Sunday, February 28, 2010

Using Logic In Grant Proposal Content - Yes, Logic...

I don't want to sound like one of your high school teachers or college professors but...

Logic, is a great 'voice' to maintain when writing the content for an application for a grant, or grant proposal (or any other grant proposal document, such as a letter of inquiry). It goes without saying that any time you or I write anything, professionally, we work to make sense. I know this. Yet, let's admit it: it can be difficult sometimes to state exactly why the work our nonprofit is proposing to do is important. Yet, to make the argument for a nonprofit, in a proposal, it helps to articulate why its work (or mission) is necessary.

Let's say that you and I work for an organization that offers safe housing, nutritious food, clothing, returning to work training, education, transportation, health care, counseling, and support for victims of domestic violence. It's called Domestic Assistance Assistants. You and I let's say are working on the grant proposal's organizational description and feel a little stuck with writer's block. We love our work. We believe entirely that domestic violence victims are some of the most powerless victims that exist because they, by the virtue of their victimization, have little or no resources, of their own. We get really proud of our agency's work, we get a bit touched by it, and then we try to come up with an organizational description, and we're all thumbs like, '...our organization tries to help those without resources to improve their lives...' But, then again, thousands if not millions of nonprofits could write this sentence, too, in their organizational description in their proposals. Also, "tries"?! That is not a word that will instill confidence in anyone considering donating a large contribution to our organization. We know we need to do better.

We want to always take advantage of every page, word, or character we're allowed by each potential grant donor that we apply to, in order to convey why our specific organization, in particular, should (above other applicants) receive a grant. So, we always want to assert an articulate, compelling, unique, affirmative description of our organization (and also in the proposed program or project description that we're seeking funding for). We want our assertion to clearly make the case (ideally, in a few words or sentences) such that it is easy for the potential donor to want to donate a grant to our agency. These descriptions should clearly state how your organization and its proposed project will edify the community. For these reasons (needing to be compelling, needing to set one's organization apart for the better, needing to be concise in content, etc.) using logic in one's proposal content is very helpful. Also, this kind of assertion may be used in any fundraising, marketing, public relations, volunteer raising, etc. brochure or written content.

Logic is sometimes given a bad wrap or may even be anxiety-raising because it is in its most basic form...well...math. I like to make myself feel more confident about my knowledge of and use of logic by telling myself that logic is "math-ish". I actually like logic (call me a nerd) and while I don't feel confident doing it, there is some math that just captivates me. Admittedly, though, compared with my comfort with writing, math is a foreign land.

Logic, to make it friendly to all of us, for our needs here, is the principal by which arguments are made. Logic is also used to determine if an argument is valid or a fallacy. Is that class way back in college coming back to you, now? Logic actually goes further than math, going so far as formulating the premise of philosophy, but for our purposes we are going to use logic to develop our reasoning (by virtue of critical thinking) to develop key content in our grant proposals.

Returning to our domestic violence example organization...

You and I were working on a grant proposal, together, for this organization. We got overwhelmed, though, when trying to formulate a description for the proposal to clearly articulate compelling facts about the nonprofit. It just seems like everything we come up with is either obvious, simplistic, or too general.

You and I know that we could go through the exercise of listing every attribute of the organization that we can come up with. Or, we could go grab the nonprofit's brochure or other marketing material and look at the description of the agency, written there. Finally, we could also create a single list of what the nonprofit is not. While this last example is not affirmative, it could be a first step in helping us come up with a perception the organization.

Instead, we try once more, between the two of us to get really clear. We start riffing and noting key facts onto a blank sheet.

First, we know that this organization is a nonprofit and that isn't a bad place to begin when starting our description of the organization (though, it may seem obvious or simplistic), because one of the grant donor's requirements, that we are writing this proposal for, is that all recipients be official 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity organizations. We always, when writing a grant proposal, tailor it to the specific grant donor's grant application requirements and requests (or giving guidelines), falling them, creating a unique document, per grant application submission. Also, we always want to tie anything that we assert in the proposal to the specific potential grant donor's requirements or requests (or preferences if we know them, beyond what's stated in the giving guidelines, perhaps by our research into the particular potential donor's recent giving history or pattern). Being relatively sure (though, it is not necessary to be 100% sure or even 70% sure) that everything written in the document ties to the grant donor's specific wishes or requests of the proposal's content, helps us grant writers to know sometimes, when editing a first or second draft of a grant proposal, what can get cut or deleted and what should stay in the document.

Next, we know that our organization's beneficiaries are domestic partners (men or women) and their children (if they have any) that are victims of domestic violence.

