

You are part of the problem. You seem to believe you are entitled to other peoples money because you want to start a 'non-profit'.

Heres a hint. A non-profit is still a business just like every other business. You still have to provide something people care enough about to give you money.

Stop expecting people to throw money at you and DO SOMETHING.

Stop blowing your political ideals about software all over it as well. I shouldn't see Linux plastered on both of the links you give. You want to not alienate people, Linux is a good way to do that. GPL scares a lot of people with money, they don't even actually know why, take that crap out and stop making it clear your more concerned with your biased view than accomplishing the goal at hand.

Stop trying to sell your crappy books as some awesome bundle that people will want to buy to donate to your cause. Dude, you've got a grand total of about 15 reviews. You are not popular. People don't care about your books or what you write and they certainly aren't going to donate because some random dude published a book being that anyone can publish a book on Amazon for almost exactly 0 effort and certainly 0 cost.

Looking at your front page ... I see a lot of begging 'because I'm going to do something good' but pretty much nothing that tells what you actually do.

In short, its clear you want people to give you free shit, but it is unclear how you are any different than a street begger who just doesn't want to actually work for a living.


'Because' isn't an answer. 'I'm going to do 'good' stuff for people' isn't an answer. Have a plan, tell exactly how funding will be spent, then people might listen.

Right now, you're sites just a semi-pretty scam as far as anyone is concerned.

Re:Uhm, do something people believe in? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901939)

Spoken like a true fucktard with not a hint of social responsibility, completely oblivious to the debt that you owe to your society and to the civilization that has given you your education and the underpinnings of everything that you know and possess.

Just sayin', you know.

Re:Uhm, do something people believe in? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902017)

Don't worry, our government is copying the same political structure like China, he will be ending up in re-education camp one way or the other about humanity.

Re:Uhm, do something people believe in? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902055)

He's not the one running a non-profit, asking for free money. He's an author who's giving away two of his books for free, and asking people to make small donations to Reglue, which is a non-profit in the Texas area I think.

It seems you didn't actually read anything on his site, like you claim.

Re:Uhm, do something people believe in? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902287)

give away free books to raise money to give away free computers, what?

Calm down, have some dip. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902073)

Yeah he asked Slashdot for advice on fundraising for a non-profit technical entity. He didn't ask us for money, just advice. You act like he stuck his hand in your pocket and grabbed your wallet while kissing your wife.

They are doing something. They are gathering information on what their next fiscal move should be. Instead of just asking random idiots like you for money, they foolishly assume that you might be worth more than a couple of bucks.

Ok, fine linux is politics, blah blah blah. You gonna buy those shiny Windows licenses for them? Neither is anyone else.

Also, did you read the book? Do you know its crap? Do you even have half a decent reason for attacking an author who is, literally, just trying to help? Didja stop and think " what that pesky marketing crap I keep hearing about is. Oh well, i don't have time to worry about that I have to update NoScript and AdblockPlus++ cause advertising is for suckers!" Nah, you just bash everyone involved cause you're butthurt about this week's episode of Game of Thrones. If you'd read a book you might have seen that coming btw...

They are doing something. They are providing computers for disadvantaged kids. They are not brand new, they do not run the latest Windows and have all the shiny games installed. But that's cause they are tools, not toys. They are making the most of what they can get, and doing actual, tangible good for the children of their communities. I didn't half their webpages but I got that from the front page on both. If you did not, you need to calm down, take a deep breath, and go read them again. They need money for running their day to day operations. Utility bills, gas, insurance, etc. All those things cost money. A car really is useless without insurance and gas to run it, money to get regular service on it to make it last as long as possible and stretch that donated vehicle's life out as long as possible.

Lots of investors/donators no longer want to foot that bill cause they don't see it as "helping" is the point of the submission. You didn't address that at all and went on some rant about how you think they should be running their business, a business which you admit you have no idea what it actually is.

On the actual topic, yes Submitter, if you cannot get grants to run your non-profit general expenses, then you have to turn to fundraising for it. I feel that giving away a product and hoping for donations is probably less effective than actually either selling items directly or partnering with another for-profit organization and getting a cut of sales for a limited time. you'll get your agreed cut, they get to call that whole thing a charitable contribution on their bottom line, and their customers get to feel good knowing they did something to help while getting something they wanted anyways.

Capital versus Operating expenses - Capital Wins (3, Informative)

Yo_mama (72429) | about a year ago | (#43901849)

I worked for The Seattle Foundation [] for a while (a while ago) and they serve as sort-of an intermediary between people wanting to donate and non-profits seeking funding. Donors vastly prefer to fund capital acquisitions over operating costs - it's just sexier and feels cooler to people who think in terms of growing things (money, power) by default. "Hey, I got them this new truck," sounds better than "I paid for gas and an oil change for this old truck they've had for a decade." You will find donors who believe in a cause and fund both, but they also want to have the freedom to say no and not be taken for granted.

I have to wonder if some of this is the changing values of our population and culture.

Follow the US gov cash (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about a year ago | (#43901861)

Think hearts and minds funding:
Step 1. Find any US gov funded anthropologist. Chat with them about US gov funding, regions of the world with the US is handing out big aid grants.
Step 2. Sell, present your tech skills in a new light. Your helping sell brand USA to the world, diverting impressionable young people to good US projects.
Allowing US tech, methods, Universities, hardware, software to filter down to places where its been seen as too expensive, distant or difficult.
Step 3. Find some history project in need of interesting OCR/scanning tech. ie scan torn-up documents, old books, allow locals to create open source fonts, put their past together using US help.
Think brand name US tech and the 'free' code/software they help write with your expert skills over time.
Local empowerment, respect and great media/branding long term.
The wonderful art, culture they can present back in the USA that you helped uncover, save and gift to the world.
Cross discipline with a strong local element. The U.S. Department of State is the best friend you can have long term, as with other gov groups that will notice you over time.
If any part of the US gov asks for any small favour, always say yes, long term you might be well funded for all costs if you "help".
Get a list of your congress critters and other parties congress critters charities - get to know the faith or medical ie the international projects they like to be seen with.
Write a letter, frame what you get back and keep talking to their staff long term, work both sides, with your 'tech skills' and how inspiring their projects where/are.
Drop that political name depending on the right or left blog/press if interviewed - a few lines of good news spreads fast.

Restrictions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901909)

Many grants restrict how the funds are used. Many do not allow for equipment, capital, licenses..etc they will only fund the project directly and a small % of operating costs. Unrestricted funds is hard to come by. Useless..

Run your non-profit as a for-profit (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43901925)

The mistake I see with so many non-profits is that they are run without trying to make a profit. Go make a profit, make as much as you can (just don't pay dividends). They are businesses at the core, even if non profit businesses. Forget that at your peril.

Re:Run your non-profit as a for-profit (1)

iggymanz (596061) | about a year ago | (#43902065)

sorry to burst your bubble, but there are laws about how much extra money your non-profit can make, what happens to money made in activities "not closely related to its public purpose", and what can be done with extra money (hint, no bonuses). Consult a lawyer, this is complex subject at state, federal and local levels.

Re:Run your non-profit as a for-profit (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902553)

Partially correct. There are no caps on the amount of untaxed income your non-profit can have as long as it they are associated with its purpose, but there is a cap on the amount of tax-free income that can be earned from unrelated activities. Even in that case, you can typically continue to operate as a non-profit as long as the appropriate taxes are paid on the unrelated activities. However, your last point is 100% correct, and the most important: talk to a lawyer.

Re:Run your non-profit as a for-profit (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year ago | (#43902891)

When the United Way buys luxury jets an violates no laws, I think you'd have to try really really hard accidentally break the laws you are talking about.

Wellcome to the world of non-profits! (4, Interesting)

hedgemage (934558) | about a year ago | (#43901951)

I have worked for a variety of non-profits and written grants for them. I'm surprised that there ever was money for operating expenses available for tech-based non-profits since every foundation I've petitioned for grant money has specifically said that they do not provide operating costs. Instead, I write grants with a specific project in mind. This could be "build a new wing to the university library", "Fund staff to inventory the museum collection in storage," or "run a week-long day camp for inner-city youth that teaches non-violent conflict resolution methods."
Unless you have some kind of revenue stream, you are going to be relying on donations and volunteers just like a community clothes closet for the homeless. Sounds like now that the gravy train of easy money is drying up these tech non-profits are being forced to demonstrate how they benefit the public good. I'm sure that there are many worthy causes, but now their in the wild competing for the same dollars and mind-share as food pantries, elder advocacy groups, and animal shelters.

