Archive | April 2014

Lesson #32 – Hiring an Application Writer

Greetings from GrantLessons!

Warmer weather is coming to Reno! GrantStation has published The Spring 2014 State of Grantseeking Report. There is good news for us in that according to the report, “Compared to the Fall 2013 Report, private foundation awards increased by 5%, community foundation awards increased by 9%, and corporation awards in the form of gifts or products increased by 14% .” Additionally, the report adds, “Private foundations were most often the source of the largest grant award”. You can read the full free report by going to the homepage at http://www.grantstation.com .

After the Board does its assessment it may decide that hiring an application writer for foundation grants and corporate contributions is what needs to happen for their organization.

Here are a few questions to ask potential candidates:

1. What strategies do you use to find a funder for our programs?

2. Do you have access to a funder search database, such as, GrantStation or Foundation Directory Online? How long have you used this search database?

3. Have you written foundation grants?

4. When was the last grant you wrote actually funded?

5. What is the dollar value of the grants you have received over the last two years?

6. Have you obtained any corporate donations in the last two years?

7. Are you familiar with our philanthropic programs?

8. What has been the main focus of your grants, i.e., education, human services, i. e., programs for children?

9. What kind of relationships do you have with funders in our community?

10. Are you able to complete an online application for funding?

11. How long does it take you to complete an application?

12. Do you use an online file management system like Dropbox?

Lastly, how you pay a grant writer should not be based on a commission nor should you pay anyone to find a funder for your Chapter. Additionally, compensation should not be written into a grant.

Remember the work you are doing is very important, take a minute and pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

Catch me when you can and I will catch up with you soon! Sandie

 

 

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Lesson #31 – Evaluating Your Opportunities

Greetings from GrantLessons!

Once a year I need to look at what has been accomplished. It is part of an overall model that has worked for me for years. It starts with assessment, making a plan, accomplishing the plan and then evaluating. There is no right or wrong in the assessment, the facts speak for themselves. So how can you do an assessment of your fund raising opportunities? For most chapters there are five main opportunities to raise money: solicitations, thrift shop revenues, retail sales, fund raisers, and grants. Through the strategic planning process, a chapter decides how much money they need to raise and how they plan to do it. Nothing happens without planning. One of my favorite statements is, “Prior planning prevents poor performance”.

Obtaining grants long-term for chapter philanthropic programs will only work if there is commitment from a team of skilled members. Realistically, a chapter needs to look at their geographic location. If the chapter is located in a large metropolitan area like Reno, Kansas City, or St. Louis there are funders who want to provide resources to nonprofit organizations. If the chapter is in a small rural community, the opportunities are limited. A chapter needs to determine where they want to put their resources which is basically the time and talent of their members. Some chapters have members who love to spend their time putting together a large event that raises thousands of dollars each year because it is well established. Others have a well developed solicitation which nets them thousands each year.

For many grant writing is fraught with fears! The posts of this blog has worked at providing a step by step practical guide to obtaining grants for chapters. This is a long time strategy, it will not happen overnight, nor in a year. It may take as many as 3 to 4 years before the initial work of the first group of people who take the steps shows fruition. The work has to be about consistency and improvement one step at a time over time. Let there be no questions, grants are not going away. Funders have too much at stake in the tax breaks they receive to have it go away. Funders are getting smarter in their distribution of funds. They are looking for work that makes a difference and Assistance League chapters’ work meets that criteria. They are looking for results and we have results.

The most important thing you can do is really think about whether grant writing is right for your organization at the Board level. If the Board determines that this strategy is right for your Chapter then the next step is to develop a team of people who can make grant writing important and successful in your chapter.

Here are questions that the Board should evaluate:

1. Is the chapter located in a geographic area where funders are making grants, i.e., in or near a metropolitan area?

2. Are there members who could work together to develop a plan to write grants for the long-term?

3. Do those members have the skills or can they be trained in the skills to complete applications?

Each chapter has to determine for itself whether completing applications is part of the way they see themselves raising money for their chapter.

I just want to put a plug in for those chapters who live close to or in large metropolitan areas, there are monies out there for your chapter! And it is fun to find those opportunities and bring in the money!

Catch me when you can and I will catch up with you soon! Sandie

Lesson #30 – Nonprofit Facebook Page

Greetings from GrantLessons!

I thought the winter weather was over until my Illinois farmer brother-in-law called and said that he had two inches of snow on his fields.

