Still committed to arts programming

By Barry Rochford, strategic communication officer

We recently notified educators and arts organizations about our decision to end our Art Dekko proactive grantmaking initiative. I wanted to take this opportunity to explain a little more about how we came to that decision while also affirming our continued commitment to investing in arts experiences for young people.

First, it should be said that we as a foundation love the arts. Our board and our staff love the arts for their ability to spark creativity, growth and change in young people. That’s why for more than 15 years the Dekko Foundation has invested more than $1.5 million in our grantmaking areas in Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and Alabama through Art Dekko. On top of that, we’ve invested in other arts-related programs through our responsive grantmaking.

For those who might be unfamiliar with Art Dekko, each year in January we issued a request for proposals to invest in arts-related programming. If you’ve kept tabs on our Facebook page, you’ve seen some of the results of those Art Dekko investments.

As an organization, we, too, should grow, change and get better over time. Our founder, Mr. Chester E. Dekko, would certainly expect us to. So that’s why as we’ve thought about Art Dekko in recent months, we wondered if we could be making an even greater impact through our investments in arts programming. We believe the answer is yes.

What does that look like? When will that happen? To be honest, we’re still working on it. But we’re excited about what the future will bring, and we certainly welcome any feedback you might have.

In the meantime: We still want to invest in arts programming. We continue to welcome arts-related proposals through our responsive grantmaking process. We accept proposals daily, but since our responsive grantmaking is different from our Art Dekko initiative, we hope you’ll keep in mind the following:

  • You will need to complete an application online at Our staff is always available by phone to answer any questions. Once your proposal has been received, someone will come out and meet with you to learn more.
  • Please allow 90 days prior to needing the funds for our staff to learn more about your proposal.
  • Please be prepared to talk about how your proposal will build the skills, knowledge and character young people need to live economically free lives.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 260-347-1278, or email me at or Kim Davidson at

You give us hope!

By Sharon Smith, Program Director

One of my most memorable days at the Dekko Foundation—and I’ve had lots of memorable days—happened one summer about ten years ago.  One of our grantees from Lamoni, Iowa named Benita Booth, was driving through Indiana on her way to the east coast. She wanted to stop in to see our office, say hello and meet our president.

Since we go out to visit our grantseekers, we don’t have that many office visitors—especially not people from out of state. We welcomed Mrs. Booth and sat in our president’s office for some polite small talk.  That’s when she dropped a thought so profound that I think about it to this day.

“You know,” she said, “the money you give us is really important.  But what you really do is give us hope.”

What an amazing way to synthesize the impact of grantmaking.  Giving hope to schools and nonprofits that want offer their young people the very best learning experiences.  Giving hope to communities that their young people will be ready for rewarding careers and independent lives.

When Mr. Dekko started our foundation in 1981, he left us with this mission:  To foster economic freedom through education. He believed that education offered all people hope that they might lead lives of economic freedom.

Thanks, Mrs. Booth, for giving us a new and memorable way of looking at things.

To learn more about grants from our foundation:

Feel free to call and discuss an idea for a grant proposal:


Just do it!

If you’re putting off calling our foundation to ask a question, then we have a question for you.


Organizationally, we’re 36 years old, and it’s hard to imagine there’s a question we haven’t heard.  Plus, our board of directors has sized our staff so that, during business hours, there’s always someone around to help you in person.

Think your question might be dumb?

It’s probably not dumb.  We go to work at a foundation every day.  Most people don’t.  You guys need a little help understanding how to work with us.  We get that.

Still don’t want to make that call?  Maybe we can help.  Here are some of our most frequently-asked questions:

·         How much money can I propose?  (We get right to the point, don’t we?)  Our foundation doesn’t have set grant amounts.  When we make grants, we factor a lot of things into the equation.  We consider how many children you serve, the amount of change you’re proposing to make in their lives and even the community where you live.

·         If I ask for too much money, is that the kiss of death for my grant proposal?  NO!  See our answer above, as in: We go to work at a foundation every day.  Most people don’t.  You guys need a little help understanding how to work with us.  We get that.

·         When is your next deadline for grant proposals?  We don’t have a proposal deadline.  Instead, we ask you to consider your project and when you want to start it.  Then we ask you to send us your proposal at least 90 days before you need to know whether we’ll make an investment.  When you consider all of this, it may seem like we want to work with people who are planners. That’s true.  Good planning makes for great projects.

STILL have that case of phone call avoidance?  We give up!  You can always email us.

Grant Rant

Maybe it’s all the rain we’ve had this spring.  Maybe it’s all of the division along political lines.  Whatever it is, we’re grumpy.  We have something to get off our chest.  We feel a rant coming on!

SO many people misuse the word grant!

Since we work in the world of grantmaking, we notice it.  A lot!  We’d like to offer clarification.  Here we go:

  • When people sit down to apply to our foundation or any other, they often say, “I’m writing a grant.” In truth, these folks are writing a grant proposal.
  • A grant proposal only becomes a GRANT when decision makers—in our case, our Dekko Foundation board of directors—vote YES!
  • People who write grant proposals for a living often call themselves grant writers. In truth, they are proposal writers.

So, now, it’s off our chest!  As rants go, it was mercifully short.  We hope it’ll be useful for you and help you professionalize your work.

Whew!  We feel better.


Like eating the cone without the ice cream

If you think of the Dekko Foundation only as a place to get grant money, you’re missing something big that could help you accomplish your mission!

Mr. Dekko’s endowment allows us to make about $10 million in grants each year—and we know, money helps.  But it’s obvious to us that we have a lot more than money to offer those of you out there on the front lines of developing children and young people.  (And let’s face it, there are SO many problems that money alone can’t solve!)

Our boss, Tom Leedy, challenges us to think of the Dekko Foundation as a collection of resources.  He wants us to be sure to maximize everything the Foundation has on hand to impact children’s development.

Here are just a few ways we can help organizations move forward:

  • We’re willing to talk before you send a grant proposal. Yesterday afternoon our Jenna Ott met with a grantseeker who just wanted to explore a proposal idea.  Just good conversation and answers to questions about grant proposals (which can be kind of scary).
  • We’ve seen some wonderful success stories: This week Joe Pounds is down south with a group of school leaders introducing them to one of our grantees and sharing ideas for students’ vocational exploration.
  • We know people. Just today Sharon Smith connected one of our long-time grantees, Jeff Wike, to a consultant (Ruth Stone from CDO Consulting).  Out of kindness, Ruth helped Jeff with something new he’s trying.
  • We share inspiration: Our Kimberly Schroder is passionate about improving learning environments for early childhood and elementary education.  She tries to be contagious when it comes to sharing grantees’ successes.
  • We have in-house know-how. Our Kim Davidson shares her fundraising experience with grantseekers.  Ashlee Guthrie applies her retail experience to nonprofit scenarios.  We bring in our Robin McCormick for financial/compliance inquiries.  Catering and entertaining questions fall into the capable hands of our Nan Meyer.
  • We have great information on the development of children and young people.


So, the bottom line is, yes, we do make grants.  We’re also a resource for people and organizations who want to offer the best in child/youth development.  We’re a phone call (260-347-1278) or email ( away.

Don’t settle for the cone.  We’re offering ice cream and sprinkles!