Monday, June 29, 2009

Time Can Be A Huge Asset In Raising Grants

Time is a factor in everything we do, so of course it is no surprise that time and timing are both important to the successful grant writing process. The following are tips regarding time and timing when seeking grant money.

__ If you are new to grant writing, or fundraising, or to the nonprofit sector - that's great and welcome! Be sure to take the time to learn about professional nonprofit fundraising, the specifics of grant writing (a fundraising method), and professional nonprofit best practices in regards to both grant writing and fundraising. Learn how to do these various skills according to modern methods in order to be successful, be competitive, be relevant, and to not waste your nonprofit's money, time, or potentially its reputation.

__ Be certain plan out all aspects of the grant writing work, as a project management assignment, before jumping into it. As you assign tasks or schedule action items, pull out a calendar and assign each a due date or benchmark on a time line. Be certain that all volunteers or staff who are involved know what is expected of them, by when, and the end due date for all work.

__ There are quicker fundraising methods, comparatively, than grant writing so determine which fundraising method to use for which revenue need accordingly. Grant writing is not a quick fix fundraising method. It takes time to begin, time to conduct, and once an organization begins grant writing work - it's pay off is to keep the grant writing fundraising program underway and gaining momentum in completed tasks in order to maximize the nonprofit's investment into this specific fundraising method.

__ The average grant donor requires at least two weeks (but sometimes more time) to review the often first step in a grant seeking experience, reviewing an initial written inquiry (either a letter of inquiry or a letter of introduction). After an organization is invited to submit a full grant proposal (which is either the second or only submission to a grant donor) many grant donors (foundations, governments, etc.) require at least a fiscal quarter (three months) to process the grant submission. All grant donor entities differ in how they conduct their submission reviews so be sure that before you apply to any potential grant donor, you know their review and response schedule (which will be in their giving guidelines). Be certain that for each potential donor that your organization applies to - their review and response schedule will work with your organization's funding needs.

__ That lag time after submitting any document to any potential donor, including a potential grant donor, is tough. Write an excellent submission, be sure that you've positioned your organization well in the document (speak of your organization's successes, potential, skills and talent, and demonstrate the current real need in the community that your organization is uniquely suited to successfully address well and how). Keep confident in these facts about your organization, as you wait for responses. Be gracious and thankful (grant or no grant) as you begin to hear back from potential donors. You'll want to reapply to those grant donors likely to give to your organization, again, after a rejection. Being professional and polite after a rejection allows your organization to keep up a good relationship, after a rejection, from a potential donor.

__ Time can be your ally in grant raising work. Learning, planning, and investing in the grant writing program can guarantee (even, if no grant is risen initially) that over time your organization will begin to raise grants eventually and then probably continue to do so - if you've done your homework and learned professional best practices. Attempting to raise money through grants (and thereby investing your organization's time and money in this method) and then backing out because there was no immediate return is not good for your organization, its potential to over time raise money, or your fundraising strategy. Learn and learn more, and then continue to learn even as you become a professional at it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What Grant Writing Is, and What It Is Not...

Top 10 Clarifying Facts; What Grant Writing Is and Is Not...

10. Grant writing is not a short term solution for a current debilitating deficit. Grant writing is one fundraising method (among others) that requires research, planning, implementation, writing, submission, and waiting-for-a-response...time. For more on this discussion read http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2008/09/your-nonprofit-needs-cash-flow-that.html

9. Grant writing is not simply sitting down one afternoon to write a grant proposal, without having done any research to locate potential donors who are likely to give to your organization, without research, without networking, without getting a sense of the organization's professional field (in whichever region(s) the organization serves), without demographics research and more. For more on this discussion read http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2009/02/how-to-plan-out-this-years-grant.html

8. Successful grant raising is not the result of having hired or contracted with a grant writer who works alone. It is a team effort; the executive director, bookkeeper, programs manager, development director and more are most often involved and working with the grant writer together as a team, over the duration of the grant writing work. For more on this discussion read http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2006/11/intra-office-communication-and-grant.html

