Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Reporting to Grant Donor After End of Project

You know that communication is everything in raising grant donations.

Let's say that your organization received its first grant five months ago for a new program. You work at Slow Drivers Assistance (SDA) and your group received the grant from Safe Driving Foundation for a new educational program called "Driving At the Speed Limit With Confidence". You applied for the grant and after receiving it, understood that the grant money would cover the workbooks, guest speakers' fees, and the rental car you used to practice with your agency's clients. The new class began three months ago. Safe Driving Foundation provided their assistance and in return asked that at the end of your project you provide them with a "End of Project Report".

You may ask, 'what the heck is an End of Project Report'?

This is a report that explains to the grant donor:

1. That your group and constituents appreciate their participation.
2. What did their money pay for? (You may break this down as a quick budget or write out what their money paid for (unless they asked for a specific format; follow their directions, always)). Include what was paid for by them, your organization, and include what was paid for by other donors.
3. What, in general, was achieved with their assistance?
4. If the grant donor required any advertising (or none) was this honored?
5. Did you follow up your program/project by studying/surveying the attendees, participants, recipients, etc. to get their feedback? If so, what were the results? How was feedback determined? (It's ok to share the negative comments, too - nothing is perfect - state what your group learned from this negative feedback).
6. Did you track project/program results? If so, what were they? How were results determined? (It's ok to be honest about poor results; state what lesson you learned from them).
7. Will you do this project/program again? When?
8. Thank them again.

It is always important to get any reporting that a donor requests to them on time, filled out completely, and honestly. This is true, too, for grant donors.

Even if a grant donor does not require such a report, provide them with the following reporting at the end of the project/program that they donated towards to be communicative, thorough, and to provide them with information about where their money went, and what it did in your community. If you provide them with a one page report that details the above described results and information, they'll know that your organization is honest, professional, on top of your work, and communicative. This will lead them to strongly consider another grant request from your group (when they allow another grant request from grant recipients). This is the goal; a relationship!

Here's an example End of Project Report based on your organization's latest program.

(Example beginning)
Driving At the Speed Limit With Confidence End of Program Report
Slow Drivers Assistance
August, 2006

On behalf of Slow Drivers Assistance's (SDA) clients, volunteers, and staff, thank you for your participation in our program and all of your excellent work in our community.

On March 2, 2006 we received from the Safe Driving Foundation a grant, in the amount of $5,000 to pay for the clients' workbooks, guest speakers' expenses, and the rental car expenses.

Ricky Recovered Slow Driver speaker fee -----$ 500
Leslie Stay In Her Lane travel costs-----------$1000
Leslie Stay In Her Lane speaker fee ----------$1000
12 How To Stay On Speed Workbooks --------$1200
1 Rental Car for one month -------------------$1000
Rental Car Insurance -------------------------$ 300
Conference Room Fee for 10 sessions--------- $ 100 (Paid for by Ford Foundation)
Coffee, Desserts, Bagels ---------------------- $ 500 (Paid for by local Starbucks store)
1 SDA Staff (at 20 hours) ---------------------$ 400 (Paid for by SDA individual donors)
1 SDA Administrator (at 5 hours) -------------$ 100 (Paid for by SDA individual donors)
Photocopies, Mailings, Paper, Printing --------$1000 (Paid for by Speedy Mavens Foundation)
Total Accounts Payable: $7,400

Donations received from clients --------------$ 100
Total Accounts Receivable $100

Net Accounting for Program: $7,300

At the end of ten free sessions for 12 low income drivers who are afraid to drive the speed limit, 80% of attendees were able to drive the speed limit. This is safer for the clients, their loved ones in the car with them, and for others driving on our community's roads.

As Safe Driving Foundation asked that their donation be accepted as an anonymous gift (when listed or described publicly) we honored your request. When your grant was listed, we noted the donor as "anonymous".

At the end of the course all twelve participants were asked to fill out a one page survey asking for their feedback. They were given questions and then asked to respond on a scale. The scale ranged from 1 to ten; one being "very poor" and ten being "excellent". All twelve students returned their surveys and SDA received "excellent" marks, in 70% of the surveys, on all aspects of the class but one. 90% of our students felt that the class would be better if we had more sessions. Next year we will spread the cirriculum over more class sessions. If you, at the Safe Driving Foundation, would like to see a blank copy of the survey that we used, we are happy to provide you with one.

We tracked the results of our course among the students by noting attendance at each class, progress made in the class work, and progress made in practicing driving at the speed limit. As stated above, 80% of the students, who began this course unable to drive at the speed limit for fear of 'speeding', are now able to regularly drive at the speed limit. SDA continues to encourage, assist, and work with the 20% who did not achieve the course's goal. Their success at driving safely at the speed limit is not required for the class, but rather a goal that we hope to meet.

We remain grateful, here at Slow Drivers Assistance to the Safe Driving Foundation for your working with us to assist people to be able to drive safely for the good of all.

If you have any questions or comments on this educational program or how your grant money was spent, please call our office at 555-5555 and ask to speak with our Executive Director, Sam Safety. We're happy to share any information that we have. Again, thank you.

(End of example)

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Grant Writing and the End of the Year

Happy Winter Solstice, Best Wishes this Kawanzaa, Merry Christmas, and Happy Channukka!

2007 is just around the corner. You're busy in the office getting your grant application documents updated and coordinating with the accounting office to receive the fourth quarter and end of year financials when they're available. You're also planning out the end of year celebrations with friends and family. You are busy.

If, as grant writer, you are working in your non profit's development (fundraising) office you see your colleagues getting their donor software pulled together for end of year close, or there's (hopefully) an influx of donations rolling in; donors are trying to get their final donations in for the year. Some may say that people donate at the end of the year to get more of a tax break but donors are less motivated by tax breaks, recent research is finding, than the eagerness to get involved in causes that they care about. Everyone's busy!

Grant donors are, too!

Keep in mind that fiscal year end (an organization's financial time line is broken down into four quarters (as there are 12 months) for a single year of operation) are different times of the year for different organizations, but some do have fiscal year ends that coincide with the end of the calendar year.

If you're close with your grant donor contacts may already know if there are last minute dollars that they are needing to spend before the year's end.

Or, perhaps you're in regular touch with someone at a local foundation who's mentioned that their foundation is making changes to their giving guidelines.

Maybe you've heard through the grapevine that a small local grant donor has recently received a bequest to add to their total giving amount for the 2007 fiscal year.

You remember Shirley at Gives To A Great Cause Foundation told you last year that if your organization is going to be building that new office structure in 2009, you should approach her in early 2007 about getting a capital campaign grant.

Any of these above scenarios could be happening. You'll need to make yourself aware now, and after the new year, with what's going on with which grant donor to maximize your time, effort, and the potential grants received for this and next year.

One comment about my first possible year end 'scenario' above. Grant donors, who are themselves non profits, are required to spend down their net holdings designated to donations. In other words, if a grant donor still has money sitting to be given away for this current year - they need to get rid of it before year end, or they lose their tax status. If you hear about this being the case, and you have a need for grants that matches their giving guidelines, contact them and ask them if they're allowing last minute applications right now (the end of the year). Perhaps their situation is an opportunity for your non profit to get one last grant for the year.

There is a flip side to this scenario. Grant donors typically manage their assets well and do not allow money to sit in their coffers until their fiscal year's end. So, if you are applying for a grant find out when their fiscal year end is, to be certain that you apply for a grant when money is still available. Of course they will be able to give grants at the first of their next fiscal year - but if you apply for a grant and are awarded a grant, but they have spent their total donation amount for the year - you may be asked to wait for your grant payment until their next fiscal year which may not help your organization.

If you know that a grant donor that you usually approach for X or Y programs is changing their giving guidelines see if you can get the 'inside scoop'. Are they; changing deadlines, adding different ways to contact them, increasing potential grant amounts, or are they doing something big like changing what causes or kinds of agencies they'll give grants to? Approach this grant donor however they prefer to be contacted, and ask what the changes are, when will they be implemented, and when are the new giving guidelines going to be made available? Be certain to get those new guidelines as soon as you can so that your files are up to date.

Finally, there will likely be changes or updates that you'll need to make in your grant application case (the document that is the 'body' of any grant application that you send out) as the year is ending.

The end of the calendar year is a busy time but if you keep a to do calendar and a list of actionable items - you'll keep on top of the work. Once you realize that your work is going to get done, you will be able to enjoy this time of year. Happy, happy, and merry, merry! Best wishes in the new year!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Grant Writing Work, Jobs, and Contractors

Perhaps you're considering a new career and want to look into writing grant proposals for a living. Let me give you some information and suggestions....

