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!