At Purple Mai‘a, the students aren’t the only ones doing their homework. The team behind this computer science education nonprofit knows that, from budgets to academic calendars, the key to successful fundraising is planning.
For the most part, Purple Mai‘a relies heavily on private grants provided mostly by local foundations.
These grants allow the nonprofit to continue providing computer science education to keiki in underserved communities (focusing particularly on Native Hawaiian children) and to plan for the future of the foundation.
Co-founders Kelsey Amos and Donavan Kealoha hope that the program will grow with its students; as their abilities and skills advance, so will their challenges and their opportunities to secure work experiences and practical skills that will serve them in their careers.
In order to make that vision a reality, they first need to raise money.
“Because we are an education nonprofit, our process is built around the school year and grant cycles,” explains co-founder Kelsey Amos. “We think about what projects we want to run next year, scan for the funding opportunities we see in the environment that will match, budget out our ideal scenarios, and get to work talking to funders and preparing proposals.”
The road to raising capital is never smooth, but few obstacles are insurmountable.
“We take an attitude that failure happens and the main thing is that you fail fast and move on,” Kelsey describes. “All disappointments in fundraising are a blessing, in that they show you where you are not a good match with certain funders. That helps you to become focused and smart in where you direct your energy.”
Purple Mai‘a sets a budget before engaging in any sort of fundraising.
“Budgeting well is part of good project planning, and grantors want to see that you’ve done that,” says Kelsey. With primarily grant-based funding, strong budgeting is essential for securing the future of the organization.
Writing grants, holding meetings, doing presentations, and building relationships may seem mundane, but all of these activities play an important role in reaching the end goal of providing the next generation with the tools necessary to solve problems relevant to their lives and to create the products they want to see.
A few further pieces of advice from the Purple Mai‘a team:
- Don’t sell yourself or your budget short. “It was surprising to find out that grantors don’t necessarily want to see you skimping on your budget,” Kelsey says. “They want to see that you are resourcing your project well so it will succeed.”
- Casting a wide net is important — allocating resources to have someone research and apply to both national and local grants where you may not already have a connection is often a longer shot, but can pay off.
- Utilize your networks. Between the founders and board members, Purple Mai‘a has developed a large network of relationships that come in handy for in-kind help and fundraising. While one way board members can help is to give, they can also play an active role in helping secure grants and plan fundraisers.
Written by Alison Bemis
Photos Courtesy of Bill Evangelista