7. Grants are not won only because you hired a grant writer who has some huge success rate in writing and raising grants. Grants are earned. They are earned because, yes, to a lesser degree the grant writer must have talent, experience, excellent skill, and current knowledge; but grants are earned in a larger part because the applicant nonprofit is well run and operated, who are successful in their mission, who are known in their respective professional and beneficiaries' communities (for more on this point read the post http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2006/10/why-is-marketing-important-in-grant.html ), has an excellent reputation (has not had recent bad press, is not known for shady or unethical professionalism, and is not reputed for dishonest bookkeeping or tax reporting, etc.), and because they are proposing to provide a compelling, currently needed, a truly potentially viable and successful, well researched and thought out, current program or project that truly meets a real current need in its community that is currently not being served or met. For more on how to conduct excellent nonprofit operations read http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2008/09/places-resources-and-ways-to-learn.html

6. Grant writing should not be an organization or even a single project or program's only source of funding at any one time. Diversifying the fundraising used over the course of a year, for instance, to bring a nonprofit income from many different types of fundraising methods (e.g. grant writing, annual appeal letter, donation remittance envelopes inserted into newsletters, special events such as formal dinners or golf tournaments, etc.) reduce the amount of exposure a nonprofit or even a single project has if one method is not as successful, this year, as it maybe was the past few years. Have room in your overall fundraising plan to learn, year to year, what your donors enjoy now and what fundraisers have fallen out of interest or even popularity. For more on this discussion read http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2004/10/bring-in-donations-from-many-different.html

5. Grant writing is not a skill that anyone can't learn. If you want to go ahead and give it a try but know nothing about it - that's O.K. (and good). Just be sure to learn about grant writing, what the professional best practices are today, and what works to really truly raise grants and what does not. Do not just leap in and think that you can wade through the work. There are certain basics that grant donors expect, today, in applications, among potential donors' interaction with them, etc. Especially in this economy, if you don't follow through with any potential grant donor to the degree that they are now (today) accustomed to; it can place your organization's grant application into the 'do not fund this giving cycle' pile before anyone at the grant donor's office has truly read it. To discover some excellent, reputable, and well respected resources to learn more about grant writing read http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2008/12/basic-grant-writing-101-information-and.html

4. Grant writing is an excellent fundraising method, once a program is put into place at any nonprofit who has invested in its grant writing program and has committed itself to the long term program and its work. It is completely viable as long as a nonprofit that implements it understands what it is and what it isn't and what the realistic time line is (typically) in grant raising.

3. Grant writing is one of the many fundraising methods that nonprofits may to choose to use that, when successful, raises large single donations at a time (instead of several small donations raised at one time). It can be very powerful to mix the fundraising methods that an organization uses thinking about the number of donations each method is expected to raise in ratio to the amount that can be realistically expected to raise.

2. Grant writing is one of the best and most sure ways to force the planning of new programs, projects, and even new nonprofit organizations' launches. If you can not clearly define for any potential donor (including grant donors) what it is that you are proposing to do with their large donation (in this case, a grant) why should they invest in your organization and its proposed project when they have many other excellent programs run by other excellent nonprofits to select from. Make a strong, compelling, thorough, honest, and clear case why a donor should give, in any grant proposal. To do this, all applicant nonprofits who will be seriously considered will have done their homework; and it will show. For more on this discussion read http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2008/04/your-new-program-or-project-design-must.html

1. Grant writing is an option to any nonprofit; from start up to a long established 150 year old nonprofit. Whether the agency has ever attempted grant writing or not - it is a viable and excellent fundraising method to integrate into your organization's annual fundraising plan, year to year. Just be sure to learn about it and allow it the time required to be successful. (See number 7., above, and the suggested further reading for more).

Grants for Nonprofits Working With Community Members to Improve Their Communities

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: August 30, 2009

Tom's of Maine, "50 States for Good" Initiative Offers Program Funding for Nonprofits

With a total community action fund of $100,000, Tom's of Maine's "50 States for Good" initiative is celebrating and rewarding nonprofits from across the country whose efforts are focused on lasting, positive change in the community.

