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.


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

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.

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

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

GrantLessons Blog and GuideStar

Greetings from GrantLessons!

Have you wondered where we have been for the last six months? Well really busy with lots of interesting things going on. But with all those things now under some control, well I am not sure you ever get a great grandson under control, we are ready to start our blog up again. Please note with Wednesday June 1, 2016, the GrantLessons Blog will be active again on a weekly basis.

With many chapters finishing up their year and starting with a new year and new committees, this is a great time to get the new members for your grant committees to sign-up for the GrantLessons Blog. They can do this by going to https://grantlessons.wordpress.com/ website and adding their name to the email list. There are many reference materials on the blog for those interested in grant writing.


Today, I listened to the GuideStar Impact Call that discussed the new Platinum Level available for nonprofits. Those who have been regular readers of GrantLessons know the importance of GuideStar to our work. A significant number of our organizations have reached the Gold Level on GuideStar. The Gold Level focused on qualitative measures. Now the new Platinum level focuses on quantitative measures. As I listened to the GuideStar CEO discuss the new Platinum level it was interesting to hear him acknowledge how hard it can be for a nonprofit to measure outcomes as opposed to outputs.

Tomorrow GuideStar will release the opportunity to complete the metrics to obtain the Platinum level to all nonprofits. I would encourage you to go visit your chapter’s page on GuideStar. You will see that GuideStar has a new facelift since last year and they have made it significantly easier to fill in the information required. Additionally, you now can pull off a report on your chapter’s work. You can easily see the metrics used for the Platinum level by scrolling down on a profile that has obtained the Platinum level.  To my knowledge two chapters have received Platinum level: Assistance League of San Jose and Assistance League of Reno-Sparks. On GuideStar you can check out these two chapters to see the metrics they used to gain Platinum level. We will have more on this exciting opportunity on future posts.

If you have questions let us know.

Also, if you no longer desire to get these posts because you have moved on to other things, please let GrantLessons know so that we can unsubscribe you.

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


This entry was posted on May 10, 2016. 2 Comments

Lesson #48 – Grants Committee Job Description

Greetings from GrantLessons!

You may have heard on the national news about Reno’s winter storm. Many of us (including me) lost our electricity. Last week we looked at the criteria for hiring an application writer. This week GrantLessons is sharing a sample job description for a Grants Committee. You can find a downloadable copy at https://grantlessons.wordpress.com/resources/downloadable-files/  Scroll all the way down for the Sample Job Description.

Shall research and make application for foundation grants and corporate contribution for the chapter/auxiliary (as directed/approved by the Board)

1. Be familiar with chapter bylaws, standing rules, Board policies and National Assistance League policies as appropriate to position
2. Include the President, Vice President and Vice President Resource Development (if Grants Committee reports to VP) in each call for committee members
3. Appoint a Vice Chair and a Secretary to serve on the committee
4. Include auxiliary member as part of committee
5. As a leader, encourage shared responsibility among committee members
6. Oversees the committee member’s work as defined under committee
7. Provide a general orientation to the committee and the committee process to any new member
8. Complete an annual evaluation of job description and procedures
9. Submit all grant or corporate agreements negotiated by the Grants Committee to the President as required for signature and distributes same
10. Meet with the Treasurer as needed to ensure that all grants and contributions are booked properly; attends the Budget and Finance Committee meetings
11. Prepare and submit a monthly report to the Vice-President of Resource Development (assuming Grants Committee reports to VP) to be shared with the Board
12. Submit an annual report to the Vice President of Resource Development (assuming Grants Committee reports to VP) one month prior to the annual meeting

Vice Chair
1. Is knowledgeable about workings of the committee and is able to step in as necessary during an absence by the chair.

