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Questions I’m Most Often Asked about Winning Foundation Grants

Questions I’m Most Often Asked about Winning Foundation Grants.

For anyone in the process of writing a grant or considering it, this is an informative Q&A with a foundation expert.  Great advice!

Charity Begins At Home… Know Your Organization’s Charitable Status and EIN

ImageWhat is Your Organization’s Charitable Status?

Now that the summer league season is over, we encourage all U.S.-based, youth baseball and softball organizations (as well as other small non-profit organizations) to confirm the charitable exemption status of your organization with the IRS.

According to the IRS website, “Although they are exempt from income taxation, exempt organizations are generally required to file annual returns of their income and expenses with the Internal Revenue Service.  Beginning in 2008, small tax-exempt organizations that previously were not required to file returns because their gross receipts did not exceed a certain threshold may be required to file an annual electronic notice…In addition to required filings, a charity may have other ongoing compliance obligations.”

Therefore, if you have not checked recently, have not filed the appropriate returns (or don’t know if your organization has filed), don’t assume that your organization is still exempt!

Read all about the IRS requirements for charities and non-profits in the U.S. at http://www.irs.gov/Charities-&-Non-Profits/Exempt-Organizations—Required-Filings

The Baseball Tomorrow Fund application requires a copy of your IRS letter of determination, confirming the non-profit status of your organization.  So, make sure your organization has a current copy before beginning the application process.

Know Your EIN

This is also a good opportunity to confirm your organization’s EIN (Employer Identification Number or Federal Tax Identification Number.)  All U.S. organizations are assigned this number by the IRS.

At BTF, we require an EIN for all U.S. based applicants — whether the organization is a registered 501(c)(3) or tax-exempt organization, such as a municipality or school.  This number is used as an applicant’s unique identification number in our database and is required before any grant award is approved or paid.  Without a EIN, BTF will not process or evaluate a request.

The format of a Federal EIN is XX-XXXXXXX.  If the number you have on file has more or less digits, it is unlikely to be a Federal EIN.

Free Online Grant Writing Classes

If you have never written a grant proposal but are considering it, we encourage you to do a bit of research and educate yourself on the basics before jumping right in.

The Foundation Center is the leading source of information about philanthropy.  The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. and global grantmakers and operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at all levels.  The Center offers an excellent library for free webinars (in English and Spanish) covering topics including grant seeking basics, developing a proposal budget and fundraising planning.

Go to http://fdncenter.sharedby.co/links/LjLBC2 to learn more about grant writing, grant seeking and the world of philanthropy.

You Can’t Control the Weather…

…but you can control how you maintain your field. The Baseball Tomorrow Fund helps organizations all over the world, which means at any given time the weather can be drastically different for our grant recipients. Take a look at a few quick tips on how to properly handle different types of weather.

Rain

-Always be aware of the forecast. It is vital to cover  the mound and home plate areas when rain is predicted. Tarp should overlap the grass by eight inches.

-Just because it’s done raining, doesn’t mean the field is ready for play. Too much standing water can increase field damage and the risk of player injuries. Sometimes calling a game is necessary after rain.

Extreme Heat

-During periods of extreme heat, you must thoroughly water your turf and keep an eye on the depth of moisture saturation using a soil probe. If the water penetration is slow, it may be necessary to aerate.

-If you’re using artificial turf, be sure to water the field prior to using it to cool down the surface temperature – it can get very warm!

Snow

A little snow won’t stop the Rockies! Click the image for the article.

A little snow won’t stop the Rockies! Click the image for the article.

 

-If you are prone to winter weather, consider using a winter turf cover in the off-season. It not only protects your field from the elements, but also warms the soil and can help grass grow better and greener in the spring.

-Sometimes a simple shovel and teamwork is the best resource. Check out this article about the Colorado Rockies’ Groundkeeper Crew and what happens with the show must go on.

For more tips, please visit the BTF Field Maintenance GuideFacebookTwitter and Website pages.

Artificial Turf: The 5 Ws

There are many factors when thinking about installing artificial turf. The various aspects can seem overwhelming when making this big of a decision, so we have provided a breakdown of the 5Ws (and the H!) of Artificial Turf.  Be sure to also check out the Resources at the bottom of the post to learn more.

What Is It?

Artificial turf is synthetic ground cover. It resembles natural grass and is often used in athletic facilities to provide a consistent playing surface that sustains extended use and weather conditions. Artificial turf consists of more than the grass-like fiber that you can see from the stands; it also includes a drainage system, a backing system, and infill, which is similar to topsoil but is made from sand and/or rubber materials (Synthetic Turf Council).

Turf

Photo Credit: Synthetic Turf Council

Who Uses It?

