Los Angeles Sentinel
by Rev. Mark E. Whitlock, Jr.

Our church needed money to build a new sanctuary. We had raised money, but it was not enough to finance a new church. Our small, faithful congregation had no more money to give. We were on the verge of giving up.

Bishop T. Larry Kirkland challenged us to ask non-members to give money. We were uncomfortable asking unknown people, but we asked!

The first step to raising money is identifying the problem or project. Choose one problem to fund. Most problems and projects are very similar. Capital improvements, social services, and housing development are major problems. There are hundreds of resources available to fix community challenges. There are plenty of people with money willing to give. We have to ask people with money!

The next step is researching local and national resources. Resources are not limited to money. Ask for donations of technology, equipment, tools, and the most valuable, human resources. The internet is the best tool to research resources for raising money from wealthy donors, government agencies, and foundations. Enroll into the USC Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement to learn how to raise funds.

Wealth donors, foundations, and government agencies are three fund raising sources. Wealthy donors give to worthy causes. They are moved by the impact the person or project has on the community. The approval process for wealthy donors is very quick. The downside is that wealthy donors require more personal attention and often have a greater input on managing the project.

Government grants are the most difficult funds to receive. An organization must have the capacity, history, capital to finance a government contract, and experience. A government grant is competitive, complex, and highly political. Less than one percent of organizations qualify for a government contract and even less receive a government grant. Ask anyway!!!

Foundations are untapped sources of funding for communities of color. The Greenlining Coalition says less than one percent of foundation grants are made to African American and Latino organizations. One of the primary reasons is a failure to ask.

Foundations have a three-step application process. The first step is meeting the foundation’s program officer. The program officer is the gatekeeper. The program officer may ask for a two-page proposal describing a project. If the program officer likes the project, the next step is to submit a full proposal.

The proposal includes an explanation of the problem; proposed solution, program description, other resources, in-kind contributions, project outputs and outcomes, the history of the organization, organizational capacity, and project budget. The program officer has to present the request to the foundation board. The approval process may take three to six months. Please don’t be afraid, ask!

In closing, we were able to receive funds from a foundation to help finance the development of a new church. A church member made the introduction to the foundation. The foundation founded us for $300,000. Praise God!