Archive | April 2015

Lesson #3 and Lesson #4

Greetings from GrantLessons!

Lesson #3: Team Spirit
Long term grant work for an Assistance League Chapter takes a committee of people to accomplish. There is no magic number of people but the more people involved the greater potential for success. Only having one person writing applications for foundation grants and corporate contributions for a chapter is dangerous for obvious reasons.
Team spirit needs to be encouraged and hopefully ingrained into the work of the Grants Committee. A sense of openness and accountability is needed for success. Members may find that they want to continue from one year to another. Every committee should work on bringing on at least one new committed member per year since with time a seasoned member may desire to leave. Turning over the whole committee each year is not in the best interest of the chapter and should be discouraged.

In chapters where there are auxiliaries, there should only be one Grants Committee to prevent competition between them for foundation grants or corporate contributions. What does team spirit include?
• The willingness to be open about how much work they can take on.
• The commitment to do what they say they will do.
• The enthusiasm to learn new skills.
• The ability to bring intelligent comment to the appropriateness of writing an application for a chapter’s program.
• The desire to help others when illness or other situations arise that makes it difficult for the member to complete her obligations.
• The capacity to look at the big picture of all the chapter and auxiliary program needs.
• The enthusiasm and passion to use their time and talents to make a difference to lots of people.


Lesson #4 – Committee Structure
Now that the chapter has determined that they desire to work towards starting to write applications or to improve on writing applications for foundation grants and corporate contributions, structuring a committee is essential to completing the needed tasks. There is so much more to do besides writing an actual successful application. Each committee member brings a specific skill set to the work at hand. There are 6 roles that need to be in place for a successful committee including: chair, secretary, researcher, technical support, writers, and reviewers. When starting out, one member can take on more than one role. As the work of the committee grows over time, each member will focus on a specific role that helps the committee function and leads to its success in raising funds for the chapter’s philanthropic programs.

Let’s start with the leader of the committee, the chair. The chair needs the following skill set:
• Ability to attract people to work on the committee,
• Ability to organize,
• Ability to set an agenda,
• Ability to facilitate a meeting,
• Ability to track all applications completed showing dates of submittal and action received, either approval or denial,
• Ability to set-up and monitor a communal committee email address, and
• Ability to mentor and oversee the work of the committee making adjustments to work assignments as needed.
More than anything the chair needs to set a tone with the committee of shared responsibility to accomplishing the work of the committee. The chair handles all administrative functions, such as completing reports to the Board, participating in budget meetings, and assigning an application to a writer.
The chair should not have the position for more than two years. After the first year she needs to be actively mentoring her replacement. Hopefully, she continues to say on the committee and takes on one of the other roles if she is not an active writer. The chair provides training as necessary to the committee members. She works closely with the Treasurer and the Budget/Finance Committee to ensure that the budget assigned to the committee is reasonable for the projected year. Remember the chair does not necessarily have to write applications, but she may.

The secretary records and distributes committee minutes. The secretary needs the following skill set:
• Ability to capture discussions into short concise action oriented statements,
• Ability to produce timely minutes
• Ability to distribute minutes to members within a short period after the meeting,
• Ability to locate a meeting place, and
• Ability to remind members of the meeting a few days in advance.
The secretary’s role is to capture the details of the meetings so that the committee can review their minutes and ensure themselves that all tasks assigned are followed through. Remember the secretary does not necessarily have to write applications, but she may

The researcher searches databases and seeks other means to identify potential funders. This role is very important to the work of the committee.The researcher needs the following skill set:
• Ability to have patience and persistence as personality traits,
• Ability to search databases, such as, GuideStar, Foundation Directory Online, and GrantStation;
• Ability to match chapter philanthropic program needs with potential funders;
• Ability to search potential funder websites and other social media;
• Ability to structure a list of potential funders with key variables; and
• Ability to present short coherent analysis of potential funders to committee members.
The researcher should enjoy being a detective and desire with a passion to find potential funders. The researcher will need good computer skills. Remember the researcher does not necessarily have to write applications, but she may.

