Federal Budget Bill Boosts Spending for Community Development Block Grants to Nonprofits White House Food Pantry

Outside the soup kitchen, a big white storage container houses cereal boxes, bags of rice and canned vegetables among other nonperishables food items. The white container food pantry is affectionately called “The White House,” at GWIM , Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries, is a lifeline to families in need.

GWIM uses money from CDBG, Community Development Block Grants to help fund the nonprofit’s food pantry and soup kitchen. Barbara Ann Dublin, the director, said GWIM received $51,062 last year from the City of Waterbury’s CDBG allotment, about one-fifth of her operating costs.

CDBGs, one of the longest-running programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, funds local community development activities, such as affordable housing, anti-poverty programs, and infrastructure development. When the massive omnibus spending bill was passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump last month, CDBG received an 8 percent funding increase through September 2020.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said CDBG funds and other grants for municipalities are awarded to regional and small local governments with only general provisions for which way the money is to be spent. She said many of these funding opportunities are used to help towns and cities ensure decent affordable housing, provide services to people in the most vulnerable communities, provide food pantries and to create jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses and other forms of economic development such as, tourism and education.

From Vermont and New Hampshire to Mississippi and Texas, CDBGs propose funding a wide range of programs on GrantWatch.com — from natural disaster relief and restoration to feasibility studies and economic development, public services and housing.

In February, more than $1.5 million in federal CDBG money was awarded to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Those awards, in contrast to categorical grants, CDBGs were given for rather broad purposes with few strings attached. Trump had first proposed cutting the entire CDBG program next fiscal year. But, instead, the $1.3 trillion budget bill boosted the block grant program’s funding by $305 million.

HUD figures show the department distributed $3.2 billion in CDBG funding nationwide in fiscal year 2017. Some of that money helped to pay for a new combination oven, which is enabling kitchen staff at the Pocatello Senior Activity Center, in Idaho, to prepare nutritious meals more efficiently to seniors who are unable physically or financially to provide for themselves.

For nonprofits with limited budgets, expanding services to better help the community is always on the radar.  Finding the right funding resources can be challenging. A $50,000 grant of CDBG funds to the Literacy Council of Grand Island was used for new programs to assist students with English language instruction. Nearly 200 students attended group classes offered each week during the council’s funding period.

The Nebraska nonprofit also used the money to create an alternate learning space called Community Connection Center and to get new equipment for computer-based study in a Language and Learning Lab. Students at the Literacy Council are from more than 30 countries, a majority of whom are learning English as a second language; while another program helps English speakers learn Spanish.

Meanwhile, staff at Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries will be able to fully stock the "White House" at the end of every month, because it can count on continued CDBG funds.

“Without CDBG, I don’t know what we would do,” said Dublin.

Colleen Letizia, who regularly picks through the pantry for food, knows going hungry is one less thing she needs to worry about.

Nonprofits, municipalities, public and private foundations, small businesses and entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for food pantry and economic development grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.com. Sign-up here to can receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.


About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch.com


Animal Welfare Grants Offer Domestic Violence Victims Shelter Options for their Pets

Inside the fenced-in yard built for dogs, Ivy was having her day, happy and safe in her temporary home while her owner was getting the help she needed in a nearby building.

Ivy was running around the kennel built on the secured property owned by CASA, a domestic violence shelter for women in the Tampa Bay area. The newly added kennel, thanks, in part, to a grant from RedRover Safe Housing program, gives domestic violence victims peace of mind knowing that they can leave an abusive situation and bring their pets with them.

Without the kennel at Community Action Stops Abuse, Ivy might have been left to fend for herself in a dangerous environment. More than 70 percent of pet owning women who enter domestic violence shelters claim their batterer had injured, killed or threatened family pets for revenge or psychological control. And as many as 65 percent of domestic violence victims are unable to escape their abusers because they fear what will happen to their pets when they leave.

RedRover, a national nonprofit organization based in Sacramento, has distributed more than $40,000 in grants to eight domestic violence shelters throughout the United States. The grants help to pay for building materials and supplies used to create animal-friendly lodging for the pets of victims fleeing abuse. Red Rover funding opportunities are posted on GrantWatch.com.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch, said the search engine lists additional funding opportunities for a broad range of animal welfare programs, projects, and activities for both domestic pets and wildlife. GrantWatch also displays numerous grants for domestic abuse nonprofits.