According to the Synthetic Turf Council (STC), more than 8,000 artificial turf fields are being used in North America. With less daily (and less costly) maintenance, a higher level of consistency and a greater ability to withstand more usage, artificial turf has become a popular choice in colleges and high schools.

Why Use It?

Artificial turf can withstand more usage than natural grass, ideal if you envision using the field for various types of sports and events (STC). Your athletes may also sustain fewer injuries that would normally occur due to uneven playing surfaces, mud, and similar problems associated with natural grass.

Unlike natural grass, artificial turf will not attract weeds or bugs, eliminating the need for pesticides or fertilizer (momsTeam). You also will conserve water with an artificial field; in 2010, “between four to eight billion gallons of water were conserved” with artificial turf use (STC). That equates to the annuals water usage of up to 55,000 average American families!

What are some drawbacks?

An artificial field typically needs to be replaced every 8 to 10 years, though that lifespan may decrease with higher usage (STC). On a related note, once artificial grass is installed, it’s essentially a long-term commitment. The impact of the plastic turf on the soil makes it nearly impossible to sustain natural grass in the future without years of soil reformation (momsTeam).

It can also be expensive to maintain (though much less expensive than natural grass). The Sports Turf Managers Association (STMA) estimates that maintaining an artificial field can cost approximately $6,000/year, not including equipment, and can require up to 375 of labor hours/year. These estimates vary by field size and usage.

Another element to consider is heat. Artificial turf can heat up faster than natural grass, but this impact can be temporarily minimized by watering the field prior to use (STMA).

Finally, line marking can be permanent on artificial turf, as it can be sewn into the turf during production. This makes it less adaptable for other sports if changing line markings is necessary. With this in mind, however, it is possible to paint temporary lines/logos on the field, but they may more difficult to remove than on natural grass (STMA).

Where Should It Be Used?

Artificial turf is suitable to be used in all settings, but especially when the weather is unpredictable or even predictably hot, in which case artificial turf can be a better, more reliable choice than natural grass (STC).

Another weather note – if you experience lots of rain, artificial turf may be a sound choice. It tends to drain faster than natural grass and maintains its playability. This leads to less maintenance time after rain and also fewer rainouts (STMA).

How much will it cost?

The cost of an artificial field will be greater upfront, but generally pays off in 3 to 4 years (STC). The cost of installing artificial turf varies depending on field size, usage, type of fiber, amount and type of infill, geographic location, irrigation systems, labor costs, and more. STMA provides a typical cost range for $6.50-$11.00 per square foot. A youth baseball field at 60,000 square feet may average out to around $500,000 – but this basic estimate does not take into consideration a number of factors, some of which are listed above.

 

When I’m ready to install artificial, what do I do?

You may want to hire a consultant who has experience with artificial turf. STMA suggests contacting a sports field manager, sports turf manager, and/or an agronomist to consult on the project. The Synthetic Turf Council also has a list of companies and a Request for Proposal Automator to help with the bidding process.

Resources:

Sports Turf Managers Association

Synthetic Turf Council

momsTeam

Hiring Grant Writers

Securing grant funding can be a vital aspect of accomplishing your nonprofit’s mission, and you may consider hiring a professional grant writer.  An experienced grant writer can help you find new grant opportunities, write proposals, review an existing proposal, and even assist with developing a project budget.  If you are thinking about hiring a grant writer, review the information below to learn about pros, cons, cost and more.

 

Should you hire one?

-First, familiarize yourself with the grant proposal process. Do you feel comfortable writing it yourself?  -Many grant writers prefer to work with organizations that have a good reputation and enough materials from which they can pull information.

-If you are just getting started, you may consider writing your own proposal and asking a grant writer to review/edit it.

-Grant Space, a service of the Foundation Center, offers many tools to understand the grant writing process and provides various samples.

 

Pros

-Research: A grant writer can help you find new grant opportunities.

-Experience: They understand the process, procedure, language and formats.

-Thorough: With a good grant writer, you likely will have a complete proposal for an on-time submission.

 

Cons

-Accuracy: It is important to find the right grant writer that understands your organization, your project and your voice.  Without this, the proposal may not accurately reflect your organization or program.

-Costly: It can be expensive. If you envision writing many grants in the future, you may consider taking a grant proposal writing training course through the Foundation Center.

-Commitment: You need to be willing to provide information. The grant writer may request detailed information throughout the course of the process.  Committing the time (and patience!) is key.

 

Finding a good grant writer

-Start with word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted colleagues and friends.

-Check lists of professional organizations: American Fundraising Professionals has an excellent list of writers, consultants, and more.

-Ideally use a local grant writer that you can meet with in person. They can get a better understanding of your mission and program in person rather than over the phone or email.

