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Archive for the ‘ Grant Writing ’ Category

Grant Research: Best Practices

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Many grant writers are captivated by generating Foundation Directory prospect lists and beginning the grant writing process. I say, “Whoa”. While that prospect list is a good place to start, you must remember it is just the first step in your prospect research. What follows are the thorough and appropriate steps to prospect research done in a manner which increases your odds in winning that grant. Here they are:

1. Foundation Directory: Place you criteria in and make certain to click the button which tells them to exclude ‘unsolicited’ applications. This is your first list.

2. Review Prospect List: Review the above prospect list by looking at each funder to find out who they are making grants to. Make a list of those nonprofit organizations who have been recipients of grants from List one. This is now your second list.

3. Review Non Profit Grantee’s: Look at the non profits grantee’s page within the Foundation Directory; make a list of other organizations that have granted to them. You should also take the time to visit their website to see if you can download their annual report. If so, capture even more funders who have granted to them. This process makes up your third prospect list.

You now have three prospects lists by searching the front end within the Foundation Directory through a typical search; but you have created a second and third prospect list (the second list simply leads you to developing your third prospect list) by searching the back end of the Foundation Directory – seeking out grantee’s similar to your organization and finding out who is funding them. This 1-2-3 process can all be accomplished within the Foundation Directory search features.

Now that you have two solid prospect lists which accept unsolicited grant proposals – qualify them and place them into categories of P1 (Priority One), P2 (Priority Two), and P3 (Priority Three); you can qualify by how closely the guidelines match your organization or by grant deadlines. Create a spread sheet to assist you with the next step. Your spreadsheet should include: Name of Organization, Contact Information, Guidelines, Grant Range, Deadlines, Application Information, Grant Submission Date, Ask Amount, Outcome and then a place for Notes.

4. Contact Prospects: Now that you have your prospect lists well organized, you must contact (when allowed) your prospective funder. Remember this, what the guidelines indicate on the foundation directory are only guidelines – call the funder to discuss the guidelines to ensure they truly fit your organization before you write a grant to this organization. This gives you an opportunity to pitch your project and the funder will be more than happy to let you know if it is something that would be of interest to them or not. If they are interested, you submit your grant or letter of intent. If they are not interested you take them off your prospect list.
One of the most common errors in grant research is taking a prospect list and blindly submitting grants to organizations on this list. If you follow the above steps you will be better serving your non profit or clients. You will ensure that you have the most comprehensive list by searching the back end and looking at similar nonprofits and adding their funders to your initial Foundation Directory list. Then you create your spreadsheet so you can easily track your contact with your prospects and finally you call your prospects to ensure they want to receive a grant from you and your organization or client.

Must Have Fundraising Apps for Your Smart Phone

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Whether you’re a social entrepreneur, in the business of federal grant writing, or you scurry around planning special events; there is most likely an app out there created to ease the way. Here are my top five as of October 2012:

1. Kickstarter 101

Kickstarter is a funding platform for creative projects, everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of ambitious, innovative, and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others. Since its launch on April 28, 2009, over $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people, funding more than 30,000 creative projects, now that’s a kick-start!

2. JustGiving

Allows fundraisers to keep track of what they are raising in real-time, it alerts you each time a donation is made and you can easily share with your contacts. Furthermore, if you know who just gave, you can thank them in real time as well! Nifty.

3. Rally.org

Set up a social donation page in minute’s using Rally’s fundraising platform to share your story in a new way. Easily customize a cause donation page with your own design or use one of their templates. It rids you of the cost and burden of needing to create a merchant account for your nonprofit in order to accept donations.

4. The Razoo iPhone App

Razoo enables you to manage your fundraisers and engage your donors. You can keep track of each donation, view your fundraising progress, ask people to give, and thank everyone who makes a donation. A one-stop iPhone fundraising app!

5. Fundraising Basics

This app is perfect for those just starting out in fundraising or those needing fresh ideas for the events they are coordinating. Full of tips and tricks, Fundraising Basics provides you with time saving methods and information to tackle the obstacles you may encounter. In this Android app you will find: 10 things your fundraising plan must include and how to put it together, 12 things your website must tell your visitors, and 6 common-sense but overlooked ways to find untapped pools of donors – among other advice.

