grant writing

A Nonprofit’s entrance looks like this without volunteers

Salaries are generally the largest cost for a nonprofit. The more paid staff there are, the less funding toward the mission. That is why volunteers are crucial for the continued success of a nonprofit.

A business can pay more salaries by selling more goods and services. Nonprofits usually do not have that capability. They must rely on grants and donations. They need volunteers to keep costs down and to remain attractive for foundations and donors who generally want to fund mission expenses, salaries not included.

Also, grant writers should be careful working with nonprofits who lack volunteers or do not have a program to manage volunteers. Is the grant writer finding money to pay the staff so they have a job or to achieve mission goals?

Also, if a nonprofit has volunteers, why are they volunteering? Is it because they receive benefits from the nonprofit and feel they must “give back”? This enters legal issues a grant writer should be aware of before working with a nonprofit.

When working with a nonprofit, there are several conditions to consider. One of the most critical is their volunteer program. Is there a robust number of volunteers and a program to manage them? Without volunteers, there could be other problems with the nonprofit.

So, I stay away from nonprofits who have few or no volunteers. Every mission requires a certain number of people to succeed. Without volunteers, nonprofits hire staff. The added cost is difficult to justify for funding or ethically.

I got behind on grants

I did not post a blog last week because I got behind in writing grants for two nonprofits and the deadlines were a week away (today).

It was my own fault. I knew about the deadlines, but I procrastinated. Well, that is not entirely true. I was working on my novel and trying to finish the editing by the end of this month (self-imposed deadline). Somehow September will stop being September sooner than I thought.

I realized I needed to finish writing the grants so I would have time to send them around for comments and signatures by Thursday. I always schedule extra time before a deadline to take care of any problems like getting signatures.

The grant applications I worked were not online. The completed application and supporting documents had to be printed, tabbed, and packaged for delivery to the foundation office. Although these types of applications are more work than online applications, I like them better.

Non-online applications feel more personable to me. Like letter writing before emails. Also, fewer people make submissions that are not online, reducing the competition.

I did successfully complete and deliver both grant applications by Thursday. However, I will not be successful in finishing the edits of my novel by the end of September. This makes me wonder:

I volunteer to write grants, but my desire is to write my novel.

Be Kind to Your Donors

Recently, a small foundation wanted to know what happened to the donation they made to a nonprofit’s special project. The foundation had contributed a substantial amount of money and had not heard from the nonprofit.

The foundation had also wanted a small plaque posted at the project site stating they donated. The nonprofit agreed and accepted the money.

I directed the foundation to those making the decisions. In the end, the nonprofit did not explain the progress of the project, but stated that the foundation’s name would be listed on a plaque along with many other donors near to the project site.

This is where nonprofits fail. First, they do not provide updates to people who have donated substantial amounts of money and have asked for updates.

A simple way for a nonprofit to keep donors updated is recording everything in a spreadsheet. All the details should be listed including a date six months after the nonprofit received the money. This is when a letter should be sent explaining the nonprofit’s progress and successes.

Whether a foundation requested an update or not, always provide one at least six months later.

Second, once a nonprofit agrees with a foundation’s requirements and accepts the money, the nonprofit should treat this as a contract. Any changes need to be negotiated with the foundation.

I have found that many nonprofits do not realize they are bound by a foundation’s or donor’s requirements or restrictions. To change anything requires the nonprofit to negotiate with the foundation or donor. If the change is reasonable, I think most foundations and donors will understand.

The theme of the blog post is be kind to your donors. The foundation who made the substantial donation has vowed never to contribute again.

The Greatest Number of People

Foundations want to give to nonprofits who can help the greatest number of people. This is a problem for nonprofits where the need is great, but the population is low.

However, a nonprofit can show that they are helping more people by:

  • Partnering with other nonprofits with similar missions. As an example, a homeless shelter and a nonprofit providing domestic violence services can, many times, share the same clients. I always encourage nonprofits to work together, yet they usually do not. When it does occur, it is successful when the effort comes from within the nonprofits rather than from an outsider (like a grant writer) trying to push two nonprofits together.
  • In the grant application, explain how people can benefit from helping one person who helps another. As an example, by teaching one person to learn English, that person will likely help their children and family members. In another example, if one person receives an education and gets a job, they can motivate their families and friends to do likewise. A nonprofit should include all these people in the grant application.
  • A nonprofit can also help more people by expanding their services to nearby areas through satellite offices. As an example, a food pantry which distributes food to families can work with churches and communities to set up distribution centers where more people can be helped. This allows the nonprofit to claim support in nearby counties and partnerships with other organizations.

Whether they highlight it or not, all foundations look for a nonprofit’s greatest impact when considering a grant application. On grant applications, every nonprofit should consider all the people they are helping.