Sunday, April 06, 2008

Your New Program Or Project Design Must Be Clear Before Applying for Grants

You are approaching potential donors asking them for grants and this, in effect, is really raising new donors who are investors in your organization, the need it's meeting, and your organization's effort. Investors deserve to get the 'who, what, where, when, how, why, and how much' of all aspects of whatever it is you're applying for a grant for.

Whether you are the project manager or a fundraiser writing the grant proposal; writing a grant proposal often does a helpful thing. It forces the program or project design to be fully thought through, fleshed out, and finalized; because if you can't describe for a potential donor the full extent of the program or project, you have work to do. In order to raise grants, and more than one or two, project or program details must be honestly, thoroughly, and succinctly conveyed. If you need to, read my post, How Do We Tighten Up Our Grant Proposal?

Grant donors accept applications for grants because they are involved with the cause that you work for, too. They do their work by contributing money, just like your nonprofit does its work by providing programs, resources, research, etc. Know, too, that today's donors are much more savvy than just handing checks out without regard. Read my posts, What Motivates Giving? and Yet Another Example of Donors Expecting Results

Today's donor wants to know:

__ Is your project or program likely to succeed based on the peoples' experience who are running it, the resources allocated to the project, is it designed within a realistic scope of work and designed to be effective, how much need exists for the project, etc.?

__ Will your program be sustainable? Have you figured out how to keep it going, financially, after you've raised a few grants? It won't die on the vine, right?

__ Will their be evaluations or requests from clientele for feedback, during the program and after? Are their expected outcomes in place, now, before the project's begun? How will you know if your project or program is successful? What evaluation methods are you going to use?

__ Does your nonprofit retain good agency transparency, operations management, board oversight, honesty, and mission success histories? If not, you have some public relations work to do; coming clean honestly, copping to the issue, explaining how the issue is being corrected, and expressing that your organization has learned from its mistake(s) and is moving on.

These four requirements must be met to raise grants. Next, your organization must address basic programmatic requirements. They include, but are not limited to:

__ Designing a program that does not try to do a million things, but rather is focused. Define the project or program, explain it, flesh it out to its full extent. State clearly the intended outcome.

__ Designing a program based on actual current needs in your community that were discovered by recently researching or talking with the people or 'thing' needing assistance.

__ Designing a program that can succeed. It will truly meet the community or issue's need, it will be allocated all of the resources necessary to be successful, it will run over the proper amount of time (if not indefinitely), it will be easily accessible to those or that which needs it, etc.

__ Planning. Enough time, before the program or project is going to begin, must be given to planning. The project must be designed, a team put together in which everyone knows who is responsible for what, by when, how, where, and to what goal. Fundraising must be decided, BEFORE the program begins, and the plan to implement it must be put into place. Locations, transportation, meals, literature, access to doctors, etc. or whatever is necessary for the program must be arranged for, given time to respond, and contingency must be made, just in case.

__ Staffing must be appropriate given modern paradigms in your field. It must be planned out, and the proper amount of people must be allocated to the project for it to realistically succeed. Whether volunteers or hired contractors or staff, there must be enough time to design job descriptions, advertise for assistance, interview and check references on, hire, and train any new staff. All hiring requirements (e.g. experience, degrees, licensing, etc.) must meet the current legal and professional expectations for the work to be done.

__ Time. I know that the need that your organization is meeting is urgent. It usually is, but giving planning, hiring, design, fundraising, etc. enough time leads to a successful project, and that's what your constituency or cause really needs, even in the midst of its urgency.

__ Budget. Planning and effective fundraising is best done after creating a realistic and complete budget. List what all will be needed (everything), list each item's expense for the time allocated for the program, then list all avenues of income that will be allocated to this project. It's OK if they don't balance, today, as long as you're planning how to make them balance before the project begins. By the time the project begins, you don't need to have all of the money in the bank, yet, for the entire project; but you do need to know that you will realistically have all of the money in the bank that your program will need, month to month, for its full duration.

If you want to raise grants, having these basics answered will up your organization's chances many times over.

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