Monday, November 29, 2010

How to Use Your Nonprofit's Recent Grant Work to Apply More Often and Receive More Grants

Grow your organization's grant writing, or increase how much it achieves, by building on what has already been done.  Believe it or not, each nonprofit that applies for grants has something to build on to increase how many grant applications go out the door, and (more importantly) how many grants get awarded to your organization.

Grant writing is an endeavor that creates a paper trail.  Whether one keeps all grant documents printed in hard copy files, filed into a filing cabinet, or keeps all grant application documents organized in one's computer; there is a trail of the organization's work.  Most organizations keep some combination of both forms of record keeping.

Those files are more important than just sitting around as back up files in case a potential donor did not receive all of the documents in a grant application you submitted to them a week or so ago.  There's a good amount of helpful information, among those files, for your organization to improve its grant raising work; and they can actually be very powerful for the organization's ability to apply for and raise more.

Look for the following, in your nonprofit's grant application paper trail, and consider what I suggest about each document or sets of files - in order to increase and improve your grant program's results:

__ The calendar where you have marked when a grant should be submitted from your office in order to be on time for each grant donor that you've applied to can help you reflect on how often grant applications have been going out of your office for any interval of time (the last fiscal quarter, the last six months, or the past year).  For any amount of time, you think is a fair sample of the current work effort, take a look at the rate of grant application submissions.  Determine how many applications are submitted for that time period, on average.  Understand why that rate has been the pace.  This exercise is about the organization's fundraising increasing productivity and results.  This is not an exercise intended to result in your badgering your grant writer.  Rather, enable your grant writer and their team.  Determine with them what could be done to truly increase that pace (so that the grant writer and their team are ultimately submitting more grant applications) such that the increased pace is realistic and an improved work process.  Sometimes a grant writer needs a volunteer who can regularly come in and file and do other administrative work to free up more of that writer's time each week.  There are other processes that can be put into place to improve work processes that can be determined, for each unique organization's grant writer's need, based on each different grant writer's needs.  Also, where can the costs of applying for grants be reduced or cut for the organization's benefit, without reducing grant work quality or efficiency?

__ How are the documents written by and ultimately submitted as grant application content developed?  Does the grant writer tailor each application's document per each unique and individual grant donor's own giving guidelines and preferences?  What works for them?  Do they update content in a master grant application draft and then copy and paste from that to formulate each unique individual grant application document, each time your organization applies for a grant?  What is the writing process, generally?  How is that working time-wise, success rate-wise, and intended results-wise for the organization and the grant writer?

__ To whom, in the past year or maybe year and a half to two years, has your organization applied to for grants? Or, put another way, to which grant donors has your organization submitted grant applications?  List them out (noting whether these are the recipients of your applications for the past two years or less (and don't go further out than the past two years because grant donors' programs change and two years ago is generally recent enough for the info to still be relevant)). Now, of those grant donors, how many grants did your nonprofit's apply to those grant donors for?  Finally, and these are really crucial questions, how long has the organization been applying for grants (as a fundraising method)?  Also, how are the grants that your organization applies for selected?  Is there real prospecting work (grant research work) and time being put into figuring out which grant donors to apply to for which grants; or is your organization just sending out grant applications to any and all grant donors?

Regarding answering how long your organization has been conducting grant writing, if your organization has been conducting grant writing for two years or less, but have been doing it according to contemporary, professional, nonprofit best practices, then you're doing fine (no matter what the results have been so far) because it takes time to achieve successes.  A brand new grant program (depending on the organization, the region that the organization's community resides in, that economy, how much the grant writer and organization understands best practices and practices them, etc.) usually takes over two years to roll out successfully into its community such that grant donors in that community know enough about your organization, its name, its work, its mission, its success rate, its reputation, etc. to feel confident granting to your organization.  Put another way - hang in there and keep the 'best practices' work up!  Success is likely coming.

If you answered "yes" to "...or is your organization just sending out grant applications to any and all grant donors?", then you and your organization's grant writer need more training on how to run a more efficient grant program (and that's O.K.  No harm in having to learn, ever.).  The skills you'd learn would increase your rate of success, lessen the costs of running the grant program, and help you understand better what successful and professional grant writing work is and why it is done the way that it is.  This blog is a good (free) start to understanding more.  Click the "How To" Label (lower right side of this blog's web page) for some of our posts to be taught the basics about effective and efficient grant writing.  In those posts read up on the basics about grant writing and what resources are reputable and follow through on what you learn.  Or, click on any Label (which is an index of the topics we cover in this blog) that seems relevant to your current work.  Also, check out our Amazon book store.  It's in the upper right side of this blog's right margin.  We hand select each book, there, based on each book's professional reputation.  There are standards in this professional field, there, discussing grant writing and other (different) fundraising methods, accounting practices, board development, and all other aspects of nonprofit operations.  Finally, see what blogs and links we recommend (to other excellent sites) on the left hand side of this blog's web page, in the left hand margin (under "Recommended Links" and "Blogs That I Recommend").  There is so much reputable, excellent, and free information on the web, today, for nonprofit volunteers and staff to learn from and use to work better, smarter, more efficiently, in order to be more effective. 

