Sunday, May 03, 2009

How to Raise Grant Money, Even In This Economy...

Any organizations that are successfully raising grants, during this tough economy, are creating programs that are needed and efficient, operating their organization professionally, and succeeding at their mission thinking about what any donor/investor would want (which is what the community wants, too); the needs in the community that the organization serves are being addressed in the best possible way that they can be.

Seeking grants in today's difficult economy may seem overwhelming if you think about all of the nonprofit organizations who are also stepping up their fundraising. If, though, you consider that your organization is the only one in the world with the achievements and potential that your organization has, and meets the need in the community, that it does - then you should go about raising any kinds of support (including grants) with an eye on your own organization's successes and abilities.

In order to seriously compete for a grant, today, keep confident about your organization's potential and review the following and consider each about your agency:

__ Are the nonprofit's programs, services, products, etc. current? When is the last time that you reviewed the latest needs among the population or community that your organization serves? Are the organization's projects serving the current need in the community? Hear the beneficiaries of your agency's work after regularly asking 'what need do you have today' and listen. For any of their unmet needs that are directly related to your mission, either create new programs or tailor existing programs to address and meet these current needs well.

__ Are all programs, services, and organizational operations conducted in a lean but sustainable fashion? Are all unnecessary expenses cut, savings implemented, and fundraising for each program and project stepped up, already? Are you reporting all bookkeeping and accounting thoroughly, honestly, and does your agency report on time and honestly? If a major donor or a grant donor requests financials or the agency's most recent annual report, does your staff follow through in a timely fashion and get that to them. Transparency is a great way for any nonprofit to demonstrate how well run and open a nonprofit operates itself. It creates confidence in the agency and community buy-in into the organization's leadership's capability and professionalism. These are powerful ways to raise community support of all kinds (partners for projects, donations, and volunteers).

__ Is the mission the foremost consideration in all decision making in your organization's leaders' work? Mission-based thinking and decision making clarifies the agency's vision, streamlines what work is conducted, how it's conducted, and what end-goals are set program to program, and for the year or two to three years to come ( anticipated outcomes, benchmarks, and goals for programs and services).

__ Have you been keeping service statistics? Are you recording all participants' attendance in all of your programs and projects, their feedback after their participation, and the participants' demographics, etc.? If you haven't, then how can you prove to major or grant donors what your agency's track record has been, program to program? Recording everything allows you to show to any potential community supporter what your organization truly does and for whom. Your marketing material could use this kind of information, too.

__ Does your organization's management plan out each program, service, fundraising method, etc., in advance? When they plan for each type of project, do they also include a project budget, plan out how the project will be funded and follow through to raise that funding? Do they include a project description, a timeline to set the project up and a timeline for the project, itself? Do they assign specific people to be in charge of specific aspects of the project, staffing it in full prior to the project's start with clear descriptions of the work expected and the benchmarks along the time lines when tasks should be completed? Are expected outcomes planned, in advance? Are goals set, for each project, with realistic expectations? Are evaluation methods created for each project, conducted after the end of each project (each year), and then reviewed to determine where improvements could be made for the next time the project's conducted? Are the attendees' feedback requested, after the project ends, and then reviewed and digested so that you can demonstrate that their needs were met, but also where improvements are needed? Does follow through occur, such as post-project review meetings with all key staff and volunteers who were involved in implementing the project, where feedback, achievements, and what improvements are needed are discussed? If so, what is done, afterward?

__ Does your nonprofit use public relations and marketing opportunities to share successes, achievements, and thank the community for its support; or is the media and press utilized when your agency is in crises and needing funding that was not raised fully or on time? What message (if any) is the community ultimately receiving about your nonprofit? Are your organization's leadership, beneficiaries, staff, and volunteers sharing information about their work with the agency, with their friends, colleagues, and family, and why they've chosen to become involved with it? If not, why not?

__ Are others, who work in your agency's professional field, but who work for other organizations, familiar with your agency's name, its work and achievements, and the leaders in the nonprofit? If so, is their impression favorable or not? If they don't know of your agency, why don't they?

__ Are there professionals with credentials (if needed in your industry), who are well known, well regarded in their fields, and talented operating your agency's programs, projects, and services?

These kinds of professional, polished, and beneficial organizational attributes earn confidence in capabilities, raise buy-in, set higher expectations of outcomes and efficiency, and generally engender a desire to support a nonprofit. Donors, like all other community partners in a nonprofit's work, support nonprofits that show potential for excellence. If your organization isn't operating professionally, others who are also applying for grants, are. When grant donors receive applications from nonprofits who operate in the above listed fashions (or more professional best practices); AND also share in an articulate manner in their grant application that this is how they conduct themselves - these are the nonprofits whose grant applications will be put into the "for serious consideration" pile, that goes before the foundation's board. The organizations under serious consideration by any grant donor are the organizations getting grants, today. Be sure that, even in this economy, your organization's grant application does, too.

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