Smart, smart people

Every once in a while someone says or does something and we just have to say, “WOW!”

Here are three examples we encountered just this week:

We chatted with early childhood educators at the JAM Center in Garret, Indiana and they said, “Most people are surprised by this, but children of this age need real life work to do!  They need to wash things, sweep the floor and do simple jobs like slicing eggs.”  Think of all of money that’s spent on toys…and the early childhood experts believe it’s really work that kids need. (And we agree!)

We heard a presentation by Bryan Nugen, an attorney who’s based in Auburn, Indiana and Miami, Florida.  He explained, “Here’s a big difference that I’ve noticed.   When people come to do estate planning in Miami, they know exactly what charity they want to support.  When people come to do estate planning in Indiana…they don’t have a charity or cause in mind.”  Wow–what an opportunity for organizations to learn from a pro!  Donors need to be educated and inspired… and when they are, that’s when charitable contributions happen!

We just received a grant report from The Center for Whitley County Youth.  A quick and unofficial count reveals that this small, grassroots nonprofit organization has nearly 340 donors.  That’s 340 diverse sources of revenue!  Wow!  When people hear about great, impactful charitable work–they’re not afraid to get out their checkbooks!

Smart people!  Great ideas to think about!




3 deceptively simple questions

What will change?

How much will it change?

How will you know?

Each time one of our program officers meets with a grantseeker, the questions above WILL be asked.

Each time, the answer to these questions WILL be an import contributing factor to whether or not our board’s response to the grant proposal is a “YES” or a “NO.”

Let’s look at some sample answers to the questions above:

What will change?  30 middle and high school students will improve their reading scores.

How much will it change?   Each student will improve their score to at least their grade level

How will you know?  Each student will take a reading skills test before they start our program and every two months after that.

In the example above, the answer to the three questions was clear and measurable…they either helped 30 kids improve their reading skills or not…they got to grade level or they didn’t.

Let’s try another example:

What will change?  We will serve somewhere between 72 and 190 students and help them build their writing skills.

How much will it change?  We hope that they will go from being afraid of writing to loving it.

How will you know?  We will look at samples of their work.

Ok, this was an extreme example…but you get the point.

To be effective as a grantseeker, it’s important to consider the very specific change your project will bring about.  It’s hard stuff…it’s new to most people.  At the Dekko Foundation we’ve learned that a lot of things people don’t think can be measured really CAN! Our program officers can help you think it all through. You can talk with one of them before you apply (260-347-1278) or during the review of your proposal.

We once worked with a smart consultant who used the phrase, “If you can measure it…it’ll get done!” IT’S TRUE!  Each of us gets up in the morning and comes into work in the nonprofit sector because we want to make things better for the people we serve.  Measuring things is the number one (and probably only) way that this will happen.

That’s why we work so hard on it!



Intern Reveals: “Top 5 Dekko Foundation surprises!”

You know how you get an idea in your head…then things turn out way differently?

Lauren Butler, a senior at East Noble High School, works with us half days as an ICE (Interdisciplinary Cooperative Education) Student.  We asked Lauren to share her top five surprises about working at the Dekko Foundation.  They are:

1. “The grant proposals go through many more phases of consultation and review than what I thought.”  (Each proposal is reviewed by a program officer, a group of program officers, all staff members, our Grant Review Committee and our board of directors.  We all have the opportunity to offer information.  Our board makes the final decision.)

2. “I learned what a Youth Pod actually is! I had heard of the local group, P.U.L.S.E., but I never actually knew what they did or how they started.”  (Youth Pods are groups of young people who are interested in bringing about positive community change.  P.U.L.S.E. is located in Noble County, Indiana. These groups receive some financial support from our foundation to do their charitable work.)

3. “My best friend was the I.C.E. student here last year, and she was always talking to me about making Bubbles. She had always told me that she would either work downstairs or in the workroom. The image that always popped in my head was her in the basement with one of those old school chalk boards that flipped around in a room with bad lighting. The board was filled with hot pink and bright blue speech bubble stickers filled with writing pasted on the board. After doing Bubbles on my own, I now realize there are no chalkboards or speech bubble stickers, and there is excellent lighting.”  (Bubbles are teen-directed lessons about philanthropy…Lauren has used her creativity to help us with that project.  BTW–our basement is not a bad place to be! )

4. “It is very tastefully decorated.”  (Our office is located in Mr. Dekko’s former home.  It is a very nice building that looks out on a lake.  We do have some really comfortable pillows in our reception area.)

5. Each grant is handled by one staff member to begin. It doesn’t start out with the entire staff looking at a grant and reviewing it.  That phase happens later on.  (In that early phase that Lauren refers to, much of our work is spent with our grantseekers.  We usually meet in person…sometimes by phone…to make sure that we understand the proposal inside and out.)

Pssssst….Want some insider info?

Who WOULDN’T want an inside glimpse into how a foundation thinks and works?

Here, as simply and clearly as we can offer them, are three things that make a huge difference on whether or not a project receives an investment from our foundation:

  1. Can we agree on what children need?    All of our grants are aimed at helping children and young people have the developmental experiences that they need.  We think these things are important because they lay a foundation for adult independence.  Of course there are different opinions on what types of experiences and support children and youth need.  Read here to see if you agree with our beliefs.
  2. Does this project solve a problem?  Our frequent grantseekers see our program officers and they know it’s coming…IT being this question…”What problem are you trying to solve?”   Grantseekers often cite national statistics, but they have no idea how large (or if) that problem exists in the community they serve.  Close-to-home research pays off nicely in our eyes.
  3. If you receive the grant that you’ve proposed, what positive change will you bring about?   This question helps our grant committee and board understand clearly what they’re buying if they make the investment that’s being proposed.  Grantseekers often find this topic to be super-difficult…but our program officers are prepared to help you succeed!

Get to know our program officers and their best advice for grantseekers in a set of brief video clips.

Want more inside information?  Please feel free to call us anytime (260-347-1278). We think that talking to grantseekers before they take the time to apply is a huge positive for everyone involved.  Talk to you soon!



Pie? Lemon meringue please!

One of the best parts of working at the Dekko Foundation is meeting the people we serve.  They have lots in common!  They love their community.  They love kids.  And often they’re not quite happy with how things are going for children.

After our travels we share stories…like this one:  A few weeks ago Ashlee, one of our program officers, visited the Washington STEM Academy and talked with principal, Tom Ray.  Over the past few years, their entire staff has worked tirelessly to change a traditional elementary into a project-based learning school.  We didn’t write down Tom’s exact words but, to paraphrase, he said that as experienced educators it’s necessary, but difficult, to step back and learn new things about teaching and how children learn.

Step back and learn new things? We agree!  Researchers learn more about brains and how they work every day!  New methods are uncovered…best practices are shared!  It’s true in teaching.  It’s true in grantmaking.  It’s true everywhere.

Stepping back and learning new things requires us all to admit that we have a lot to learn…  It’s a little slice of humble pie…most people’s least favorite pie flavor!  But stepping back pays big dividends!

We think a lot about stepping back…as a matter of fact it’s part of our key message for 2014:

Great things happen when adults step back and consider what children need to grow and develop!!!