For a really good start to understanding what efficient and effective prospecting is (which means seeking grant donors), read:

How Do I Prepare To Find Foundations Who Will Fund Us?


Top Ten Ways to Find A Grant Donor Who Will Give to Your Nonprofit.

__ Prior to submitting applications, does your organization's leadership look for any social or professional connections between your organization's volunteers and staff and the organization's volunteers and staff that your nonprofit applies for grants to?  If it does, what is the follow through process?  Is communication initiated between your organization's connection with theirs'?  If so, when in the application process?  What have the results been?  Can this process be improved?  If your organization doesn't look for connections between it and grant donor organizations, when applying to them - why doesn't it?  It's a powerful way to get your organization's grant application not only noticed by the grant donor (if there is a connection between your organization and theirs').  It's also a good way to get your organization's application seriously considered for funding if not just getting funded.  For more information on this concept, read Leadership's Role in Seeking Grants.

__ Is the organization's team that works with the grant writer (volunteers or staff), the grant writer, and the leadership staying up on the latest in professional nonprofit best practices related to grant writing by reading media considered standards in the profession, attending professional grant writing (or fundraising) conferences, and attending professional continuing education courses (online or in person)?  If not - why not?  Keeping current isn't just about being professional in one's work.  Remaining connected to the latest in the profession can often inform leaders about the latest and newest in effective and efficient (new) grant writing (or other nonprofit operations') methods - and this can save an organization (that implements the current paradigm) time and money (and more).  Also, the resulting networking that comes out of active participation in one's wider professional field is invaluable for learning what's going on, currently, with a grant donor and their interests, for example, from other organizations' representatives who may have just recently applied to the grant donor that you're about to.  This kind of information, for example, can be very powerful for you and your organization to know when applying (if they are looking for a specific kind of program to fund, but didn't list this in their giving guidelines or website because this update to their interests is so recent, for example).

Grants for African American Museums

From The Foundation Center...

[If you are interested in more information on this grant opportunity, click "Contact: Link to Complete RFP" at the end of this post].

Deadline: January 18, 2011

Institute of Museum and Library Services Announces Application Guidelines for Museum Grants for African American History and Culture

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) has announced the availability of guidelines and application forms for its 2011 Museum Grants for African American History and Culture program. The program supports projects that enhance the institutional capacity and sustainability of African American museums in the United States through professional training, technical assistance, internships, outside expertise, and other tools and approaches.

Successful applications will focus on one or more of the following goals: developing or strengthening the knowledge, skills, and other expertise of current staff at African American museums; attracting and retaining professionals with the skills needed to strengthen African American museums; and attracting new staff to African American museum practice and helping them develop the expertise needed to sustain careers in the museum field.

Eligible applicants include museums whose primary focus is African American life, art, history, and/or culture, encompassing the following eras: slavery, reconstruction, the Harlem Renaissance, the civil rights movement, and other notable periods of the African diaspora. Public or private nonprofit organizations whose primary purpose is to support African American museums may also apply. Historically Black Colleges or Universities are also eligible.

Grants will range from $5,000 to $150,000 for a period of up to two years.

The IMLS will hold webinars about the program on November 30 and December 7, 2010. Visit the IMLS Web site for complete program information, application procedures, and details on participating in the webinars.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Our Apologies for Loading Issues & Two Good Thoughts for Thanksgiving

To our subscribers and readers, We apologize.  We are having difficulties with our blog and getting external links to load in it correctly (in Mozilla Firefox browser but perhaps in Microsoft's Internet Explorer and other browsers, as well).  We apologize for the inconvenience and are working on the issue.

In the spirit of being frustrated by our blog issue but then remembering (in between the moans and fears that today is going to be "one of those days") that Thanksgiving is at the end of this week, we located a couple of quotes that brought our perspective back to a...shall we say...more open one. 

Perhaps these will help you, if you're having one of those days, too; and Happy Thanksgiving!

"Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action."
-W.J. Cameron


"The unthankful heart... discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!"

-Henry Ward Beecher

We will fix our blog problem and be back with you shortly!  Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and safe holiday!

