Monday, May 31, 2010

How to Use Marketing, Affordably, To Increase A Nonprofit's Numbers of New Grant Donors

How can a nonprofit that is brand new to grant writing be as effective and efficient in its grant writing work as possible?  The following four tips will help.

First, be certain that the entire grant writing effort has been planned out and budgeted for (as an administrative overhead cost) and funding is planned for, to support it, prior to starting the actual work. Second, put a lot of time and effort into prospecting for potential grant donors to apply to.  Third, save your organization time and money by hiring a professional grant writer after you and your staff have written and firmed up a final draft of an initial grant proposal.  Having done the prospecting and initial drafts of the grant proposal in house will save your agency costs when working with a consultant.  After a final draft that was written in house, is done the consulting grant writer can then review, re-write as necessary, edit, correct, and make suggestions to finalize a really strong final draft that is ready for submission.  Finally, included in the grant program planning, and initiated before any actual grant writing work begins, it is helpful to put a strong word out in the community about your agency before grant applications are submitted.

When a nonprofit is new to grant writing it is not just ramping up a new fundraising endeavor.  Of course it is aiming to raise some grants.  In general, grant donors like to give to nonprofits who they can feel confident about.  Grant donors are equally concerned about the community and operate to provide the funding to causes and efforts that they understand will best and most effectively address the issue they prefer to fund.  It may seem that donors give when their heart strings are tugged enough, or when they get enough solicitations over time, but in fact, they give when they are asked to give to a nonprofit working on an issue that truly concerns them, personally (or organizationally), and when they feel that a good majority of their dollars donated (like at least 80% of each dollar) are going to actually provide an effective and efficient solution.  This, in part, is why prospecting and really knowing each potential grant donor that your organization is going to apply to helps (save time and money).  If your nonprofit sends a grant application to a foundation, for instance, that does fund other organizations working on the same cause as yours', but does not fund nonprofits serving the geographic region that yours' does, or if they do not fund the types of projects that you are seeking funding for (even if they give to the cause your agency works on): then you've just wasted your organization's time and money, and even worse - no grant will be raised.

The other part of the reason why it' so important to understand that grant donors are motivated to give because they want to provide effective and efficient solutions to the community, too, is that if a donor (any type of donor, actually, grant donor or individuals, etc.) does not feel confident about giving to your nonprofit then they likely will not.  This sounds obvious but the point is that this means that nonprofits applying for grants that are proactive about getting the word out about their organization either in tandem with or prior to and in tandem with a grant campaign are getting a leg up over other organizations.  In part one way to secure a potential donor's confidences and interest such that they actually give (again, any type of donor including grant donors) is to make a compelling case.  The first thing that is necessary to make a compelling case to potential new donors is that potential donor to know your organization's name, its work, and that it's a wise investment in the community, or put another way, a good nonprofit to donate to.

Even if your organization conducts a pretty regular presence in the traditional media, social or tech media, and among its own established donors (perhaps through a regular newsletter and donor thank you letters); do not assume that this is enough.  People following your organization on Twitter, or folks who have donated to your agency, in this case, know about your nonprofit but the point I'm making here is to get new contributors giving to your nonprofit (in this case grants), and they do not necessarily know about your organization.  Never assume that the word is already out about your organization or that the public correctly knows what your nonprofit does and what its successes have been and what its potential is.

The only way to be sure that the correct information is getting out to those who know your nonprofit but also to those who do not; and to also be sure that the message that the public is receiving is correct, is to conduct  a proactive marketing campaign.  Then you control the message and can also formulate the message being told.  This sounds expensive and time consuming but it does not have to be.  What's more, this kind of campaign does not just raise new grant donations.  It literally can additionally raise all kinds of new donors (sponsors, individual donors), new volunteers, or new community partners (i.e. businesses, other nonprofits doing related work, or related government agencies).  If you launch a proactive marketing campaign (again of any kind large or tiny) and track all time, expenses, people-hours, etc. and then after let's say year one and then again after year two you look at what the marketing campaign has brought into the organization (and its potential) and this is assuming you can attribute correctly what has been brought in by this marketing campaign, I am betting that the rate of return on the investment in the marketing effort is well worth it (and perhaps only increasing, after year two).

A cheap but effective marketing campaign may include getting the board and other dedicated and reliable volunteers educated about what a nonprofit marketing campaign is and how to plan one.  Again, none of this has to be high end or expensive or hugely time consuming.  The Nonprofit Marketing Guide: High-Impact, Low-Cost Ways to Build Support for Your Good Cause (The Jossey-Bass Nonprofit Guidebook Series) is a good resource whether you purchase it or just get a copy from your local library.  Then plan and again budget for and allocate funding for the work (even if it's a small marketing campaign).

If a potential donor of any kind, a grant donor or another type of donor, learns from your organization exactly whatever message, values, description, and successes and strong potential that puts its best foot forward then this is a strong lead-in for any donation solicitation, again, including a grant application submitted by your agency.  If a potential donor receives a solicitation for a donation from your nonprofit but has never heard of it or is not familiar with what it does there is less confidence in your organization, from the start, than is necessary.  If, instead, a potential donor receives a grant application from your nonprofit (perhaps for the first time ever) and has heard of your organization and is familiar with what it does and its strong reputation this is more compelling and has more likelihood getting your application into the "possible grant recipients" pile after the grant donor first receives it.

If your nonprofit has a campaign (again that can be cheap but effective) this could include, let's say, discussing with the traditional press any successes and accolades that your organization receives; or being sure that each board member is regularly providing a message (and the correct message) about why they volunteer with your nonprofit, what it does, and why its an excellent organization; or making sure that your nonprofit has a presence at each relevant professional conference or other professional networking opportunity and that the message is being told there, too.  All of this may not sound like it's reaching everyone it should but with time it can and what's more, if you track what works and what doesn't (again, assuming you can track that relatively correctly) you can weed out efforts that haven't proven fruitful and try something new that will be.

Marketing is a strong way to ensure that donors of all kinds, including grant donors, consider your organization's donation solicitation.

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