We note, too, that we provide the following services: safe housing, nutritious food, clothing, returning to work training, education, transportation, health care, counseling, and support .

This is a very analytical, clear, succinct process; though it may seem simple. Yet, after our exercise, the fact is, we now have most of the words that we will need in order to write our organization's description (or at least the main point of it). We actually also know, because we are aiming to be as too the point in our proposal's content, we may only need a conjunction or qualifier here or there, but not many more words than the words we've listed. We don't need to get wordy. It's frowned upon for grant proposal content: to be laden with an applicant organization's professional field's jargon, to pontificate, or to over-use adjectives (because the point of the proposal is to raise a grant by making a compelling case why your agency and the proposed program should be funded, not to win a grant by making the reader's heart bleed).

Let's say we give our list some framework and we come up with, "Domestic Assistance Assistants is a recognized 501(c)(3), in good standing with the I.R.S., providing adult or child domestic violence victims with safe housing, nutritious food, clothing, returning to work training, education, transportation, health care, counseling, and support."

Now, this is getting somewhere. It is not only specific, and responsive to some of the particular grant donor's grant applicant requirements, it clearly states what the organization is, what it does, for whom, and how. These are each and all affirmative facts (they do not disparage another agency in order to describe one's own, or they do not pound a haenous act that these victims were subjected to at home, over the reader's head to tug at their heart strings and make a case this way). These are also each demonstrable (or provable) facts. We are doing our organization better by being really clear and...well...logical in writing about it in our grant proposals.

I might go one more step further, with you, and fine tune the description by removing the words "in good standing with the I.R.S." from our excellent description. But if the grant donor that we are applying to requires that we assert in the proposal, somewhere, that the organization is in good standing with the IRS, if it is, then this is a good (logical) place to put this information, within the entire document.

Emotional or esoteric descriptions of the nonprofits that we work for are not "wrong" or inaccurate. We often work in emotional situations, in nonprofits. It's just that if we get a bit more logical in our descriptions, building arguments in our proposals that are compelling by virtue of their concise, fact-filled, and demonstrable assertions; we are affording our agency more of a chance to get that grant. Pulling on heart strings won't work if other applicant organization's grant proposals are written using affirmative arguments. You want your nonprofit to be a real contender - so get logical.

Capacity Building or Program Grants for Nonprofits Serving the Arab American Community in Arts, Culture, Or Youth

From The Foundation Center...
Deadline: April 12, 2010

Center for Arab American Philanthropy Announces 2010 Request for Proposals

The Center for Arab American Philanthropy, a program of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, has announced its 2010 Request for Proposals for organizations serving the Arab American community nationwide.

CAAP will award grants of up to $10,000 each to organizations serving the Arab American community. Organizations can apply for capacity-building support or program support in the areas of art, culture, or youth.

This will be the second round of grantmaking conducted by CAAP, the only national Arab American philanthropy program in the United States. Last year, CAAP awarded grants totaling $73,900 to sixteen Arab American organizations.

The RFP and application forms are available at the CAAP Web site.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Top Ten Formatting Tips for Any Grant Proposal

Top Ten Formatting Tips for Any Grant Proposal

10. Follow all directions, requests, suggested omissions, and any additional requests in the grant donor's giving guidelines, and any conversations that you have with official representatives from the grant donor's organization, in regard to your grant application.

9. Edit and cull down draft grant proposals, going over them for not just content and readability, but anticipate that whomever will read it at the potential grant donor's office will likely not read it fully, but rather quickly scan it. Remember, they receive many tens of proposals, each grant cycle deadline, and must get key information from each one. Most grant proposal submissions are not fully read, word for word. Formatting key facts (i.e. mission statement, project goals, expected outcomes, etc.) in easy to spot bullet list formats (unless otherwise stated) helps anyone scanning a grant proposal to see key information, even on the fly.

8. Unless the grant donor requests them, do not insert photos, images, or use fancy binding or covers when printing and coalescing the final grant proposal submission if a hard copy is requested. Potential grant donors want to see that the nonprofits that they ultimately donate grant to spend money wisely. Printing proposals in color, with photos inserted, and under cover of a fancy binding can indicate that money has been spent on needless frivolous appearances when it can always be better spent on a nonprofit's programs or services.

7. Be on time. Be sure that you are clear and know when the grant donor's deadline is for grant proposal submissions, plan out all of the work that will be necessary to draft and then finalize an excellent grant proposal, and be certain that the document is not just done but is delivered to the grant donor's office (or wherever they require the proposal be submitted) on time.

