We all know that you can’t do much without money. As the saying goes, “money makes the world go round.” Many of you will never have worked for, or been associated with, a non-profit organisation so you have probably never considered the amount of work necessary to keep them financially afloat.
I work for a non-profit and often see the development group walking potential donors around campus in the hopes that they will make a donation. I work for a very famous hospital which is responsible for some incredible scientific and medical breakthroughs, so I know we get many donations. It is a very obvious use of their money as it goes towards treating patients and performing the research necessary for the next generation of therapies.
I am also involved with the National Postdoctoral Association as I sit on the Board of Directors. I have been a volunteer on their Outreach committee for over 2 years and assist in the promotion of the mission, values, goals, and business objectives of the NPA. The NPA is a 501(c)3 educational non-profit organization that seeks sustainable change and improvement for the postdoctoral experience. It has key program activities focused in three key areas:
Advocacy and Education: They advocate for policies that promote positive change in the postdoctoral experience working with the leadership in federal agencies (NIH, NSF) to develop new programs and policies for postdoctoral training, compensation and benefits. The NPA played a significant role in many improvements, including but not limited to:
• 4 consecutive years of increases in the entry stipend for the NIH National Research Service Award (NRSA) trainees (15 in 2009, 1% in 2010, and 2% in 2011 and 2012).
• The adoption of the definition of “postdoctoral scholars” by the NIH and the NSF.
• The establishment of the NIH Pathways to Independence award to help postdocs successfully transition to tenure-track faculty positions.
• Recommendations impacting postdocs in the June 2012 NIH biomedical research workforce working group report.
• The decision by the National Academies Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP) to conduct a follow-up study to its 2000 report, enhancing the postdoctoral experience for scientists and engineers.
Resource Development: They develop and provide resources that postdocs and administrators need to succeed. As an international postdoc, I found the online resources particularly useful. There are various guides to living in the US, tips on how to file your taxes and which funding bodies have grants I am eligible to apply to; and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Community Building: They provide opportunities for the postdoctoral community to connect through hosting annual meetings to enhance professional development and leadership skills; also maintaining online forums to facilitate information exchange, collaboration and networking.
As you can see, the NPA has made change possible over the last 10 years and is committed to continue doing so. As a board member, I am now privy to information about how the organization is run. Therefore, funding is now something I think about – a lot! I didn’t appreciate that the majority of funds received from grants and other sources usually have stipulations on how that money can be used. These are called “restricted funds.” The holy grail of non-profits is therefore “unrestricted funds,” meaning these can be used for any purpose and this is where donations come in.
Many organisations have projects that they would love to get started, but are unable to receive grant money for as they need to show proof of principle. Similar to writing any scientific research grant, it helps your case immensely if you can include preliminary results. But how do you fund those? It is the typical Catch 22 situation. This is the perfect use of donation money and, even if you only donate a few bucks, it will all add up in the end and be put to good use.
Every non-profit wants to support its cause by increasing capacity and expanding programming. However, this requires that those who the organization represents be willing to financially support the organization. Without that help and support, it is impossible for any non-profit organization to grow and improve its services to its stakeholders. Therefore, if you are reading this I am hoping that you might be willing to donate to this cause very close to my heart: the NPA. The donation link to the NPA is:
https://npamembers.site-ym.com/donations/default.asp. With your help, so many different projects could be launched which will benefit postdocs across America–the scientific leaders of tomorrow.