Lesson #16 – Writing Nonprofit History and Program Descriptions and Lesson #17 – Potential Funding Tracking Documents

Greetings from GrantLessons! This post is best viewed by going to http://www.grantlessons.wordpress.com.

How are things going? It is hard to believe summer is almost over. Our application writing activities are in high gear. It is great to work with a team since we never know when life will throw a curve into our work. It is nice to know that we can call up another member and say, “hey, can you help me, I have an application due next week and I have a catastrophe going on”. One of my favorite statements is “Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance”. Just think the material we are working on this week may only need to be written once and then simply tweaked from one year to the next. No reinventing the wheel here!

Lesson #16 – Writing Nonprofit History and Program Descriptions

The committee will need a description of the chapter’s history and its programs.


Each chapter has its own history. It is important to collect the facts. The facts need to demonstrate a solid and energetic nonprofit ready to serve its community. The history should include the date the chapter was established and its affiliation with National Assistance League. Next one can indicate the number of philanthropic programs that are supported by the chapter, the number of members and the number of service hours contributed by members in the last fiscal year. One can then start with the date and name of the first program and then in one sentence explain whom the program serves. The writer then proceeds to follow the same format for the rest of the programs. At the end, the writer refers the reader back to their website. After the draft is completed, be sure to have several people read it for accuracy, clarity, spelling errors and correct use of grammar. The writer then needs to send the document for review by saving the document to Dropbox in a separate folder. The reviewer can then open, edit, and save the document back to Dropbox.

Program Descriptions

The number of philanthropic programs is different for each chapter. Funders will either desire to learn only about the specific program that the application is written for or they may want a short synopsis of all the chapter’s programs. Additionally, this is one variable where the number of words or characters may be limited (150 to 1,500). The writer must capture the heart and soul of the program in a few succinct words. The description should start with the date the program started. The description should include outcome specific data. The number of service hours spent in administering the program during the last fiscal year should be included.

It helps if the program has been established for a period of time so one has some outputs to use, such as, the number of children clothed in the Operation School Bell program during the last year. In writing a good narrative here are some tips:

  • Put your good writing hat on (know your grammar and spelling issues);
  • Simple is better, be sure to write in the active voice;
  • Remember the funder knows nothing about your programs, paint a picture;
  • Support your writing with current data; and
  • Know what you are asking for and why you are asking, tell a compelling story;
  • Tell your story with passion;
  • Proofread what you write; and
  • Ask someone else to critique what you have written.

Save the document file to Dropbox. One can upload all programs on one document and then cut and paste as appropriate for each online application depending on whether they want only the program for which the application is written or they want to understand all the programs that the chapter conducts.

Lesson #17 – Potential Funding Tracking Documents

Well the last lesson was long and this one will be shorter. It is important to keep track of the funders you evaluate. I use two Excel spreadsheets. The first one catalogues each of the foundations and corporations that are not a match for our chapter’s programs. On the second one, I put those foundations and corporations that I believe our committee will want to write a letter of inquiry or application. Go to http://www.grantlessons.wordpress.com and you find sample forms for both under Resources/DownloadableFiles/Funding /Grantor Name Searched  and Resources/DownloadableFiles/Funding/Evaluation Elements. Please take the time to check these out. If you have decided to use both GrantStation and Foundation Directory Online, be sure that you add a column showing which database you used.

While this may seem like an extra step, it is important to do since often times our committee members do not stay on the committees for more than a year or two. If you do not know how to set up an Excel spreadsheet, ask others in your chapter to assist you. Once it is developed, adding the data is a simple task. Remember to add these documents to your chapter’s Dropbox so that other members will have access to them.

It is early in the process and as things get more technical, you will be glad that you engaged someone to work with you on the technical stuff. Remember not everyone on the Grants Committee needs to write applications, there are many tasks that need to be done.

Catch me when you can and I will catch up with you soon! Conference is coming up soon and I am looking forward to seeing many of you there. Sandie


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