Small Innovation Grant Opportunity
Due Date: Nov 30, 2020 @ noon EST

Date subject to change without notice. Apply ASAP.

To innovate your Nonprofit

Who Am I?

My name is Michael Barnes. I have done many things throughout my life from being a scientist studying arthritis in children, running a research laboratory, being director of lab operations at a genetic testing company, business coach, and building a company to help nonprofits. Most recently, I was working to develop a method to develop solutions to some of today’s most complex problems based on community input. One thing I have learned throughout my career is that change and innovation are necessary to improve the output of any endeavor.

In current times, many nonprofits are struggling. I am able to support a single nonprofit with a moderate donation with the intent that they use it to innovate their organization. This funding is intended to let them try out something they think will provide significant improvement to their outcomes.

Background for the Grant

First, I am a private individual providing funding to a nonprofit to be selected through this application process. I will distribute as I choose, at my sole discretion. At the same time, I may have others help me review any applications.

I am providing this information to help applicants understand my interests; however, I may:

    • Change my personal interest or focus although that seems unlikely.
    • See a submission that is awesome and I never thought of before. In that case I may fund something I wasn’t planning to!

I realize I could simply hand this off to an existing organization or an organization I already know. However, that’s not my personality. I want to get to know organizations that do cool things that I might never have heard of before or groups that are doing things in new ways. Or even better, I want to find an organization that wants to do “their thing” in a better way and need a small catalytic investment to make that a reality.

In order for your nonprofit to apply, your organization must be a U.S. based 501(c)(3).



I am currently thinking $1,000. This is NOT a huge amount. If it’s not worth your time, then this opportunity is not for you.

  1. If you’ve never written a grant, this might take 5-10 hours.
  2. If you’re proficient at writing grants, I expect 1-2 hours.
  3. If you’re an expert grant writer, this might take less than 1 hour.

I will distribute the money as long as I get at least 5 completed and reasonable (at my sole discretion) applications from different organizations.

These funds will be distributed as some sort of securities (stocks, bonds, or something like that). You will need to have a way to “deal” with them. As a nonprofit you are allowed to accept them at the current basis (Google or ask someone if you need help understanding that).

Funds must be spent within 6 months of award. They are not for endowment or other long-term savings.

Purpose of Funds

I am looking to provide investment for new ideas that will have massive impact. So, tell me how you will use the $1,000 to make $100,000 impact. This is a multiple pulled from nowhere specific, so don’t hold to it exactly.

I am interested in innovation, synergy, and catalysis.

I am interested in funding groups that help all people, ie, not one race, not one sex, not one religion, etc.

You might convince me of your cause, but partner with another group that helps other groups.

What comes to mind is human trafficking. You might convince me that your organization that helps women survivors is worthy of funding and there is a reason you only focus on women. For this application you’d need to partner with a group that helps male survivors. You might need to split the funds. Better yet, find a use that benefits you TOGETHER.

What I may or may not fund

I may fund:

  1. New, creative, innovative ideas that need a catalytic investment.
  2. Organizations or programs that are unique or have potential for outsized impact.
  3. I am particularly interested in human oriented causes.
  4. Early or late stage nonprofits that already have their 501(c)(3) determination. If you are an early stage organization, you’ll have to do a great job “selling” me your “management team.”
  5. Religious groups; however, the funds are not for religious purposes or proselytizing. It has to be something for “the community,” regardless their religious affiliation.

I am Unlikely to Fund:

  1. Mission. This is what you already do so nothing special. Besides, everyone else wants to fund that. Unless it’s something I’ve never heard of before and it seems to have potential for outsized impact.
  2. Political activities. Political causes are almost invariably only for a specific set of people.
  3. Anything related to race unless it’s new, unique, and catalytic.
  4. Covid…don’t…just don’t. Seriously…read that again…don’t.
  5. Events, sponsorships, or scholarships.
  6. Operating deficits.
  7. Donation to capital campaigns.
  8. Endowments.

Information About the Application

Please use 50-500 words for each response. Use as many words as needed to convey the information but use as few as necessary. I don’t want to read more than necessary and you don’t want to write more than you need to. Do not add links to get around the word limitations.

Information to prepare before you apply.

  1. Background: Background on your organization and mission.
    1. When did you get your 501(C)3 designation. A copy will be necessary prior to award.
    2. Last year’s income broken-down by source (estimates are fine)
    3. Expenses by category: Mission, admin, fund-raising
    4. Volunteer hours in last year
    5. Number of paid employees
  2. Mission: Explain your mission. What gap do you address? How big of a problem is it? What are upstream and downstream impacts and causes of your topic of interest?
  3. Why you: Why are you the organization to do this work? ie, Why should I believe you can accomplish what you are proposing? Some statistics on impact to show me what doing with what you already have. A metric I think is important is $/success. What is the cost for each success you provide. $/tutoring session and # sessions / child; $/person brought out of sex slavery to reintegrate them into society; whatever the cost is for what your organization’s ultimate goal is.
  4. Proposal: What is your cool idea? What do you want to do, improve, buy, or contract with using these new funds.
  5. Why: Why this is important to accomplish your mission in a better/smarter/faster way? Yes, explain the benefit on impact of this specific investment.
  6. Why this one: Why is this thing/person/consultant/idea the best of its kind FOR YOUR PURPOSES? If you want to buy software, why that brand? If you need a consultant, why is that consultant the right one and why can I expect they can deliver? Keep in mind that I’ve run multi-million-dollar budgets and self-funded businesses. I know and understand the importance of selecting the correct solution, not just the most convenient solution or the one you see first.
  7. How: How will this funding produce significantly more value than the simple investment? Just spell it out for me, don’t make me guess. And don’t exaggerate.
    1. Examples:
      1. I want to hire [name] who does estate planning for nonprofit supporters. He “guarantees” 100X return and usually gets 200X.
      2. We will use the $1,000 for [marketing/legal work/accountant/what else?????] to work with [organization] which was used by a local mega church to pay off medical debt for members of the community at 1 cent / dollar owed. [note: My funds would not be appropriate to use to pay off debt. My funds should help make this activity happen and do significantly more than $1000 for paying off the debt]
    2. These are NOT specific examples of what I’m looking for. Just examples of how to make it easy and obvious for me to understand the benefit. And see, 2 sentences worked great!
  8. Assurance: How will you assure me the funds were used as described in your application?
  9. Other funding: If this additional money is needed for your idea, explain where the money will come from or if you already have it.