Re:Wellcome to the world of non-profits! (4, Informative)

hedgemage (934558) | about a year ago | (#43901999)

Replying to my own comment because I thought of another good point.

Non-profit does not mean you can't make money. In fact, as long as you follow the rules for organization, reporting, etc. you can make money hand over fist. Think about how every private school in the US is able to function and some grow quite fat off of those tuition dollars. If you have a tech-based non-profit that (for example) provides computer programming education to disadvantaged youth, or provides systems and education for the elderly, there's nothing to stop you from doing consulting, selling spare parts, or charging for other services as long as those proceeds are plowed right back into the organization to feed your key mission.

Too many people think that non-profit means you aren't a normal business. You are! You simply have convinced the government that it is in the public's best interest to let you exist free of the burden of taxes.

Re:Wellcome to the world of non-profits! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902149)

You got it spot on.

Freegeek in Portland, OR does exactly this. They recycle computers for poor schools and sell them as well in there store. The profits made from selling parts and donated computers go into funding the organization. They actually pull in more money than they have a use for.

Re:Wellcome to the world of non-profits! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902639)

yeah, non profit just means you don't pay any "owners" a share of the profits.

What good is a vehicle (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43901983)

hint: if you're functioning on grant money, take the fucking bus

meanings (1)

Xicor (2738029) | about a year ago | (#43901987)

"non-profit" doesnt mean you cant support your expenses, it simply means that your company isnt out for profit.

Re:meanings (2)

Xicor (2738029) | about a year ago | (#43901995)

i forgot to mention... a non-profit organization can even give income to its employees.

Re:meanings (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | about a year ago | (#43902231)

And that fact that some (many? but certainly not all) non-profits are paying very large salaries is one reason why the money is drying up.

Endorse a Theme Park (2)

guttentag (313541) | about a year ago | (#43902031)

The (Alan) Grant Method
  1. Find an eccentric millionaire who is building a theme park on an island off Costa Rica related to your specialty
  2. Agree to visit and endorse the park on the condition that said millionaire fund your operation for three years
  3. Ensure funds are in your account before you get on the helcopter
  4. Pack a large tranquilizer gun, laser pointer and sat phone
  5. ???
  6. Non-Profit!!!

(most of this stuff should be obvious, but the laser pointer is included to help you pass the time making dinosaurs chase after the little red light while you wait to be rescued)

Re:Endorse a Theme Park (1)

Trepidity (597) | about a year ago | (#43902945)

However, under no circumstances should you follow the variant of this plan that includes an eccentric millionaire in Belize and freebase bath salts.

Funny, my first thought b4 reading, sell the best (1)

raymorris (2726007) | about a year ago | (#43902051)

It's kind of funny - before clicking the link to even see what kind of non-profit it is, I thought of a non-profit know that collects old computers, images them, and sells them. That was before I read that the link had anything to do with that. Basic desktops really haven't advanced that much in the last few years, so there are a lot of "old" computers being given away or sold for garage sale prices that are perfectly usable. A sizeable portion of the time, people are replacing computers and the only thing "wrong" with them is a bunch of malware.

So you want to fund giving away refurbished computers? Sell the best ones. Selling one for $250 will fund reimaging / reconfiguring 10 others. Sell one for $125, that will probably cover your costs of five giveaways.

By becoming a for-profit (1)

mi (197448) | about a year ago | (#43902053)

You "survive" by making some fsck-ing profit, darn it. Oh, no, we are too good to "waste" our time earning honest living. We want to save the world.

A Child's Exposure to Technology Should Never Be Predicated On The Ability To Afford It

Earn your money, then buy a kid a computer... Would be better for both of you.

Re:By becoming a for-profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902227)

Lol, that is hilarious. Don't we already have OLPC and don't functioning computers cost less than a cell phone?

I guess it's not hard to figure out why organizations can be filled with idiots. They always think they're so damn important. Newsflash, some people are a waste of air and you don't deserve an A for effort.

Re:By becoming a for-profit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902241)

I hate to break this to you, but for-profits are for profit. Why would they help a third party, and inevitably reduce their profit?

This is why there is virtually no social responsibility in the US. The vast bulk of the system is focused completely on profit.

Why should you survive? (3, Interesting)

onyxruby (118189) | about a year ago | (#43902061)

Why should your non-profit survive when compared to any of the others? The overwhelming majority are staffed with good people with good intentions who work for very little money. The problem is one over-saturation for the market and a donation fatigue from a public that is burned out. There are hundreds of thousands of non-profits in the US alone and every single one of them thinks that /they/ are the most important.