Is a Budget your Case for Support?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

I was recently interviewed for an article published in Education Grants Alert, published by LRP Publications. When Editor Krista Birkeland White told me the topic was about  “Using the Budget to Tell the Story” I paused – am I the right person to offer advice concerning a budget? Ugh, this truly is my least favorite piece of the grant puzzle. With that thought, I asked Krista to send me her questions in advance and soon appreciated that I am perfectly practiced on this financial story-telling topic. After all, my favorite piece of the grant puzzle is crafting the case for support and the research required to back it up with stats and facts.

When writing the budget “story” your organization’s finance manager and program officer will make the difference of winning or losing the grant. Your relationship with these individuals is crucial – you must write the grant as a team. Why? It is simple.  This is the only manner in which you can create an authentic budget. A budget that does not under or over estimate the cost of the program you are required to fund.

A budget is all about numbers, right? Wrong. This is where your program officer tells you a story. You see, a successful budget isn’t just about the numbers; it is also about quantifying the numbers by including a budget narrative. A budget narrative backs up your case for support; it lets the prospective funder know how you arrived at that cost (research) and why this cost is essential to your programs success and sustainability (story).  So how does this work? Here is an example. You have your excel spreadsheet budget or their (the funder) budget template finalized to perfection because these numbers came from the program officers needs for program implementation and the finance officers ability to attach a justifiable cost to this programs needs.

Now let’s take one of the itemized costs and create a narrative for it. Imagine that the program which requires funding is for a team of plastic surgeons to travel to Haiti and care for the earth quake victims (true story). Clearly this budget will include travel, lodging and meals. So how do you find out the cost of a hotel in Haiti? Research and phone calls. In the budget narrative you tell your funder what hotels you contacted, who you spoke with and then take an average of the accommodation costs based on contacting a few hotels in Haiti. Next, Haiti at that time was not safe – it wasn’t secure, these surgeons needed security to navigate the area and ensure their safety. How did I know the country was very unsafe – one of the surgeons told me in a conversation; after that conversation I placed security in the budget and then spent a significant amount of time researching and finding those who offer security in Haiti. When you dig deep,  you end up with an authentic budget and a savvy funder will know you are sincerely fiscally smart and responsible. Keep your budget and budget narrative to one page, two at the most. How is this possible? Not all items in your budget require explanation. For example, you could lump airfare, lodging, and meals into one sentence. It’s unnecessary to explain supplies unless its cost is outside the norm.

Now let’s be clear, if the prospective funder has a very specific template you fill out and they do not ask for a narrative to your budget – do not put a narrative in the grant. This simply goes back to the golden rule of grant writing. If a funder asks you specific questions and only wants those questions answered – you do exactly that.

What I’ve really given you here is a grant writing process for budget generation. Sit down with those people that need the stuff and those people who work the numbers. When this happens you have a full understanding of the project and can identify gaps (like a security team to escort surgeons in Haiti). Foundations are making an investment in your project – they want to know and understand where the money is being spent and if it is within reason. Trust me, funders will know if your budget is a hunch and those grants attached to it may become confetti.


Thursday, September 30th, 2010

Sound familiar; eerie yet enticing? To professional grant writers these “offers” are a pernicious scam, it’s a wishing well, except rather than a penny or dime, your tossing in $19.99 or more, and you’re not getting $19.99 back, much less $1.9 million! This is not some harmless hoax. Seminar sellers and book hucksters routinely con people into shelling out hundreds of dollars to hear lectures or purchase directories that contain information readily available in any public library or on the Internet; in fact, I’ll be sharing some of those “freebie” websites with you here. Despite the grim picture I’ve painted, there are authentic government grants for businesses and individuals; the United States government does indeed award $400 billion annually through its 26 federal entities, what they don’t tell you is that they are very restrictive.  In fact, looking back at each federal grant I’ve written as a professional fundraising consultant,  I can tell you with some authority that there are in the area of 15 criteria you need to meet to even consider taking the time and spending the money to write one of these monsters (yes, monsters, imagine writing a Ph.D. dissertation).  Hey if winning grants were that easy, everyone would be rich. Right? Right. So, in order to make this monster of a process KISS — keep it simple stupid (recall that one from college marketing?), I’ll break it down for you. And then YOU count up the criteria you meet, or don’t meet, and from there make the decision to embark on the FREE GOVERNMENT GRANT! band wagon. The first question you need to ask yourself is: Who Are You? I ask because if you fit one or more of the following nine definitions you get to move on to the next six set of criteria.

