grant writing

How to Write a Newsletter

Nowadays, everyone publishes newsletters. I’m involved with publishing three of them. They can be a good source of communication between the nonprofit, the community they serve, and their donors.

The newsletter helps a nonprofit stay connected with others by informing people about current operations and happenings in the nonprofit. Subject areas can include:

● Recent successes – the nonprofit is headed in a positive direction
● Schedule of upcoming events – the future is planned
● Introduction of new people, but not departures which make people ask: why did they leave?
● A list of non-monetary needs, such as more volunteers – there is always a need and it is not only about money

A nonprofit should address their specific audience by being positive and concise. Of course, this sounds easier than it is, but it is possible.

Concise writing comes from practice and reading. It is about using the fewest words to clearly state something. One thing that can help is limiting the subject areas to the most important. As an example, does a recipe have something to do with the nonprofit?

A newsletter needs to be readable. This means sufficient margins, a large enough font, and white space (where no words exist). There should be variety in the content such as pictures and subtle colors. The newsletter needs to be eye appealing along with providing information. People should want to read the newsletter.

This may sound like a lot to do, yet writing a newsletter is easier by putting in the most important thing since the last newsletter. As an example, if there were three events, pick the one that helped the most. Leave some information for the next newsletter.

Before publishing, always have others read the newsletter to catch mistakes. Most importantly, whether the newsletter is published monthly or quarterly, be consistent and always publish on time.

Cash Flow

Too many nonprofits use a software program to watch their money come in and go out. They do not watch the ups and downs in their bank account. Their yearly budget may say everything will be okay in the end, yet this does not consider the cash flow (income and expense) changes occurring each day.

Real cash, or what is in the bank, matters more than what any budget or software program states. A nonprofit should look at their cash flow as often as possible. This helps determine when expenses exceed income and vice versa throughout the year. This trend is important for grant writers to help determine when they need to submit a grant.

If a foundation approves the grant request, when the payout occurs is important.

After the deadline, most foundations decide on a grant request after three to five months, depending on the time of year. June to August and December take the longest. After approval, a foundation can take two to three months to write the check.

Money is usually invested somewhere and needs to be cashed out. Also, the funding needs to be processed and accounted for among foundation members and stakeholders. Some foundations also want a ceremony to present the check. A grant writer and nonprofit should plan to receive money five to eight months after the grant deadline.

While a yearly budget is good for long term planning, nonprofits should also have a monthly track of their cash flow. Grant writers can then develop a grant schedule around the cash flow.

I create a grant schedule every January with the nonprofits I help. Along with other criteria, I try to plan for the payout when cash is low for the nonprofit.

In-Kind Costs

There are many definitions for in-kind costs. For this blog post, I’ll define in-kind costs as non-cash contributions from individuals or organizations to a nonprofit for a specific project.

I do not consider in-kind costs as non-cash donations. While the definition between in-kind and donations can be similar, I consider donations as supporting a nonprofit’s operations. Like donating clothing, food, or books. In-kind costs help a project become successful. Such as a washing machine and dryer, a stove, or a bookshelf. Also, in-kind costs can include volunteers and donations never.

On some grant requests, foundations ask for in-kind costs in the budget. I identify these costs in the narratives where I write about the number of hours a volunteer worked or the benefits of a donated product.

I avoid reporting in-kind costs in the budget because putting a value on non-monetary resources is subjective. As an example, what is the salary of a volunteer or should a product be priced retail or wholesale or other? While, there are cost guidelines, they are not exact.

Second, in-kind costs can mistakenly inflate a project’s budget and cause a foundation to misunderstand the need for funding. As an example, a nonprofit may receive less funding if they identify donations as in-kind costs. The former helps with operations, but does not support the long-term goals of the project where funding is needed.

Third, donations are not guaranteed while in-kind costs are obligations to the project. Donations may or may not come. In-kind costs usually do arrive.

In the budget portion of the grant request, I stay away from any costs that can be subjective. I provide only cash figures in the budget and cost areas. All other non-monetary resources I leave to the narratives.

RISK

When a foundation funds a grant request, they are making more than an investment in the nonprofit’s mission. The foundation is also investing their reputation in the success of the nonprofit.

When a nonprofit receives grant money, they receive more than money. They make a commitment to the foundation that the money would achieve success.

Investment and commitment come with risk that success is achievable. While reputations are at risk (including the money), it is the nonprofit who stands to lose the most if some measure of success is not found.

I think most foundations know about risk. It is usually a determining factor when awarding grants. However, I discovered some nonprofits do not understand that their future investments are at risk when receiving a grant.

If a nonprofit achieves success, the foundation will likely continue with future funding. Also, other donors are likely to invest in the nonprofit’s mission. How is success determined?

People evaluate success, not facts and data. The nonprofit staff should ask themselves if the mission caused positive change in people’s lives. I hope it did.

In a follow up post, I will write about measuring success. Most of the time, success is hard to determine and it is never absolute.

Yes, I missed a blog post last week (for December 9). My problem is that I write a blog post on the weekend with a Monday posting. I have ideas to use, but nothing prepared if life envelopes my time. This is what happened last week with a trip to a wedding, painters in the house, and volunteer stuff. I should have several posts ready ahead of time, but I don’t. You think I would learn.