Only a fraction of the 2,500 domestic violence shelters in the United States have facilities for housing animals onsite, according to Sheltering Animals and Families Together (SAF-T), a national initiative that guides family violence shelters on how to welcome families with pets.






Gigi Tsontos, chief executive officer at the Women’s Transitional Living Center, said the domestic violence shelter in Orange County California often receives calls from families that would not leave abusive environments without their pets.

Those victims will now have options, thanks to a $6,000 Safe Housing grant from RedRover that will help WLTC complete the transition to a pet-friendly facility. Funds from the grant helped construct an insulated outdoor structure that is capable of housing larger pets at the shelter.

Tsontos, an owner of three dogs, said prior to the grant, abuse victims housed at WTLC shared their living spaces with their pets. Now, counselors at the nonprofit ask each caller if there is a pet in the household. One of those callers had been wanting to escape his abuser for at least a year, but he couldn't find a shelter that would take his dog. Today, the dog and owner are safe and living together in an apartment provided by WTLC.

Nonprofits, public and private foundations, small businesses and entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for animal welfare grants and grants for domestic abuse nonprofits can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.com. Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.


About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com

Bet The Farm On It:Kars4Kids Grant Reaps Benefits for At-Risk Youth in Nonprofit Mentoring Program

With each visit she makes to the farm, a nonprofit for rescued animals, the sweet smell of horses and hay hits close to home. Forget Me Not Farm is like family to Sabrina Schmidt, who started visiting the outpost for the Sonoma Humane Society regularly some 20 years ago while she bounced around in the foster care system.

During her trips, Schmidt forged an affinity for the animals, many once abused and neglected like herself, that helped her overcome the challenges of finding housing and a job later in life.

Carol Rathman, founder and director of Forget Me Not Farm, credits the nonprofit’s mentoring program for reversing Schmidt’s fortunes as much as she does the therapeutic connections that visitors establish with resident animals. Mentoring at the farm is supported, in part, by a grant from Kars4Kids, the national car donation program whose proceeds benefit educational initiatives for children.

Worthy organizations interested in furthering the welfare and education of children and young adults outside of a school setting can find can find the Kars4Kids Small Grants listed at GrantWatch.com.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch, said foundations are particularly interested in funding mentoring programs and projects that support education, children, and youth at-risk.

By providing grants to libraries, mentoring, tutoring, afterschool programs and the like, Kars4Kids is enriching the education of future citizens and leaders of the community, said Wendy Kirwan, a spokesperson for the organization.

“There are so many worthy organizations out there,” said Kirwan. “We want to help. We don’t want to be limited even by the scope of our own extensive programming.”

Successful small grant applicants must demonstrate a mission well-aligned with Kars4Kids vision of offering children emotional, social, and spiritual development and support. Kars4Kids is a nationally recognized Jewish 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that gives back to the community through a variety of educational, youth development, family outreach and faith-based programs.

Now 30, Schmidt, is employed at an independent senior living facility near her apartment where she helps the residents with their pets, sometimes walking their dogs, cleaning litter boxes or feeding their animals. And while the trauma from moving from foster care to group home and back has subsided somewhat, the farm remains a source of kindness, compassion, empathy and trust for her.

In each visit back to the farm, Schmidt greets the animals with the familiarity of family. She says, that she her affinity for the farm is such that she would sleep there, if she could. Thanks to the mentoring program, she does not have to.

Nonprofits, public and private foundations, small businesses and entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants for libraries, mentoring, tutoring, afterschool programs can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.com. 

Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com


Grants to Lower Recidivism – Inmate Started Nonprofit to Break Down Prison Walls

He sent letters – hundreds of them – to churches, to charities, to businesses, asking each to help. The few that did respond declined. Dirk Van Velzen, who was serving time in prison for stealing, learned a hard lesson that crime would not pay for his college tuition.

Now, the convict who once landed on “America’s Most Wanted” is applying that knowledge to help other inmates who are out of options like he was. While he was still in prison, Van Velzen started a nonprofit, which continues to assist inmates like he was get an education.

Van Velzen realizes he was fortunate. While in prison, he was able to receive a bachelor’s degree in organizational science after his father agreed to pay for him to enroll in a distance learning program offered through Penn State University.