Technical Support
Technical support provides assistance to the members as well as maintains and updates files. Technical support needs the following skill set:
• Ability to administer and maintain online file management system (Dropbox or Google Docs),
• Ability to upload documents,
• Ability to resize portable document files (pdfs),
• Ability to maintain chapter’s GuideStar profile,
• Ability to maintain usernames and passwords, and
• Ability to assist writers who need assistance with online applications.
The technical support provides the “how” to working with computers and handling documents and she supports the committee with computer technical questions. Remember the researcher does not necessarily have to write applications, but she may.

The writer fills out paper and online applications for foundation grants and corporate contributions. She takes all the information from the funder profiles, websites, and the philanthropic program needs and uses it to craft the application. Writers need the following skills:
• Ability to discern that the recommendation to write an application is worth her time,
• Ability to decipher and condense information into compelling statements,
• Ability to use grammar and spelling conventions,
• Ability to follow instructions in every detail,
• Ability to gain a colleague’s review of any applications,
• Ability to submit applications timely,
• Ability to send a timely thank you whether the application was approved or denied,
• Ability to save the application to Dropbox or Google Docs, and
• Ability to mentor less experienced writers.
The writer does write applications.

The reviewer is very important to the committee. She guarantees that each application is reviewed for accuracy of content. She looks for mistakes in grammar and spelling. Lastly, the reviewer reviews the files annually to ensure that all documents reside both in the online file management systems and the chapter’s hard files. Applications are subject to review by the annual auditing process. The reviewer needs the following skills:
• Ability to catch mistakes,
• Ability to bring mistakes to her colleagues attention,
• Ability to meet the deadlines of the applications, and
• Ability to ensure that all documents, including interim and final reports are complete.
Remember the reviewer may not write applications, but she may. If the reviewer writes an application, she must find another colleague to review her application work.
When a committee chunks the work in sizable time elements and works together as a team they are able to make a major contribution to their chapter’s funding sources. Remember if there are enough people each person can take on one of the six roles, if not then the roles can be shared by the members available. Next, a few words on shared responsibility.

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


Getting Started/ Lesson #1 and Lesson #2

Greetings from GrantLessons!

Over the next 6 months, each week two lessons will be released to engage chapter members to write applications for foundation grants and corporate contributions. This is the time to get your team signed up to receive the blog which comes every week in an email. This is easy. Simply go to and sign up by entering your email address in the upper right corner. Remember it is also important to go to the actual website to look at the resources that are available. Also, we hope that the blog will become more interactive by you asking questions or making comments.

The lessons have been reorganized. There are five sections: Directions, Process, Program Outcomes, Marketing, and Next Steps. Each section contains a series of lessons. In the first section “Directions”, 7 lessons provide information on how to set-up a team. The second section is the largest section, “Process” since it contains 30 lessons. The Process section is  divided into five parts: preparation, funding sources, writing, submission, and decision. This section is where a member learns how to make a case for their application. Section III provides information on program outcomes and contains 5 lessons. Section IV contains information on marketing and its importance in writing applications and contains 3 lessons. The last section, Section V, discusses “Next Steps” and contains 3 lessons. Let’s get started.

Lesson #1: Strategic Planning
Each chapter has a strategic planning committee and there is help on the National Assistance League website where there is a Strategic Planning Handbook for your use. To summarize, strategic planning is not a recap or summary of what you are doing today. It is a look into the future and how you will get there. Strategic planning should take place before the budgeting process. As an organization works through its assessment, goals and strategies, a plan will be established. When the goals and/or strategies identify either establishing application writing for foundation grants or corporate contributions or to improve on the current program, a committee will be established to complete the task. Many chapter committees are simply called the Grants Committee. The next step for the Grants Committee should be to reach for GrantLessons – A Practical Guide.
Attempting to write applications by yourself or without strong support of the chapter members will leave holes that will delay the process or lead to ineffectiveness. So how do chapter members who have taken on this task begin? They really need to sit down and discuss the goal and strategies established by the Strategic Planning Committee and voted on by the membership. They need to understand the scope of the Grants Committee’s work and its requirements before they move forward.
What are the requirements? What should one do first and then next? The following 6 lessons provide further recommendations and suggestions. Next, let’s move onto budgeting.