-Ask if they have their CFRE (Certified Fundraising Executive) Certification, an exam-based certification for fundraising professionals to demonstrate mastery of important knowledge areas.  However, not having a CFRE does not make them unqualified.

-Always request examples of previous work and a list of references.

 

Price Ranges

-Prices vary based on the services provided.  In addition to writing the proposal, some grant writers may provide consultation on best practices, business strategy, and more.

-Price structures can vary based on need and the grant writer.  It can be an hourly rate, flat rate, or annual rate (if you are using them more than once).  Expect to make a down payment, payments as the project progresses or payment in full.

-Fees should not be correlated with the grant amount.  A $1 million proposal should not cost ten times more than someone who prepares a $100,000 grant proposal.

-Generally, expect to pay $40-$70 per hour.

-Always have a written agreement with your grant writer, detailing fees, dates, etc.

Remember: Grant writers do not receive percentage of the grant award.  This type of payment is unethical, and many professional organizations revoke membership status if a member takes a percentage.

 

If you want to learn more about the grant writing process, take a look at the links below.

 

Links

Find a Grant Writer

American Fundraising Professionals

Foundation Center

Grant Professionals Association

Learning More About the Process

CFRE

Foundation Center

Grant Space

Cost of Grant Writers

The Grant Plant

The Grantmanship Center

BTF is All A’Twitter!

The BTF offices are always a swirl of activity but there’s one thing we always like to carve a little time out for– tweeting! Interacting with foundations, grant recipients, and you adds extra meaning to our mission. Twitter is an opportunity to learn from each other and lend support to other colleagues.

Here are a few snippets of what’s been happening on the BTF Twitter account:

Equipment Day 2013

We enjoy seeing photos and updates from the Equipment Day collections happing around the League – and it’s especially exciting when the Clubs and our Player Ambassadors join in on the action! 

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Grant Recipients

Hearing from grant recipients can make our day! 

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Knowledge Sharing

BTF shares tips and links to articles that can help you with your foundation, groundskeeping, and more. If there is something you’d like us to share, feel free to add it in the comments below.

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Head over to our Twitter page to become a follower and join the conversation.

(Not a tweeter? Visit the BTF Facebook and Website

Equipment Day 2013 –Bats, Gloves, and (Any other type of baseball/softball equipment), Oh My!

Check Presentation at the San Francisco Giants Junior Giants Glove Drive/Equipment Day Collection

Check Presentation at the 2013 San Francisco Giants Junior Giants Glove Drive/Equipment Day Collection

The memory of picking up your first baseball or softball glove or bat stays with most kids for the rest of their lives. It’s both very exciting and very nerve-wracking. Regardless of if you were the team MVP, the next Major Leaguer, or simply the most enthusiastic teammate, the ability to have the required equipment to play and be safe was the first step.

The Baseball Tomorrow Fund strives to grow the games of baseball and softball throughout the world and expose more kids the most wonderful sport (at least in our opinion). The Equipment Day program started in 2005 and is facilitated by the Baseball Tomorrow Fund in partnership with the Major League Baseball Clubs. Equipment Day collections are held at Major League ballparks around the country to collect new and used baseball and softball equipment to donate to children in the community. In addition, the Baseball Tomorrow Fund donates $5,000 to a local youth organization of the Clubs’ choice. To date, over 100,000 pieces of equipment and approximately $1,550,000 in total monetary donations have benefited organizations in need.

An excited fan at the Boston Red Sox's Equipment Day Drive in 2012

An excited fan at the Boston Red Sox’s Equipment Day Collection in 2012

Baseball season is officially underway and we’re thrilled to be in the ninth year of BTF/MLB Equipment Day, with nearly every club hosting an Equipment Day during the 2013 season. Player Ambassadors from each team are showing their support by promoting the collections through social media and taking part in a special check presentation at the park.  MLB Fan Cave Dwellers have also been promoting the initiative to their loyal followers, emphasizing the importance of helping their own communities.

Follow this link to find out when your Club is hosting Equipment Day. Dates will be added throughout the season, so don’t fret if your favorite team doesn’t have a date listed just yet.

When you donate an item to one of the Equipment Day collections at a Major League park, you are giving a child the chance to create memories, be active, learn life skills, and just have fun (…and likely skin a couple knees and procure a few grass stains on a nice white t-shirt, but I digress).

Visit the BTF FacebookTwitter and Website pages.

A great collection of photos from the Atlanta Braves' 2013 Equipment Day Collection.

A great collection of photos from the Atlanta Braves’ 2013 Equipment Day Collection.