Tom's of Maine is hoping to inspire participation from nonprofits of all sizes and is excited to hear about the community projects that matter most to them. 501(c)(3) organizations from across the country are encouraged to apply for funding and invite their members/constituents to participate in the process.

Finalists will be selected by a judging panel based on immediate achievability, positive impact in the community, and engagement and mobilization among members of the community. After finalists are selected, online voting by the public will determine which five organizations will receive $20,000 each.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Some More Free Resources For Your Nonprofit Office...

Cutting costs is really important, any time, but also right now because of the economy. Money, spent today on office or administrative needs could, if replaced with free services or products, be diverted to your nonprofit's programs and services; and we are here to help.

Below are some free resources that just might really work for your agency and replace some of your current expenses or needs for free! [Most of the following products offer their services or products for free up to a certain number of users (limit) or up to a certain number of services/products features - but I am recommending them for their quality, ease of use, and free price. Please definitely be sure to read about any product that you are inclined to sign up for, before signing up for it (or them)].

dimdim.com
is meeting software that is free for up to 20 users (that means 20 people logging into a virtual online meeting). What's more...their product is excellent. It provides all of the ease of Web Ex and all (and more) of their service options such as Power Point (or other) presentations, a virtual white board, group work space, the ability to record meetings and presentations, and more. For a list of the features that the free web conferencing version offers, please see the link, above.

Microsoft Windows XP Pro/Office 2007's Access (database software that is a part of the Office software suite) includes, among other potential helpful free databases in their template library, a free donor database (which can also be used as a template to individualize and tailor to your organization's own needs, or you can use it 'out of the box', as it is a ready to be use database). Whether your nonprofit simply needs a donor database and does not have one, yet, or if your organization is looking to customize a donor database; this maybe the solution for you because for Office 2007 users, the database is a free download. Having the ability to analyze, cull together, and utilize data on the fly makes having a database invaluable to nonprofits. It increases the ability to see which fundraising campaigns are success and which are not, it allows the organization to drill down to one donor and thereby increase the relationship and connection between the individual donors and the organization, and it allows you to find a sub group of the whole donor base such as asking 'which donors gave $100 or more over the past two years'. Click on the link at the beginning of this paragraph to see more. I have yet to use this database, but I have looked at it while reviewing the ability to customize it, for a client, and it looks great.

If your organization has computers but has decided to forgo the cost of operating system software and the cost of a software suite (e.g. spreadsheet, word processing, Internet browser, e-mail, and calendar, etc. software product) by using a free operating system, such as Ubuntu operating system, and Firefox's free web browser, Mozilla and its free e-mail client Thunderbird; you can then also download (among other options) the also free OpenOffice.org software suite. These are open source software which means that there is no licensing or fees associated with downloading and using these products. After years of use, updates/upgrades, protections, etc. - these, today, are really excellent products and they are free! I personally use Firefox's Mozilla and like it better than Microsoft's Internet Explorer (though, I have yet to buy and download Windows 7 which everyone who has tried it is raving about). My husband uses Ubuntu and swears by its ease of use and stability.

If your organization is often on the phone, even long distance or on international calls, there is free phone service, over the Internet, available from Skype which also offers free Instant Messaging and other communicative services. Even their more dedicated-lines paid service is extremely cheap - it's less than $3 a month. I use Skype for both local and international long distance phone calls and Instant Messaging (as do my husband, friends, and family) and we all really like it. It's free, or if paid for is cheap, and easy to use. Google Talk is also a free phone call service.

Idealist.org offers nonprofits a very user friendly way to both market themselves, recruit volunteers, and help communities be aware of your upcoming services and events. Nonprofits are invited to register their organizations, thereby making potential volunteers aware of your agency and their ability to help you out, and also list any upcoming events or programs, etc. Idealist is well known, liked, and respected in the nonprofit sector and a 'must' to list your nonprofit on, for free. Each and every client that we work with gets a recommendation, from us, to list on Idealist if they haven't.

