Monday, February 07, 2011

The Basics About Grant Writing Specifically For A Capital Campaign

A portion of the total money raised for a capital campaign should come in the form of grants.  In this post, I discuss raising grants specifically for capital campaigns, but this information will be helpful to anyone seeking a grant for a large single increment (generally,$100,000 or larger).

In two previous posts I led up to this post.  In How A Capital Campaign Is Different From Most Other Fundraising Methods I give a general overview of what a capital campaign is, and what is unique to it.  Then  explain the specifics of a capital campaign in How A Capital Campaign Works.

The necessary professional nonprofit best practices, knowledge of the common grant application process and its steps, the mechanics of good grant writing and its skill, and other knowledge, skills, and professionalism are still necessary when planning, undertaking, and conducting a grant writing campaign specifically for a capital campaign (which is usually going on concurrently with all of the organization's usual annual grant writing work).  Anyone reading this who is not familiar with these basics is invited to review the "Labels" (in the lower right hand margin on this web page) to understand them further (i.e. "How To", "Grant Writing", "Best Practices" labels, etc.).  Reviewing, too, what has been explained about capital campaigns thus far: capital campaigns are most usually a historic one (maybe two) time event in the history of the organization, they raise some of the large amounts of money in one campaign in one period of time, the amount of money to be raised and the time taken to raise the capital funds are both planned in advance and finite, capital campaigns are such lofty goals and unique campaigns that it is nearly imperative that a nonprofit bring one or more new board members with previous successful capital campaign experience, and capital campaigns leave nonprofit organizations (after they are completed) not just with a well funded endowment fund or a new building but they also leave organizations in a particularly strategic and strong position in their community as their message (mission, goals, achievements, and potential) are understood among community members of all kinds, and they have positioned the organization to conduct some of its most successful (and larger amount) fundraising for the finished campaign but also going forward.

When a nonprofit conducts grant writing as a portion of the total fundraising effort for a capital campaign there are some unique specifics to this type of grant writing.

__ There is a single purpose or use for the grant if it is raised.  This makes for a very focused, clear, and on point grant proposal (or grant application).

__ When a foundation or other type of organization that gives grants becomes aware of your organization's capital campaign and understands the nonprofit's goal and reason or need for the capital, they might know major donors who would be interested in giving (as individuals) to your nonprofit towards the capital campaign.  It is not always the case, but it is not unusual for a grant donor's program manager to share a few potential major donor leads with an applicant nonprofit's executive director or board member in the course of discussion about the campaign and grant application.

__ These same foundations, and others that your organization applies to for the capital campaign, will want to see what the community's take is on your organization, what the capital will fund (i.e. an endowment or a building), what your organization's potential is to further your organization's mission and current (and future) organizational goals, and more.  How do they take this 'temperature reading'?  One way is they take note of how interested potential major donors (people who, by virtue of their ability to donate in large increments, and evidenced by the causes and types of work that they usually donate towards, would be expected to be interested in funding your organization's capital campaign) are in giving to your organization's capital campaign.  Being able to demonstrate to all types of donors, including grant donors, that your nonprofit's community is supporting the usual fundraising and additionally the capital campaign is very compelling for them to give, too.  This is not unique to capital campaigns, but rather always the case - but this point is especially crucial if a nonprofit wants to successfully raise the funds it needs for its capital goal.

__ As stated in How A Capital Campaign Is Different From Most Other Fundraising Methods, it is not unusual for nonprofits, before they begin planning a capital campaign, to take a 'temperature reading' of their own to determine how viable or it is likely that their capital campaign effort would work.  Speaking specifically of raising grants for a capital campaign, it is not unusual for potential grant donors (any entity that your organization is going to apply to for a grant for the capital campaign) to request a copy of the feasibility study and its findings as a part of the grant application the applicant organization will be asked to submit.  Can you blame them?  If a nonprofit applies to a foundation for, say, a $2million grant is it logical that the grant donor considering the request would want to see proof that it is already determined that the capital campaign effort the organization is conducting is viable?  I mean, who wants to donate any amount at all, let alone millions of dollars, to a campaign and organization that can't demonstrate it can succeed at raising the total funds necessary?

__ As is always the case, the grant proposal or application should always be written from the standpoint of the community and specifically its need that the nonprofit is uniquely meeting.  Writing any grant application but especially a larger increment grant request from the standpoint of the nonprofit rather than the beneficiaries of the organization work is a red flag to any grant donor that reads it that your organization doesn't understand basic fundraising best practices (and could extrapolate that your organization may not do well in the campaign).

In my next instructive blog post, Who Does What In A Capital Campaign, I will explain what people are involved in a capital campaign, what roles they typically fulfill, and what tasks they are usually responsible for.

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