This is actually how I got into professional grant writing and fundraising. After graduate school, from experience I'd had with small town local organizations, I saw that the most effective public administration, protection, education, and the most dedicated care for any resource, cause, or project occurred at the local level. I was intrigued by grassroots work. Most of my mother in law's career has been in the non profit sector, so I asked her some questions. Based on what I said I enjoyed in grad school she encouraged me to look into grant writing.

If you come from a background where you have demonstrated organization, strong listening and communication skills, excellent schedule management, a strong ability to keep deadlines, and if you love to read, write, and research; you are well suited to be a grant writer. For instance, generally, entrepreneurs, lawyers, office managers, educators, bookkeepers, and folks with a high level of management and follow through do well in this field.

If this sounds like work that you'd enjoy and if the required skills are ones that you pride yourself on having and enjoy using, then read on!

First, think about who you know that works in the non profit sector and take them out for a coffee, or call them up, and ask them basic questions about the non profit world. If you have concerns about how much work is available ask about your local non profit scene. Are there many agencies? How many of each size non profit organization exist in your region? Tiny orgs are run by volunteers only. Small agencies employ one or two part time staff only. Medium size non profits are staffed. Large non profits are likely a regional or national organization. This is important because if there are hundreds of tiny non profits in your region, but only ten or so medium and large agencies, jobs may be hard to come by. How many grant writers are available to non profits? If there are a lot in your region, don't give up - consider your willingness to volunteer grant writing services after a long drive or over the Internet. What are the pay ranges and benefit packages that he/she's heard of, locally? Do they have any experience with or contacts working in fundraising? Do they know of local reputable fundraising or grant writing affiliations that you could check out? Could they arrange for you to conduct a quick informational interview with their contact? Etc.

Get involved with local fundraising and grant writing professional organizations. Look in the phone book, on line, and ask local professionals in the fundraising or grant writing field what professional organizations they are members of. Look into these groups and attend a meeting to check the affiliation out. Usually these organizations allow folks considering membership to attend a meeting or class, etc. for free. These professional affiliations usually offer members: opportunities to network, job seeking assistance, continuing education (classes), regular conferences, resources to buy (i.e. professional books), and will provide information and referrals, etc. The membership is worth its fee if the organization provides you with resources and assistance - ONLY if you'll attend these workshops, classes, presentations, functions, etc. If you know you won't go - don't spend your money here. Maybe, instead, purchase some good 'how to books' (go to the Archive on this blog and see my November 21, 2006 entry, called "Easy Resources for the Grant Writer").

There are non profits for every cause, fight, religion, field of research, and more. Take a personal inventory and think out what causes you care about, personally. What have you donated to over the past two years? What concerns you in the world? What are you passionate about that you've volunteered for in the past? Create a list. This list will help you focus on a cause or agency that you may want to work for (i.e. any disease, children's' issues, animal welfare,homelessness, etc.). When you raise any kind of support for an organization, including applying for grant money, it helps tremendously if you care about the cause that you and your organization work for. Once you've narrowed it down, look into which orgs working in the arena that you care about, in your region, have good/strong reputations. Talk to people. Research the newspapers and look on line. Look up the agency's website, if they have one. If they look like a strong, well run, healthy agency, then make contact with them. You could either volunteer with them, or contact their office and ask if there's a grant writer or fundraiser available for you to interview about their field and job (i.e. an informational interview). Be willing to talk with professionals in the field; the non profit sector is very humanistic and accessible; people are open (I'm generalizing here,but it has been my experience in Seattle).

When first starting out volunteering is the best option. You'll get to learn about the work and cause. You'll get exposure to an agency without having to be hired, and the agency learns about your skills/abilities. They may hire you if a position opens up. If you do volunteer as a grant writer and are interested in being hired by that organization, sit down with the Executive Director and Chief Development Officer and let them know this in a quick and clear meeting. Give them a list of the projects that you've worked on for them and other groups, and include your resume. Agencies often hire from their volunteers, if they can, because they know these people, and the agency knows that the volunteers know their agency, work, and cause.

Grant writers sometimes volunteer but they can also work as staff members who are hired on as any regular staffer is. Grant writers can be hired as contractors if you want to set up your own grant writing consulting business. In this case, you'll need successful experience and references, but if you've got these and want to go out on your own - do! Market your business, network, and get clients. Research what the going rate is for local grant writing contractors and price yourself according to your experience. You'll need to look into local, state, and federal business start up rules and requirements - and you'll probably need the help of a lawyer and accountant.

Lastly, as with any new endeavor or job search; keep at it. If this is something that you really think you'd enjoy, ease into it to check it out by volunteering. If you find that you really like the work, then network with your colleagues where you're volunteering and let them know that you'd like to work as a non profit agency's grant writer. Ask them if they know of any organizations looking to hire a grant writer. If they don't, ask if they'll keep you in mind to recommend if they hear of an opening in the future. Set up grant writing job searches on line with your local or regional newspaper, look in the want ads, look up job opportunities on www.idealist.org or on your local fundraising or grant writing professional affiliation's website. Keep talking with people and get out there! If you're good at grant writing, and enjoy it, you'll wind up working, yet. There's always a need for good grant writers.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What Does Not Get Funded Well by Grant Money

It can help to understand what, traditionally, does not get funded by grant money.

Generally....

Entities who donate grants to non profit organizations do not want to fund:

- Salaries - Initially you can (and should) find support for new positions, but thereafter grant donors do not want to repeatedly pay for an employee's annual salary. Your organization must demonstrate that it has a plan to sustain itself, after start up. No one wants to donate to a sinking ship! The other side of this is that just like in the for profit sector, finding good employees to hire is critical. Retaining effective, talented, and successful employees is even more important. Do not discount employees pay or benefits just because they work in the non profit sector. This is not the place in the organizational budget to save money. Just like in the for profit sector, word gets around; those organizations who care for their employees hire talent easier, and those who don't get avoided by strong hires. Cost of hiring and teaching a new hire is reduced when there is a high employee retention rate. This saves the organization time, money, and a great reputation over time!

- Office Rent - While non profit organizations have many expenses, business overhead is traditionally the organization's responsibility. Perhaps as a start up an agency may raise a grant to pay for the first month's rent, or first and last month's rent; but those entities who donate grants want their donation to go to the cause that you're working for; not to pay for office expenses. Some landlords, especially if they are active in the community, will offer non profit tenants rent breaks. Ask local realtors about a rent break when considering an office space.

- Office Supplies - (See the above comment) Sometimes organizations can get local corporations to donate 'old' office supplies, or sometimes local or national office supply stores will donate some office materials. Look into this and ask around.

- Monthly Office Bills (i.e. telephone bill, long distance, utilities bill, heat, etc.) (See "Office Rent" comment, above) Some local or state governments provide non profits with support here. Some will allow non profits to pay their utilities at a discounted rate, or won't tax non profit entities local taxes, etc. Research what your local governments provide in tax incentives and discounts to non profit organizations.

- Sponsoring a fundraising event or project - Again, those who donate grants do not want their money to be spent on overhead. These are people who, like your group, care about the cause that you're working on. They too want to connect with the cause and meet the need in your community. They know that your cost of doing business is important but they want to invest in a successful venture, too. Your organization must be successfully supporting its operational needs to be a safe investment, so they expect that your raising funds and that you're successfully doing so. This does not mean that grant donors do not 'like' fundraising events - it means that they know where they want their money to be spent in our community. If you are looking for sponsors for your upcoming fundraising event - going into your local business community is a better bet than grants.

Some grant donors do pay for some of the items mentioned above, so the rules aren't hard and fast - but generally the above expenses aren't popular with grant donors. It may be better to say that the above expenses 'are DIFFICULT to raise grant support for'. Consider other funrsaising methods to support the above expenses. The traditional way to pay for these overhead expenses is through planning. Create a Development Plan (see previous posts in this blog), create a budget and stick to both. Include reality, experience, trends in your region, and consider the economy in planning the Development Plan and budget.

Emergency situations (when your office or organization has never encountered this sudden financial need to pay for overhead costs, before, but is now needing fiscal assistance for a specific single reason that will not repeat itself in the near future) are different. After 9/11 a local non profit that I worked for felt the crunch. Most Americans were donating to the Red Cross or New York and Washington DC based assistance organizations. Of course, this was wonderful - but it was difficult for a small health cause to raise money during 2001 and 2002. We sent a letter to our individual donors (which, fortunately was an established donor base and knew that we never had faced difficulties in cash flow for basic expenses before) explaining our financial situation and why. We raised $15,000 in that one fundraiser that year. It was just more than the organization needed for that financial quarter and we moved on, financially fit. If your organization doesn't have a large or developed donor base, yet, in a financial emergency, contact a local regional community foundation and ask about emergency grants. Often they will have them and they aren't required to be repaid, usually. City or county governments may also provide non profit organizations with emergency grants. Ask around.