6. Have another set of eyes go over the final draft grant proposal, at least. Ideally, it would be good to have two people, who are excellent writers, themselves, go over the document for content, clarity, spelling, grammar, flow of content, etc. It doesn't hurt to ask someone familiar with writing grant proposals to audit your final draft against the grant donor's giving guidelines to be certain that everything that is supposed to (and not supposed to) be in the document is there (or not).

5. Be certain that you know what attachments the grant donor requests be submitted along with the grant proposal application and that they are in the final submission package. It is not unusual for grant donors to require a list of the current board members, the past quarter's financials, and the budget for the proposed program. Each grant donor is different and each one requests different information and attachments be included with the grant applications submitted to them. Double check that, before you submit, you've complied every attachment (in its current, complete, and honest format) that is supposed to be sent in for consideration and that it's in the submitted package.

4. Check and double check word counts, word limits per page, number of pages per document, etc. Some grant donors require that the grant proposal be comprised of answers to questions that they posit and sometimes the answers provided in the grant proposal each have a word or even character limit. Other times, grant donors will limit how many pages the project description, cover letter, or other component of the grant application may be. If a grant donor does not limit any word counts, character counts, or page counts be sure to keep the proposal content concise and to the point, just the same.

3. Do not over use formatting such as bold, italics, underline, etc. Remember, you want the person who reads or scans your organization's submission to get all of the information that they request, in their giving guidelines; but also find a nice flow to the content including a clean presentation of the information. Giving the reader a headache because there's too much going on, per page, is a potential detraction to your proposal and you don't want to give any potential donor a reason to toss your grant request out.

2. Check the math. Most grant donors request that a budget be submitted for the proposed project that the grant is requested for. This usually involves both writing budget details content in the grant proposal, itself, along with providing the actual project budget (financial document). The logic and math in each proposal segment that refers to the budget must match. If, for instance, the budget states that $20,000 will be raised from individual major donors along with the grants being raised (to complete the total necessary income needed for the program); but the budget description in the proposal content says that $25,000 will be raised from individual major donors: that is bad math, at the least, and perhaps poor program management at the worst. Do not leave any room for questions in the reader's mind. Be consistent.

1. Create a proposal package that, when submitted, you are really proud of. This may sound obvious but the fact is that a confident submission is often the precursor to an awarded grant. Having done the due diligence, getting your ducks in a row, creating excellent submissions, and having the benefit of that confidence while you wait for a response is a much better experience than winging it, submitting whatever it is that you can, and crossing your fingers and sweating.

Grants for Projects That Will Significantly Reduce or Replace Lab Animal Testing

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: March 30, 2010

Alternatives Research & Development Foundation Seeks Proposals for Non-Animal Biomedical Research Methods

The mission of the Alternatives Research & Development Foundation is to fund and promote the development, validation, and adoption of non-animal methods in biomedical research, product testing, and education.

The foundation's 2010 Alternatives Research Grant Program offers opportunities for scientists who have interest and expertise in alternatives research.

Up to $40,000 in total funding is available to support individual projects. Proposals are judged primarily on the basis of the extent to which the project will significantly reduce or replace laboratory animals, and scientific merit and feasibility.

Grants from the foundation are made only to individuals affiliated with a nonprofit tax-exempt institution, organization, or foreign equivalent.

Visit the ARDF Web site for complete program information and application procedures.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Some People Who Contribute To Nonprofits Are Made...Not Born

Philanthropy, the activity of charity, comes from within a person and is also developed within a community. If and how a person, over the course of their life, learns about philanthropy, giving to one's community, and sharing one's time or other contributions with their community; depends on what values they learn, if and how they are exposed to community involvement, what they understand about philanthropy and community, and what they come to value as adults.

No one need be a millionaire to be a philanthropist. Every day, millions of people give contributions (of any kind:volunteer time, expertise, items or goods (i.e. used computer in good condition), or money) to a nonprofit organization of their choice. Contributions may be donating: their used clothes in excellent condition, or two volunteer hours a week, or a regular annual gift of $75.

Often, in the nonprofit sector, in the interest of understanding how to best increase community support, professionals working for the community will consider how to best engage potential donors who have not yet given to the nonprofit that they work for, going about it by attracting involvement through general personal interests (i.e. golf tournaments, gala dinners, auctions, etc.); and engage donors by clearly stating in the press, in the organization's own publications (i.e. newsletters and annual reports, etc.) what the organization does, why it does this work right now, its successes, its current goals, and why it is the best organization to address the issue it does. While engaging the community in these ways are good professional practices, we nonprofit sector professionals need to first consider what philanthropic values, experiences, and knowledge the people in our communities have, or don't have.

