Rendition of new library

Rendition of new library
The New Point Roberts Library Out of the Old Julius Firehall

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

About Foundation Grants

And now it's 2015.  Maybe a good time for me to write a little background and foreground on foundation grants for the new library.  The status of our foundation requests is this: we have requested funds from five foundations; two have given us a total of $32,000, two have turned us down, and one has yet to be heard from as to its decision.  We have three more foundations that we will request money from in the next month or so, depending upon the foundations' expectations about when they will entertain requests.  This may leave you with some questions.

The most obvious one, probably, is why have we submitted so few proposals when there are so many, many foundations?  Short answer: That is very few foundations entertain requests for capital funding (ie, requests that involve buying, building, or renovating actual structures).  Very few.  We identified only 7 at the beginning of this year, and an 8th one that is a little dicey.  There are a number of reasons why foundations shy away from capital requests.  First, they are prone to thinking that buildings are likely to be associated with governmental structures.  Thus, one of the foundations that turned us down, specifically said, 'we don't fund public libraries.'  Their understandable belief is that if you are a governmental institution, you have the ability to raise money through taxation so you don't need foundation money.

Second, they are reluctant even if you are NOT a government entity (as we are not, even if the building we are remodeling belongs to such an entity) because capital funds require a lot of money in order for something actually to happen.  There's no point in their giving you $100,000 if you're looking to raise a half million or (usually) a good deal more unless there's some reason to believe you actually will raise the rest of the money.  You'd want to see some kind of track record, but for folks like us, there's no track record.  And if the applicant doesn't get all the money raised, it's not going to build 1/5 of a building as a fallback position.  So, most foundations just  don't get involved at all, or reduce their risk by entertaining requests only when you have most of the money on hand and guarantee a start date or have already paid for final construction plans.  One of the foundations we will go to in 2015 wants 'value-engineered drawings or the equivalent.'  We're not at that point yet, although we should be by this spring.

Third, many foundations have very specific areas of interest that don't include libraries.  They may be dedicated to projects that ensure better conservation practices or research, e.g., or medical care opportunities.  One of the foundations that turned us down thought that a renovated library wasn't close enough to its mission to help the poor.  We applied because we thought that a new library would fit the foundation's priorities: 1/4 of families in P.R. (2010 Census Data) have incomes below $25,000 (corrected number).  But the additional fact is that Point Roberts/Whatcom County also has a median household income that is somewhat higher than the county average in the state.  [The federal government has a rural economic development program that funds capital projects, but only in counties that are below the median income level.]

Fourth, the financial crash and its low-interest effect left lots of foundations with much smaller amounts of money to disperse.  As a result, even big places like the Allan Foundation and the Gates Foundation which, 5 years ago, supported capital projects in the Northwest, no longer do.  They support smaller, discrete program-like projects: helping people get health insurance, improving childhood literacy, preserving local history, etc.  Many of these programs could appropriately be conducted in the building we are renovating because it would have additional space, but giving priority to program funding instead of capital funding means that the foundations can't help build the buildings that the programs need in order to happen.

That is a brief explanation for why there are fewer opportunities for grants than we would like.  If you know of a foundation that will fund capital projects (and it's not the Norcliffe, Murdoch, Garneau-Nicon, McEachern, Archibald, Weinberg, or Kresge Foundation), send us a link to its site and we'll follow up.  Currently, we are in need of an additional $138,000.

And now, I'll start writing another request for funds.  Thanks for reading, thanks for helping us along on this common journey.  We didn't get to having $400,000 because Point Roberts residents and visitors didn't care enough to contribute.  And to those who haven't yet contributed and can, please join us as members of this community: it's everybody's library.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this very clear explanation of the grant process and difficulties in even identifying foundations to approach for money. And thanks for the tireless fundraising by you, Ed, and the Friends. The results are simply amazing. BarbW