Monday, September 10, 2007

Received Press After You've Mailed A Few Grant Requests? Here's What To Do...

You've received some positive press? Great!!

Public relations is an ongoing process that should be governed by an individualized, planned out, and ratified organizational public relations plan and/or policy because, public relations is CRITICAL to successful non profit organizations. Why? See my post, "Why is Marketing Important to Grant Writing?"

If you are not controlling your organization's image or trying to tell your local community leaders, such as potential board members, potential donors, potential clientele, and others about who your organization is, what it does, its successes, and why your organization is important; you're missing opportunities. You are also leaving money on the table, including grants.

Writing excellent grant proposals for relevant, needed, and thought out programs is a form of public relations. For every grant proposal submitted to a potential donor, even if your organization is not funded during this grant cycle; you have given someone a bit of information on your organization and why it is worthy of support. You've raised name recognition and when you return to that grant donor with another grant proposal (when their guidelines say that you can, next), they will probably remember your organization (if they don't, this is your fault and a great reason to consider developing an organizational public relations plan).

So...if your organization, Friends for Little Ones just submitted three grant proposals for a new program that is starting next year, AND your organization was just featured in a local newspaper article for having helped Mrs. Smith's little four year old boy begin to socialize more comfortably for the first time in his life...here is what you do...

I never advocate sending unrequested mail (snail mail, email, solicitations, newsletters, etc.) to any potential grant donor (or any other kind of donor) unless they want it. As I always write, there are exceptions to the rule. Most potential donors want to know (especially if you're currently requesting a grant for the current giving cycle) any new news with your organization.

1. Make legible, easy to read (no teenie tiny small photocopies) copies of the newspaper (or whatever the source is) article; one copy for each potential grant donor that you've submitted a grant request to (or will submit a grant request to soon).

2. If it is not on the clipping, legibly hand write the name of the media source (i.e. The Washington Post), the date of the issue, the article's author, and what type of media the article was featured on. For instance, if the article came from The Washington Post's website and not their paper, simply write "website article" and include the website address.

3. Assume that the recipients are busy folks (like you, they are) and won't have time to read the entire article. On each copy of the article, highlight for them the three key sentences of the article (and make sure the highlight is legible). We want to help them in any way possible to decide to grant to us. Positive news is a great boost. (Yes, only three sentences in the whole article, and yes, only sentences - not whole paragraphs). Keep this correspondence short for them.

4. No matter what the article says, if it's positive mail it to everyone whom you've applied to recently (use snail mail or email, depending on what the grant donor has indicated they prefer by how they asked you to submit your grant proposal).

5. Include a simple SHORT note stating that 'your organization applied to them for X grant, on Y date, and that your organization was recently featured in Z media; you've enclosed the article (or whatever) for their consideration with your application. Thank you.' (Always say 'thank you' to potential donors). This is all that you mail to them.

6. If the article is negative media, have a meeting among your key volunteers and staff. Discuss what your public relations strategy will be, and be proactive. Contact the potential grant donors to whom you've recently applied and talk to the program manager in charge of your grant application. Be honest, ask them if they need anything from your organization (give the situation), tell them that you're investigating if your organization is, etc. Be proactive. Just because you've received bad press, do not assume that you've lost every grant you've got applications out for. Control the impression of who your organization is, no matter what recent press says, by demonstrating your openness, concern, professionalism, and appreciation of local/national (whatever) interest in your organization.

I recommend these steps only when you've received press after you've submitted one or more grant proposals recently. If something positive has happened in your organization, recently, that relates to the grant proposal that you've submitted (i.e. you've received a grant for the program that you're applying for, there's a new recent scientific study that supports the program proposal that you submitted, there's new leadership at the helm of your org, etc.) let the potential grant donor know. Media articles, changes, received proposed program budget revenue, and even if there's a loss to your program budget income - tell the potential grant donor. Always tell the potential donor what is going on (even if you perceive it as bad) because they may, for instance, believe in your project so much that if a grant that was promised is now revoked, they may cover the lost grant and the grant you're applying for from them. Really. Besides, being proactive, honest, and timely is professional. Hoping that the potential donor won't learn about the bad news is a good way to possibly lose a grant if they promise one and hear the bad news, themselves.

(If your agency does have great recent positive news that the media doesn't know about - contact various media's writers who covers your kind of industry or cause, and LET THEM KNOW. Never assume that your news isn't news-worthy. Tell the media and let them decide what is or isn't news-worthy).

I do not encourage grant applicants to constantly contact potential grant donors, after applying, with information that isn't pertinent to what they're applying for the grant for. I do not encourage unnecessary contact or communication. If you have a question about the grant, the grant application process, or something pertinent; call them. If, though, one of your staff members won the annual organizational employee of the year award; while that's great for your staffer, the potential grant donor doesn't need to hear about it. Use your discretion and be tactful.

Toot your horn, because as you know, if you don't, who will (and if others are tooting your horn, who knows what they're saying)?

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