How can you know what fgrant donors won't and will donate grants for? Ask that grant donor for their giving guidelines. The giving guidelines will state what the organization donates grants for and usually it will also state what they won't donate grants for. If they don't have giving guidelines, ask one of their staff 'what do you like to give grants for and what do you not fund?' Good luck!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What Programs, Campaigns, or Items Get Grants?

What programs, campaigns, or things that we need can we get grant support for?

I preface this posting with some warning. No two foundations or entities who donate grants are the same. The information in this post is generalized and not specific to any one grant donor, nor is this advice specific to all grant donors. The information, here, is based on my experience as a professional grant writer and there are always grant donors who do or think differently than others. So, please take this information, below, as general advice, but not as hard and fast rules.

Grant writing is one method to raise funds, as we all know. It is very important to know, too, that the best fundraising for any non profit organization includes a thought out, well researched, diverse fundraising plan, or development plan. Your organization, to be healthy and a sound investment for potential donors (including grant donors) must be raising funds in many different ways to protect the organization, in case one method doesn't raise as much money as it was expected to. For instance, an organization may raise funds through the following various streams; major donors, becoming a United Way agency, grant writing, sponsorships, bequests, donation cup at programs or events, special events, etc. Usually the development department, executive director, and board work together in a series of meetings to create the development plan. It details what various methods of fundraising the organization will do (diversified), it states how much money is to be raised by each method and in what amount of time (usually this plan looks 3 -5 years into the future) (researched), and it states who is to do what part of each fundraising method (thought out). To create an effective development plan an organization usually requires the direction of someone who has created a successful and effective development plan in the past (this could be an experienced staff or board member, or a consultant). If your organization does not have a development plan in place, I strongly suggest that you learn about development plans, and begin work to implement an effective one for your organization. Development plans allow the volunteers and staff of any organization to know at any one time what the fundraising methods are, what the goals are, when the benchmarks are set for, and who is to do what when. It organizes the non profit agency and provides leadership with a snap shot of the expected funds raised year to year. It also shows potential hires or potential donors that your organization has thought out, diversified, and planned its fundraising and financial health. It demonstrates, finally, that your organization is planning to be financially sustainable! Your organization is planning on being around ten to twenty-five years from now because you're implementing plans now.

Having said the above, foundations give to non profits who demonstrate that they are not expecting grant donors to fund all aspects of the non profit. They also fund organizations who demonstrate that they are fiscally sound and fiscally sustainable. They want to know that if they donate, your organization will continue to thrive and grow in its work in our community, and won't fold for lack of planning or lack of income. Most fundraising methods take three to five years to implement and make money (income received less cost to produce).

Knowing these two key steps to getting a grant leads us to that question 'what can we get a grant for?' Actually, theoretically, you could get a grant for anything that your agency is doing or needs. Generally, though, in practice this is not the case. It all depends on what the foundations who indicate that they give to non profit agencies doing the work that yours' is, state that they give grants for.

In general, those who donate grants do not want to sponsor special events. Some give to capital campaigns (money to build a building). Very few grant donors will fund overhead such as salaries, office rent, cost of office supplies, etc. and when they do the large majority will not repeatedly fund that year after year. Most grant donors will give a grant and then expect some amount of time to pass before they'll consider a grant request from your organization again (i.e. one year or three years, etc.) and if you know that a particular grant donor will likely give you a grant and you have a need this year to request of them, but there's a large grant amount you'll need in a year - you may want to look into the time that they require between grant donations to a single agency and decide which need to approach the grant donor for; the one you have today or the hypothetical larger one that you have in a year.

While the above is generally true the very best way to know which grant donor gives to what programs, campaigns, or things needed - research local grant donors. If you find grant donors who give to the kind of agency that you are and to the kind of cause that you work for - then request their current giving guidelines. Every foundation or grant donor has one (often they're online, today at the grant donor's website). Giving guidelines outline what the foundation or grant donor will give money for and what they won't give money for. Follow these guidelines. It is extremely rare that a grant donor will go outside of their guidelines - so don't expect that they will. If you have questions call.

For instance:

Snow Research Foundation's Grant Giving Guidelines hypothetically state:

Our foundation is proud to support:
501 (c)(3) non profit organizations as outlined in the IRS code
non religious organizations
local organizations

We do not support:
For profit entities or individuals
Religious organizations or organizations that excludes anyone in any way (race, religion, etc.)
Organizations with national affiliates or is a national affiliate, or operates in other parts of the state

We like to fund the following work:
Educational outreach or programs
Support groups or programs
Rescue or emergency housing operations
Clothing or toiletries costs
Capital campaigns

We like to fund the following causes:
Animal rescue operations
Abused women
Abused children
Runaway resources or assistance
Half way homes

We maintain a three year giving cycle with any one non profit organization that we donate a grant to, so if you do receive a grant from us, we will not consider another grant request from your organization until three years after your grant receipt date.

We ask that you first submit a letter of inquiry to begin the grant request process. Letters of inquiry may be submitted at any time during the year. Three months after we receive your letter of inquiry you should receive a response from us explaining whether we will accept a grant application from you for the request detailed in your letter of inquiry. If we allow you to submit a grant request, we will respond to your application within a month and let you know if you have received the grant or not. If you receive a grant we require progress reports on the program or project that we gave the grant for every six months with a final report due in a year from receiving a grant.

Grant application submission due dates:
January 15
April 15
July 15
October 15

If you have any questions please phone our office and ask to speak to a program manager.


These fake guidelines, above, are very clear. Guidelines are not always clear but if they aren't, don't hesitate to phone the grant donor and ask questions (as long as they don't state 'do not call' on their information). Always honor what the potential grant donor does or doesn't want/like.

Not that you would, but never devise a program, project, or campaign simply to raise a grant donation. Why? Grant donors give money to meet a need in the community. If they learn that you don't follow through with your program, or if they learn that your group just creates projects to get grants, they'll never give your organization a grant again, and they'll let other grant donors know what you've done. Your organization will then be in a terrible situation. Also, programs and need for grant money should come from your service or program goals and should be based on determined needs to meet for the cause that your organization works for. Otherwise, the professionals in your non profit and your organization will eventually lose credibility in your field.

Lastly, not all programs, campaigns, or items that your organization needs should be funded by grants and those that you are going to try to get grants for should not be entierly funded by grant money. Why? Foundations want to see that your organization is raising money for whatever they're giving their grant for. The other donations that you raise indicate support for your organization's work in the community (a vote of confidence and a vote that the work your group does is needed). Also, no foundation will donate the entire amount that your group needs for anything. They don't want to be the sole donor.

To wrap up, potentially any program, campaign, or item can get grant support. The reality can only be learned through researching the foundations that donate to the kind of organization that yours' is, and to the cause that your organization works for. The good news is that most grant donors do not change who or what they give grants to/for very often. Over the years you'll know which foundation will likely donate grant money for what need your group has. So, over time you'll develop a relationship with the grant donors who would give your group a grant, and THIS is the ultimate goal because a relationship gets grants repeatedly, and that's a great financial safeguard.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Easy Resources for the Grant Writer

Even if you're only new to grant writing and don't know how you'll learn what you need to be successful in raising grants, there's hope! There are many easily accessible resources that will get you on your way. Some resources are even free.

Whether you are just starting out or have been writing grant proposals for ten years, it is good to keep up on the latest paradigms. So, this post's advice is really for anyone who has anything to do with grant writing; whether they've been at it for five minutes or five years. Additionally, if you know of any excellent resources that I don't mention in this posting, please recommend them in the 'Comments' section that follows this post. Other readers and I will appreciate your good suggestions.

Call the local community college or community center in your area and ask whether grant writing classes are offered. If you find a class, ask a few local fundraisers in your region whether they know of the instructor and whether he/she is reputable. If they haven't heard of the instructor, look into his/her experience and judge for yourself whether this person is qualified (i.e. do they have years of successful experience, have they worked for various kinds of non profits, how long have they been teaching grant writing, etc.).

Jane C. Geever tours the country teaching an excellent one day grant writing seminar on behalf of The Foundation Center. The Foundation Center is a major resource for grant writing in the United States. They provide an excellent website (www.foundationcenter.org), publications, books, forums, etc. Jane C. Geever wrote "The Foundation Center's Guide to Proposal Writing" for The Foundation Center and it is the text that she teaches her course from. It is an excellent book to learn the 'how to's' and 'why's' of excellent grant writing (as is her seminar). I strongly recommend each. If you can not attend her seminar, you can at least purchase her book from the Foundation Center (over the phone or through their website). Geever is a long time reputable grant writer who owns her own consulting firm in New York.

