grant writing

Too Much Money

Some nonprofits rely on donations and the occasional fund-raising event to cover their expenses. They maintain the same level of funding each year that is enough to meet their needs. Then, either the need changes or a board or a staff member decides they want additional funding.

I am cautious about submitting a grant for a nonprofit who never submitted one before (or it has been a long time) and their funding has been steady for years. Additional money is not always a good thing. Once they receive the money, the nonprofit must spend it and the process to do so (tracking, reporting, etc.) can be overwhelming.

Increasing a nonprofit’s funding above their normal operating budget should be carefully planned. When submitting a grant request, I usually do not let the funding increase the nonprofit’s budget by more than a third. Past this amount, the expenditure of funding becomes increasingly difficult to manage for a nonprofit. Sometimes more people need to be hired. (A substantial increase is also more difficult to justify in a grant request.)

Besides managing the money, excess funding can lead to personnel conflict among board members, staff, and volunteers. However, a nonprofit can benefit from submitting a grant. The submission process forces them to get organized.

Any major funding changes to an organization, nonprofit or a business, can lead to disaster if not planned carefully. A grant writer should consider the impact additional funding will have on the nonprofit and advise the nonprofit if you have concerns. Sometimes it is better to not increase funding and look at other resources, such as in-kind donations, to satisfy additional needs.

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.