Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Specifics About How To Write A Viable Winning Grant Proposal for A Capital Campaign

Specifically conducting grant writing to raise money for a capital campaign has its own unique processes, like all other work on a capital campaign.  Some are the same as general grant writing but some are unique when raising grants for a capital campaign.

I began this series of blog posts discussing how capital campaigns work, what they are, and how a nonprofit fundraises during one with the posts, How A Capital Campaign Is Different From Most Other Fundraising Methods, and next, How A Capital Campaign Works, The Basics About Grant Writing Specifically For A Capital Campaign, and most recently, Who Does What In A Capital Campaign.  These posts include the basics and primer for this post.

Typically, by virtue of capital campaigns usually being some of the single largest increment funding goals a nonprofit will place for itself over the course of the organization's history, any capital campaign grant that a nonprofit applies for are in very large dollar amounts.  Depending on the goal and need, a nonprofit might apply for a $150,000 capital campaign grant up to several million dollar grants.

The document will include the usual necessary information and section included in a well composed grant application.  This capital campaign grant request, though, will include a bit more that is unique to this kind of campaign.  A competitive potentially viable grant proposal (or grant application) that is raising funds specifically for a capital campaign will include the following:

__ A clear goal that is defined, finite, and truly viable.  The campaign has been planned to be strategically successful.  There must be demonstrable support for the capital goal among the organization's community, and that support and those supporters must be described in quantifiable detail (i.e. either the capital campaign is raising funds towards a new building or it is raising funds for the organization's endowment fund).  The true cost of the capital campaign's goal must be described in detail according to the grant donor's giving guidelines on what they want to know in the 'budget' section of the proposal and the attached project and campaign budgets.  Finally, you must be able to describe exactly (again in verifiable details) how the organization plans to sustain this campaign, the capital project, and the organization's usual operations and growth, all in tandem.

__ In the project description portion of the grant proposal, there must be a definition of the project that is clear and finite including what need the beneficiaries of the organization have for this capital project and how they will benefit from it, a full description of all costs (as explained above), a timeline for the capital campaign (itself), and a timeline for the capital project (whatever the capital campaign is raising funds to finance), and each plan must include contingency plans in case of problems or unforeseen issues.

__ The fundraising plan description of the grant proposal must demonstrate leadership.  The organization, itself, by virtue of its successes and achievements (including its potential for future success), and also the organization's leaders must be of a very reputable, expert, credentialed, and connected quality.  These specific people may not need to be each described in the actual proposal (usually the grant donor's giving guidelines will request a list of the current board of directors, for instance, that may include where each works and their position (or where they retired from, etc.)).  The level of leadership must come across though, by virtue of the quality, capability, successes, and verifiable potential that the organization is relating through the proposal's thorough but concise details, planning, execution, evaluations, interactions in the community, demonstrable community buy in to the organization and this campaign, etc. 

__ The fundraising plan, in the grant application, must also include: a strong indication that the constituents from which most funds will be raised (for the capital campaign) have already been identified, studied for realistic viable fundraising potential, and even already talked with by the nonprofit's leadership, perhaps.  A fundraising plan that can share a case study (or feasibility study, if one's been conducted) that can place the capital project into the context of the community is very compelling.

During the grant process, specifically for a capital campaign, grant donors will typically want the following from organizations that they give grants to (and as always, each grant donor differs from the next one, so it is truly vital that a nonprofit fully researches each potential grant donors it is planning to apply to, BEFORE it applies, in order to know what each grant donor will need, among other reasons):

__ Progress reports (usually at set increments, such as quarterly) which might include: a list of the donors who have given so far, and total funds raised so far, pending fundraising requests and any that include known decision dates, and progress on major donor requests

__ The nonprofit has to have raised money before it applies for grants.  This is why, during a capital campaign, the grant writing work is usually conducted during the second or third phase (of the total fundraising to be done for the campaign).

__ The capital campaign must be funding a goal that truly meets a real (but as yet, unmet) need in the community and preferably meets that need in an innovative but viable way.  It should be a real solution that will do what it intends to, and will be evaluated to check for goal achievement and to determine what needs improvement.

How can you tell if your organization's grant goals for your capital campaign are viable, beyond a feasibility study's findings?  Compare your organization's recent work and operations to any of the larger grant donor's requirements of the organizations that apply to them for capital campaign grants (i.e. Kresge, Ford, etc. foundations).  For example, it is not unusual for a major capital donor to require any nonprofit that applies for a capital campaign grant to have:

__ 3 years, or more, stable financial history

__ continuity of executives (leaders)

__ 100% board giving

__ detailed fundraising and project plans to succeed at both the capital campaign and the actual capital project the campaign will fund

__ ability to achieve each benchmark (for both the fundraising and the project)

__ leverage of the fundraising during the capital campaign (such as a major donor willing to match funds raise, perhaps $2 for each $1 raised - and this is not unusual)

__ transformation of the nonprofit, itself.

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