There are a myriad of professional services that in part, and some in total, help anyone interested in setting up a charitable trust or even a foundation, to do so. These Certified Financial Planners, Certified Public Accountants, Community Foundations, and others specialize in the activity of philanthropy, and enable those interested in being philanthropists to do so. These services really are aimed at the wealthy or those who are expecting to have acquired a specified amount to designate to their community, perhaps, for instance, in their personal estate, after they pass on. Often the philanthropist, though, comes to these professionals with the interest already established to give charitably. They have gone so far to actualize their intention to give and be active in their communities as donors.

Many people who support nonprofits come to do so through different reasons. Some attend a specific organization's annual comedy festival, every year, and by buying the tickets to do so, contribute. Others give by perhaps donating products or services from their personal business; or donating when a friend or family member passes away and requests that memorials be donated to a specific nonprofit or two; or the woman who volunteers four hours each week with the nonprofit that helped her to get working and able to afford everything that she and her two children need, now, because it is a 'back to work' organization that provided her with self esteem counseling and trained her to be proficient in a new professional skill. Again, though, these are people who perhaps through their own personal experiences came to appreciate what they receive from giving to their communities and what that gift that they gave did in their communities.

Yes, the tax deduction is a nice 'plus' for those who contribute items of value (or assets, or money). Studies have repeatedly shown, though, that donors, while appreciative of the tax deduction they receive for the fair market value of the items of value that they give; donors actually mostly give to effect change where and however they see it is needed. This underscores the value the contributor either already feels for the nonprofit that they gave to, of the value that they would like to feel for the nonprofit that they donated to or volunteered with. The contributor will consider the cause that it works for, and what work it does and how well it does that work (and how well the organization is run). If a person interested in volunteering takes their grave concern for the environment and decides to use that to do something about the issue, by volunteering - then they begin to research which environmental issue and cause they think will best alleviate the environmental issue that most concerns them. The contributor wants to support an organization that takes their asset or money or volunteered time and expertise and succeeds in its mission statement (and what's more, they need to be informed that their contribution allowed for this success to come to be - because...without community support it would not have).

We are still left, though, as nonprofit professionals with those in our community who are new to wealth, and those who do not understand what the nonprofit sector is, what it does, and why they would want to support this critical and vibrant sector. Maybe these people are not millionaires, or they are not even aware of the option to support their community, or perhaps they are so busy in their lives that they are not actively aware of the news and what's going on in the world. A professional nonprofit director may pass these people off as 'a group of people who (as a demographic) are not going to give anyway, so why waste the money or effort to try to engage them'. This assumption, though, would be selling your organization, these folks, and the community's potential short.

The nonprofit sector in a given community (town, region, etc.), can come together as a whole, to together conduct an information campaign, in order to engage people to be sure that community members learn what philanthropy is, what the nonprofit sector is, the value to the community when its members get involved (however they want to, however often they can), and what benefits the individual who contributes (however they can) receives from their community involvement experience. This campaign can even be something as simple as getting the local newspaper to donate a print page and one web page in its most read issue for the nonprofits to articulate the compelling community-involvement facts.

Even if only one or two nonprofits in a region independently, or together, conduct a community campaign simply clarifying what philanthropy is and its benefits - it is a boon for them and the other organizations in their community (and all of the nonprofit organizations in the area owe them a 'thank you').

It's good to remember that some donors are not born - some are made.

Awards for Nonprofits' 2008 - 2009 Outstanding & Innovative Affordable Housing Design & Management

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: March 31, 2010

Home Depot Foundation Accepting Applications for Awards of Excellence for Affordable Housing Built Responsibly

The Home Depot Foundation's Awards of Excellence for Affordable Housing Built Responsibly program is designed to identify, recognize, and showcase the outstanding and innovative work of nonprofit organizations in the area of design and management of affordable housing.

Projects submitted by nonprofit housing developers are evaluated according to affordability, creativity in addressing local housing needs, green building design and construction techniques, innovation in financing, quality of design, and whether it can be replicated elsewhere. Projects must have been developed by a 501(c)(3) organization and completed and placed in service between January 1, 2008, and December 31, 2009. The foundation defines an affordable home as one for which a person making 80 percent or less of the area median income would spend 30 percent or less of their monthly income on mortgage or rent payments.

There are two award categories, Homeownership and Rental. The foundation awards up to five grants within each category — $75,000 to the winning project, $25,000 to the runner-up, and up to three honorable mention grants of $2,500 each. The grants are to be used at the discretion of the nonprofit to further the goal of producing affordable, efficient, and healthy housing for low- to moderate-income families.

Visit the Home Depot Foundation Web site for complete program guidelines.

