money matters


Enthusiastic about Wooden Canoes
Although I have only been around here a few months two things seem apparent. One, that the individuals involved with the journal are very enthusiastic and committed, and two, that funds are fairly tight.

I was curious if the association had ever applied for government funding. I know in Canada we have Heritage Canada that dishes out millions a year to support endeavours such as these. Furthermore, they have a specific program, the Canadian Arts and Heritage Sustainability Program that gives out money to not-for-profit heritage organizations. I’m sure the states must have something similar. Has anyone ever looked into something like that?

You would probably want to hire a professional to write the proposal, however many people that write proposals professionally get paid only when you or your organization receives money.
Actually I just found something that supports folk arts in the U.S., it’s under The National Endowment for the Arts. The awards they give out range from 5 grand - 150 grand.
I have worked as a grantwriter, in one shape or another for 25 years, and been a member of the WCHA for ten or more, so I’ve been interested in this subject for some time. The primary issue is “what does the WCHA want to be?” As an all-volunteer organization, with no paid staff, sustaining the sort of effort required to solicit and administer grants effectively would be a big hurdle for the WCHA.

One potential barrier was eliminated when the WCHA reorganized as a 501-c-3, which makes the WCHA more attractive to donors.

Still, the big question would be “what would a grant be used for?” If the WCHA had a substantial plan to increase membership—and could argue that a grant could help do this—that would be a start. But exactly how? What sort of folks join the WCHA and what keeps them in it? How do people hear about the WCHA and decide to join?

Apart from the website, recruiting members into the WCHA is a pretty low key effort. Mike Cav had some suggestions in the last Wooden Canoe and these pretty much cover the ground. Person-to-person contacts is the way it happens, mostly. Getting a mention in newspaper and magazines is also helpful and I’ve written for some and gotten the WCHA’s name in places like the Boundary Waters Journal, AMC Outdoors and Natural New England.

Investing in chapters would also be a way to potentially boost membership and develop a little more structure.

Still, without staff, there’s a limit to how much any organization can grow its membership. And remember, I’m not criticizing any one who now gives their time voluntarily to do all this stuff for the WCHA. It takes a lot of commitment to communication—communicating with members, but also outreach communication—being in all those places where potential new members might be found.
As a professional aside, Robert, at least where I live and work, most grantwriters disdain working on a “getting paid for success” basis. There are all sorts of pitfalls here: like attorneys who work on a cut of the settlement basis. Professional fund-raisers who work that way often end up taking a huge cut of the proceeds. The success of a proposal often depends much more on what the organization puts into developing a proposal than what the grantwriter is able to do with it. I’ve often spent as much as six-months to a year getting fixed those things in a non-profit I know will prevent them from getting grants; things like a bad board, accounting or legal issues.