Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Your Agency's First Grantwriter Starts Work Monday

Ack!

I ask, "Ack!"? Why?

You may say to me,
'Well, we know we need a grant writer at this agency, but now we've invested in this new staff member and we have no guarantees that grant money will come in. What have I done?'

I understand how you feel. You are not the first ED or board member that has hired a grant writer onto the staff only to wonder 'can we afford this?'.

Welcome your new employee, give him/her the orientation, introduce him/her to staff, clients, volunteers, and community contacts as time unfolds.

You will want to have pulled together copies of all past grant work and have that ready for your newbie. For instance, if ten years ago your agency solicited grants regularly, bring that box of old files out of storage. Have you or another staff member attempted writing proposals? Even if you didn't wind up mailing it - share it with him/her. You may have written a good history of the organization in there or given some recently published statistics that could be helpful.

Have other agency items compiled for your new advocate to be able to inform potential donors about why they should invest in your agency:
- recent newsletters
- agency financials
- most recent annual report
- agency's most recent IRS 990 filing
- recent press clippings/press releases
- recent science or news about your cause
- board roster
- employee roster
- number of current volunteers and hours worked last year
- IRS letter of 501(c)(3) determination
- brochures
- recent survey results
- number of program attendees/number of hours worked towards programs last year
- most recent financial audit from independent CPA (check out Sarbanes Oxley Act and concerns about the non profit sector from this for profit sector law)
- break down of agency's various income streams and percentages spent on programs and overhead for agency
etc.

You can imagine, after seeing the above, what else could help someone new to your agency or cause to educate them and give them documents to meet guideline requirements.

Also, give this new grant writer on your staff your support in front of the rest of the staff. The staff needs to understand that they will be expected to work with and assist the new grant writer in his/her job of raising grant money for their (the staff members') programs and services.

Schedule a meeting for your grant writer to get to know your bookkeeper and CPA. You, the grant writer, and the bookkeeper are the main grant team in your office. Consider asking your grant writer if they would mind reporting to the board, once a quarter, on their progress and what they're hearing back; it's a good way to be sure that the board is kept up to date, but it's also an opportunity for the board to be able to assist the grant solicitation process by advocating for grants in tandem with a written proposal, in the community, simply by talking about your agency and its successes.

Most importantly, give the process time. Know that public relations, talking with colleagues in the community, and meeting grant donors as requested, is also important when trying to receive grants.

Your new staff member will be on their way to assisting in raising your agency some of its first grants!

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