Grants for American Public Schools' Music Education Programs

From The Foundation Center...

[For more information on this grant opportunity, click "Link to Complete RFP" at the end of this post].

Deadline: Rolling

NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) Foundation Announces Wanna Play Fund Grants for Instruments Available to Schools and Community Organizations for Music Education Programs

The nonprofit NAMM Foundation works to advance active, lifelong participation in music making by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving, and public service programs of the international music products industry.
The organization has announced the availability of grants through its Wanna Play Fund to provide instruments to schools and community organizations that are expanding or reinstating music education programs as part of a core curriculum and/or that employ quality music teachers.

Eligible applicants are public schools serving low-income students (percentage of free and reduced lunch data required); community organizations serving low-income students and students with special needs (community demographic information required); and schools and community programs that have made a commitment to hiring and retaining high-quality music teachers and providing standards-based, sequential learning in music.
Online grant applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Applicants will be notified within thirty days of submission whether or not a grant will be awarded.

Complete program information and an online application form are available at the NAMM Foundation Web site.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Top Ten Successful Methods for Any Nonprofit to Use to Survive A Poor Economy

Top Ten Nonprofit Fundraising and Operations Methods to Survive A Bad Economy:

10. Your Nonprofit, No Matter the Size, Can Do These Simple Steps to Increase Funds Raised

9. How to Make the Case for Your Grant Request, In the Grant Proposal

8. Suggested Money Saving, and Money Raising Methods

7. How To Raise Grant Money, Even In This Economy

6. How Any Nonprofit Can Raise More Support, Acquire the Best Talent, Strive, and Grow...

5. After Recruiting Board Members, Help Them Become Effective Quickly

4. Top Ten Tips to Raise Grants In A Down Economy

3.  Raise Some Quick Donations, More Often, Right Now, and Again Later This Year, And Next...

2. How to Use Marketing Afford ably, To Increase A Nonprofit's Numbers of New Donors 

1. Save Your Nonprofit Money, Raise More Money and Succeed - Yes, Now

and a few extra helpful posts, too...

How Nonprofits Will Save More and Raise More: Or, How To Conduct Donor and Donations Analysis

"Focus On the Economic Crisis" Web Page To Keep Us Nonprofits Up To Date

It's A Stressful Time of Year, Especially Now, But Also A Time for A New (Survivable) View

Grants for U.S. Colleges Putting Dating Peer Educators on Campus to Enable Healthy Dating Habits

From The Foundation Center...

[For more information on this grant opportunity, click on "Link to Complete RFP" at the end of this post].

Deadline: December 3, 2010

Avon Foundation Seeks Applications for Healthy College Dating Peer Educator Program

The Avon Foundation for Women has released the m.powerment by mark 2010 Request For Proposals (RFP) for the Healthy Relationship Peer Educator Program. The foundation has developed a comprehensive and need-based philanthropic strategy for this program that recognizes the importance of peer-to-peer education about healthy dating relationships among college-age people.

Twenty grants of up to $10,000 will be provided to colleges wishing to establish a network of Dating Peer Educators on their campuses. Funding may be used to cover the cost of a -trainer education program, printed materials and education sessions.

Dating peer educators should be trained to provide preventive education related to dating abuse and violence, sexual assault, harassment, stalking, and the promotion of healthy relationships; and should also be trained to provide local resources and referrals to local community-based DV experts. Student programs should emphasize awareness and prevention through education.

Applications should demonstrate the ability to initiate or expand on the work of the Dating Peer Educator Program and to garner additional support.

Applicants must be U.S.-based colleges or 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.

Complete program information and the online application form are available at the Avon Foundation Web site.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

How Your Nonprofit's Fundraising Can Be Successful in the Coming Fiscal Year

It can be very intimidating for any nonprofit's leadership to anticipate how much a nonprofit will raise in the coming year.

Nonprofit boards, this time of year, are finalizing and ratifying budgets for next fiscal year.  That process entails budgeting for or anticipating income from all revenue streams.  Some nonprofits only do a couple of special event fundraisers and some grant writing, all year long, to raise all of their money; others conduct a year long calendar of many more different types of fundraising methods (perhaps everything from including donor remittance envelopes in quarterly newsletters, to grant writing, to six different special events, to a major donor campaign, etc.).  But how can any nonprofit, from a brand new one, to a long existing organization determine how successful it will be at grant writing, or any fundraising, for that matter?

In an economy like our current economy, it can be a bit challenging to anticipate whether they will successfully raise enough funds to cover all of next year's costs.  Yet, while it is a tenuous economy, there are some things any organization can do to be successful at fundraising of all kinds.