Another grant writing book that I'd recommend is "Getting Funded The Complete Guide to Writing Grant Proposals" by Mary Hall, PhD and Susan Howlett. Susan Howlett is a well respected grant writing professional, in the Seattle area, who has also taught grant writing for years. This book is considered an excellent resource, as well.

The Foundation Center provides probably the best resource for grant seekers that exists in the U.S. today. Regularly it compiles and updates their Foundation Center's Grantseekers Collection (often called 'the Collection' or 'the Foundation Center's Collection'). This collection is a compilation of all the larger/national foundations in the United States who offer grants; what causes each foundation likes to fund, how to contact them, how much they gave in grants in recent years and to whom, etc. Their Collection is in both CD ROM format and bound paper book format. The Collection is available for purchase, but it is also available at many public libraries, across the United States, for free. Log onto The Foundation Center's website (the URL is above) to locate a library near you that houses the Collection. If you are planning to use the Collection at a local library, call the library, find out which employee manages the Collection, and ask them if you can come in to meet with them before you begin your research (prospecting) to learn how to use it. I recommend this because there are many various ways to search the Collection and there are a vast number of foundations listed in it, each year. Learning how to use it, first, will be time well spent because you will be able to plan your research once you understand what is available to you and where it's located in the Collection. This is an excellent resource.

Look into whether there is a professional grant writing organization in your region. In Seattle, for instance, I recommend that grant writers join the Puget Sound Grantwriters Association (www.grantwriters.org). It is not only an excellent resource to hear local foundation's managers speak (i.e. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Washington Mutual Bank Foundation, the Paul G. Allen and Family Foundation), but they offer regular conferences, opportunities to network, classes, and publications that will not just educate you, but also educate you about local funders. Local professional grant writing affiliations should put you in touch with local and regional grant donors. This is something that state or national affiliations probably won't do, and this alone is worth the membership. Knowing what local donors are most interested, what they like and don't like, and who their grant manager (your potential contact at the foundaiton) is, is very powerful. The AAGP is the American Association of Grant Professionals (www.grantprofessionals.org) and they are a national professional grant organization. I have attended one of their conferences and found it to be very informative and helpful.

Craig McPherson and Ford T. Pearson created some very helpful resources, as well. McPherson started C&D Publishing in Portland, Oregon to release what he called the "Foundation Data Books". They have compiled and regularly update a Foundation Data Book that lists all of the foundations in each of the following states; California, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Tennessee, and Washington State. Each state has its own book. These are really helpful resources to research local grant donors. I can't recommend this book enough for your state. Check with your local library to see if they have a copy of the latest edition. If they don't you could request that they purchase the newest copy. It will be valuable not just to your organization, but to others in your city. You may also purchase these books from them directly. Their website is www.foundationdatabook.com

Of course, regularly checking in on this blog will also be worth your while as my posts; are informative, include topics from all aspects of grant writing, and are free. I post a new grant writing post each week. Research other reputable resource on the web. Some are excellent and being that they're free makes them all the more better! Ask colleagues or other fundraisers where they go for grant writing resources. Share the good resources that you've found with others.

Good resources will lead to a solid, current, and well rounded start to seeking grant money!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Intra Office Communication and Grant Writing

Grant writing is, as you know, a form of communication. In writing a grant proposal your organization is requesting some form of support and promising to deliver that support, through your organization's work, to a need that your group is meeting in our community. The agency is using the application as an opportunity to involve a local foundaiton in its work, and to raise investment in it. To do this, the application requires that specific details and documents be provided (as outlined in the foundation's application directions or guidelines).

In order to write a thorough, honest, and strong grant request you must work with others in your organization. Consulting grant writers must also receive the assistance, support, and team work from staff or volunteers, for the proposal to be successful. I have written in this blog before, that if your organization believes that it can hand some dream dollar amount to your grant writer, and you expect her/him to raise the grants all on their own - you're kidding yourselves. Any grant writer will need to provide attachments. These documents could be (and often are): the current fiscal year's budget and last fiscal year's, audited, Year End Balance Sheet; a current list of all of your non profit's Board Members and their current professional jobs or where they retired from; a current budget for the project, and more. This short list of hypothetical attached agency documents requires that your grant writer be able to either get documents from, or work to develop the requisite documents with, key non profit staff or volunteers WHO HAVE AND WILL GET THE CURRENT AND CORRECT INFORMATION TO THE GRANT WRITER, IN A TIMELY MANNER. Looking back over our list of hypothetical attachments, above, if you are the grant writer for this organization, you will likely need to get documents from, or work to create these documents with, this non profit's bookkeeper, the staff/volunteer person in charge of the project/program that you're requesting the grant money for, and the Board President or the Executive Director. The grant writer can not work in a vacuum.

Besides needing required documents, when the grant writer is writing the case statements, or main portion of the grant proposal (that usually only changes information quarterly or annually); he/she will need the historical program success, agency history, and program statistics information, to write a strong proposal. Only key staff or volunteers will know or have this information. How can a grant writer be successful if the staff and volunteers don't work with him/her?

Every time I meet with a potential client I explain that I am responsible for the quality of the overall grant proposal, BUT the quality of the information in the document requires a team effort. I make it plainly clear that in order for their organization to raise grant donations, they will have to work with their grant writer in an honest, timely, and thorough fashion. So, if I request three different financial documents for a proposal that is due a week from Wednesday, and today is Monday, I will need the bookkeeper to get me those current and complete documents to me by this Wednesday morning; before I begin to proof read the final proposal draft.

The success of any grant program also requires that key agency leadership develop potential donors. Actually, all potential major donors should be developed (i.e. personal donors, corporate sponsors, grant donors, etc.). When key leadership develop a donor, your agency's Board President, and/or Board members, and/or Executive Director is/are the person(s), on behalf of your non profit, who is/are the donor's contact. Your non profit executive representative should also be talking to non profit and for profit leaders in your local community every week; just sharing your agency's name, mission (or work), and successes. Not only does this help potential donors learn about your non profit and its work, but it will also help forge relationships with other non profits in your region, to perhaps collaborate.

In order for the grant writer to know what new programs and projects are on the non profit's horizon (and be timely in planning what grant proposals will be needing to be written in the future) your agency's project managers must be communicating with the grant writer. For example, let's say that you work for Ponytail Hairdos Are Ok (PHAO), and you are a social worker at this agency, who assists anyone who is having a difficult time wearing a ponytail hair style. PHAO's social workers know of three different educational programs that they are going to offer the public. They don't want clients to have to pay to attend. They know that they have to keep their fundraising colleagues, at PHAO, in the loop. So, the social workers set a meeting with you. You four discuss what the educational programs will be, what the budget and needed funding is for each program, and who will be attending. You find out that the three programs will happen in the fall, winter, and summer of next year. As you sit with the social workers and listen to the kind of educational programs they're going to provide, you think of at least four local foundations that you will research to write grant proposals to. You know that two of them require the proposal be submitted at least 3 months before the project/program that the grant money is requested for, begins. The other two require six months to process and accept or decline a grant proposal. As the project managers of these educational programs knew that they had to give the grant writer ample time to research potential grantors, they knew to let her know as soon as possible what their funding needs are.

This leads to a final point. Your non profit's grant writer also must communicate clearly, thoroughly, honestly, and in a timely manner. He/she must inform staff and volunteers how the grant writing process works; the time required to successfully submit a strong grant request, the information needed, the team work required, and anything else that will help get the grant, and on time. Your grant writer must be organized and knowledgeable enough to manage the grant writing process and educate everyone as to what's required.

Successful grant writing is a team effort, that only works when everyone involved in the non profit's work, including staff, volunteers, consultants, and leadership, communicate with the grant writer.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Don't Leave Money On The Table

If you work for a non profit that is not yet attempting to raise funds, in part, through applying for grants AND developing major donors; your organization is leaving money on the table that it could instead raise to spend on in its programs and services.

The Foundation Center's (foundationcenter.org) "PND" or "Philanthropy News Digest" dated October 27, 2006, included a story called "Wealthiest Americans Support Broad Array of Charities, Study Finds". The study that the Bank of America conducted was called the "High Net-Worth Philanthropy Study". The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University surveyed nearly 1,000 American respondents who have household incomes greater than $200,000 and/or a net worth of at least $1 million. The respondents were located by randomly survey more than 30,000 households in high income neighborhoods across the country.

