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Pithy Pointers for Great Proposals

January 22nd, 2010

Here are a few tips for effective grant writing. These were presented during my grant writing worship for Impact 100 Sonoma earlier this month:

1. Avoid jargon. An average person, not a specialist, is your target audience. Stay away from bureaucratic “industry-speak” and non-concrete words. Have a friend or outsider read your drafts to hold you accountable.

2. Don’t be afraid of emotional goals. For example, Redwood Empire Food Bank says: “Our mission — to end hunger in our community — can only be accomplished with community support. “

3. Invite readers into your world. Point out telling details, ask readers to use their senses to listen, to smell, to hear and to see what you do.

4. Eschew the “could” word. Use the verb tense will to describe potential future accomplishments. The conditional tense, “If we receive the grant, then we could double our floor space, “ is much weaker than a definitive statement: “The Impact 100 Sonoma grant will fund 3,000 square feet of a new vocational training center.”

5. Use active verbs. “Here is a collection of verbs plucked form headlines in The Wall Street Journal: mauled, devour, looms, spark, threaten, embrace, sputters, sowing, surge, reject, retools, blames, loses, clash, expand… Here’s a collection of verbs that I scored from headlines in nonprofit newsletters: establishes, listed, use, unite, reach, give back, plan, unified, build, sets, visits, shares, administer, awards, benefits.”

6. Let a third-party brag about you. Compile positive comments written by donors, clients, or media. If you don’t have testimonials, get them. Survey your program participants or ask them to write you a letter of support. Nominate your Executive Director or a Board member for local awards. Keep a clippings and/or “reviews” file close at hand; send out press updates regularly.

7. Be careful with your grants budget. Try not to wait until the last minute to compile the project budget; the budget should not only add up correctly, it also has to support the logic of the proposal’s narrative.

Ahern, Tom. Seeing through a Donor’s Eyes. Medfield, MA: Emerson & Church Publishers, 2009 p. 81 www.emersonandchurch.com

Fund Development, Grant Writing Resources, Non Profit Groups , , , ,

Hiring A Grant Writer To Tell Your Story

July 24th, 2009

Benefits of Using A Grant Writing Professional

Fresh Ideas

A grant writer illuminates your group’s good work and gets grant makers to take notice. Although your staff and Board understand your agency well, a good grant writer brings fresh ideas and a keen understanding of what funders are looking for.
A good grant writer, especially one with a wide variety of fund development and non-profit experience, will take a hard look at how you tell your story, tune-up your case for giving, and persuade funders to give to your group now.

Timely and Professional Proposals

Because staff may be consumed with the urgencies of other duties, deadlines and technical funder requirements can get overlooked. Respected grant writers know how to build deadlines in to their schedules and submit timely, accurate and complete proposal packages to make a strong case for your group. A winning grant writer demonstrates:
• Professionalism,
• A solid track record of achievements,
• An ability to meet deadlines,
• A commitment to professional development and education
• Up to date technology and software
• And, an understanding of increasingly complex funder requirements.

Wise Use of Resources

Staff costs may be higher than consulting contracts when the ongoing costs of recruiting, training, salary increases and benefits are included. Unless grants are a large part of your existing funding, your staff may not be able to put grant research, development, writing, editing and submission into their overloaded schedule. For staff, other fund raising activities often have a higher return on investment — for example, major donor cultivation. Contract grant writers can do the job your staff may not be ready or able to do right now. With contracts you have the flexibility of setting a fixed budget and can start and/or end a consulting agreement with relatively short notice.

You want to know that hiring a grant writer is the best use of your organization’s money, so you will want to consider cost as well as overall return on investment. The cost of grant writing, like the overall cost of fundraising, varies between organizations. Generally, the average Cost to Raise a Dollar (CTRD) for foundation and corporate grants is 20 cents . Grant writing costs are much lower than events with a CRTD of 50 cents and direct mail acquisition with a CTRD of $1.00 to $1.25.

A Strategic Approach

A good grant writer will customize a grants program to your budget, timeline and project scope. Whether you choose a short project or long-term arrangement, work with your grant writer to co-create a plan that gives you tangible deliverables and milestones. Some of these include:

• Research, recommendations and planned timeline to submit proposals
• Reviews of existing grants, case statements and mission/vision statement.
• A new case statement of support that includes:
o Problems/causes;
o Strategic solutions;
o Customer markets;
o Program objectives and outcomes;
o Performance measurement/verification;
o Organizational structure/systems;
o Financial/resource needs, and
o Project budget and fundraising plan.

The new case statement of support is generally the foundation document for a template proposal and a template letter of inquiry. These templates can be updated and customized as a basis for future proposals.

