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.

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.

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.

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


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