We Need Money

/, Fundraising/We Need Money

We Need Money

It is hard to ask for money. When I started our venture in 2010, I had no future planned where it would be necessary. I formed a private foundation, where in fact it is hard to ask for support.

A private foundation “maintains or aids charitable, educational, religious, or other activities serving the public good, primarily through the making of grants to other nonprofit organizations”.

I had some money in the bank, from AOL stock options, and I had a desire to support STEM education. So I made some donations of time and money to help the local ERHS robotics team, later expanding to support robotics programs at Magnolia and Greenbelt elementary schools. But by the Fall of 2012, I had developed a vision statement for the foundation, to create a community activity space dedicated to support not just STEM but the entire “Maker Movement.” To make it happen would require more resources than I had, and quite a few people thought I was either crazy or more politely they just questioned how it could be funded.

And most didn’t know what it was that I wanted to build. So I knew the only answer had to be, simply, build it and they will come. No one was going to step up to provide funding on day one. I also needed more volunteers to help execute the larger plan. While dismantling an abandoned dry cleaning store, we pulled together a business plan and tried a membership fee model and that helped us survive the first year. But we dropped membership fees in preference to serving a much larger audience.

We survived year two by adding revenue from our summer camp program, and by converting to a public charity so that we could more easily accept donations. We started writing grant proposals and our first three were funded. We asked the City for financial support but we were turned down. I’m hesitant to ask a second time as I tend to agree with many that the City shouldn’t be in the business of providing direct financial support to any organization. I’d prefer to see a more competitive grant program be put in place.

Public charities generally derive their funding or support primarily from the general public, receiving grants from individuals, government, and private foundations.

So here we are in year three and let me be clear. We Need Money. We’re over budget for the first six months and our cash reserve has been exhausted. Some of the spending was intentional. We built our outdoor patio area to meet several needs and we’re pleased to see it being put to good use. But we fell $1,000 short of our fundraising goal to support it. We spent another $2,000 to take advantage of the 50-90% savings on electronics purchased when Radio Shack closed. Some expenses were unexpected, like the $750 to rent the stage for the Maker Faire when the event conflicted with other city activities that weekend. We need $3,000 per month to pay the rent and utilities. About half of that needs to come from you.

You can support us very easily. If you desire a tax deduction, you can donate via our fiscal sponsor. We’re a Maryland non-profit corporation, but we do not have our IRS 501(c)3 status yet. We currently depend on the School Factory to provide the umbrella of public support coverage required by the IRS. If you do not need the deduction, you can donate directly to our foundation. In either case, just click here: 

Your donation is the cornerstone to our fundraising activities.
What are our plans for the future? Despite being relatively poor, we have some great ideas for new programs and activities. We would like to expand our reach to provide services to residents in Greenbelt West and Greenbelt East, and beyond to many low income neighborhoods in Prince George’s County, DC, and Baltimore. We’ve applied for a grant to fund a “mobile” MakerSpace and we have a budget model to operate it that is sustainable. We want to add daytime programs this Fall to support homeschool groups and expand our after-school activities. We want to participate in more events like the National Maker Faire, the YMCA Thingamajig Invention Convention, the Maryland STEM Festival, and the big USA Science and Engineering Festival. We want to grow our own Greenbelt Maker Faire to include more participation from Prince George’s County public schools and local businesses. We want to get more traction in support of economic development right here in Greenbelt. We working to redesign the greenbelt.com website, supporting startup companies providing IT services, and we even have a plan to redevelop the KMart site into a modern tech center. There is more. But if you’re read this far, you know the punch line. We can’t do it without your support.

By | 2015-06-11T13:30:06-04:00 June 11th, 2015|Front Page, Fundraising|Comments Off on We Need Money

About the Author: