How to Obtain State Legislative Funding for a Heart Gallery

By Diane Granito, New Mexico

Note: This is to create funding pools. This is not a request to use a portion of existing funding from the agency. However requests to use adoption incentive funds received due to improved adoption rates could be requested for Heart Gallery. This method worked in New Mexico but may need to be adapted to your area/state.

Beautiful Heart Gallery portraits capture the children’s individuality, their smile and spirit. These portraits are framed and displayed throughout the community in different venues. Adoption premieres, galas, and expos are organized where hundreds of families come to learn about adoption and view the children’s portraits.

Many of the Heart Gallery children have been placed with loving adoptive families and many other children have been placed due to the adoption awareness that is spread throughout the community through Heart Gallery events.

Step 1:

Find out your legislative funding schedule.

Some may meet for legislative purposes only, without funding. In New Mexico we have 60 day sessions during odd years (funding sessions) and 30 day sessions during even years (not for funding like this, generally). Many states have ongoing legislative sessions. A good legislative connection/mentor is invaluable and having one on the Board- priceless.

Step 2:

Find a government agency liaison to work on this particular issue with you.

Explain that you want to request funding for the Heart Gallery to go into their budget designated specifically for Heart Gallery expenditures. Legislators cannot give money to a nonprofit in most of these cases (i.e. New Mexico) so your agency liaison is very important. The agency should be able to set up a contract with your nonprofit if you have one, though there may be caps on the amount (see below). The liaison should have the authority to set aside this funding within their budget, to create or authorize creation of purchase documents, etc.

Step 3:

Find legislators from the Senate and House to sponsor identical bills and a "memorial" bill.

Check with board members and other high-level supporters for legislative connections and also target those who support child-related legislation. A “memorial” bill goes into detail about the Heart Gallery project but does not ask for money. This is important as the bill’s language is limited/restricted but those who see the “memorial” bill will know what the money will be used for when the money bills come up for a vote. Check with your state on the specifics required for this step.

Step 4:

Draft a budget for your Heart Gallery team and agency.

The budget will let them know what you have in mind so they can make recommendations or adaptations. Always expect to get less so include things from your “dream” budget, then when it is cut you will have enough for the basics. We asked for $260k, which included an Adoption/Heart Gallery van to move the show and we received $100k. This covered the basics plus our 4 matching events. Basic costs should cover portraits, framing, display systems if used, a web site or web site maintenance, advertising, outreach materials and other items needed to host your exhibits or web sites.

Step 5:

Draft the legislative bills.

Step 6:

Be available during the legislative session and be ready to testify before committees and subcommittees and to accompany the legislators for the full floor vote.

In New Mexico you just sit next to them for the floor vote. No questions are asked of you by the legislators but your sponsor may ask you some. Our New Mexico bills received standing ovations when the time came.

Step 7:

Work with your agency regarding their procurement rules and regulations once the money is secured.

In New Mexico we received $100k for our Heart Gallery and 4 other adoption events. Since anything over 30k has to go out for a bid, I set up 5 contracts, and used up all the money but kept each contract under 30k. For most of the contracts I worked out a monthly payment system to spread the total over 12 months. Most state agencies will not pay until AFTER goods or services are provided. This can be tricky so make sure your contractor is OK with this plan. For example, they may get a payment one month that doesn’t cover expenses but will get a payment every month.

Results of Our Funding Efforts

We now have our display systems, each recruiter received portraits, our web site is updated, and our matching events were very successful due to our funding. Now the goal is to get continued funding!

Contracts were with:

  • Framer: Frames for high end opening (with framer who has donated a lot in the past and discounted his cost)
  • Reedy Photo-processing: Multiple sets of prints for statewide distribution to each recruiter in the state.
  • Web designer/graphic designer
  • New Mexico Foundation: To facilitate paying other contractors…designated for the display systems and other specific items.
  • CASA: To administer the non-Heart Gallery events so they can write checks to companies and individuals without us having to do a Purchase Order each time. I calculated the amount actually necessary for the events (for which we still get donations and discounts) and then included a nice amount to go to CASA for their work.

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If you are unable to bring a child into your home, please help us find those who can with a generous donation to Heart Gallery of America Inc. Your contribution is tax deductible. Any amount $1.00 or more is appreciated.