Sunday, October 11, 2009

Here Are Some Tips To Get Your Board Behind Your Agency's Grant Writing

Any nonprofit's board of directors are an important part of its potential to raise money in all types of fundraising methods. The board are not just legally responsible for the quality of the organization's transparency and bookkeeping, for instance; they are not just responsible for finalizing all of the organization's goals, visions, and policies; the board are also important partners and active members in any nonprofit's fundraising.

As such, many people have asked us how they can either get their board of directors educated about how grant writing works and how they can get their board to assist their organization's success with it; or how they can get their board behind and excited about their grant writing. The following are suggestions for any fundraising committee members, fundraising staff, or executive director looking to get their board members informed on, supportive of, and ultimately to become a strength in the agency's potential to raise more and larger grants.

__ Never assume any organization's leadership and its respective individual members know what any new thing that any nonprofit is doing and how it's done. I'm not being smart or snide, here, but rather being very honest. Over and over again we have worked with nonprofits whose well meaning, involved, intelligent, and experienced board were thought to know or be skilled in some (or all) aspect(s) of grant writing work - only to discover that (of course) the board included people with various levels of grant writing knowledge, experience, and skills : from 'none' to 'a lot'. Clearly state which organizational member's role is and also a grant writing campaign persons chart (with the head grant writer and key organizational leader as 'day to day' decision makers and the board members as 'overseers' and also willing participants in the work). Provide a clear, succinct, but thorough grant writing board training that covers what grant writing is (and what it is not); how long most successful grant writing campaigns take; and at the finale, give a realistic and researched recommended one or two year plan including a time line, expected (realistic) outcomes, assignments per person, expected benchmarks, etc. Include clear roles and tasks per board committee (or member), their efforts' time lines, etc. Provide them with good, professional, ethical, current, but also clear and to-the-point basics and then trust them to do their jobs and do them well. The following of our posts may be helpful, Planning Your Organization's Grant Writing Expense; Descriptions of Different Grant Proposal Documents; Places, Resources, and Ways to Learn Everything From Fundraising to Other Nonprofit Operations; What Are Grant Donors Looking For and Funding Today; Considering Or Beginning A Grant Program? Here's Some Help; and Leadership's Role In Seeking Grants

__ Conduct bi-weekly updates with the board and the key grant writing team (over e-mail or over the phone in a group conference call) that tells them what progress has been made, what stage of work the campaign is in, what is going to be worked on next, what deadlines are pending, and ask each board and grant writing team member for updates in their respective work and what questions they have. Keep the lines of communication open. Also, be sure that everyone who promised to get back to anyone, after each meeting, does. To help the ongoing communication remain fruitful for the organization and everyone involved, the head grant writer and the executive director should be endowed with the power to direct the grant writing work and campaign success; the board or board president should be endowed with 'peer to peer' meeting interactions with potential grant donors' organizational leaders (to be scheduled and researched in tandem with the grant writing team) and also high-level fundraising goal objective concerns.

__ Keep expectations realistic. If, for instance, your nonprofit has never attempted grant writing before - expect that the first grant may not come in for at least three months but even up to a year from work start. Similarly, if a nonprofit has been grant writing for years, and very successfully - build the current economy and what expected grant donors are likely to do today into the year's expected fundraising goal outcomes. Research what the donors are doing given the economy. For help with realistic expectations read our posts, How To Raise Grant Money, Even In This Economy; Top Ten Tips To Raise Grants In A Down Economy

__ Keep at it. Grant writing is not a 'quick' fundraising method. It takes a lot of initial, up front work (research on how to do grant writing professionally today, campaign planning, prospecting or researching for potential viable donors, writing drafts of each letter involved in the grant seeking process, etc.) but once that work is completed it is often only something that needs to be edited, partially re-written, and updated over time. A good strong informed and well-researched and well-written initial foundation in grant writing work is a powerful way to raise more grants in larger increments sooner than later from work-start.

__ Keep a chin up, as the work begins and as time progresses, but no $1 million grants have rolled into the office, "yet". A lot of groundwork is necessary for any successful grant-raising. Some will simply not understand (or maybe even not trust) that the grant writing will result in success - but if it is conducted professionally, with skill, honestly, and in a thorough manner per each individual grant donor's requirements - success can come.

For more information on this process read our post, How to Coordinate the Executive Director, the Board, the Volunteers, and Staff to Successfully Raise Grants

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