When a business starts to think that they 'deserve' our money we accuse them of entitlement (e.g. Circuit City) and vilify them. A non-profit really isn't any different in that they serve a function that costs money and in order to survive need to take in money. Like a business they can merge, be bought or go bankrupt.

Frankly if more non-profits started to merge it would enable greater economies of scale and efficiencies, just like a business. It would also enable them to spend more money on their mission and less money on overhead. Services from secretarial to bandwidth to phone banks could be shared at greater efficiency across more organizations.

Perhaps my answer seems callous, but the bottom line is that no organization is entitled to survive. Non-profits need to embrace what the business world has done and go through a series of mergers for the greater good. Are your clients better served by your merging with another organization because you are stretched so thin that you are no longer effective?

People typically start and run non-profits because their ego tells them that they can do better than the person already running a like kind service. Society as a whole would benefit enormously if non-profits put their missions before their egos. These warm hearted organizations need some cold blooded business acumen.

Forget nonprofits (1)

russotto (537200) | about a year ago | (#43902063)

Have you considered making a social network for cats instead? Ms. Naemeka will understand.

Re:Forget nonprofits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902233)

I'll have you know I've got an entire team of developers working around the clock on and would appreciate you not infringing on my patented cat networking.

The government inteligencia... (1)

m6ack (922653) | about a year ago | (#43902075)

Huh??? The idea of grants being served by the "inteligencia in government" -- honestly, it sickens me. What is the inteligence level of a typical person in civil service relative to the typical startup employee or entrepreneur? Oh help me please... I've worked for civil service in the past, and I know the real story.

Honestly, we all know that the "Inteligencia" in government cannot fight out their way out of a paper bag. So, how does it serve the public good for these designers of waste, these perfect jewels of the moric, and even criminaly graphic behaviour, to decide that even one charity deserves funding in the interest of society?

If a tech non-profit cannot sustain itself by garnering public support through donations for it's work in the public interest... dude... it doesn't deserve to survive.

Alanis Morisette, take note (1)

holophrastic (221104) | about a year ago | (#43902099)

This would be the definition of irony.

You give away computer for free, and you can't afford computers of your own. So you want someone else to buy you a computer, in order to help manage your give-away-free-computers business. Ptysician, heal thyself?

Perhaps, just maybe, you should select a mission that you can actually achieve; you know, on your own: with your own skills, and your own money.

Re:Alanis Morisette, take note (1)

kwbauer (1677400) | about a year ago | (#43902251)

but, but, but... I'm guessing you don't really go for the FOSS idea much do you (at least the F part of it).

You seem to be suggesting that people should are mainly responsible for themselves and should focus more on giving away their own stuff than somebody else's. I once read something about liberals being very generous with other people's money. Are you suggesting that is not an ideal we should strive for?

Re:Alanis Morisette, take note (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | about a year ago | (#43902283)

liberals like giving other people's money to everyone, conservatives like giving other peoples money to their friends

Cooperative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902141)

Form a Cooperative. It's what they used to do in the 30's during the great depression, and many have lasted since then. There are also newer types of multi-stakeholder cooperatives that allow for external investors while cooperative members retain the rights.

Astronomycast (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902325)

They provide a free, educational and enjoyable experience if you're into science, they ask for donations and they get them; they just broke 300 episodes not counting question shows over something like 6 or 7 years. While it's a sad state of affairs I agree, maybe providing something of value is the key.

Grants to Root Money from Politics w/ Tech & M (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902455)

Greetings Slashdotters:

Voqal, a Colorado Non-Profit Foundation, sends an open call for LOI's to combat the undue influence of money in American democracy. We also have fellowship opportunities for individuals on the graduate and career-track level.

Get involved here:

"There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root." -Henry David Thoreau

An alternative perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902875)

"A Child's Exposure to Technology Should Never Be Predicated On The Ability To Afford It"

A Child's Exposure to Race Cars Should Never Be Predicated On The Ability To Afford It

Do it like the Rspberry Pi Foundation, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43902921)

"A Child's Exposure to Technology Should Never Be Predicated On The Ability To Afford It"

That was the Raspberry Pi Foundations idea. So they just went ahead and did it. No grant money required.

mod 0p (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43903013)

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