The idea for a startup came next. And Van Velzen started writing again. This time, the money poured in — $60,000 in grants between 2000 and 2009. His Seattle startup, which he dubbed the Prison Scholar Fund, has since helped 110 inmates in 22 states pay for college, vocational and technical courses.

In 2006, the Prison Scholar Fund received IRS 501(c) 3 status. Van Velzen was released in 2015. He believes tearing down walls that lead to educational programs for inmates can keep them from returning to crime or prison and supply Puget Sound-area businesses with a skilled workforce.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said nonprofits across the nation are devising strategies to reduce the number of prisoners who commit crimes again after they are released. From Tennessee to Texas, grants that cater to reducing recidivism, particularly for at-risk youth, can be identified on GrantWatch, a search engine that lists funding opportunities for nonprofits, entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Advocates for inmates believe lowering recidivism is in the public interest. The Rand Corp. found that 43 percent of inmates who participate in educational programs while in prison are less likely to return within three years. Van Velzen said that just two of the 74 Prison Scholar Fund recipients have been arrested again following their release. That's about 3 percent, compared to the 68 percent national recidivism rate.

Despite the merits of educational programs like the Prison Scholar Fund to reduce recidivism, lawmakers are still hesitant to allocate public dollars to increase education for inmates. In 1994, Congress passed legislation that made inmates ineligible to receive federal Pell grants, making the need-based option for low-income students out of the reach of Van Velzen when he first began his search for tuition assistance almost two decades ago.

Van Velzen is now a partner at Seattle-based Social Venture Partners and a Stanford University executive program graduate. He works with MOD Pizza and other Puget Sound-area companies to help inmates find work once they’re released. Meanwhile, the Prison Scholar Fund is collaborating with the University of Washington to increase access for prisoners to the school’s online social sciences degree program.

In December 2017, Van Velzen received a grant from Grammy-award winner John Legend, one of eight presented to entrepreneurs across the nation who have founded mission-driven nonprofits or for-profits focused on criminal justice reform.

Nonprofits, public and private foundations, small businesses and entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants can identify recidivism grants and funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.com. Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com

Autism Diagnoses, Research and Stiff Competition for Grant Dollars at U.S. Universities and Colleges

Up until he was two years old, Katharine Kollins had no idea her first-born child Grayson had autism. Then she got the diagnosis and her world came crashing.

Now, researchers at Columbia University say their review of new guidelines for defining autism spectrum disorders issued last year by the American Psychiatric Association may leave thousands of children in the United States without the required diagnosis to qualify for medical benefits and social services.

Kristine M. Kulage, director of research and scholarly development at the School of Nursing, said her team found a 31 percent decrease in autism spectrum diagnoses using the new version of the Diagnostic and Standard Manual of Mental Disorders, compared to the number of cases that would have been revealed under the previous guidelines.

Experts in both the United States and Canada rely on DSM, considered the “bible of psychiatry,” to diagnose and classify mental disorders. Giving children with autism the support they need sooner helps them to grow and increases the likelihood they will thrive. Kulage said the Columbia study raises a concern that some of the most vulnerable children may lose a diagnosis and the valued medical treatment that goes with it as well.

Research on college campuses like Columbia University, leads to greater discovery and better education including – in this case — early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. But, colleges have limited budgets, as well as competing goals and needs. And research costs money.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said a major role of a researcher at a college or university is devoted to applying for grant money from private companies and organizations, or local and national governments.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) is a government agency that distributes about $32 billion a year toward medical and public health research. Hikind said while GrantWatch.com lists funding opportunities under the NIH Research Project Grant Program, GrantWatch also lists many similar research funding opportunities from foundations and corporations. 

Kulage said securing funds for university research is more difficult than ever. In the 20 years she has been working in university research, the grant application process has become longer and more complex.

Time, compliance regulations and the new systems through which to submit grant proposals are common hindrances. Because the application, process for grant money is highly competitive, Hikind encourages researchers who do not have the human resources or the skills to create a proposal to identify a writer at GrantWriterTeam.com for assistance.

Kulage said colleges and universities must do more to help their researchers secure grant money. Columbia’s nursing school invested $127,000 to employ administrators to complete grant applications and free researchers to spend more time on their work. Administrators and other researchers met with the grant writers to review the applications. The team was expected to defend its proposal.