Keeping It All In: Tips for Developing a Successful Indoor Practice Facility

A carefully planned and well-designed indoor practice facility can be a great enhancement to your youth baseball and softball organization. The benefits of such facilities are vast: they are weather-proof, can cut down on field maintenance costs, can be multipurpose, and can even maximize your practice time.

BTF collected some of the best advice from our community partners to share with you:

Location
-Central: Central to the community is ideal
-Promotion: Remind people that you’re there!
-Access: Locate a facility near your field(s) for quick access

Layout and Equipment
-Safety: Always the top concern when determining layout and equipment needs
-Maintenance: Proper maintenance of pitching machines is important for safety and the longevity of your equipment – do not allow coaches or parents to adjust any machinery
-Maximize: Use drop down nets as opposed to securing netting to the floor. This will help you demonstrate fielding techniques and fundamentals more easily
-Divide: Consider dividing your facility into different sections by netting; you can simultaneously use different sections for batting and pitching/hitting, and can also pull all of the sections back for a wide-open space.

Safety Measures
-First Aid: Always have the proper First Aid equipment readily available. Post signs throughout the facility to note where it’s located
-Training: All employees should have proper First Aid and CPR training
-Supervision: Always have trained adult supervision
-Enforcement: Establish and enforce safety rules and regulations; post these on signs throughout the facility

Security and Maintenance
-System: Establish a security system and process; employees must be educated on how to open and close the facility.
-Windows: Consider shatter-resistant plexiglass windows, both for keeping unwanted guests out and for protecting against an accidental bat or baseball

Scheduling Facility Use & Establishing Capacity
-Age: Keep in mind that capacities may vary by age groups being served
-Overlapping: Avoid overlapping age groups/divisions in the facility – more techniques can be addressed when serving one specific age

Waivers & Liability Consideration
-Waiver: Everyone using the facility must sign a waiver prior to any participation
-Insurance: Ensure that all insurance policies use language specific to indoor baseball/softball

Non-Practice Use
-Variety: Team registration, try-outs, team photos, community meetings, coaches’ clinics, and administrative and organizational meetings are all great ways to use your facility outside of practice
-Renting: If it aligns with your agency protocol and insurance coverage, consider renting out your facility to add an additional revenue stream and increase community awareness

The South Africa Baseball Union indoor facility - partially funded with a BTF grant - divides  the space using drop down netting.

The South Africa Baseball Union indoor facility – partially funded with a BTF grant – divides the space using drop down netting.

More tips? Add them in the comments below or please tweet facts and links to @btftoday.

Visit the BTF Facebook, Twitter and Website pages.

Measurable Results

ImageIt is a commonly accepted view that youth programs and extra-circular activities positively influence the lives of those who participate.  The Baseball Tomorrow Fund strives to support and perpetuate this reality by providing the foundation for youth baseball and softball programs:  the playing fields, equipment, uniforms and other essentials.  For BTF, it’s all about giving kids the chance to play and providing help to those who make it happen.  Although BTF may not rely on statistics regarding the indirect impact of the grants given, the insightful words of recipients best demonstrates the impact of BTF: 

“… I was moved into tears realizing how difficult and rewarding this project has been, for myself and so many kids in our community. We could never have done so much in so little time without your support…I will never forget what this grant has done.” – Qubie Vazquez, Tripark Little League

“I want to thank you again for this great opportunity that the Baseball Tomorrow Fund has given our organization.  I would be understating the excitement level when I gave the Board of Directors the good news…several OH MY Gods, multiple Whoopee’s, and a few tears.“ – Rich Downs, Baseball Parents Inc.

“The field has given great service in this first year and continues to be the pride of the neighborhood, the delight of coaches and students and the envy of those for whom it is not a home field…“ – Brother Patrick Sean Moffett, Archbishop Curley Notre Dame Prep

 

Outputs vs. Outcomes

In the world of non-profit and philanthropy, much is discussed about the difference between “outputs” and “outcomes.”  As you think about the goals and measurable results of your organization, think about the definitions of these terms as they relate to non-profits:

For a non-profit, outputs are the activities done by the organization.  For example, a youth baseball league might provide three coaches training seminars for 50 coaches throughout the season.  A league may provide opportunities to 200 players per year.

Outcomes are the reasons why an organization engages in activities.  A non-profit youth agency may organize youth baseball teams to increase the physical activity of the kids it serves.  

Outputs should be easy to measure, but outcomes may be more difficult.  For example, if one of the desired outcomes of your league is to improve children’s grades in school, will your organization have the access and capacity to measure this outcome?  How will your organization show that participation in the league directly affected grades?  

Ideas to consider when asked for organizational goals by a potential donor or grant-making organization.  What are examples of an output and an outcome for your youth baseball and softball program?  We want to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

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