Last week we discussed how to make an impression on a funder through the chapter’s website. Another opportunity is the nonprofit’s Facebook page. A website contains static pages while Facebook pages are dynamic in that they are changing and create a timeline of events. Also others can make comments about your chapter’s posts. Facebook lets a funder see the human side of your work so Facebook pages should be populated with recipient pictures (be sure to get photo releases). Also, if a funder goes to your Facebook page and it has only a few “likes” that is not very convincing that your nonprofit organization has much public support. You should do a campaign so that your Facebook page has many “likes”.

Marketing both your philanthropic programs and your fund raising opportunities demonstrates to the community that the chapter is doing important work as well as raising money for its programs. However, running a Facebook page takes someone committed to finding fresh material and photos to put on Facebook. Again would your Facebook page convince a funder that your organization was the best. Like I am always saying, “You never really know who you are speaking to or who is reading about your chapter online”.

Enjoy the nice Spring weather if it is available and to those of you still working through the winter just remember Spring is up next.

Catch me when you can and I will catch up with you soon! Sandie

 

Lesson #29 – Nonprofit Website

Greetings from GrantLessons!

I have been on the road and am now glad to be home. 😉

Last week we discussed how to make an impression with a funder when they do not want any contact with the applicants. In nearly every application completed I find that the funder wants the applicant’s website. What does your website say about your chapter? Does it look fresh or tired? Is the information up-to-date? Does your website still have last year’s Board of Directors when your application has this year’s Board of Directors? Do you have your financial documents posted on the website, i.e., Form 990 and audited financials? Do you have any recipient stories and/or pictures about your chapter’s work? Take a look at http://alstl.org/ where Assistance League of St. Louis’s website provides a great example. Another one is Assistance League of Kansas City at http://www.alkc.org/Default.aspx.

Have you obtained  GuideStar Gold standing and have you posted the widget on your website?

A potential funder may look at your website to get more information about your operation! A website sales a chapter’s work, would your website break a tie between two local nonprofits in a funder’s decision?

Catch me when you can and I will catch up with you soon. Sandie

 

This entry was posted on April 9, 2014. 1 Comment

Lesson #28 – Marketing and Relationships

Greetings from GrantLessons!

 

Well I had to come to Portland OR to find rain! This week I promised to discuss the importance of marketing and relationships to the application writing process for foundation grants and corporate contributions. Let’s start with relationships.

It is sometimes hard to establish a relationship with a funder because they do not want to appear to be biased in the decision making process of which organization gets funding. Read the application over at least three times. Frequently, one finds a statement like, “due to the number of applications received the funder cannot receive questions about the application” especially questions like, “Will my application be funded?” Once an application is submitted it can take from one month to six months before a determination is made. Again if the funder does not want calls do not make calls while you are waiting.

Sometimes a member of the foundation’s board of directors will call and want to meet with someone from the organization. Be sure that you return the call as soon as possible within one business day. If the funder wants to talk, invite them to your chapter house and show them around and be sure to focus your conversation around the program for which you are requesting money.

Once you receive funding you will find that either the funder wants recognition for their donation or they want to remain anonymous and do not want to be included in marketing efforts on your part. Be sure to respect their wishes.

So how does one impress a funder with information about the chapter outside the application? Marketing your chapter is very important. There is a reason why nearly every application asks for a website address. It is important to work with your website administrator to make sure all data is relevant and up to date. For instance, you do not want last year’s list of Board Members on your website. Be sure that your philanthropic program information provides information about the good work you are doing. Placing anecdotal stories from recipients on your website is a valuable addition to funders who rarely ask for this information in a application.

Do you have a Speakers Bureau, this is another great opportunity to express your appreciation to funders who help make the chapter’s philanthropic programs possible. Do you have a community newsletter, this is a great place to list those funders who provide grants and contributions. Do you have an ongoing DVD running in your thrift shop that shoppers view when they visit, this is another place to be sure and have a slide that covers those funders who want the recognition. Are you lucky enough to have a local radio or television commercial where you discuss your philanthropic programs and how they are funded? Do you have an annual report, be sure to list the funders and send them a copy. You have to remember you never know who you are having a conversation about the work you are doing and your ongoing need for funding! For instance I know that one of our major funders happened to initially hear about our organization at a service club presentation. Another funder heard about our work from another funder. Word of mouth is still one of the most common ways to spread the news about your chapter.

Out for a fun day with my granddaughter;-)

Catch me when you can and I will catch up with you soon! Sandie