Note the following points:

"Among the wealthiest Americans, it is more important to give back and meet critical needs in their community than to leave a legacy, a survey from the Charlotte-based Bank of America finds." If your organization develops donors who have promised bequests or donations from reversals of their assets when they're older; you know that when planning retirement or estates, today, people do not want to spoil their children or grandchildren and leave them with an inability to grow wealth on their own. They would rather leave a legacy to the benefit of a cause or to a group doing work that they care a great deal about.

As fundraisers it's important to know that the study of the wealthiest donors found that among the respondents, "...deductions for charitable giving are less important than is commonly assumed.". The number one reason that people give is because they are given the opportunity to get involved in their community.

It found, too, that the wealthy donate to a larger array of causes than the general population does. "...98 percent of high-net-worth individuals are donors, and..." "...are more likely to give to educational institutions (79 percent) than the general public (14.7 percent).".

"The study identified a direct correlation between donations of time and money among the wealthiest donors,". This means that you should be sure that your volunteers are given the opportunity, by your organization, to become major donors.

Patrick Rooney, Ph.D., Director of Research for the Center on Philanthropy, and the principal investigator on this study, said the wealthiest Americans, "provide a disproportionate share of the contributions that sustain the U.S. nonprofit sector, an estimated $126 billion of a total of $260 billion [donated] in 2005...". By my math, the wealthiest Americans donated almost 49 percent of the total giving in 2005!

Your agency should be developing your wealthiest donors into major donors for your organization; and your group should be applying to wealthy individuals' and families' foundations for grants. If you don't, you are missing out on the American donors who give the most to the broadest group of non profits! Can your organization afford to miss out on these particular donors? No!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Are There Grants for an Individual?

[Note to readers: Be advised that I am not a lawyer and am not giving legal advice in this or any of my Blog postings. If you need legal advice, hire legal counsel. This, and all of my Blog postings are intended as general information, only.]

You may ask me, "I'm an individual and I'm wondering if I can get a grant for something that I want to buy, or for something that I need to finance. Are there grants for individuals out there?"

I can not tell you how many times I have been asked this. People mean well when they do. I've been asked by minority women, folks starting up for profit businesses, and artists and scientists. I even saw an ad in our local newspaper posted by someone hoping to hire a grant writer to raise grant money to help buy a house for him/her.

I understand that many times people start businesses to increase their income and are starting from scratch. Similarly, people are hoping for finances to support their admirable goals; buying a home or creating a piece of art. All of these are things that our society does value.

First, let me be clear that a grant is the donation of a pre-determined amount of money, that is given without the expectation of financial pay back, and the money is given either at one time or over an agreed upon timeline. Grant donors usually expect to be able to claim a tax benefit for their donation and this requires (by federal and usually state laws, too) that the non profit be what's called a 501 (c)(3) non profit, which is roughly described by the Internal Revenue Service as an entity that provides service, support, or products and does not take income for their services, support, or products. (And if you're imagining it, you can not form a non profit to simply receive grants for your personal use. This is illegal.)

Grant donors (i.e. foundations, corporations, businesses, etc.) give grants for more reasons than just the tax benefit. They usually give grants to help those who are at a disadvantage in our society (i.e. of a low income household, a minority, returning to work after being battered, etc.). They also usually give grants in one or a few areas of their interest (i.e. the environment, Christian churches, to fight cancer, the school that they attended, etc.). In other words, grant money is directed to where the donor wants it to go. They want their money to have the greatest impact in the community, possible. This means that they'd rather grant a $5,000 donation to help say, 30 families, or 250 people rather than give that $5,000 to one individual. Also, grant money is not just available willy-nilly. Grant donors manage where the money is going, specifically how and on what the money is going to be spent, and often require a report after the grant is spent including what the benefits of their donation was, including receipts, and documentation to prove the results. They can have legal recourse to get the money back if it is not spent as it was agreed to be between the grant donor and the recipient entity.

When asked about the possibilities of getting a grant, to benefit an individual, I always reply: It is very unusual (and I mean 99.9% unlikely) to find grants for individuals. If you hear of one being offered, I would bet that it is a scheme of some kind.

In, fact, I advise you to be leery and very skeptical of anyone offering a grant for individuals, UNLESS (and this caveat isn't fail safe, so be cautious) the grant is offered by a municipality, government, or a personal benefactor that you know is honest and safe (and then I'd get an explanation of the donation in writing and signed by you and your benefactor). Governments are the safest bet if you hear that one is offering a grant for individuals. Each year the Federal, or maybe state, city, county, tribal, etc. government set aside money in their annual budget for specific support or assistance. This money, though, is usually directed to government partner entities in the community, or to non profit agencies. Not all governments budget for causes, and not for all causes, and the majority do not offer grants to individuals (and even if they gave a grant for an individual last year, it doesn't mean that they will this year - call and check). If they do, you will need to confirm by calling their office directly, to check if they are truly offering the grant. If they are an all is on the up and up; request the application form, get the due date, and be sure you know who can apply. For instance, municipalities will often only offer grants for perhaps minorities or women. It depends on what issues the grant is intended to serve in your community. Call and ask questions.

Even when a government offers a grant for an individual, the grant is often not available for individuals to apply for, but is available to non profit entities, only, to apply for, and receive. The recipient non profit would then disseminate the funds to the person that the non profit knows is in need (i.e. a client that they're serving, or a student attending their college in their art program, etc.). If you call and ask, the government will let you know who the intended recipient of their grant is.

If you want money and are intending to spend the entire amount on your need or goal (in other words, it will serve you or your family), then my suggestion to you is one of the following:

1. Locate a non profit in your area that can assist you in reaching the goal or need that you're wanting a grant for. For example the person who put the ad in the paper requesting a grant writer to help him/her buy a house would do well to talk with a housing assistance program that offers help to home buyers, or to a legitimate financial assistance program. You may get your goal or what you need without having to pay back money for the help. For every need/goal there is most usually a non profit in your region that can assist you - if you or your family are in need. Call them to get a feel for whether you are a likely candidate for their assistance.

2. Go to a bank, credit union, or other safe and reputable lending institution and apply for a business, or home, or supplies, etc. loan. If you are in need but have some income of your own, already, this is a good option if non profits don't feel you qualify for their assistance.

3. Write up a business plan and raise individual investors to support your business or project. These folks aren't giving you the money; but are expecting to be treated as investors in your venture and likely expect their money back in a set time period, with interest or they expect to earning some kind of regular dividend based on earnings. Be sure to get any financial agreement in writing and signed by all parties involved.

4. Hard work and time lead you to get your goal accomplished, too. Take a job, set aside the same amount of money regularly, to save to begin buying what you need or want to start (business, art piece, buying a house). Once your goal is up and running or is purchased, you can determine if it's financially feasible to quit the job. For instance, if you've saved and begun that business that you wanted to start on the side of the job you've taken, once you're making more money that your expenses and that amount could equal a pay check, research if it's time to quit that job and work for yourself; maybe it is!

5. If none of these ideas work for you, there are other ways to safely and legitimately invest in your needs or goals. Talk to folks in the field that you're hoping to work in, who you trust, or people knowledgeable about what you need about how to get financial support. Ask them how they did it and ask them for advice given your situation.

Another caveat: if you are a scientist or an artist and are trying to raise grants for your scientific research or your artwork; you are in a position to be able to apply for grants without special needs requirements. This is usually done via the institution, school, or company that you are conducting your work for. In other words, while the grant will be spent on your personal work, the money will be given to your employer or school and then directed to your work, as outlined in the agreement between you and the grant donor.

Do not apply for a grant that requires you to give your credit card account numbers, Personal Identification Numbers, debit card account number, or other personal identification information related to your money. Also, do not accept a grant that requires you to pay back the money (without interest, or with interest). A real grant does not require financial pay back. No legitimate grant application will ask for this kinds of information.

If you do receive a legitimate grant from a legitimate entity (i.e. your county gave you a grant for an art piece your going to install on Main Street), they may require you to provide them with a budget of your expected expenses and for a financial statement of your income and expenses. This is not unusual. They may also need your Social Security Number for tax requirements. If they do, ask them why they need the information. They should also provide a written agreement between you and the grant donor, that you both sign and receive copies of, that clearly states the nature of your agreement with them and that the money is a donation.

In any and all financial situations between you and another person or entity, get professional advice as to its legitimacy and the fairness of the agreement, to be safe. Ask a lawyer, a financial adviser, and other professionals that you trust for their direction.

To locate resources that are set up to assist those in dire circumstances, read my post, A Bit More for Individuals Looking for Grants


Bottom line? Everyone needs more money than they have, but no one gets a free ride. This is why if it sounds too good to be true, then it most likely really is. Listen to your gut. You'll most likely have to locate the financial assistance that you need in the traditional channels suggested above. If, though, you are a low income household, a minority, returning to work after having been battered, handicapped, a youth on the streets, etc. then there are programs out there that can assist you legitimately (local governments, non profits, religious groups, schools, etc.). Please access them.

