program in 1999, doing everything from homework with the kids to learning how to write proposals. For 10 years Johnson was the go-to guy for proposals and grant writing. He refused to take a salary for the first two years. Today, he makes a living as a partner at the design/build firm Four Brothers L.L.C. in Washington, D.C., and continues to provide job training to former participants of LPTM who are interested in carpentry and design.
Initially they had no fundraising strategy, but the financial and programmatic support they received from the mayor’s Office of Partnerships and Grant Services, the Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Foundation’s grant, and the Children’s Trust Neighborhood Initiative served as a launching pad. “We received guidance on how to develop a fundraising plan that proved to be successful,” says Brown.
Despite the current economy, the program has not lost the monetary support of even one donor. Brown, with her staff of 15, is on track to generate close to $700,000 by way of their fundraising efforts.
Still, like many people who start nonprofits, Quick and Brown faced resistance and doubt from people in the community and potential financial backers. “Folks were saying [the art form] was a difficult style and would be difficult for the children and they wouldn’t be able to do it, but I’m good at making complicated things simple,” says Quick. He developed what is now the art program’s curriculum. Each student receives his own canvas. After the canvas is painted, they cut out pieces of the artwork, which Quick explains represent pieces of their lives. Later, students sew the different parts together, showcasing the fragments of their lives that were considered challenges, but have been turned into opportunities. The final product––a masterpiece made of life pieces. Although Quick continues to consult for LPTM, he left the program to pursue art full time. The art component is now led by artistic director Seneca Wells, who apprenticed under Quick.
BROWN, QUICK, AND JOHNSON’S ADVICE
Know the rules. Every state has its own qualifications for becoming a legal nonprofit. You should check with your state officials to see exactly what those requirements are. Before you get to that point, identify why it’s important for your nonprofit to exist. Brown says you must be certain about your objectives. “You can’t say, ‘Oh, I might like to do this.’ Be very clear about what you want to accomplish.”