In a five-year period following implementation of the support system, Kulage said proposals that went through review were almost twice as likely to be accepted. That $127,000 investment led to Columbia's School of Nursing earning $3 million in outside funding.

Nonprofits, universities, public and private foundations, small businesses and entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants for research can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.com. Sign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com

NEA Grant Supports Nonprofit Haven for Artists to Hone Skills in Boise Area

In the front room of an otherwise quiet, well-manicured home, a cellist taps his bare foot to the hardwood floor while bending over his instrument to play a piece of classical music that had never been played before. He lives temporarily here at Surel’s Place, a nonprofit on the banks of the Boise River in Garden City where both promising and renown artists come and go to hone their skills.

Surel’s Place has arrived as well. The artist-in-residency program is one of three Idaho nonprofit initiatives to receive a grants for the arts from the National Endowment for the Arts. Rebecca Kelada, executive director of Surel’s Place, said she didn’t expect to win the $10,000 NEA award in her first application, but is happy, nonetheless, to use the recognition to bolster outreach to area schools and expand the organization’s staff.

Each month, a different artist lives and creates at Surel's Place. The artists, who hail from around the country and globe, host a public workshop and performance or reading during their stay. As they move in, Boise area residents and visitors are exposed to more artists and arts including Grammy-nominated cellist Dave Eggar, last month.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, applauds the NEA and other foundations that support grants for the arts projects that build stronger and vibrant communities, improve well-being and quality of life, and prepares students to succeed. She said GrantWatch lists many of these funding opportunities which aim to  extend the arts to underserved populations. 

The live-in residence program at Surel’s Place is one-of-a-kind in Idaho. K. Tempest Bradford, a former artist-in-residence, used her stay at Surel's Place to work on a book, a steam punk novel set in Ancient Egypt. She said somehow her experience in Boise will find a place in her work.

Surel’s Place is named for Kelada’s late mother, Surel Mitchell – a local painter who built her home as a place to create her art. Following her death in 2011, the city established the Surel Mitchell Live Work District around her home.

Eventually, the site became Surel’s Place, a nonprofit gallery and a residence for visiting artists who need shelter, space and time to create. Since then, art-related small businesses have flocked to Garden City as a place to set up shop.

Kelada said her mother was aware of the competitive nature for funding the arts and would be proud of both the accomplishments of the nonprofit she inspired as well as the NEA validation.

Nonprofits, public and private foundations, small businesses and entrepreneurs frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for grants for the arts can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.com


About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch.com

Nothing to Stress Over – Lupus Grants, Proposals and Surprise Wedding Raise Awareness 

The pressure of planning a wedding would be too much for Nicole Carfagna, who suffers from lupus, a chronic condition brought on by stress. So, her groom handled all the arrangements for her.

Danny Rios spent months secretly planning the entire ceremony, then, out-of-the-blue, proposed to Carfagna when the couple returned home to New York from a December trip to Disney World. In the ensuing span of less than two hours that culminated in a surprise backyard wedding ceremony, Rios and Carfagna went on to become husband and wife – just one day after the bride had celebrated her birthday.

Quite a euphoric slew of events for any bride, let alone Nicole Rios, who was diagnosed six years ago with Lupus, an incurable inflammatory disease that turns the body’s immune system against itself. Since then, she has had to manage joint pain, dizziness, fatigue and inflammation of her lungs and heart when she is exacerbated with stress.

The Lupus Foundations reports some 1.5 million Americans like Nicole Rios live with the disease today. Women of child-bearing age and minorities are most prone to lupus.

That’s why grants that aim to reduce lupus-related health disparities and increase participation among racial and minority populations in clinical trials are of growing significance. One funding opportunity from the National Lupus Training, Outreach, and Clinical Trial Education Program is listed on GrantWatch and administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, said corporations also have stepped up funding for lupus and other medical conditions that have been affected by freezes on federal research money.

Lupus is an autoimmune disease, which means the body cannot differentiate between its own healthy tissue and foreign invaders. The antibodies or blood-borne proteins responsible for deciding biological friend from foe cause inflammation in various parts of the body.