In your good efforts I wish you luck, and I understand needing help. But, I urge you to be very cautious of grants offered to individuals. They are mostly a scam.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why Is Marketing Important In Grant Writing?

Marketing isn't just important to your non profit's grant writing; it gets your name in front of everyone; potential donors (grant donors, major donors, corporate donors, etc.), potential clients, other non profits working for the same cause, the general public, etc. Marketing your organization; its name, its work, its track record and successes, connects your organization to people in your community.

Making your non profit's name and work known to the community may sound like something that 'would be nice for your organization, but isn't high on the office's 'to do' list', yet.

Consider marketing strongly before putting it off.

You work for Big City's Rollerskate Museum and with all of the recent growth in town, your colleagues conducted a study and found a predicted increase in interest (an increase in visits to the museum and increased membership and donations) over the next ten years. This led your board and key staff to plan for the growth and plan for the increased fundraising need. You and your org's staff and volunteers are going to work to raise $3 million during a capital campaign that starts in three years. A marketing plan is going to increase the money raised for your capital campaign because it will help educate potential donors about who your organization is and what you do; and marketing will reach more people in a given space of time than you could. If a two minute radio ad reaches 10,000 listeners, locally, with basic information about your group, and how to donate; how could you possibly reach the same people, personally, in two minutes; and more importantly, raise the number of donations that the radio ad will generate?

Your organization is like every other organization; increased needs are on the horizon for each of us. Every non profit faces an increased need for money. If your organization isn't planning an increase in staff, programs, or other organizational business in the future (which is rare); then the cost of living (i.e. gas, rent, utilities, salary etc.) will go up sooner than later. All organizations are always facing how to both maintain current operations, financially, and also raise the additional increased financial resources necessary for growth (even if it's just the organization's cost of living that increases).

To raise donations you must compete with every other non profit that also needs money. How will you do this successfully? By getting the word out there that your organization meets its specific need that it addresses in the local community; and that no other organizaiton has achieved the benchmarks that your non profit has with the level of success that it has. Your mission and track record will set your organization apart because it's where your group becomes unique.

In order to put your organization's name in front of the largest number of potential donors, and to educate people about what your organization does and how successfully it meets local needs; you must develop marketing tools. These assist in every aspect of your organization's operations; not just grant writing or fundraising. Your agency's mission statement and its goal benefit, too.

Each of the following are marketing tools; a strong website; a regular Blog; Internet bulleting board to generate dialogue; E-mail updates to clients or colleagues; agency newsletter; regular press releases; tv or radio commercials; billboards, attending conferences to speak or with an information, service, or recruiting booth; conducting classes; having staff or volunteers publish in your field; recruiting board members with strong financial and community (business or social) ties; developing stickers, t-shirts, buttons, pencils/pens, etc. for hand outs; telephone banks; your staff and volunteers telling their friends, colleagues, and family about your organization and its work; developing leave-behinds (i.e. an information sheet, an information packet, etc. about your organization); attend local professional affiliation organizations in your non profit's field and talk to the group about your org, etc.

Which marketing tools is right for your organization will require planning future needs and goals and then weighing the cost/benefit ratio for each marketing tool, considering which marketing items will help the most, what information should go into the marketing piece, and which tools are the most effective for your potential donors and region. Often, this requires that your organization hire a professional marketing consultant, at least in the planning phase, who will work with your board and staff. The consultant will direct your planning and help you decide what is necessary and which marketing tools will provide your organization with the most 'bang for the buck'. Ask colleagues at other non profits who have recently ran a successful marketing cmapaign, or ask local affiliates of reputable national or local marketing organizations if they have a list of consulting marketing professionals in your area.

The money spent on marketing will come back to your organization in increased benefit. How? The more that a foundation's program manager, say, hears your organization's name or reads about your mission statement - the more familiar your organization and its work is to him or her. This helps if, say, you've applied to a larger local foundation two times in the past and have not yet received a grant - it may be because they aren't sure who your organization is or how successful it is at its work. Their own knowledge, as local members of the community, is often very important in a foundation's decision to give a grant or not. This can especially happen to non profits who may have existed (even successfully) for years, but is only now starting a grant writing program in its fundraising work. This is equally true of donors of all kinds. The only way that a donor can decide to give to your organization is if that donor knows about your organization and its work.

Marketing is important to each aspect of your non profit's work and so, everyone involved in your organization's work is important to marketing. This doesn't mean that each volunteer or staff member has to be a terriffic public speaker. What it does mean, though, is that even say, a social worker, working for your organization can provide a plug for your organization at a program that they run. Or, a board member volunteering for your environmental books publishing organization can tell a colleague, or three, about your non profit and its recent successes, at their next corporate retreat. Everyone involved in your work can contribute.

Simply put, specifically to grant writing, marketing is an investment into increased fundraising success and attributing your agency's great work to your non profit's name to increase local awareness on the greatest scale possible. What non profit couldn't use this kind of help?!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Seeking Grants for New Programs Or Start Up Non Profits

Fundraising planning must be a new non profit's priority.

My point is underscored by a real local agency doing needed important work. This agency is seven years old and just starting to grow. At its start the organization's administration was sincere, but sporadic and distracted. Now it is being run by organized, committed, and concerned volunteers, who among other improvements hired their first Executive Director. The Board is being developed. They are also expanding services to meet new local needs.

With the expanded services comes the need for more money.

Their only method of raising money has been writing grant requests. Today this organization is eager to raise the money to hire a part time Programs Manager and a part time Volunteer Manager (who may wind up being one employee working these two positions).

They're in an exciting time in their growth. This org is transitioning from one with goals; into an organization meeting needs. This is a great accomplishment for the local underserved population that they work to assist.

I understand that the volunteers and staff of this organization are eager and excited to provide the much need services to their constituents. I understand, too, that they are not fundraisers, first. Rather, serving the community is their whole motivation and THE part of this agency's work that they enjoy. But, I have a few concerns that they can address now, to do something as basic as secure the future of their organization!

Concerns:

1. This organization has only been raising funds through grant writing. While it is one avenue of fundraising that start up non profits should develop, it is not enough to expect all of your agency's cash flow to come from one revenue stream ever, even while starting up! Add other methods, maybe special events, annual appeals, bequests, online donations to your website, a regular request in your quarterly newsletter, major donor development, corporate sponsorships, etc. to your fundraising plan. One method of fundraising is dangerously not enough for any organization (large or small)!

2. They plan to develop their fundraising. Right now they are looking for a consulting grant writer. Some day they'll hire fundraising staff. Again, this is dangerous. On average it takes three years to begin to actually receive more funds than it costs to raise them from a new fundraising method (and this varies depending on the method of fundraising). Let's say that this organization begins a major donor campaign in 2007, to develop local members of the community who will give to their organization at large gift amounts. This means that they can expect to make more in donations than they're spending towards the major donor program, only beginning in 2010. Yes, it takes this long and costs that much; but the long term benefit is financial security. Long term vision and planning are key! Volunteers and staff are requisite in order to implement multi-method fundraising plans. The cost/benefit ratio must be researched.

3. Any entity (foundation, government, major donor, corporation/business, etc.) who may donate larger amounts to this organization's great work will expect that they are giving to a sustainable program or project. If there is no indication that the agency can sustain itself, its' growth, or its' programs/projects; then donors will not see why they should give. Organizations who expect to succeed in their growth must complete their due diligence in their fundraising work; there must be a well rounded development plan (or fundraising plan) that the Board and Development staff have agreed upon and implemented into action. Non profits are always under stress to meet fundraising expectations, but if planning is realistic and based on what is truly reasonable to expect (given the organization's past fundraising capabilities, the local community's fundraising climate, the level that the local community is saturated by the fundraising strategy that you're implementing, etc.) then the fundraising goal will be met!

4. In the beginning of a program or project grant funders like to get involved from the outset. At the point of initial planning call the foundations that you're considering asking for assistance (if they don't mind calls) and tell them, 'we're just starting out the planning of this upcoming project, we thought you guys might want to work with us to meet this project's goal in our community'. But, after the project is underway don't expect these donors to give again. You will have to have developed a fundraising plan based on the project's budget that will sustain this project. For instance, if you are expecting a salary to repeatedly be raised year after year through grants, please think again. Overhead is not a favorite budget line item that grant donors will regularly support. In the fundraising plan get the salaries off of the 'to be raised by grants' list. Instead, raise the cash flow for salaries maybe via annual donor support, or annual special events, or some other more reliable annual method.

The Point:

Fundraising must be a start up non profit's initial concern.

