Archive | June 2016

Lesson #9 – Foundation Grants and Corporate Contributions

Greetings from GrantLessons!

I hope this post finds you enjoying your summer. I am lucky to be in Birch Bay, Washington today enjoying a boat ride on a friend’s boat. Just taking a few minutes out to let you know that if you have gotten your team set-up you are ready to start the next process which is to evaluate foundations and corporations that are trying to find nonprofit organizations so they can give them a percentage of their income so they can maintain their tax status with the IRS.

Now that we have established a team, we need to determine which of our programs would be a good match for seeking foundation grants or corporate contributions. There are several things that need to be considered including the chapter’s location, the characteristics of the chapter’s program, whether or not the chapter has previously received funding from a grantor or corporation previously  and the tolerance the members have for failing.

Chapter Location

If your chapter is located in a large metropolitan area your chances of finding a match between your chapter’s programs and a funder are significantly better. However you must assess your community. You may be in a smaller community and find that a director of a large foundation lives in your community and therefore your city has been singled out as the only city in the country that can receive funding.

Chapter Program Characteristics

The team must evaluate their program for which they desire to ask funding. A well established program with evaluations done regularly will provide substantial information for the writer to present a case statement. Essentially, founders want to know their funding is going to a needed program in the community. The funder wants to know that that program is not duplicating services. They are interested in the chapter being able to sustain the program in the future. They like seeing that other foundations support the program.

Funding Sources

It may not be entirely apparent to us why founders ask the questions they ask. Many funders will ask if they gave money to your chapter the previous year. They may desire to provide funding every other year. The funder may want a long term relationship with a nonprofit they trust and therefore seek out repeat funding opportunities. The important point for us as applicants is to answer all the questions that the funder asks to the best of our ability. If funding has been received previously, it is important to maintain the established relationship with completing reports and/or sending out justification letters annually.

Ability to Fail

A tolerance for failure will help the team be successful. When starting to write applications there is nothing like getting funding for the work done. However, because one gets a denial on an application is still a success. With every application written one learns from it and becomes more familiar with the process. As the confidence of the team grows, they will eventually find success in funding for an application. So one just has to continue to fill out applications because without doing that funding will never be obtained.

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

 

 

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Lesson #7 – Jing and Lesson #8 Setting Up the Hard Files

Greetings from GrantLessons!

I have been playing for the last couple of weeks as I attended my brother’s wedding in Illinois and now on my way to the Northwest. This lesson is best reviewed on your computer. Simply go to http://www.grantlessons.wordpress.com to view.

Lesson #7 Jing

Everyone that is sharing information with others should learn about Jing. Jing is a free program from TechSmith. Be sure you use this link to get to the free program. https://www.techsmith.com/jing.html . Simply select “Download” and follow the prompts to put the program on your computer. The video below demonstrates how the program works to capture information.

 

I use Jing every day to get information that I want to share with members of our Grants Committee. Instead of sending a whole document, I capture just the part I want someone to read. If you need help ask someone who is tech savvy to help you learn this great tool.

Lesson #8 – Setting up the Hard Files

Have you inherited a file drawer with a lot of old grant files? Do you know what is in there? Can you get your fingers in between the folders to get some documents out? Do you just hate filing? Clean neat files makes the work for everyone easier. First be sure that you have enough file drawers. Be sure you have a hanging file frame to hold the file folders.

Labeling and organizing the folders is important and everyone will have a slightly different approach. Do you alphabetize all the folders by the full name of the foundation or do you use a nickname or a partial name on the outside of the folder? Do you keep foundation folders in the current file that your chapter has not filed an application or received a check for years? Do you have so many folders that you need a second file drawer?

The files are confidential but need to be accessible and organized for all committee members to use. However, it is very important that the members do not take the files home. Instead they should make copies of pertinent documents that will help them write an application for the second time. With time putting pertinent documents into Dropbox helps the members to access what they need online.

Lastly, it is very important to keep the filing current and to review the mail opening procedure. Just think if a grant agreement gets to the Treasurer’s office and filed without a copy getting to the Grant Committee’s mailbox, potentially a grant could be lost because the chapter did not complete a requirement of the funder. One needs to remember that the auditors use the hard files each year to demonstrate that a grant application was completed and donations received.

Boring as filing is, it is essential to a good grant writing process. Check out your files today and see what you can do to make your chapter’s grant file better for all the use it.

Well now we have gotten through the first group of lessons and our preparation to write grants has come a long way. Next week, we will start with learning about foundations and corporations where we will request funding for our chapter programs. If you are behind on a lesson or two it is a good time to catch up because we soon will be in the fast lane in our grant writing process.

 

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

Lesson #5 Shared Responsibility and Lesson #6 Orientation

Greetings from GrantLessons!

The more the members of the Grants Committee start working as a team, the sooner they will have success. I heard from Pam this week from Assistance League of Huntington Beach. She reports that she has been working in getting the team together and now is ready to start writing applications. You go Pam!!!!