Lesson #2 – Budgeting
Each chapter has a financial committee and there is help on the National Assistance League website where there is a Financial Handbook for your use. Expressing the goals and plan of action for a chapter in dollar terms is the process called budgeting. When the budget is put together it is important that someone from the Grants Committee participates in the process. Again this is a discussion, where the chapter’s finance committee determines how the resources will come to the chapter and how they will be expended in their philanthropic programs. There are many revenue streams. Now that the strategic planning process has established that application writing for foundation grants and corporate contributions will be one of the revenue streams there are many questions that may come up.
• Will all the money raised during the fiscal year have to be spent in that fiscal year?
• In the fundraising process how many different funding streams are there?
• How much money can the Grants Committee raise?
• Which programs have the possibility of being funded by grants?
• What has been the previous record of the Grants Committee to raise money? Is the committee new?
After all these discussions, a budget document is constructed with targeted numbers by program for the Grants Committee. Time will only tell whether these numbers are realistic or not.  Budget adjustments may need to be made during the year, if the Grants Committee raises more money than anticipated or some previous funding sources dry up.

If you need additional information about GrantLessons please go to .

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

Catching Up

Greetings from GrantLessons!

It is so good to be back at writing the GrantLessons Blog, I have been away celebrating my husband’s retirement from flying airplanes. I also have been doing some thinking about how to be of better service to those of you interested in writing applications for foundation grants and corporate contributions. But first I promised an update on GuideStar on my last blog, so let’s get to that first. Be sure to read all the way down!

I indicated that there would be an update on GuideStar. Here is what I am seeing when I went to update our local chapter’s GuideStar account. There are a couple of new sections: Board Leadership Practices and Organizational Demographics. The first section focuses on the  items:

1. Whether there is a formal orientation for new board members?

2. Whether board members sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities and expectations?

3. Whether there is a written  CEO evaluation; conflict of interest policy; diversity of thought and leadership; and a CEO assessment?

The second section focuses on the changing demographics GuideStar worked with D5, a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy, to create this section, which enables organizations and donors to transparently share information about staff, board, and volunteer demographics.

1. Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations?

2. Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

3. Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements within the past year?

4. Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?

5. Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?

It is important to update your chapter’s GuideStar profile at least once a year. I am glad that we got ours done this last week!

GrantLessons Start Again

Sometime ago, GrantLessons published a weekly lesson on writing applications for foundation grants and corporate contributions. Since that time, we have learned a lot more about the whole process. Recently, I met with the National Resource Development Committee in Glendale,CA providing them with an update on GrantLessons. Our decision was to continue writing the GrantLessons blog and to publish the lessons again with refinements. So, if you are participating on a Grant Committee or know of others who are getting interested in writing applications, now is the time for them to join the GrantLessons blog. Additionally, if you are no longer getting these emails, please send me an email at and I will remove you from the list.

Each week, starting next Wednesday a lesson or two will be published to get everyone knowledgeable about writing applications for foundation grants and corporate contributions. The goal is to write a procedure manual that can be published on the National Assistance League website for those who come behind us to use. You and your committee can follow the blog and take the lessons to each of your meetings and discuss the information and see if you have more questions that you feel are not answered. Together we will get to the answers that will help you be able to find funding for your philanthropic programs.

Over the last two years, more chapters have started to educate themselves on the writing of applications for foundation grants and corporate contributions. Initially, many were simply intimidated by the process and didn’t think they had the skills or desire to participate. Now, chapters are working at developing teams that will continue over time.

I can only talk for a minute or two about the pure enjoyment that I find in helping my chapter raise funding for our philanthropic programs. Yes, it is not as easy as I first thought it might be but with time and support, our local committee has slowly made improvements. It is exciting for me to see my colleagues grow in their abilities and their desire to raise money by participating on our committee. I don’t know what your definition of fun is but mine is helping others find funds to help those who need help. Without the work we do, others would go without.

Come join in the fun!! You can do this work in your pajamas with a hot cup of tea (coffee) at your side. Just think what you could do by participating or getting your friends to participate.

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