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.


Jennifer said...

Hi Arlene-

We are a non for profit organization. We bring awareness to living kidney donation.

We are three sisters who found a living donor for our father on craigslist.


Can you provide us with information on what grants are available?


The Flood Sisters

Jennifer, Cynthia & Heather Flood

Arlene M. Spencer said...

Jennifer, Cynthia, and Heather,
Wow! It sounds like you ladies have done amazing things for people with kidney disease!

I guarentee that there are many grant opportunities for kidney causes. Part of my consulting practice is what's called 'prospecting' or looking for potential grant donors.

For your grant search, I recommend logging onto The Foundation Center's website at http://thefoundationcenter.org. They are a standard resource in American fundraising and excellent. You can sign up for regular free email lists of recent grant Requests for Proposals (grants currently being offered) and you can also look up where they have their over 200 free Foundation Center Cooperating Collections. These are placed into public libraries, all over the nation, for nonprofits searching for grants to use for free. They are a WEALTH of information on grants. Perhaps there is a collection at a public library near you ladies. I encourage you to look into it.

Also, read my post, Top Ten Ways to Find Grant Donors Who Will Fund Us at:

Best of luck in your important work!