In order to raise funds you must have planned out your organization's fundraising strategy, goals, and plan; and implement them. Donors only give to orgs with futures.

In order to support the growth of your organization (which will involve marketing, starting new programs, hiring staff, raising larger dollar amounts, growing a volunteer base, training, and managing increased administration) there has to be money being raised that pays for the current agency work AND the additional (increased) agency's work in the future.

In order to secure the future of your organization, and more importantly, to be sure that need in your local community that you're addressing continues to be given assistance; you must have a healthy, diverse, well researched, and realistic fundraising plan.

A word to the wise; strategic fundraising planning can not be an afterthought. It must be among the first work a new non profit plans out and does.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Why Do Donors Give Grants At All?

You're grateful that there are grants in your community to apply for. Your organization is a strong one with a great reputation. You've done a great job (or your executive and board have done their work) at getting your agency's name, work, and reputation out in the community. Your organization is innovative, collaborative, communicative, honest, well managed, and successful. You and your non profit have been very successful at raising grant donations.

While you are thankful, you wonder how is there such a proliferation of donation options 'on the table' for your organization and other non profits?

Foundations, corporations, local businesses, governments, individuals, families, estates, and all others who donate grants do so because:

1. They care about some particular issue or issues to the point of wanting to get involved.
2. They have the financial capacity/ability to donate grants.
3. They want to contribute to the community or society and see positive outcomes.
4. There may be a financial bottom line benefit to corporations or other for-profit entities that donate grants, expertise, or items in kind. But, money is not always the motivation behind donating, even for for-profit enterprises. And, even if their motivation is less altruistic than some, businesses' good works are equal to any other good deed!

Some are brought to donating grants through personal experience, or sudden needs in the community. For instance, perhaps a family has sadly struggled alongside their loved one while he or she battles cancer or an addiction. Or, perhaps a sudden need made itself known, locally, when a large piece of private land went up for sale, and word is, a local developer is ready to buy and build on it. The family may decide to fight cancer the one way that they can; providing funds to researchers, or to organizations assisting those with cancer. Maybe a shipping tycoon loves the forests, watershed, and animals on that piece of private property and wants to out bid the developer, to donate the land to the public as a park; preserved from development forever. To go one step further, maybe they see where they could assist with other projects in the same cause in the future. From this vision they decide to form a foundation to give grants indefinitely.

Others appreciate the effective, reputable, honest, ethical work of a single non profit (perhaps a university's research department or a heroin rehabilitation program) and have set aside grant money to be given to that organization for X number of years into the future.

Governments who offer grants may be directing federal (grant) dollars (allocated by the President and Congress for specific causes or diseases, etc) into their jurisdiction to the benefit of their community. Government may also be aware of a specific problem uniquely plaguing their community and may allocate some of their own local budget to fight this problem (such as domestic violence, minority owned business support, the need for art in the community, etc.). Keep in mind that governments can be cities, counties, states, federal, tribes, etc.

The bottom line is that those who donate grants do so because they want to get involved. They want to see that their money and efforts provided effective outcomes in the community. They want to find reputable successful partners in the community who they know they can give grants to again, in the future, to get the intended work done. This is really important to keep in mind when prospecting for potential grant donors, when forging relationships with potential or actual granters, and when reporting back to the grant donor after the grant project/program is done. If you keep in mind why your grant donor is involved it will help you both to work to your community's benefit in a partnership. This is the key. Relationship building!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Waiting For A Response To Your Grant Request

You've sent off six grant requests asking for $30,000 each. Your organization, Model T Restoration Effort, needs to provide four Model T's, in your organization's museum, with refurbished motors.

You researched what foundations would likely be interested in supporting Model T Restoration Effort's project and mission. These six foundations appeared, after reading their grant guidelines, to be prime candidates. You contacted their program managers (they all encouraged phone calls to begin the grant request process). After talking to the first foundation, their program manager suggested that you also request funds from two other local foundations interested in old cars. He thought they'd enjoy being involved. Most grant donors do not wish to fund the entirety of a new program (or whatever the grant request is for), so it is best to apply to several grant donors for portions of the total amount needed to begin and/or run whatever the grant request is for.  Some grant donors do not mind a grant request coming to them asking for the total amount needed.  If this is the case, they will indicate this in their giving guidelines.  Let's say that that after prospecting for grant donors, we located six viable potential grant donors who do allow applicants to request the full amount needed from them.  This lead you finally deciding to request the full $30,000 from each of the six foundations that you applied to.

Your volunteers and staff know that if you could get these four antique cars operating, it would generate some income (from Model T rides on Saturdays) and it would encourage more interest in the Model T (by the public riding in an actual refurbished Model T car).

Your Executive Director and you and your Board are eager to get those Model T's engines working. Now, you have to wait to hear back.

Each foundation's guidelines are different. Some indicate in their guidelines how long the grant application process is. For instance, the We Love Old Cars Foundation states in their guidelines, "Grant applications are accepted four times a year; March 2, June 2, September 2, and December 2. Within three weeks we will respond to your request to let your organization know whether we accept your request. If we do not, we will indicate in writing why we are not accepting the request. If we do accept your grant request we will inform you in writing, and if there are any other materials that we need to make our decision, we will request them, then. If your grant request is accepted, within the four following weeks after being notified that your request was accepted, you will be notified as to whether we are going to fund your project or not. If we do not fund your request, please know that we are limited to our capacity to provide funds, and in no way are commenting on your project or your organization's work."

This foundation has laid out clearly for your organization what is going to happen and when. If you have applied to a foundation that does not state this kind of information in their guidelines do one of two things. If the foundation doesn't mind phone contact call them and ask what their process and timeline is. If the foundation doesn't want personal contact ask colleagues at other non profits who have requested grants from the foundation what the foundation's process and timeline was in their experience.

Do's and Don't's During Your Wait:

Be willing to follow the foundation's process and timeline. If the foundation requests additional information for your grant request (i.e. a list of each Board member's current or retired job, a meeting face to face with your Executive Director, or a visit to your museum, etc.), get the information that they requested to them in a timely manner. Do not hound your contact at the foundation.

Feel confidence in your organization's success, track record, reputation, collaborations in the community, and the number of grants that you requested and received in the past.

Also, feel confident in the number of requests that you submitted. Submitting six requests for the full amount (because for each foundation it was appropriate) insures better odds. The foundations will likely discuss your request within their own foundations, and then among the other foundations that you also submitted requests to (because as you've read in previous posts, here, they do know and talk to one another). If one organization submits the full amount - then, your project is set. Or, your project is also set if the foundations decided among themselves to each contribute amounts to total $30,000. If, though, one foundation provides a grant for $5,000 and only one other provides a grant and it's for $10,000; then you do have another $15,000 to raise - but you are half way there. You could, then, go to your major donors or other potentially interested foundations/donors and let them know that the two foundations have granted half the money needed; and ask could they match the rest. Receiving even one grant for part of the total amount you need leads to to the strong potential to raise the rest of the money. If potential donors learn of the local commitment to your project (even just one foundation's partial donation towards the whole amount) they will feel more confident in contributing, themselves. This is also a form of community building.

When you receive a grant proposal response; open it with confidence and a strong determination to see the project or program through, no matter what the response will be.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Insert Photos? Fancy paper? Professional Binding?

You've pulled together a great grant proposal for the Scottish Men's Garb Foundation. Your non profit, Kilt Protection Agency, is applying for a grant for a new program that will educate men about why the kilt is an excellent fashion choice, even today.

You're proud of the proposal and eager to get it off to the Scottish Men's Garb Foundation, but you're not sure how to format it. Should you include photos of your clients successfully wearing kilts after going through a similar program? Should you print this on the finest weight and watermarked paper that money can buy? Should you pay for a courier to hand deliver it to the Foundation, avoiding the United States Postal Service, to impress the Foundation? You're not sure.

You decide to look over the Scottish Men's Garb Foundation's grant guidelines. You remember that while the foundation explains in its guidelines what kind of missions, programs, and projects that they will fund and won't fund; and they clearly list what information they want in the proposal, and what attachments they need to come with the grant application; you find that they do not state how they want the final document formatted.

If the foundation's guidelines do state how they want the application formatted, then follow their directions. Always follow the foundation's guidelines' directions. Also, if you, after reviewing their guidelines, and do not find specific guidelines for formatting you may call your contact at the foundation and ask what they prefer.

If, though, you know that this particular foundation does not like phone calls (some do not) and you do not see specific requirements for formatting in their grant application guidelines, default to simplicity, clarity, and less money spent.

This is a situation where 'less is more'.

Foundation's Board members and staff (and anyone else, there, who reviews the grant applications) are busy, often overwhelmed with reading and commenting on applications after deadlines, and it is your job to make their task with your application as easy for them, as possible, so that your organization will receive the grant.