Techsoup.org provides nonprofits without the means to purchase new software at either deeply discounted prices or acquire it for free. They, too, are well known, liked, and respected in the nonprofit sector and an excellent tried and true resource for many a nonprofit that, in order to provide the work of its mission statement, needs a ridiculously priced software package to deliver the best services/products that it can. They also assist nonprofits in getting donor databases, volunteer management databases, and more. Most, if not all, of our clients have used Techsoup.org to acquire very pricey software for their organizations at one time or another. People really appreciate their service.

If you know of other free or extremely assistive resources that can and do assist nonprofits to provide the quality of work that they wish to at either deeply discounted or free pricing - please comment, below, and share this information with the nonprofit sector. Thank you, in advance!

Grants for Nonprofits Safeguarding Basic Rights

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: October 10, 2009 (Letters of Inquiry)

Herb Block Foundation Accepting Applications for Defending Basic Freedoms Program

The Herb Block Foundation's Defending Basic Freedoms grant program seeks proposals to safeguard the basic freedoms guaranteed in America's Bill of Rights, to help eliminate all forms of prejudice and discrimination, and to assist government agencies to be more accountable to the public. Anti-discrimination projects which involve joint efforts of two or more organizations are encouraged. The foundation will also consider funding for programs to address contemporary societal issues that may arise during the project.

Applicants must be nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations located in the United States.

Grants in the range of $5,000 to $25,000 each will be considered for one year's funding. Grants will not be made for capital or endowment programs, nor for sectarian religious purposes. Grants cannot be used for lobbying or other partisan purposes.

Visit the Herb Block Foundation Web site for further information.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Top Ten Tips to Raise Grants In A Down Economy

Top 10 Tips to Succeed At Raising Grants in a Down Economy

10. Do your homework. Research which potential grant donors are currently giving to organizations that: do the work your agency does, funds the kinds of programs or projects that you are needing the grant for, and also fund organizations that serve the same geographic region(s) that your organization serves. Make sure you only apply to grant donors that indicate (in their giving guidelines) they would be interested in giving to your organization. Otherwise, your agency will be wasting time and resources.

9. Contact the potential grant donor before sitting down to write the proposal (if contact is permitted before applying for a grant from them) and speak to a programs manager at the foundation or granting organization. Share with them what your nonprofit does, what you are seeking a grant for, and get a sense of how likely they are to be interested in funding it. Remember, in this down economy many grant donors have either cut back giving, no longer give at all, or have recently changed what kinds of programs they fund. Be sure that the research that you found indicating they would potentially give to your organization is still current, right now, today.

8. Learn. It's fine to be new to the nonprofit sector or to grant writing. It's great. What is not so good is to assume, that because your work is for the nonprofit sector, you have to just guess and cross your fingers when raising funds or doing any other nonprofit operations work. Be willing to be a novice, sit down with some excellent references and learn. Before you sit down to write a grant proposal, learn what they require, what should be omitted, how to write succinctly, and how to write an excellent proposal. We recommend the following post http://thegrantplant.blogspot.com/2006/11/easy-resources-for-grant-writer.html

7. Provide the potential grant donor with only what they require be included in the grant proposal. You will find, in their giving guidelines, what they want in the proposal and sometimes they list what can be omitted. It's a good rule of thumb to only provide grant donors with what documents they request, as attachments, in the proposal package. Do not go over board with fancy printing and binding (it indicates that your organization spends money frivolously). If a foundation needs more information beyond what they request in their giving guidelines, they will contact you and request that information or document.

6. Be honest. Be thorough. Be succinct in your writing. Be forthright. Be on time. If they call to request more information or to set a date for a site visit get right back to them. Be professional, gracious, and be yourself in dealing with potential donors.

5. Apply to more than one potential grant donor for a single project. Up the odds. Be sure that you indicate in the grant proposal budgets which potential grant donors you have applied to for this project, how much is being requested of each, and if you have already heard back from one or more of these potential grant donors, indicate that and how much was granted, if anything.

