Monday, May 25, 2009

Be Familiar Wtih All Other Organizations Doing Similar Or Related Work To Your Nonprofit's...For Your Agency's Improved Grant Raising

When your organization applies for a grant whomever is writing the proposal will want to have a current list of all of the organizations that serve the same geographic region (city, county, state, Tribal region, country, or international) that your organization does, that also do work that is the same or similar to your nonprofit's work.

If, for instance, your nonprofit is Healthy Hounds, a nonprofit that provides food and medicine to low income families or people in need who own dogs; and it serves downtown Sacramento and the outlying suburban areas, the grant writer would want to gather a list of all nonprofits that also serve Sacramento and its greater outlying area that also provide food and medicine to low income households who own dogs. If there are none that do the exact same thing (and this is more often the case) then compile a list of other nonprofits who do similar or like work for the same geographic region. Our list may include The Humane Society, PAWS, and the ASPCA if they also operate here and do some work related to providing low income dog owners with food and medicine.

The reason that the grant writer compiles a list of like or related nonprofits serving the same region as your organization does is threefold:

__ In order to raise grants (or other money) you must be able to articulate why your organization is needed, in the community, today. All nonprofits must be current and relevant, meeting a real and as yet unmet need in the community that it serves.

__ Governments, foundations, and other grant donors, because they are passionate about the cause or issue that they fund and up to date about the issue, will often know which nonprofits are doing the same or similar work as your organization's in the region. If your organization is not making its name and successes known, or if it is not providing currently needed effective programs, or if it is not run professionally and ethically - you should assume that these other organizations are and do - and that donors know this about them. Step up your marketing and get your agency's name and successes made known. Operate your organization such that donors (who, today, are investor/stakeholders and should be seen as a partner in the organization's work) would want to support the organization. Be transparent in your reporting, be professional, be ethical and proactive, and achieve for the population or issue that your organization serves.

__ Grant donors (and other donors) appreciate nonprofits who collaborate. Collaboration creates programs with more and varied talent, lessens how often or to what degree 'the wheel is reinvented' thereby lessening overhead costs, and organizations who work together foster community rather than a competitive culture in the community which will only hurt the intended beneficiary population. Working together is always better than the risk that insecurity or a lack of cohesion amongst similar nonprofits breaking apart the community's sector that serves the same cause. Even if the program that you are currently applying for is a program that your organization is uniquely providing (and this is not a collaboration project) being able to say which other organization in the community that your agency serves is doing similar or related work and what niches they serve (in contrast to the hopefully unique niche that your organization serves) - it is good just to be able to demonstrate that your organization is aware of its place in the group of organizations working on the same cause, in the same community. It is also very powerful to simply state that even though the program you're applying for is not an intra-organization collaboration, you do work with these other organizations. For instance, it's powerful in the proposal to be able to say something like, "While we are the only organization providing food and medicine to low income dog owners in Sacramento, we are currently collaborating with PAWS and The Humane Society on two other programs; and we look forward to collaborating with the ASPCA on third separate program next year. We are proud of and have excellent working relations with each of these other major players in our community's animal welfare work." You do not ever want to disparage other organization, and you do not want to think of your organization as competing with other regional agencies because their mission is different from your organization's and therefore each of these nonprofit's are working on different pieces of the issue. This is how mission-focused work, determining upcoming programs on the beneficiary community's current and real needs, and using expected outcomes and evaluations benefits not just your organization but the beneficiary population of your organization's work. Each of your organizations (who work on the same cause) share the vision for the community (to eradicate it of the trigger causing the issue your organization is working on) and also share the interest in the best for the beneficiary population. These two shared attributes can bring any two or more organizations to a table to at least talk. Talk can lead to collaboration.

Keeping the list of similar or related organizations up to date will not just help your organization in its grant writing (and other fundraising). It will keep you in touch with what work is being done in your community in the same cause as your organization serves, it will keep you up to date on colleagues' work in the professional field, and it will provide your organization's leadership with a sense of what, in total, is being provided to your agency's beneficiary population. This kind of information is enabling for your nonprofit and empowering for the beneficiaries that your organization serves.

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