Another Foundation Funds FORGE

The day after I laid out Why I’m Investing in FORGE, I received an email from an anonymous foundation asking me for additional commentary on my rationale. Today I was cc’d on this letter that they sent to FORGE. This is being reprinted with permission:

Dear Kjerstin, It was great to meet at your office today. Thank you for your time on such short notice.

Having considered the current challenges of FORGE as we’ve discussed today, the [deleted] Foundation is prepared to offer what we feel will help catalyze the kind of immediate funding you need, while also ensuring that FORGE can strengthen its work for the long-term. If you can raise another $20,000 between today and the end of February 2009, we will do two things: 1) we will match that with another $20,000 for core support, and 2) in addition, we will make a grant of $30,000 to be used for building internal capacity (as you described today) during 2009.

While this funding will help address FORGE’s immediate needs, the additional investment of $30,000 will be instrumental in 2009. As the current financial crisis is sure to affect non-profits significantly this coming year, it will be even more important for you and your staff to address the long-term sustainability of FORGE. This support for capacity will allow you to do just that.

I admire the work you are doing and the great sacrifices you and your team are making to do it. We hope this support will ultimately help FORGE to be successful in providing African refugees with the tools to lead and empower their communities.

This is a really well designed grant. It allows the foundation to not make the grant if FORGE is unable to raise enough to make this grant push them over the top to close their short term funding gap. It also begins to lay the groundwork for funding the restructuring of FORGE’s fundraising program next year.

This grant adds to the $27,000 already raised by FORGE as a direct result of their commitment to transparency. FORGE still needs to raise $20,000 to get this grant. If you want to help FORGE reach that goal, you can donate to them via this widget:


  1. This is certainly wonderful news, Sean. It’s a perfect jumping off point for FORGE’s sustainability.

    I especially appreciate the challenging nature of grant. Since its humble beginnings and up to this push for radical transparency, FORGE has had immense confidence in our collective vision, complementary skill sets, and overall ability to achieve our goals – be they long or short term. We’ve seen bumps in the road and have been rocked at times, but it’s nice to see, hear, and experience a foundation stepping up and saying, “Do what you have to do and we will help you do it even better.”

    I have a warm smile on my face this morning to go along with my white knuckles. There’s more work to do.

    The FORGE Board is taking Curtis’ recommendations very seriously and we have been holding meetings daily to begin growth of our board. Any suggestions or people recommendations that this community have on that point would be extremely helpful.

    -Nick Talarico
    President, Board of Directors

  2. Neesh says:

    > “as a direct result of their commitment to transparency”

    I think it’s an indirect result.

    I admit I’ve only been half-paying attention to this saga, but seems like the $27K they’ve raised is mostly due to your involvement. If you hadn’t publicized this story, they wouldn’t have raised anything off their transparency. More to the point, if ten more organizations do the same thing, they won’t get the same results.

    The FORGE situation reminds me of the way I reward my potty-training daughter for using the toto: the goal is for the behavior to cease to become special and become normal. And after it becomes normal, my daughter stops getting her post-flush gummy bear. Adults don’t get treats for normal behavior.

    That analogy is slightly off… just seems kind of patronizing, I guess, to attempt to convince nonprofits of the value of transparency by pointing to FORGE’s $27K.

  3. I’ve got to say this is one of the more odd comments I’ve gotten over the years. It is hard to imagine anything written here is more patronizing than comparing a nonprofit to potty-training a child!

    What you’re missing is 1) transparency is not normal behavior. It might be behavior that should be normal, but it is not currently, 2) one of the benefits of transparency is the fact that outside observers can become aware of what you are doing and gain trust in your actions. I never would have put a spotlight on FORGE without their transparency, so I find it difficult to understand why you attribute their success to my spotlight.

    But you are right that it is an “indirect” result in a way. No one would give money to FORGE if all they had going was transparency. The transparency is just giving people an opportunity for people to see inside the organization in an authentic way rather than through a sales pitch and they seem to like what they see.

  4. Leanne says:

    I’m going to pretend I didn’t read the other comments and go with my first response.

    This is good, Sean. This is very, very good.

  5. Neesh says:

    > I find it difficult to understand why you attribute their success to my spotlight.

    I’m saying their recent grants you cite wouldn’t have happened without your spotlight. Is that wrong?

    I wasn’t trying to offend anyone with that terrible analogy. (I love kids AND nonprofits!) I was trying to say that if transparency were even slightly more common, there would be no spotlight room left.

    Nonprofit transparency sure would make funding decisions a lot easier for funders. But I know a few funders, and airing all your problems completely and publicly is not the road to grantville. So, calling FORGE’s recent fundraising scores “a direct result of their commitment to transparency”–just didn’t ring true to me. These dollars seem more a direct result of your commitment to publicizing and praising FORGE’s transparency.

  6. Fair enough Neesh. At some point soon I’m going to write a post about when transparency is useful and when it is not. I don’t think of transparency as a fundraising tool. So in that sense I think you are correct.