Link to Complete RFP

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Applying for Grants Through the Grant Donor's Online Grant Application Wizard or Program

It used to is true with everything, that all grant applications were submitted by printing out documents (the grant application and proposal) and either mailing that or having it delivered by courier. Today, though, especially due to the green movement, many grant donors require that nonprofits applying for grants do so through a virtual portal, of some kind.

Grant donors that require that applicants apply online often have their own grant application wizard or application web pages on their website. Some use a grant application service that allows the grant donor to specify which questions they want the applicants to be asked, but does not require the grant donor organization themselves manage or house the grant application program on their own website (or servers).

Every grant donor is a different organization from the other, having different questions for applicant nonprofits, or requiring different formatting, or requesting different attachments from one another. Usually, when a grant donor requires that applicants apply online, they provide the list of all of the questions that the applicant nonprofit will be asked online, ahead of time, before the time that the agency is applies. It is very important that applicant nonprofits print this list of the actual questions before applying. Using these actual questions and the grant donor's giving guidelines will allow your organization to prepare and write the actual answers to each question (in Word or some similar word processing program) before actually applying. You can then simply copy from Word your already completed answers and paste those into each grant application question's response box or prompt. The benefit of having completed the answers for each question asked, in advance, is also that you and whomever else you ask to review the final drafts of grant submissions to look these over, too, beforehand. It is tempting, in the online grant application prompts, to compose on the fly or edit as you apply; but the danger is not only making errors that go unnoticed (and do not get fixed before submitting your organization's application); the danger is that if they require a limited number of words per answer you may be taking up word count (space in the answer) that could be better used to make an additional compelling point or two. It's better to apply on line already having completed each answer.

If a grant donor does not allow the applicant to get the list of questions, beforehand, (and this is extremely rare) log into the grant application program or wizard, going through the entire application, and print each question out before actually answering them. If even this is not possible - copy and paste from a grant application that has already won your nonprofit a grant having beforehand edited and tailored a copy of that to the grant donor organization's giving guideline's requirements.

Sometimes grant donors requiring that applications be submitted online have a word limit, per response. This word limit should also be built into your nonprofit's responses to each of their questions, in advance.

When a grant donor requires that applicants apply online they may require that the applicant upload the required grant application attachments (which can be anything from the list of the current board of directors, to the most recent annual report, to the financials, or the proposed program's budget). They may also allow applicant organizations to mail their attachments into their office and require that they reference their application when doing so.

Many grant donors will give the applicant organization some kind of confirmation message after the grant writer is done submitting the nonprofit's grant application online. It may be a unique confirmation number or code, or just a simple message saying something like, "...your grant application has been received, thank you...". It's good to note, maybe on a printed out copy of your actual grant application submitted what date and time you submitted the grant application, online, and also note any confirmation number or even generic messages they use to confirm your submission has been received. You won't have to remember any details for each application submitted because you'll have record of these (and these copies and records should be filed into the grant donor's file). If there's any question, in the future, whether your organization actually submitted an application successfully (or on time, maybe) even if you only note their confirmation message, verbatim, you can prove that whomever submitted the grant application got all the way through the process such that they received this direct quote (confirmation) from their grant application system.

If, during the grant application submission process online, you have any difficulties with the actual grant application program or if you have any questions about the application questions or requested attachments; follow the directions that explain how to get assistance, on the grant application wizard or web pages. If they direct the applicant to not contact the grant donor organization, but instead the company that manages the application wizard, then do what they direct. If the grant application wizard's web pages do not provide any clear direction, check the grant donor's giving guidelines for directions. If that does not state what online applicants can do to request assistance, then call the grant donor's main office number.

Awards for Enterprising American Middle School & High School Aged Girls

From The Foundation Center...

Deadline: February 26, 2010

Guardian Life Insurance Invites Entries for Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Award Program

The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America is accepting entries for its Girls Going Places Entrepreneurship Award Program.

This annual initiative is designed to reward the enterprising spirits of girls between the ages of 12 and 18. In 2010, Guardian will award prizes to fifteen girls who demonstrate budding entrepreneurship, are taking the first steps toward financial independence, and make a difference in their schools and communities.

To be eligible, a nominee must be between the ages of 12 and 18 as of December 31, 2009; be enrolled in middle school or high school; and be a U.S. legal resident.

Prizes totaling $30,000 will be granted to three top winners and twelve finalists to further their entrepreneurial pursuits or save for college. Submissions received after the deadline date will be entered in the 2011 competition.

Visit the Guardian Life Web site for complete program guidelines and entry forms.

Link to Complete RFP