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Two early lessons from a nonprofit’s first grant

Friday, June 17th, 2011

The 72 bus near the 82nd Avenue MAX stopI’m sort of bursting with pride that the nonprofit I manage (which also, for that matter, publishes this blog) has landed its first private grant.

It’s small: just $5,000. We’re far from Success. But this is a success. It’s a start. And that, I’ve been learning, is the way nonprofits get built.

This situation is too new, and I’m too close to it, to draw many useful lessons from this. But here are a couple:

  • We teamed up. This wouldn’t have happened without the support of a partner. As I wrote last year, entrepreneurial journalists aren’t just picking a niche to serve their advertisers or their audience. They’re also doing it because every niche already has institutions in it. Blessedly, we’ve found several institutions that we admire and admire us back. One of them suggested this collaboration.
  • We aimed low. Last year, we applied unsuccessfully for a $25,000 startup grant from Knight. Though I sometimes dream about how easy this would have all been if we’d landed that, in retrospect I wouldn’t have awarded it to me, either. Whatever his journalism experience, an inexperienced business manager needs to learn to walk before he learns to run. Funders, I think, know this well.

By the way, this means we’re hiring.