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!