1. Take minutes of meetings
2. File minutes in an online file management system, i.e. Dropbox
3. Provide copies of minutes at meeting
4. Submit a list of funded grants and corporation contributions to Marketing Committee twice a year to be used in chapter marketing activities
5. Prepare articles for chapter newsletter as needed
6. Review applications for accuracy of program information and grammatical and spelling issues

Researcher/Information Technology
1. Maintain Chapter’s GuideStar Profile
2. Head the Grant’s Development Subcommittee:
a. Identify potential funders through review of newspaper announcements, local nonprofit organizations and referrals from membership
b. Conduct searches to identify potential funders on search databases, such as, GrantStation and Foundation Directory Online
c. Review funder profiles, Form 990s, and websites against criteria to determine appropriateness to complete a grant or a corporate contribution application
d. Make recommendations to committee to complete applications
e. Maintain a list of potential grant and corporate applications for further research and application completion by grant writers
f. Distribute list of potential grant and corporate applications to the
3. Maintain Dropbox folders and files
4. Maintain committee email address
5. Assist other members with computer issues, i.e. importing documents to applications, saving files to Dropbox folders, learning how to develop answers in a Word document and transfer by “cutting and pasting” into an application
6. Maintain the chapter grants list that identifies all completed applications made; their status – decision, date and amount received; and date any reports are required
7. Ensure that President, Vice-President of Resource Development, Treasurer, Budget and Finance Chair, and Vice President of Philanthropic Programs receive a monthly update to the chapter grants list
8. Provide ongoing training to grant committee members on the grant writing process and answers questions related to doing online applications
9. Ensure that all grant deadlines are met

Grant Writer
1. Evaluate potential grantor’s guidelines for applications, Form 990, website and other material as available and ensures that there is a fit between funder and chapter for potential funding
2. Identify application deadline and completes application prior to deadline with enough time for a review by the Secretary or another member prior to submission
3. Make appropriate contact with potential grant and corporate contribution staff to establish a rapport and offers to show the potential funder to visit chapter
4. Gain any necessary signatures for application
5. Ensure the mailing or online submission of the application
6. Make a copy of the application and sees that a copy is placed in the hard files and Dropbox

1. One month after an application is filed, reviews file to ensure that a copy of application is present in both the hard files and Dropbox
2. Report any discrepancies to the committee members at the next meeting
3. Complete a complete audit of the files annually to ensure all appropriate documents are present

It is getting cold out, this is a good time to think about one think you can do to improve your process.

Catch me when you can and I will catch up with you soon! And stay warm out there! Sandie

Lesson #46 – Annual Evaluation and Lesson #47 Hiring an Application Writer

Greetings from GrantLessons!

The weather is definitely chilling down.

Lesson #46 – Annual Evaluation

It is coming to the end of the fiscal year and it is time to summarize the work of the committee. Taking the tracking form that shows all the applications completed it is easy to summarize the total number of applications completed for each program, with the number funded and the number denied. Additionally, the tracking form will demonstrate the total amount received by program against the chapter’s budget for the Grants Committee.

The Annual Evaluation should acknowledge the members of the committee who have done a lot of work behind the scene.

What can you do with this information? Provide a copy to the Board of Directors and to the Budget and Finance Committee to assist in planning what the Grant Committee can do next year. Also, be sure to note if you do not expect to get a grant next year because the funder does not make donation for consecutive years to an organization, they are closing, or they have told you that the application criteria or time for submittal is changing.

Lesson #47 – Hiring Application Writers
After the Board of Directors 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:
• What strategies do you use to find a funder for our programs?
• Do you have access to a funder search database, such as, GrantStation or Foundation Directory Online? How long have you used this search database?
• Have you written foundation grants?
• When was the last grant you wrote actually funded?
• What is the dollar value of the grants you have received over the last two years?
• Have you obtained any corporate donations in the last two years?
• Are you familiar with our philanthropic programs?
• What has been the main focus of your applications, i.e., education, human services, i. e., programs for children?
• What kind of relationships do you have with funders in our community?
• Are you able to complete an online application for funding?
• How long does it take you to complete an application?
• 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.