Here is how to get to 'less is more' in formatting your grant proposal (grant application/request):

Do not print the application on expensive paper.

Do not deliver the application via expensive delivery (unless it's on the deadline and getting it in on time is 'iffy').

Do not add expensive photos or drop pictures into your document (unless the foundation's guidelines ask for photos (and then only provide the specific photos that they request).

Do not have the grant proposal bound (again, unless the foundation's requested that it be bound - and then follow their instructions as to how they want it bound).

Why follow these "Do not" steps in formatting? Because foundations (and all of those who you request donations from) do not want to see that your organization spends its money anywhere other than on the work of your mission statement. If you're applying for financial assistance (or even requesting volunteers or just reaching out to the community through print) do not spend extravagant amounts to send the request. Also, these staff members sometimes are only able to gloss over your application. Do not waste the time they could be spending on reading about your organization's success rate with photos that catch their eye, instead.

Your organization needs to impress on potential investors that your organization is excellent at managing money. Your job is to also be able to state why your org is uniquely needed in your community and to relate your organization's successes. Embellishing a request with frills or more money than is necessary may send the wrong message and indicate that you're using 'flash' instead of getting to the point.

Now, as it is with all things that require experience, there is a caveat to this post.

While this post's suggestions will work 95% of the time, it is true that your organization wants to do whatever the foundation requests. If the foundation requests that you submit ten copies of the application, paper clipped maybe, instead of stapled then do it. They may want multiple copies, at your expense, to give one of your applications to each of the people who will review it. Again, always follow the foundation's guidelines. If you know (and I mean you have been told by a reputable recent source) that the foundation that you're applying to LIKES fancy formatting and money spent on the application process - then, use the expensive paper, spend money on graphics and digital photos, and bind it professionally, etc. But, most potential donors to your organization want money spent on the work of your mission - not on the request to them for financial investment.

Setting your organization's application apart from other applicants happens when your application gives the foundation all the information that they request, is complete, concise, clear, and honest. If your organization's work is necessary in the community and you share your org's successes and your request is reasonable and currently of interest to their foundation - they will probably want to support your organization. Fancy formatting isn't going to get your agency the funding - your organization's track record will.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

How Do I Write the Statement of Need?

You're sitting down to write a grant proposal and you get stopped in your work by the 'Needs Statement'. What is it? What are grand donors looking for? How do you go forward?

The 'Statement of Need' is the point in your grant request where your organization gets to state why your organization is uniquely meeting the need that your organization does, in your community.

As an exercise, answer some of the following questions to get your ideas flowing.

What do we do in our community that we serve, that no other non profit does?

Have we set ourselves apart by serving more than other non profits in our service area?

Are the results of our work (often tabulated by survey or other 'scientific' methods) quantifiably serving more needs of our constituents?

And you can figure out more questions, along these lines, to develop to help you answer the question 'if our organization were to fold tomorrow, what would our constituency that we serve lose that no other organization would be able to replace for them, tomorrow?'.

The answers to the above questions are the points that you should state clearly, succinctly, and honestly about your organization in the 'statement of need' section of your grant proposal.

So, for example, let's say that you and I work in the grant office of the Fundraising Department for Save the Jellyfish. We know that other non profits are working to protect or save various invertebrates, among other fish, and mammals in the sea. So, we know that there is some overlap by other non profits' work and our own to protect jellyfish. But, we are the only organization uniquely focused on saving jellyfish.

You may feel that you're putting your organization into a 'niche' or restricting the description of your organization at this point. If though, your org is truly an expert in a specific part of your specialty area - then you ARE specialists, and potential funders need to know this. Also, the rest of your proposal should be clear in the other strengths of your organization that you share with other orgs, such as programs, advocacy, or any collaborations you've made with other like-minded non profits in programs/projects or fundraising, etc.

So, getting back to our work together at Save the Jellyfish; our statement of need may wind up being:

"Save the Jellyfish is the only non profit that focuses all of its policy advocacy, public education, protection, and fundraising on the jellyfish, specifically. If our organization were to cease to exist, this invertebrate would lose our specifically- focused support to keep its specie in our oceans now, and in the future."

What you've done is you've said to the potential funder, 'we are in need of your financial support because we are very successful at what we do in these ways, and are needed in our community because we're the only organization that does 'X'.'

You never want to say in your 'Need Statement' that your organization needs financial support 'because your org isn't going to make budget this year', or 'we need assistance because we're a non profit and don't have a ton of money'. Why? Because first, what non profit doesn't face financial crunches? Any organization could say this. Secondly, you haven't shown the potential grant donor why they should invest in your organization and that is your job. Take every opportunity that you may get with a potential donor to educate them about why your organization IS an important investment into our shared community (you know the answer to this, now; because of the successes in your org's work!).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Leadership's Role In Seeking Grants

Over and over again I have heard different foundation's program managers say that the easiest way to get their attention (besides a concise, clear, honest, and complete grant proposal application) is to talk with them.

One of the most prolific but harmful assumptions is that the success of acquiring grants is up to the grant writer.

A good grant writer is of course a key part of a successful grant program, but there are more members of the team than just the grant writer (and more jobs to be done than just prospecting and applying for grants).

The volunteer leadership, the Board of Directors and Board of Trustees, must be telling their colleagues, friends, and family about their volunteer work with your organization, and most importantly why they're working for your specific organization. This can be a two minute 'elevator speech' that is easily rattled off, but clear and informative. (An elevator speech is an description you'd give to someone who asks 'who do you work for?' in the time it might take an elevator to go more than a few floors; you probably already have one). If your volunteers tell folks about your org and speak from their hearts about why they're volunteering with you - they've done a lot of their job!

The staff leadership needs to be in the community regularly talking with corporate, foundation, private, government, and other representatives (that are key to the community building for their business or organization). Leadership staff should also have a clear but informative elevator pitch (again, from the heart and short and sweet).

Contacts are made this way (and need to be recorded in an organized fashion, and followed up with), and it gives people in your local community an opportunity not to just hear about your org's good work, but more importantly to ask you questions. Possibly this may get someone new involved or your org may get a new donor!

Marketing, outreach work, working with other non profits, getting involved in reputible research, and other methods are all also helpful in not just raising grant donations, but in your organization's fundraising.

The key is to be out in the community so that people hear about your organization and actually come to know it and its work! This is not an optional component to fundraising, but an important variable in your organization's success in fundraising.

Maybe you're saying, 'Arlene, I hate schmoozing' or 'I'll feel like a salesman'. Remember; no one is comfortable making pitches, or trying to sell anyone. The key is to just speak from your heart! Say why you work or volunteer for your organization in the way that you want to and that IS good enough. It works better because people respond to enthusiasm and sincerity.

Get out there and good luck!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Volunteers' Importance in Grant Writing

We all know that without volunteers, our organizations would not run. Volunteers contribute their time, knowledge, energy, and care. These saints are critical to our missions' successes!

Not surprisingly, volunteers are also very important to the grant writing process, too.

How?

When a grant donor asks you in their grant application 'how many volunteers served your organization last fiscal year?', and 'how many hours did they work in the last fiscal year?' you need to be as honest in answering this as you would be in your fiscal reporting or in listing the name of your board members in the grant application. Simply hanging a sign-in sheet in the front of the office, and asking each volunteer to sign in and out each time they volunteer, could do the trick. Be diligent in training the volunteers to consistently sign in (it could mean dollars!).

Also, corporate grant donors may ask, on their grant application, that you provide the total number of their employees, or retired former employees, who volunteer for your organization. The company may want to donate grants only to those non profits that their employees deem important enough to volunteer for, in your local community. In this way the corporation is letting their employees pick where the corporate support goes in the community. You may also have volunteers who work for a company that will allow you to request a dollar matching donation for the time that their employee donated, in volunteer hours, to your group. How will you know the answer to these two questions in certain numbers?

At the point of volunteer intake, my guess is that your getting each volunteer's contact information, and possibly demographic information, too. But, equally important is asking each volunteer to list their current employer (or previous employer, if retired); and ask whether their employer has a corporate match or community contribution program. Explain to each volunteer why you're asking for their employer's name; because their volunteer work may contribute more to the organization than their wonderful efforts! Explain that if they want to look into whether their employer donates based on employee volunteerism, they can ask at their employer's corporate Human Resources office. Be sure to remind volunteers annually to inform you if their employment information has changed. Knowing this information and having it easily accessible would let you answer both of the above questions.

Of course there is no need requirement that there be a financial contribution on top of a volunteers generous efforts for your organization! If, though, you need this information in a grant request it is worth getting organized to have it!