Let's take a look at three different pretend nonprofits to help understand how different nonprofits can best budget for grant writing income.

We have Native Beans, a one year old nonprofit organization dedicated to researching, studying, preserving, and disseminating old species and varieties of beans, their plants, and seeds.  They are partially funded by a collaboration with a nearby university's biology department, and raising the rest of their funds, themselves.  While they are making a good go of getting off the ground, this difficult economy has been a serious challenge for them.  They have never done any grant writing.

Let's say, next, we have Fans for Frankenstein, a nonprofit committed to researching, locating, and monitoring or curating where anything having to do with Mary Shelley's original Frankenstein book or any Frankenstein movie, ever, is.  It is a five year old nonprofit, so it's not terribly old, but its membership and fundraising is growing, as currently there is a interest in classic horror, today.  They just began grant writing, annually, two years ago and while things have been slow going they are just recently beginning to receive some of their first grants ever.

Finally, we have Hospice With Honor, a sixty year old, well established, reputable, well known, and well staffed nonprofit that is very good at communicating with its supporters, marketing its successes and mission in its community, and has an executive director and board who are well trained and use that training to regularly network (discussing the organization and its successes) and who are each active fundraisers (working in coordination with the fundraising office).  Hospice With Honor has an established base of regular individual donors, has conducted mostly all other forms of fundraising, and has an operating budget of $1 million (which means their organization averages $1 million in annual operating expenses, and raises at least $1 million annually, in order to fund its operations).  They have been conducting grant writing, specifically, (one of their many annual revenue streams (or fundraising methods)) for thirty years and are very successful grant raisers.

To begin with, for each of these differently positioned nonprofits, there are a few things that they each or all should already be doing (in order to be raising enough money to successfully operate and grow, each year):

__ Especially in an economy like ours' currently is, but really in any economy, one of the strongest positions a nonprofit can put itself into to hedge against inflation and a difficult economy is to diversify or vary where and how income comes into the organization.  For an explanation of why and how read, Bring In Donations From Many Different Kinds of Sources

__ Monitor and track the results of each of the various different fundraising methods the organization is using all year long, each year (again, in any economy, but especially during a down economy) in order to monitor: if the anticipated rate of return is being met, whether each fundraiser is cost effective, and where the weaker fundraising methods the organization is conducting are so that either improvements can be made, or if necessary, so that the weak link can be dropped and replaced by something more effective.  Remember, too, that on average, in the United States anyway, it takes about three or more years for a brand new fundraising method that is conducted annually to begin to make money for the organization.  And, after that initial 'up front cost' of getting the new fundraiser method started (year 1 through 4), its income (no matter what the fundraising method is) should relatively consistently grow, over time, to be considered successful.

__ The organization that positions itself well by being an excellent organization is going to have an easier time generating new donors while also retaining current donors, successfully growing its individual donor base, because donors will be confident giving and then giving again to an organization that is: mission-focused, ethically operated, well managed and run (efficient), is successful at its work (from real demonstrable findings (actual data) from evaluations after each program and service is conducted), is communicative (and honest) in its community, and more.  For a discussion on why organizations positioned as such raise more money and donors and how this is done read, We Need Money for Our 501(c)(3) etc. Organization - What Is the Grant Seeking Process?  and  Here's A Handy Checklist for Nonprofit for Operations and Fundraising Success...

__ The organization operates as described above, over time, (or according to professional best practices) in order to retain donors, community support, and to continue to be relevant, compelling, successful, and reputable.  For more on this concept, read How to Raise Money, Even In This Economy and Fundraising, Grant Writing, Mission-Success, Community Building; It's All the Same

Where these three example organizations' individual situations will cause them to act differently, in order to budget for the coming year's grant writing income in a realistic manner is the following:

Native Beans is a brand new nonprofit.  It's only getting its own programs and services going, its name is just getting known, and its fundraising has just recently begun.  In every way this organization's leadership's work (in all of its fundraising (grant writing and everything else its doing to raise funds) and also in growing its name and reputation) is networking in the community and marketing (and public relations).  The organization needs to be checking off everything in the "...Handy Checklist..." blog post but also they need to be relating to their community (i.e. wherever their potential donors, volunteers, and (someday) staff live and work).  If a grant donor receives a grant request from Native Beans, but its staff or board has never heard of the organization, there might be some question as to whether they're a sound 'investment' to give a grant to.  Native Beans, though, even being a brand new organization can engender confidence in its potential grant donors (and, in fact, all different types of donors) by conducting only very relevant (current) programs and services, having a strong track record that it can point to (i.e. showing why its work is critical to the community, today, and how successful they are at achieving those benchmarks and goals) and why they are suited to continue to be successful going into the future (operations are strong, reputable and credentialed volunteers and staff are key in the programs and services, etc.).

