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Multi-Year Funding Approach Expands to Regional Arts Organizations

March 26, 2018

Each grantee who applies to the Iowa West Foundation for funding goes through the same process. It starts with submitting a letter of inquiry (LOI) which is like a pre-application. This LOI ensures that the applicant is an eligible 501 c3 or government entity and qualifies for funding based on parameters set by our Board of Directors. That process is followed by completing a formal application, which includes creating an accurate budget. Staff then meet with representatives from the organization for a due diligence appointment to review the application in depth.

Recognizing that some of our essential human services organizations serving Pottawattamie County were coming to us every year to fund the same worthwhile programs, and therefore were

a) close to becoming ineligible for funding based on our policy that a grantee may only receive a maximum of 6 years of funding in an 8-year timeframe, and

b) spending a significant amount of time completing the full application process year after year,

we instituted “Multi-Year Funding” in 2016.

Multi-year funding allows seven vital human services and education organizations to receive a total of $1.82 million in general operating funding for three years rather than one year. Organizations include:

  • Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands
  • FAMILY, Inc.
  • Green Hills AEA
  • Heartland Family Service
  • Immigrant Legal Center, formerly known as Justice For Our Neighbors – Nebraska
  • Lutheran Family Services; and
  • MICAH House

A Council Bluffs family receives services from FAMILY Inc., one of our multi-year funding grantees.

While there are many checks and balances still in place, it has eliminated the routine due diligence process for the participating organizations (other nonprofits cannot apply for multi-year funding). This frees up these grantees to focus their energy on their programs and missions rather than applying for a grant. Here are just some of our recent testimonials.

“Multi-Year Funding has allowed me to spend more time working on program, staff, and board development opportunities.”
Jaymes Sime, Executive Director of the Micah House

“The funds provide critical care for sensitive child abuse programs that other funders don’t fund or even talk about.”
Ruth Henrichs, President/CEO of Lutheran Family Services

“Our newest donors tell us they were indeed influenced by the Foundation’s confidence in our work.”
Emiliano Lerda, Executive Director of the Immigrant Legal Center formerly Justice for Our Neighbors – Nebraska

While this type of funding signifies our financial commitment to these organizations, it’s also a 3-year commitment on their behalf to continue to grow and develop through capacity building.

Capacity building is another way of saying “strengthening the infrastructure of nonprofits.” Our capacity building program includes sessions on board development and governance, fundraising, strategic planning, and other topics that results in stronger, more impactful organizations. Because if the organizations are stronger, than the programs and projects are stronger, and the community reaps the benefits.

Graphic courtesy of the Omaha Community Foundation

Because it’s worked so well, our Board of Directors recently approved the expansion of Multi-Year Funding to incorporate several regional arts and culture organizations. Many of these grantees also had received annual funds from our Foundation for several years and were subject to the same issues as the human service/education organizations mentioned above.

Thus, multi-year funding 2.0 was born. The organizations include:

  • Ballet Nebraska
  • Durham Museum
  • Iowa Western Community College’s Performing Arts Center
  • Joslyn Art Museum
  • Lauritzen Gardens
  • Omaha Children’s Museum
  • Omaha Symphony Association
  • The Rose Theater
  • Opera Omaha

First and foremost, these arts and culture organizations (most of which are based in Omaha) are regional amenities. They enhance the quality of life for all southwest Iowans, therefore funding them strategically fits with our placemaking policy. In addition, Foundation staff has worked with the program providers to tie their outreach specifically to Council Bluffs and Pottawattamie County. One restriction on the multi-year funds for several of the organizations mentioned above is that they must be used to support the organization’s operations in southwest Iowa. This includes field trips, enrichment offerings and programming that our youth might not otherwise receive because there isn’t a nonprofit based in southwest Iowa that provides those opportunities.

Already, our feedback has been positive.

“Thanks to The Iowa West Foundation, The Rose Theater has been able to deepen its service to the children of southwest Iowa by providing all Council Bluffs Public Schools first graders with a field trip to the theater each year. This often life-changing experience for young people will now be expanded to more Iowa students thanks to the Foundation’s multi-year funding. This is a truly visionary way to conduct philanthropy because it allows non-profit organizations like us to make bolder commitments to children than ever before.”
-Rose Theater Artistic Director Matt Gutschick

We couldn’t have said it better.

OUR VISION is a community where families choose to live, and businesses choose to locate, because of its quality of life and standard of living.


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