grant writing

Grant Reporting (part 2)

This deserves another blog post to emphasize the need for grant reporting. I’ve discovered many nonprofits overlook or ignore this important part of the grant writing process.

Nonprofits fail to report on grant money they receive mostly because of disorganization. An easy solution is to use either an Excel spreadsheet or Word document as record keeping tools. Other software programs will cost money and must be learned. It’s best to keep things simple. Even simpler is to get a journal or ledger book and write down the grant information.

Most foundations provide a letter of acceptance and send the check about a month or so later. Guidelines, instructions, and the deadline for reporting on grant money usually comes with the check. This is when nonprofits fail.

They do not have a process, procedure, or place to record the reporting requirements and when they are due. Happy with the money, the rest is forgotten.

Reports are usually due six months to a year later. Yet, a nonprofit might realize a report is due when they apply for another grant and must report on the previous funding first.

I’m asked, “What’s the harm? The report gets done.” The problem is the report, at this time, is usually late. Foundations do not like a late report or no report.

There are some foundations who do not provide guidelines or even a deadline for a report. However, a report is still due.

Of course, some foundations are familiar with the nonprofit enough, or the relationship is strong enough, that late or nonreporting is overlooked. Nonprofits should not take that chance. Eventually, someone in the foundation stops overlooking the lack of reports.

Nonprofits need to always report on grant money received. After all, foundations want to know what happened to the money they gave out.

Brief Outline for Grant Proposals

I think I got this from a grant writing class I took. I can only claim summarizing the information to fit into this blog post.

A grant proposal starts with identifying and documenting the need for a project. This includes finding statistics to demonstrate a need is compelling. Data strengthens a grant request by explaining the need exactly.

State the project’s objectives (at least three), the expected outcome for each objective, and when these outcomes will be achieved. Also, what is the evaluation process to know the outcome was achieved?

Put this all together and build a description of the project by identifying who will be helped, what activities will improve the lives of these people, and who will do the work to include partnerships. Foundations want to know there are other organizations helping with the project. The more the merrier.

The other most important section is the budget.

Expenses are divided between programs (good to mention) and operating or overhead (bad to mention). Under program expense, list everything except things considered capital expense such as equipment or personnel benefits (considered overhead). Salaries are all right most of the time if they are for the program. Avoid operating expenses (private donations can fund these). More importantly, list exactly what the foundation money will buy.

List other funding sources (match the list of partners). Most important, state how the project will be sustained and funded in the future.

Overall, a grant writer should note the capacity and resources a nonprofit has to successfully do what they said they would do. A foundation wants to feel good about giving out their money. Build confidence, trust, and strength that what a nonprofit does with this money will help people.

Relationships Again (because they are that important)

I wrote two blogs on relationships. This third blog is about building and keeping a relationship between a nonprofit and a foundation.

Relationships are the most important asset a nonprofit has, which is why this is my third blog on the subject. Whenever a foundation provides money, they show confidence in the nonprofit’s success and the nonprofit has a mission matching the foundation’s goals. A basic relationship is created representing an opportunity for the nonprofit.

The nonprofit should take the lead in further developing a connection with the foundation. There are plenty of advice on business relationships. However, I think it is best that the nonprofit keep things simple.

After receipt of the money, the nonprofit should encourage continued contact by:

  • Sending the foundation a quarterly newsletter that includes testimonies, a calendar, and information about the community the nonprofit serves. Do not include politics or gossip.
  • Invite the foundation to events. If the foundation is too far away to attend, provide updates on the event.
  • Try to visit the foundation at least once. Face-to-face meetings and maybe a lunch go a long way to cementing a business relationship. When meeting, never talk politics or gossip.
  • Call as a follow up to previous conversations. Do not make up things to call. When calling, keep things friendly, but not personal. Do not talk politics or gossip.
  • Whenever contacting the foundation, never ask for or discuss money. This is not about getting more, but about building a relationship so the money will continue to come.

It is sincerity that makes strong relationships. A nonprofit (or anyone) should develop a strong connection because it builds trust. With trust, there is confidence, opportunities arise, and things are easier.

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.