4. After you've finished a final draft of your grant proposal ask a colleague or friend who is a good writer to review it proof reading for spelling, grammar, clarity, ease in reading, etc. Check and check again that in the proposal package you have provided the potential grant donor with all of the information and content that they requested.

3. Don't hound the potential grant donor after submitting your proposal. I know that you are anxious to hear whether your nonprofit will receive the grant, and they know that you are, too. Respect that they have likely received another record amount of applicants, in this giving cycle, and have tens if not hundreds of grant applications to read. The application is usually received and then program managers or professional grant reviewers will go over the proposal to be sure all content that should be there is included, read and summarize the content, and then pass the proposals that get through the first rounds of review onto a body that will make a final decision, such as the board of a foundation. They will get their response back to you as soon as they can.

2. Keep in mind that in this economy grant donors are going to give to nonprofits doing something no other organization in the community is doing. They will also give to nonprofits who have real talent in their respective professional field of work on the board or in the staff. Grants will be given much easier to nonprofits who are collaborating or to start up nonprofits who are starting their agency as a program of an already established (and respected and well run) nonprofit before formally breaking off and going out on their own. Grant donors are looking for nonprofits to grant to that are operated by people who know what they're doing, are stocking the agency with talent and experience, and are not recreating a wheel that already exists. They want their dollar to be effective, spent on a real current and unmet need in the community, and in a way that will actually provide real quantifiable positive results.

1. Get the word out about your nonprofit, its mission, its work, and all of its recent achievements and successes. Also, listen to what other professionals in the nonprofit sector and also in your organization's professional field are saying. What are they recommending, given this economy? What's the future for your region, your professional field, and the beneficiaries of your agency's work? If you learn of any good tips pass them on and ask colleagues for theirs'. Do not hole up in your office day after day. Be a part of the community by getting out, talking with people in the community and helping even potential grant donors who would give to your agency learn about it.

Grant for Journalists Writing About Health Issues That Under Served Communities Face

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: July 22, 2009

Journalists Invited to Apply for Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism

Named in honor of the late vice president of communications and public affairs at the California Endowment, California's largest health foundation, the Dennis A. Hunt Memorial Fund for Health Journalism provides grants for reporting on the critical health issues facing under served communities.

The grant competition is open to all journalist members of ReportingonHealth.org, a Web 2.0 community built by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships.

Print, broadcast, and new media journalists are eligible to apply, as are all past fellows of the USC Annenberg/California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships. Joint projects between mainstream and ethnic media are given special priority. The grant is designed to cover reporting and publishing-related costs such as travel, Web development, database acquisition, translation services, and a journalist's otherwise uncompensated time. Both freelancers and news outlet employees are eligible to apply.

The fund seeks proposals for stories or multimedia projects that illuminate or expose critical community health or community health policy issues. Community is defined broadly by the fund to include both geographic areas and groups of people with shared characteristics, such as Asian-Americans or women.

Proposals can focus on a specific health topic or delve into a confluence of circumstances and conditions that impact health, including environment; social class; crime and violence; urban development; access to health resources or the lack thereof; school absenteeism and its link to health; transportation or city planning and their link to health; and disparities in health.

Awards range from $2,500 to $10,000 each. Grants will be awarded for three years, beginning in 2009.

For complete program guidelines, visit the ReportingonHealth.org Web site.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP

Monday, June 01, 2009

June Is Half Way Through the Year - Take Stock, Nononprofits

Welcome to June! We are in the beginning of the midway month of 2009 and also the start of the third quarter of the year (perhaps your organization's fiscal calendar is the same as the annual calendar). Despite this economy, we're here, in the middle.

It's an excellent time to take stock and take advantage of being able to reflect. At this half-way point you can look over your organizations service (or work) statistics, look over your organization's financials and I know that you've been keeping a keen eye on revenue but also planning out the remaining fundraising for this fiscal year based on the trending you are seeing in the region(s) that your organization raises money in. In this unique economy, having even just six months of really recent trends specific to your organization is really valuable. Take advantage of the metrics on your own organization, that you have at your fingertips.

