Sunday, March 15, 2009

Here's A Handy Checklist for Nonprofit Operations and Fundraising Success...

If nonprofits do the following work prior to and in tandem with their grant writing work, the sum total of the work, listed below, can increase the chances of it raising a grant (and also increase all of its fundraising success, beyond just grant writing).

In order to be successful in any nonprofit operation (e.g. grant writing or other fundraising campaigns, policy setting, organizational oversight, project/program planning, etc.) I am a proponent of the nonprofit leadership:
__ educating itself in any professional contemporary nonprofit best practices that it doesn't know well, yet, or understand;
__ successfully recruiting, training, and retaining a talented, experienced, successful, and committed group of volunteers to either serve the organization's board or serve different committees (e.g. grant writing committee) who each have different but pertinent and strong professional backgrounds that will serve the organization's, but more importantly mission's needs such as law, accounting, fundraising, and specialists in the organization's professional field;
__ conducting surveys or feasibility studies in the community or population that the organization serves to understand and learn from the community, itself, what it truly needs, right now;
__ designing the project;
__ planning, designating responsibilities, determining the time line and expected benchmarks, due dates, hard deadlines, and follow up meetings, during and after the project;
__ clearly defining the expected outcomes;
__ planning, creating, and implementing an evaluation method that is professionally acceptable in your organization's field or industry;
__ implementing project;
__ monitoring project, during the project;
__ conducting the evaluation method;
__ tabulating the survey, poll, interview, or other method that was used to develop the participants' experience of the project;
__ reviewing the evaluation results;
__ meeting to discuss which aspects of the project met or exceeded the expected outcomes, and which aspects of the project need to be improved, and determine how the improvements can be best implemented, when they will be implemented, by whom, the change time line, and follow up on the implemented improvements;
__ follow through with this process, again, during the next experience of this project

So...from the above list you can see that the program, project, building, or items that you are going to apply for a grant for requires expertise and time to clarify what your nonprofit is planning to do, why, for whom, and how.

Any successful grant writing campaign also requires specific nonprofit professional best practices be conducted (besides the above project planning work) before and also in tandem with grant writing work.

__ Network with one's counterpart working for (or volunteering for) other nonprofits doing similar work as your organization, who are serving the same geographic regions as your agency does to be sure that they know of your organization, what it is doing, for whom, and why, and be sure that you understand the same of their organization;
__ Network with for-profit, local and state government, Tribal, and other pertinent leadership in the community that your organization serves and again, be sure that they know of your organization, its mission, who it serves, why; and answer questions about your organization's work;
__ Stay open (be willing to listen and hear) to collaboration with excellent agencies or companies doing work similar or related to your organization's, if it is a benefit to the benefactors of your nonprofit's missions statement; do not take your organization out of its community's network by closing off to people coming to talk with you about new programs or ideas (it doesn't do anything expect reflect poorly on your agency - remember, you can always act professionally and say 'no' when 'no' is the best response for the nonprofit's benefactors);
__ Provide the press and media existing in the geographic regions that your nonprofit serves with each and every success story that your nonprofit achieves, develop professional but good relationships with media staff who write about or cover the kind of work that your organization works on, learn how to write professional and effective press releases and use them regularly, and release them to all types of media (not just newspapers or radio stations);
__ Let the people of the geographic region that your agency serves know about your organization, its mission, why it does what it does, who it serves, its achievements, its plans for the future, its successes, its transparency, and why your organization and its work is relevant and necessary. There is no finer way to raise money, let alone to market your organization, than this;
__ Listen to (and hear) others such as potential collaboration partners, governments, constituents, benefactors, staff, volunteers, colleagues in other nonprofits and others, and consider their concerns, questions, and points. You do not have to agree with everyone (and you shouldn't) but no nonprofit succeeds because its leadership is closed off, knows it all, or keeps doing the same thing over and over year in and year out;
__ Keep organized; follow through and in a timely manner; recruit more help (e.g. volunteers) if you need it; and breathe

Successful grant writing can involve simply sitting down to take a stab at writing a grant proposal and submitting it. More often, though, the above list of 'to do's' is involved and over time, the entire process doesn't just potentially increase the number of grants raised - this kind of due diligence improves the programs or services that your organization provides, it increases and improves the volunteers and staff that your nonprofit recruits, it retains excellent talent over time, increases other methods of fundraising's success, and allows potential donors (who haven't given to your organization, yet) to learn about your group, what it does, and why they should invest in it. No proactive, best practices work for one's nonprofit is a waste of time or money. Doing any nonprofit work off the cuff, without understanding or experience, and crossing your fingers for the best is. It is always an investment into increasing the organization's reputation, money raised, and visibility when there is a commitment to conduct nonprofit work with a pertinent education, experienced professionals (who can be volunteers), according to best practices, and with the mission in the forefront (not insecurities, not egos, not personal agendas, not resume' padding, but rather, a committment to success in the work of the mission statement).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This article is full of excellent suggestions. Not enough can be said about spending time at the beginning to plan and organize the way forward. Thinking through the details and writing it all down will insure success when talking to potential donors and volunteers.