Tag Archives: grant research

Three things to consider before applying for a big grant

Three things to considerBig money attracts big dreams. Imagine what your organization could do with a large sum of money. Large could be $25,000 or it could be $25 million. It all depends on your operating budget. Whether you say “yes” to big money, or turn down an opportunity can impact your organization – and community – for years to come. Learn three questions to ask before making a decision.

When you are approached to apply for a large grant it can feel as if your nonprofit has won the lottery. Maybe you’re a grassroots program, a national advocacy organization, or a college or university. In most cases the response is the same: you are excited and begin to evaluate how your programs fit into the grant guidelines. If the proposed grant could cover multiple years your team may feel the heavens have opened. Maybe, and maybe not.

The first pivotal question to ask when considering a major grant is whether or not it is in line with your mission, goals and strategic plan. You can contort your nonprofit and change your direction to secure the funding. But what will that do to your organization? If the grant funding is for services outside of your focus why are you changing your priorities? There are legitimate reasons to change, but make sure yours is a conscious decision. Our general recommendation: don’t chase money that takes you off course.

If you accept funds that are not line with the core work of your nonprofit you can put your organization at risk. You may find that the time and money required for grant management, reporting, and evaluation are not covered in grant funding. Paying for these can become an additional – unfunded – expense.

Second, have you planned for the end of the grant – even as you prepare to apply for funds? For example, have you considered how you will replace the funds once a grant ends? Will the new grant-funded program/ service/advocacy become part of your long-range planning or business plan? If not, what will happen to those you serve?

Third, do you have the information you need to carefully construct a budget for the proposed work? Will grant funds cover current programs, or will you need to expand programming or launch a new program? Will you need to hire additional people? If yes, where will you find the talent you need? How will you retain current and new hires during the life of the grant? What will happen if staff leave your organization? How will you replace them?

Take time to make wise decisions for your organization’s sustainability.

Image courtesy of satit_srihin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Copyright 2015– Mel and Pearl Shaw

Mel and Pearl Shaw position nonprofits, colleges and universities for fundraising success. For help with your fundraising visit www.saadandshaw.com or call (901) 522-8727.

How to write targeted proposals

Last week’s column focused on six basic things you should know before writing a proposal. With this column, we address three more nuanced things to consider.

Writing Targeted ProposalsSome nonprofits create a “boilerplate” proposal and send it out to as many foundations and corporations as possible, hoping to “get a hit.” That is one strategy, and sometimes it is appropriate. Making small modifications to a standard proposal is efficient, particularly when seeking to secure sponsorships and smaller grants. In general, we suggest a more targeted approach.

Here are three things to consider:

  1. What percentage of your revenue do you project will come from foundations or corporations? We recommend building diverse revenue streams. This is important for long term reasons such as having other revenue streams should foundation/corporation giving contract. A shorter term reason to diversify your revenue is that it signals financial health to foundations who are reviewing your proposal.
  2. What percentage of your operating or program budget are you requesting from a specific foundation? Looking to one funder for the majority of your funding sends a red flag to many funders. They have responsibilities they have to consider: one of those is what will happen to your organization or program if they need to reduce or eliminate their support. Does your proposal include a discussion of who you will be approaching for additional funds? Are these realistic potential funders, or foundations you would like to approach but don’t yet know if they will consider your request? This information helps a program officer evaluate your proposal and your ability to deliver on some or all of the deliverables. When developing your project or organizational budget be prepared to answer the question “what if you don’t secure all the funds that you need?”
  3. Is your nonprofit a strong match with the priorities of the foundation you are writing to? For example, if a foundation seeks to reduce poverty in a specific area, it looks to fund nonprofits with a track record of work in that area, that have accountable and effective leadership, and strong community relationships. This is in addition to effective programming and a proposed evaluation method.

These are the business decisions that should be made in advance of submitting a funding request and communicated through your proposal. This is the work of the board and executive leadership, and not the work of fundraising staff and volunteers. It is work that supports fundraising success and that takes time.

Looking for foundation support – “we’ll get a grant” – as a cure all for revenue shortfalls is not a fundraising strategy.

Fundraising is competitive, and as a nonprofit leader it is your responsibility to understand the funding landscape and to proactively address the serious questions that funders will ask.

Related Posts:

  1. The role of the business plan: An interview with Jan Young http://saadandshaw.com/strategic-plan-business-plan/
  2. Business planning for nonprofits: Learn the basics http://saadandshaw.com/business-plan-basics-for-nonprofit/
  3. Benefits of using a business plan: http://saadandshaw.com/the-role-of-the-business-plan-benefits-of-using-a-business-plan/
  4. Ten things you need to know about proposal writing http://saadandshaw.com/grant-writing/
  5. Cultivating foundations http://saadandshaw.com/bringing-home-the-money/
  6. Six things you should know before writing a proposal – http://saadandshaw.com/six-things-you-should-know-before-writing-a-proposal/

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

Six things you should know before writing a proposal

 Writing ProposalsSummer reading is highlighted in Oprah and other magazines each year. A good read is great to enjoy on the beach or curled up on a lawn chair. But what about a good summer write? That’s right –start writing now to help the money come in at the end of the year, or perhaps next spring. That’s how it’s done. Writing proposals now prevents future complaints such as “how can I write that proposal in just three days?” It’s called planning ahead.

Here are six things you should know before writing a proposal.

  1. What type of funding are you seeking? Do you want a grant for a specific program, general operating support, equipment purchases, an advocacy campaign, or for a building (capital project)? Most organizations are looking for funds for multiple projects at the same time. For example, unrestricted or general operating funds are most coveted as they provide an organization with the greatest flexibility. But many foundations now seek to focus their giving more narrowly, and while they may want to support your afterschool health program, they may not be willing to fund outreach that helps ensure you reach the target group of children you want to engage.
  2. How much money do you need to raise in total? How much do you expect to raise from foundations? Corporations? Government sources? Individual donors? Many funders want to see a diversity of projected revenue and they look for it in your proposed budget.
  3. What is your projected impact? What will be different if your organization secures the funds it is seeking? Be specific.
  4. What types of written materials do you have that can help inform the proposal writing process? Ideally you have a case for support that you can draw from. If not, you will need access to your mission statement, vision statement, organizational description, program description, projected evaluation method, impact and – again – budget.
  5. Where could the money come from? You can begin your funding research using The Foundation Center’s online resources (fconline.fdncenter.org/ ). You can pay a small fee for access from your computer, or you may be able to use the database at your library as many libraries subscribe providing you with free access. When you identify a potential funder, review their guidelines closely before you begin writing. Make sure that your project and organization meet the funder’s requirements.
  6. Review the required attachments. Make a list of what you will need to provide. This often includes your 501c3 letter, audited financials, an organizational budget, a project budget, board list with affiliations, and sometimes a list of other projected funders for the project. The attachments alone can launch a mini-crisis if you try to pull these together two hours before the proposal is due.

Start now, and reduce future stress.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.