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Thumbs ready? A great Tweet will win $10,000 each for 10 small nonprofits

In this week's issue of The Chronicle of Philanthropy, author Megan O'Neil writes about Minnesota-based Deluxe Corporation Foundation's creative approach to grant-making: apply in a Tweet!

by Megan O'Neil

A corporate grant maker may have found the #smartest and #easiest way to win the hearts of small nonprofits.

The Deluxe Corporation Foundation, the philanthropic arm of a century-old check-printing company, is awarding 10 grants worth $10,000 each in a Twitter-based competition it calls its "Short & Tweet" grant program.

Charities and their supporters have until October 21 to nominate by tweet. In 140 characters — the maximum number Twitter allows in any message — participants must describe why an organization would be a great recipient of the money. The idea, says Amanda Brinkman, who as chief brand and communications officer at Deluxe Corporation oversees the company’s foundation, is to create the easiest grant application in the world.

"We have seen a lot of people work hard to apply for grants," she says. "It is typical in our industry that it takes a lot of time and effort to put together a grant proposal."

To qualify, a group must have been granted charity status by the IRS and have annual revenue of less than $3 million. It must also have a mission that is in line with the grant making of the St. Paul, Minn. corporate foundation, which focuses on economic empowerment, work-force development, the arts, and crisis assistance. The company fund donated a total of $2.4 million to those causes in 2015.

Basic Financial and Program Data

This is the second consecutive year that the Deluxe Corporation Foundation has put on the competition, says Ms. Brinkman. It made its debut last year as part of the company’s 100th anniversary celebration. It drew more than 900 nominations, and the hashtag #deluxecares — which is a required part of the 140 character application — was used about 4,600 times.

Once a charity has been nominated, its staff is asked to electronically submit basic information about its mission and programs. Thereafter, the foundation verifies the information. A small panel of Deluxe staff reviews the nominated charities and selects the winners, Ms. Brinkman says.

One goal is to connect with charities for which $10,000 will really make a difference, she says. And while 140 characters might not seem like a lot of explaining, she and her colleagues have been impressed by what groups can communicate about their charitable missions in just a sentence or two. Some of the most memorable from the 2015 competition were tweets from the dance group Chicago Human Rhythm Project and the anti-hunger group Damiano Center in Duluth, Minn. "I think any way that a nonprofit can receive funding is wonderful for everyone," Ms. Brinkman said. "All of these nonprofits are helping real people in real communities and have amazing missions."

The unusual grant-application process might be setting a record not just for brevity but for speed. Winners will be notified the week of Halloween.

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