Lesson #5: Shared Responsibility
The roles discussed in Lesson 4 are critical for the committee to function and to become successful. A separate lesson on shared responsibility is really a discussion on being a team player. Take a look at your current committee and how it functions. Does everyone try to do the same thing? Is there a leader, a secretary, a researcher, a technical support, a writer, and a reviewer? How are the roles divided up? Are all members team players?
While the work is parsed out to individuals they have to work in tandem for the committee to function like a well-oiled professional sports team. While everyone has their key role, they also share the responsibility of the whole committee. Members must work together and over time they will learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Here are a few thoughts on shared responsibility:
• Shared responsibility respects the skill and contribution each member makes to the goal (researching and writing applications).
• Shared responsibility recognizes the success as a team and not as any one person.
• Shared responsibility knows when you need to step back and let someone else take the lead on a subject.
• Shared responsibility spends time in active listening, rather than talking over someone at a meeting.
• Shared responsibility knows the strengths and weaknesses of each other and bolstering the strengths and understanding the weaknesses of each member.
• Shared responsibility looks at a grant application as taking a forward step whether it is approved or denied.
• Shared responsibility knows when you need help and asking for it.
• Shared responsibility earns the respect of other team members.
• Shared responsibility knows how to handle a disagreement with class so that all members feel good emotionally about the outcome.
• Shared responsibility picks up for another with a smile on one’s face.

Lesson #6: Orientation and Mentoring
A new member needs orientation and mentoring when they join a Grants Committee. A short interview will let the committee chair understand what tasks the new member can accomplish and the time commitment they are able to make. Generally the member will need to understand how to accomplish their work using computers. However, when there are paper applications, the member may find them easier to accomplish.

Orientation

The orientation focuses on the member’s role on the committee (outlined in Lesson #2).
• Time and date committee meets
• Dropbox
• Email username and password
• Review of documents stored into Dropbox
• Sample paper application
• Sample paper online
• Specific functions for the committee member:
o Leading the committee
o Taking minutes
o Completing research
o Writing Applications
o Chapter reporting of activities
Mentoring

Once orientation is completed the member needs assignments. It is best to start with small tasks and builds to larger tasks. The mentor can work with the member to determine the speed at which they can proceed.
Different strategies work for different people. Some individuals may want to explore after they have been given an orientation. Others will desire to have someone sitting at their side, especially if this is the first time they have complete an online application. While others, who have done this work before, may just need to be given an application to complete.

Remember you can see more information by going to http://www.grantlessons.wordpress.com .

Catch me when you can and I will catch up with you soon! It is fun for me to watch people come onto a team and grow. It takes longer to teach someone how to do this work than it does to do the work. With more people doing the work in the long run you will help your team make more money for your community.

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

Lesson #3 – Team Spirit and Lesson #4 GuideStar

Greetings from GrantLessons!

Summer is coming! And has it warmed up in Reno over the last couple of days! This is a great time to gain momentum for your grants work. Getting a team together is the most important task the leader needs to do. Sustaining grant work over time is a continuous process. Writing applications is a year round activity since applications have different due dates.

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 the chapter and auxiliary 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. This should be part of the chapter’s strategic plan. 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.

Chair
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 stay 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.

Secretary
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

Researcher
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.

Writer
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.

Reviewer
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.

Lesson #4 Importance of GuideStar

Greetings from GrantLessons! It is time for Lesson #4 – Importance of GuideStar.

When I first started writing grants, I really never realized the importance of GuideStar.

I learned that GuideStar has a database of 1.8 million nonprofits. GuideStar loads Form 990’s from the IRS after they have been processed. Every nonprofit in the country has to file a Form 990, that is if they want to remain in good standing with the IRS. Now GuideStar has developed a process of transparency where nonprofits may update their profile to include specific information about their programs. In return GuideStar Exchange provides a participation level for each nonprofit.

Part of GuideStar’s business plan is to sell access to their database to people who want to give money away. Remember depending on the foundation, they have to give a certain percentage away each year to maintain their tax status. And, this is where we come in. If one of the grantor’s decides to use GuideStar Exchange as part of their criteria to determine which nonprofits they intend to fund, we want our chapter’s profile to have the Gold level.

You can look your chapter up on GuideStar by going to http://www.guidestar.com. If you select the yellow button labeled “Update Nonprofit Report” you can update your chapter’s profile on GuideStar. As we reach out to try to get new grants from the ones we have always been able to get each year, GuideStar Exchange becomes very important to us.

I really get excited when I can find a new potential grantor for our chapter. I have a hot lead and now I am off to see if we would qualify. If you are still reading, I hope you will take the next step in finding applications to write. With a team and applications you are getting in shape to make money for your chapter and help people who live in your community.

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

Getting Started/ Lesson #1 Strategic Planning and #2 Budgeting

Greetings from GrantLessons!

I hope this email finds you doing well! I had the great pleasure of attending the Leadership Training Conference this past week in Glendale. It was rewarding and fun to hear from many of your chapter presidents as to the success you have obtained this last year. I was delighted to hear that many chapters like Assistance League of St. Louis have started a team and now are beginning to see the success from putting the work in to getting the team formed and educated. The day I met their President she told me she had heard from her chapter that day they have received two grants. I wished you could see how happy she was as she gave me a big hug! Congratulations to St. Louis!!

What is Coming?

I am refreshing the lessons previously shared on this blog to help you and your team write applications for corporate contributions and foundation grants. 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 http://www.grantlessons.wordpress.com/ and sign up by entering your email address in the upper right corner.

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.
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. Let’s face the fact that we are all volunteers. Things happen and when we  do things by ourselves there may not be the backup system in place to sustain our work. 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. They should not start unless the chapter intends for this to be a long term effort and that there are a few people who really commit to the process. It will take time to do but not as much time as putting up a large fund raiser.

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 http://www.grantlessons.wordpress.com .What are you thinking about the first two lessons? Come on leave your first comment or pose a question. Let’s make this fun!!

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