1.   Female
2.   Minority
3.   Unemployed/Underemployed
4.   Disabled
5.   Recently released from prison
6.   High School Drop Out
7.   Veteran
8.   Recent Immigrant
9.    Sexual Orientation

    OK, you’ve identified who you are; now let’s look at what your business is.

    10.       Green

    11.       Community Revitalization: e.g. Under the Poverty Level, Rural Access, Urban Renewal, Business located in an economically challenged area

    12.       Job Creation

    13.       Economic development, workforce training

    14.       Service for working poor: e.g. child care centers, transportation, low income housing

    15. Innovation, social entrepreneurs, public/private partnerships

    Now, if you fit one or two of the above criteria, most likely, you’ve got a long shot at winning a grant; conversely, if you fit one or more of the 1 – 8 criteria AND one or more of the 10 – 15 criteria, you have a very good case for support for you and your business. Here’s a scenario of what it would look like to qualify for a federal grant:

    You are a female, unemployed veteran with a disability resulting from your years of service. While in the military you were trained as a chef, now home it’s been a dream of yours to start an organic farm in your rural hometown. Because of the people you served alongside you see the value of providing at risk urban youth with the opportunity to experience a rural lifestyle, so you intend to partner with an inner-city high school and have the youth work your small farm, harvest and sell your products at a local farmers market. This venture will require employees, so not only will you be offering at risk youth a positive work experience, you will hire full time and part time employees.  Due to your experience as an unemployed veteran, you have coordinated collaborations with the regional Workforce Development Office so they may help place people with the skills you need, you have also developed a partnership with the regional women’s prison. When a woman is released, and if she shows interest and has passed certain security measures, you will provide them with apprenticeships which could lead to part time or full time employment with you or with another similar operation, now that they have both experience and a work reference which you will provide.

    Last spring the USDA had a grant available which would be an excellent fit for a scenario just as described above.

    So what makes these 15 criteria so special that almost every grant requires meeting several of them? It’s pretty simple actually. Our government grants funds to organizations/businesses that will solve issues or problems facing the US, our economy, our citizens. They’ve identified at risk or hard to employ target populations and if you focus on training or hiring these populations, you are helping them solve a societal problem; making sure recently released prisoners have a fair shake and become productive members of society rather than struggling and perhaps ending up back where they came, which is an enormous cost to the government.

    If you’ve added up your criteria and you believe you may be eligible for a government grant, here are those “freebie” sites to search and see what is available right now.

    Federal Government Website www.Grants.gov

    Fundsnet Services http://www.fundsnetservices.com/searchresult.php?sbcat_id=30

    Philanthropy News Digest http://foundationcenter.org/pnd/

    Society for Nonprofit Organizations http://www.snpo.org

    Council on Foundations: Community Foundation Locator http://classic.cof.org/locator/index.cfm

    FAS Online http://www.fas.usda.gov/ICD/grants/director.html

    USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture http://www.csrees.usda.gov/fo/funding.cfm

    GrantsAlert.com http://www.grantsalert.com/grants.cfm?id=4&pg=0

    Grant Wrangler http://www.grantwrangler.com/subscribe.html

    Environmental Grantmakers Association http://www.ega.org/funders/funderDirectory.php?keyword=&showAll=true

    Investor’s Circle https://angelsoft.net/angel-group/investors-circle/apply

    Funders Concerned about AIDS http://www.fcaaids.org/publications/Publications_Mapping.htm

    ScanGrants.com http://www.scangrants.com/

    For more information on federal grants give our federal grant writers at Wagner Fundraising a call. We’d love to help guide you through the process, or prepare the grant; whatever meets your needs.  More importantly, as professional fundraising consultants and grant writers we at ML Wagner Fundraising will tell you up front if it is a waste of time and money to seek government funding.