grant writing

A Nonprofit’s Volunteers part 2

I previously wrote a blog post about volunteers. This post is a different take on the subject.

A grant writer should learn about the volunteers who help a nonprofit. As an example, many companies provide grants where the employee volunteers. A grant writer only needs the volunteer’s permission to use their employee number.

On applications, a grant writer should note the number of volunteers and hours worked, even if not required. The more volunteers there are, the stronger the justification since it shows community support.

However, data on volunteers should be explained in relation to the size of the nonprofit. The number of volunteers and hours worked are only relative to the number of people helped by the nonprofit. A few volunteers for a small nonprofit are just as good as larger numbers in a bigger nonprofit.

Volunteers are crucial to the success of a nonprofit. Without them, labor costs soar to levels that are difficult to justify. To learn about volunteers, a grant writer should talk to the volunteer coordinator.

If this position is not filled or does not exist, there may be no need to get grants. Without management of the volunteers, the nonprofit’s primary labor source is unstable. Who will reliably help perform the mission? Foundations do not want to fund only labor.

Fortunately, most nonprofits have some management of their volunteers or they would not be around for long. Writing about volunteers in a grant application is an easy way to help justify the need for funding.

Writing Grants is Writing

I blog about creative writing and grant writing because I do both and I see a lot of similarities.

In creative writing, a writer needs to know how to write. This may seem obvious, yet many people take on grant writing without believing there are writing rules to follow.

Before drafting a grant request, the writer needs to achieve a level of understanding about writing. Such as how to use active voice, minimize the number of adverbs, and how to compile sentence structure.

Once there, a grant writer can improve their writing by re-reading what they wrote and being critical of their words. After this, the grant writer should get others to read what was written. A grant writer needs to accept critique and be open to criticism from themselves and others.

Of course, understanding writing and how to critique applies to all types of writing. This is important for a grant request because it involves funding for a nonprofit. A writer can use an intended way that is clear and simple or put something on paper just to get it submitted in time.

Ignoring the rules about writing leads to a grant request that might not make sense and a waste of time for everyone. If a writer puts in the effort and work to write a grant request, they should want to make sure other people can understand what was written.

Write Grants Only

I’ve written about this before, but it needs emphasizing and further explanation.

Grant writers should stay away from being board members or in charge of anything except writing grants. If a grant writer wants to be on the board, they should not write grants.

It is an issue of priority and authority. The grant writer must focus on a nonprofit’s most critical needs. As a board member, authority gets in the way of the priority and unfortunately changes the needs.

There are politics on any board, and members can change the priorities to benefit some strange purpose. Being on the board, a grant writer is too close to these authorities. Away from the board, the grant writer has more leverage to prevent strange decision making.

Most importantly, a grant writer needs to be objective (neutral, unbiased) and being on the board can affect this position. As an example, on the board, a grant writer is a voting member, which can alter priorities.

I write this because I made a mistake of writing grants and later agreeing to be on the nonprofit’s board. I have since resigned from the board (for several reasons) and will go back to what I originally wanted to do, which was writing grants. Being on the board and writing grants is not an experience I will repeat.

For the grant writer, what is the goal? If it is to get money for the nonprofit, stay there.

Some Grant Writing Tips (Here’s the rest of it, Part II of 2)

Another Opportunity
If a foundation states they do not accept unsolicited grant requests, do not send them a grant request. Do not call. Instead, send them information about your nonprofit. This should be no more than a page and a half with attachments.

Include a few glossy brochures with pictures that explain the mission and purpose of the nonprofit. The best thing to send is testimonies and pictures of the people who the nonprofit helped. I then wait for the foundation to contact the nonprofit, if they do. If not, I do not bother the foundation again.

I have had success using this method. Over half the time, the foundation sends a grant request.

Don’t Waste Time
Some nonprofits focus their effort on applying for grants they have little chance of getting. The top U.S. foundations (with the most money) accept less than five percent of the grant requests they receive. Many of them look for wide impact on a national level. A lot of them fund projects in third world nations.

A grant writer should look for foundations associated with a business in the local area. If a nonprofit is in a rural area, find family foundations. People are more likely to give in an area they know well.

The biggest problem is applying to foundations that fund projects not in the nonprofit’s mission. If the foundation states they will not fund it, they will not fund it.

Organization
Keep every detail about every grant request sent out. Use a spreadsheet and avoid complicated software programs. Note deadlines, acceptance dates, and when to expect a check. If rejected, call the foundation and ask why. Record this, too. This database can be important for future grant requests.