Strengthening Your Organization

A grant writer can help your organization submit a winning proposal. At the same time, a good grant writer can help your group recognize and develop fundable programs, those with a high likelihood of success. A few successful proposals can bring an organization much higher visibility within the philanthropic community where, understandably, success breeds success.

“If you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”
Somerset Maugham

Please call if you have any questions. I’m here to help.
Karen D’Or (707) 548-7959

Fund Development, Grant Sources, Grant Writing Resources, Non Profit Groups , , , , , ,

Neighborhoods First!

April 27th, 2009

HUD’s Neighborhood Revitalization grant application due out 5/3/09

Even in a region as picturesque as Sonoma County lenders are taking back about 40 homes per week. In once thriving neighborhoods “For Sale” signs and brown lawns are rampant. And government attempts to prod lenders to modify mortgages are slow and spotty. Foreclosure remains the most likely outcome, for most homeowners who cannot make payments.

Foreclosures Hurt Neighborhoods

Foreclosure

Last year HUD’s first round of Neighborhood Revitalization funding allocated $384.5 million to 46 cities and counties in California and $145 million to the State of California so municipalities could make a dent in neighborhood blight and help prevent foreclosures. Through a complex system, the State chose where to make these funds available, so that our most distressed cities and counties:

  • Purchase and rehabilitate homes to sell, rent or redevelop
  • Create land banks for homes that have been foreclosed upon
  • Demolish blighted structures
  • Redevelop demolished or vacant properties
  • Establish financing mechanisms for purchase and redevelopment of foreclosed upon homes and residential properties.

Non-profits eligible for round 2

In addition to these municipal recipients, HUD’s round 2 “makes available another $2 billion of NSP funding to State, local governments, non-profit entities, or consortia of non-profit entities for similar anti-blight and stabilization efforts.” Up to $50 million of this funding is for capacity building for qualified organizations, money to help improve the organization or city. The remaining funds will go “programmatic funding” requiring “complete citizen participation before submitting to HUD.”  This sounds like the additional funding will go to purchase properties for eligible homeowners. HUD’s site says the NOFA (Notice of Funding Application) will be out by May 3 and the deadline is September 1, 2009.

More information on grants.gov or at HUD’s website http://www.hud.gov/recovery/nspg.cfm. For more information on all Recovery Act Funding go to www.grants.org click on grants Browse Grants By Category and then click on Recovery Act.

This will likely be a very competitive process, and the dollars may still be awarded to cities with the highest foreclosures, but for successful public-private housing partnerships, this might be one of the best ways to access ARRA funds quickly.

Fund Development, Grant Sources, Grant Writing Resources , , , , , ,

Obama on 60 Minutes

March 22nd, 2009

Just finished watching President Obama on 60 minutes.

Continue to marvel at his honesty and his authenticity. Our President ‘s courage is remarkable: he takes on the miserable legacy of torture (and Dick Cheney’s continuing rationalizations for it) and then goes right up against Wall Street’s defense of unimaginable salaries.

I am honored to be among many who traveled and volunteered for Obama in the primary and in the general election, a life-changing experience as most volunteers will attest… and I’ve made a decision to re-start my grantwriting/consulting career to help make my community better.

So what’s next?

So will the non-profit sector benefit from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009? It is pretty murky reading the document, and the non-profit sector is finding its way in the challenge of the economic crisis.

Thankfully, I just I found John Hopkins University’s Forward Together Declaration:

This declaration, and the list of impressive organizations that have signed on to date, rallies the citizen sector (much stronger word tan either non-profit or philanthropy) to “renew our commitment to serve as partners in public service in addressing the challenges our nation faces…This renewal process will involve work for all of us:

• For citizens, it will require greater commitment to service and community, to giving and volunteering;

• For government at all levels, it will require flexibility and new approaches, investment in nonprofit capacity, a nonprofit seat at the policy table, heightened responsiveness to citizen-sector innovations, and greater protection of the
distinctive functions such as advocacy that make the citizen sector so vital;

• For business, it will require strengthened partnerships with citizen sector organizations and continued integration of socially responsible objectives into central business operations;

• For organized philanthropy, it will require greater commitment to leveraging, as opposed to preserving, assets, to fostering innovation, and to taking risks;

• For nonprofit leaders and organizations, it will require effective management, continuous innovation, recommitment to mission, broadened engagement of citizens, and attention to measurable results; and

• For everyone, it will require a recognition that no one set of institutions has all of the answers or all of the resources needed to address the problems we face, and that cooperative action by all of our institutions—government, business, and nonprofit—holds the real key to the progress we need.”

Sign the Declaration

So I hope you will join me by  signing the document and pass it along to your networks…the citizen sector!

Here is the url www.jhu.edu/listeningpost/forward/

~ Karen


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