Also, are organizations raising about the same, a little less, a lot less, and are the communities that you raise money from trending to emergency fundraising campaigning, in the area, or a bit to brand new 'recovery' fundraisers implemented this year to make up for losses in the year's fundraising? If yes - it's good to hear it. If no, perhaps that is beginning to slowly improve, as the economy seems to be?

Six months into the year is also a good time to take stock of the future. Is the organization's current board well-rounded: a good strategic semblance of different but very helpful professions, talent, and experience sitting at the table? No matter whether the organization is a start up, newish and small, or a long established one, well run and necessary nonprofits offer potential board members a terrific opportunity to serve their community. Also, are the regular volunteers or if you have it, staff, doing well and motivated? Are people generally happy? Have you taken a 'reading' and checked? If not, work on increasing in-house peoples' fulfillment, connection with the work of the mission and its goal, their own personal goals for working there, and train or even educate them, if need be. Help them help the organization. How is your organization's messaging coming across in the communities it serves, this year? Have you or other leaders discussed some dire likelihood of closure in the press, earlier this year, only to find that your organization is making it O.K., now? If so, get back to the press, sooner than later, and make sure that the community knows, now, that things are working out and the future of the organization looks O.K. Have you not taken a proactive position in marketing your organization? If not, what do people know of your organization, its work, and its achievements, if anything? If the answer is "I don't know" or "not much" then you have a bit of work to do, here. All organizations always have marketing and public relations work they could be doing - this never ends.

How recently have you checked in with the beneficiary population, that your organization does the work it does to help? In a changed and slowed economy nothing is really as it has been for a long time. Change to the economy effects everyone and everything. For that reason, in this year in particular, you want to really keep up on really recent studies (or even white paper) findings pertaining to your organization's professional field. Anything that can help your organization's leaders decide what new programming will best assist the beneficiaries, now, and in the short term will keep your organization, not only relevant, but it will also keep that people, animals, environment, etc. (whatever or whomever your organization serves) assisted despite this economy.

Has your agency stepped up recruiting new volunteers, while retaining established volunteers? If not, volunteers are necessary and invaluable in an economy like this one. They produce volumes of quality work (if you recruit well and train people, and keep them happy) without costing the organization any kind of overhead. If trending in either your organization's volunteer retention or recruitment, or both, is down - you will want to focus on this and fix theses issues before it's a sever impediment to the agency.

How are you doing? I know you are probably not wringing your hands quite as often as you did months ago - but you're still wringing them, occasionally. But, are you losing sleep over concerns, still? Are you able to focus at work or are you distracted by concerns? If you are having a difficult time handling the pressures of the unusual economy, and it's utterly understandable if you are - take care of yourself. Talk to a good friend outside of the organization and decompress. Take a camping trip this weekend. Try anything that is safe, healthy, and sounds fun or relaxing and go do it and do it as regularly as you can. Making sure that the organization's staff, volunteers, leaders, and all are doing O.K. and taking care of themselves reflects in the organization's quality of work and the image it gives to the community.

We are half way through a really difficult year. Taking stock is always good to do regularly, at set intervals, overseeing all aspects of the nonprofit's operations and work. In this economy - it's dire.

Writing Competition With Prize Money for Pieces On the Economy Written by Native Americans

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: September 15, 2009

Writing Competition Invites Native Americans to Share Insights on Economy

The Alaska Federation of Natives, in partnership with the National Congress of American Indians and the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, has launched "Native Insight: Thoughts on Recession, Recovery & Opportunity," a writing competition designed to encourage Native Americans to share their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities in the current economic and political landscape.

The national competition will distributed a total of $60,000 among three Alaska Native winners and three Native Hawaiian/Lower 48 American Indian winners ($10,000 each), with opportunities for their winning essays to be published in Native journals and magazines across the United States.

The competition is open to Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and American Indians of all ages.

For complete program information, visit the Native Insight Web site.

Contact:
Link to Complete RFP