In its early stages, lupus is difficult to detect and looks like many other conditions, said Gary Gilkeson, associate dean at the Medical University of South Carolina and chairman of the Lupus Foundation of America’s medical-scientific advisory committee. But, problems tend to flare up and abate over time. Singer Selena Gomez, who appeared to be the picture of radiant health during public appearances, shocked her fans last year when she received a kidney transplant because of lupus.

Danny Rios knew Lupus would prevent Nicole from planning a wedding. So, he put all the plans together himself. That meant picking out a suit and a wedding dress for Nicole. He even had Nicole’s father ordained, so he could officiate the ceremony among friends who were given an advance heads-up to meet in the backyard.

All Nicole had to do, when Danny Rios got down on a knee and proposed that night, was say, “yes.”

Nonprofits, public and private foundations find government and foundation research and education grants on GrantWatch.com. New grants are added daily. Sign-up here to receive the GrantWatch weekly grants newsletter prepared for your organization's location.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch


Grassroots Organization Evolves from Girls’ Night Out to Nonprofit Dedicated to Women’s Causes

When word got around that a woman in the community could no longer afford to pay for diapers, Jenelle Lefief and her girlfriends weren’t about to let the distraught mother use plastic bags as an alternative. Their decision to pool their resources and present the woman with the diapers she desperately needed served as a catalyst to do more.

That’s the motivation behind “Phoemale,” a grassroots nonprofit in Gross Pointe, Mich., that has evolved from regular girls’ nights out into a full-fledged charitable organization dedicated to helping women who have overcome domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and homelessness.

Phoemale – pronounced FEE-male — works with other nonprofit agencies including Wayne County SAFE, Turning Point and Cass Community Social Services to provide the unconventional support that might otherwise not be eligible for grant funding to help women rebuild their lives. The girlfriends have raised four times as much money from a year ago, when the group held events in Lefief’s home.

In one year since incorporating, Phoemale has financed mental health counseling; purchased a car that enabled a survivor of sexual assault to secure a job and support her children; paid off the debt of a domestic violence victim so she could move to a home where her abuser couldn’t locate her; and donated a refrigerator to a woman who had her appliance stolen by her abuser.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of Grantwatch.com, said establishing a nonprofit is an ideal way to help others in the community who are in need. The first step before creating a nonprofit, she said, is to determine that the proposed new 501c3 organization will not be duplicating the efforts of an existing organization. Incorporating with the IRS will formalize programs and services and provide credibility for the organization. Filings and fees will vary by state.

Phoemale is a registered 501c3 nonprofit, which means the organization is tax exempt under IRS codes. The all-volunteer group claims 100 percent of the money raised at Phoemale events is used to help women and not to pay overhead, salaries, or other expenses. As a 501c3 nonprofit, Phoemale is now eligible for grants for their women's organization and can review eligibility and full details of grants on GrantWatch.com.

In addition to raising funds for community nonprofits, the 12-member board of Phoemale performs volunteer work and hosts social and networking events. Lefief said meetings are limited to board members, but she expects the group to host general membership events later this year.

“We’re getting together, doing fun activities, supporting women and helping at least one woman build her life back up,” she said. “We know we’re lucky. We have family and friends and each other. But, how many women out there don’t have that? So, we’re spreading that love and support.”

Nonprofits, public and private foundations find government and foundation grants on GrantWatch.com. New grants are added daily. Sign-up here to receive the GrantWatch weekly grants newsletter prepared for your organization's location.

About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch.com

Report: Nonprofit CBOs Struggle to Provide Human Services with Limited Government Resources

From suicide and financial distress to homelessness and domestic abuse, the pleas for help never seem to cease. Even on weekends and holidays or evening hours when other hotlines across the state are closed, crisis calls continue to flood Impact Inc., a nonprofit help center that operates 24/7, 365 days a year in a former factory in West Allis, Wisconsin.

John Hyatt, the chief executive at Impact. Inc., said the state of his organization, in many ways, is as precarious as those lives it serves. Impact Inc., he said, struggles to break even.

His concerns are likely to draw an emphatic ear from leaders at tens of thousands of nonprofits across the country that are struggling to stay afloat.

“A significant portion of human service CBOs are feeling financial stress and may find it difficult to survive even short-term disruptions to funding or unexpected expenses,” according to a new report, “A National Imperative: Joining Forces to Strengthen Human Services in America.”