Fans for Frankenstein is five years old, so far is doing pretty well (given the economy, especially) at both growing its membership and also fundraising, and only began grant writing two years ago but are starting to bring grants in.  First, it takes time to initiate a grant writing program and then for any grant writing program to bring in grants.  When a nonprofit considers and begins grant writing, there is usually an up front expense (again, like starting any other fundraising method), that requires time before it begins to 'pay off'.  This is a perfect reason to plan out, in advance, any fundraising method that is being done for the first time at a nonprofit; and it's a reason why a nonprofit that has leaders who proactively position it (in its administration, management, and operations) from the start, and going forward, to be successful will spend less on its fundraising, overall, compared to a less well managed or planned out organization's operations.  Second, this organization is learning the value in being consistent in letting the communities in which it operates know what its name is, its mission, why its work is needed today, what its programs are, what its achievements have been, and what its current goals are (and how anyone interested in doing so can help or support Fans for Frankenstein).  As they begin to bring grants in, they let all of the other grant donors to whom they've submitted grant applications to but have yet to hear back whether they're receiving a grant, which grants they just received and from which foundations (because donors are made confident, too, by other grant donors deciding recently to give).  They are certain to maintain unobtrusive but responsive and professional proactive relationships with the grant donors that do give to them to maintain the relationship with that donor (increasing the likelihood they will receive another grant again in the future from them).  As stated again and again, in this post and throughout all posts in this blog, they conduct the organization such that it will be in the best possible position to succeed at its mission, grow, and continue to remain reputable ( know... professional best practices).

Our long existing, 'grand parent' of nonprofit operations success of the three examples, Hospice With Honor, is a sixty year old, successful, and reputable nonprofit.  Their leadership is focused on the work of the missions statement, it is a professionally operated organization, and all leadership goes through training each year (which is also weighed in a cost/benefit analysis but pays out in spades compared to its costs, because well trained and prepared leaders (executive director and board members) know how and are more comfortable networking regularly in the community and also fundraising.  The fundraising department has volunteers and staff but their efforts are bolstered by and income is increased by the organization's leaders taking their leadership position's responsibilities (in total) seriously enough (and they are trained well) so that they are committed and do the work (again, we know this by virtue of Hospice With Honor tracking and comparing costs and benefits, each fundraiser including those that only the leadership is responsible for such as the major donor campaign, the bequests campaign, and other large contribution campaigns).  This is an organization that exemplifies why best practices come to be such, knows this, and will continue to pass on to its new volunteers, leaders, executives, and staff over time the organization's value and preference to use best practices to conduct all of its operations.

I'm certain that I can sound like I'm harping, here.  I apologize if I do.  I am emphatic, though, because again, and again, specific professional and ethical behaviors and practices work for all and any nonprofit that conducts them, no matter the organizations' differing age, cause, or mission, etc.  These professional and ethical behaviors and practices (by virtue of their successes for so many different nonprofits) over time get shared and passed onto other nonprofits, those nonprofits try them out (because they worked well for others), and these successful practices bubble to the top of common practices, and become today's (and tomorrow's) "professional nonprofit best practices": because they work for so many different nonprofit organizations.

Award for Individuals, Organizations, & Companies Innovating With Technology to Address Education, Equality, Environmental, Health, Or Economic Development Issues

From The Foundation Center...

[If you are interested in this grant opportunity, click "Link to Complete RFP" at the end of this post].

Deadline: March 31, 2011

Nominations Open for Tech Awards 2011

An annual program of the Tech Museum of Innovation, the Tech Awards are designed to inspire global engagement in applying technology to humanity's most pressing problems.

The awards recognize individuals, organizations, and companies from around the world that are utilizing innovative technology solutions to address urgent issues in the areas of education, equality, environment, health, and economic development.

Each year, candidates are nominated and then invited to submit applications. Individuals, for-profit companies, and not-for-profit organizations are eligible. Self-nominations are accepted.

Awards will be presented in five categories: health, education, the environment, economic development, and equality. Three laureates in each category will be honored and one laureate per category will receive $50,000. Laureates will be honored at an annual gala event and inducted into the Tech Awards Network. The goal of the awards network is to create opportunities for learning, networking, and exposure to assist the laureates in furthering their work.

Nominations are accepted year-round. Nominees that meet the eligibility guidelines will be invited to submit a more detailed application.

Visit the Tech Awards Web site for complete program information, including profiles of previous award recipients.