Community-based organizations like Impact Inc., in large part, rely on government grants to deliver vital human services to an estimated one in five Americans. Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the funding resource website GrantWatch.com, said nonprofits do amazing work, despite the current financial climate, by improving healthcare outcomes, reducing related costs, and addressing social factors that affect healthy lifestyles.

It’s not that those roles go unnoticed, she said. Hundreds of grants that support human services in all parts of the country are posted on Granwatch.com. But, Hikind said, rising costs and increased demand has made the application process more competitive for those seeking funds.

Among the findings in the 157-page document, commissioned by a pair of national associations that represent human-service nonprofits:

  • Nearly half of the community-based organizations studied in the report run persistent operating deficits, often because government agencies “chronically reimburse them less than the full cost of the programs and services." 
  • Nearly one in three have minimal financial reserves, making them vulnerable to the next downturn or funding fluctuation.
  • More than 40 percent lack liquidity to meet immediate obligations.
  • Nearly one in eight meet the technical definition of insolvent.
  • Nonprofits that help with housing and mental health feel the most acute financial stress.

To compensate for shortfalls in government homelessness spending, Hikind said nonprofits also turn to GrantWatch to identify private foundations and philanthropists. The report, however, said those dollars often come with strings attached as private funders place restrictions on donations to ensure their money goes toward causes and activities they care most about.

Demands for social services, meanwhile, are increasing. Against this backdrop, the report said, incomes have been stagnant since the 1970s, a new epidemic of opioid drug addiction is raging across the nation and the U.S. suicide rate has increased to its highest rate in 30 years.

Nonprofits, public and private foundations find government and foundation grants for human servics and homelessness on GrantWatch.com. New grants are added daily.  Sign-up here to receive the GrantWatch weekly grants newsletter prepared for your organization's location.


About the Author: Staff writer for GrantWatch.com


Pushing the 501(c)3 Envelope: Nonprofit Formed to Boost Image of Arizona Public Schools System

Images of teachers in a classroom and students huddled around computers are designed to paint a pretty picture of the Arizona state’s public schools system. The cheerful 30-second advertisement on television and across the internet are paid for by a newly formed nonprofit corporation called the Arizona Education Project.

Matthew Benson, a spokesperson for the 501(c)3 nonprofit group, said the ads are not tied to any political candidate or legislative effort but are instead intended to counter the narrative set by critics who question the commitment of state leaders to fund public education.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of the nonprofit funding resource Grantwatch.com said, "Any investment in education must be combined with accountability.  Grants for education usually include an evaluation component, to prove the project or program did in fact make a difference and would be replicable in another location with a similar target audience. 

Nonprofits are typically identified with charitable organizations. The IRS recognizes 27 types of nonprofit organizations including educational associations. In general, nonprofits are formed to serve the public in some way and, as a result, they receive special benefits and tax breaks from the state. Eligibility requirements vary by state.

According to the IRS, 501c(3) organizations that qualify for tax credits at the state level may not always be eligible for exemptions and benefits from the federal government. Not all nonprofits are 501(c)3 registered with the IRS as tax-exempt by virtue of their charitable programs. Nonprofit simply means the entity, usually, a corporation is organized for a nonprofit purpose.

Except for the tax burdens, nonprofits operate much like traditional corporations. They are supported by the sale of their goods and services, charitable donations, and grants from other nonprofits including federal and state agencies and public and private corporations and foundations.

Donors to the Arizona Education Project include some heavy hitters in support of public schools, such as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Hispanic Chambers from Tucson, Douglas, Sierra Vista and Nogales. Money also is coming from the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association and the Services Group of America, a private firm involved in food distribution. Other donors include Pinnacle West Capital Corp. which owns Arizona Public Service Co., the state’s largest electric utility.

The Arizona Education Project has spent a portion of this support on a website and the local TV, cable and digital ads that outline positive aspects of Arizona’s K-12 system. Spending on Arizona schools plummeted during the Great Recession, and the state has yet to return to the levels before the economy tanked. Arizona schools also rank among the lowest in the nation for teacher pay.

Benson said, the group’s “message is pretty simple: Arizona schools aren’t perfect, but we’re making a lot of progress and too often in the current climate, that gets lost.”

Nonprofits, public and private foundations can find grants for education on GrantWatch.

 Sign-up here to receive the GrantWatch weekly grants newsletter prepared for your organization's location.

About the Author: Staff Writer for GrantWatch.com