grant writing

Some Grant Writing Tips (Part I (II in 2 weeks)

Who is the Foundation?
Before writing a grant request, the writer should study the foundation to get a good understanding of their culture, mission, and goals. It is not enough to read a summary of what grant requests they accept. Research the bios, look at media sources for additional information, and read everything they have on their website. Yes, this can take several hours or more. At the end and if they allow it, call the foundation administrators with no more than one or two questions.

Motivation
A grant writer has to build excitement in their grant requests. Show the devotion everyone in the nonprofit has for the mission and goals. Write out any key words sprinkled in the foundation guidelines that stand out and want to be included in the request. Include these words in the grant request. Make sure the nonprofit’s grant request matches what is important to the foundation. No match, don’t apply. (Later, see waste of time.)

Social Media
When writing a grant request, the information and data in the request should not deviate from what is published online in a nonprofit’s website, Facebook, or other social media. If a nonprofit is fortunate to advance toward the final round of selection, a foundation will likely research a nonprofit’s online presence. There should be no deviation because, what is the truth?

An Opportunity
If a foundation offers a webinar, always sign up. This is where they offer tips and hints on writing a grant that is usually not found anywhere else. A webinar means, “Hey, we’re trying to help you.”

Big Egos in a Nonprofit

Some people have too big of an ego to be involved in managing the operations of a nonprofit. Egos are fine for businesses, agencies, and other organizations that are made up of paid staff. In a nonprofit, most of the people are volunteers and teamwork is essential to keeping people from running away.

I see the most harm done when egos exist on the board or in the nonprofit’s management. Board of Directors are responsible for identifying the mission, providing oversight, and raising funds. The Executive Director and other managers are responsible for fundraising, managing the paid staff, and day-to-day operations.

While the lines between the two are clear, they become blurred when big egos dominate. Board members become micromanagers on the staff or the executive director and staff work as if the board does not exist. Both ways damage the nonprofit’s ability to be successful.

Harm to the nonprofit appears in high turnover rates, loss of donor funding, and errors in meeting the mission goals. Even worse is when the egos reside on the board and management at the same time.

Unfortunately, there are no clear, easy solutions. There are mediators for nonprofits, yet someone has to initiate their involvement and pay them. Most nonprofits suffer through the turmoil. Board members serve two year terms and the executive director and staff with big egos usually burn themselves out and leave.

A grant writer should be prepared for this situation and stay away from it. I realize this is a poor solution, yet an honest one. The only people who can change the situation are other board members or staff who need to step in and confront the egos. However, it is sometimes easier to just leave.

The difference between a nonprofit’s paid staff and volunteer board members

A nonprofit has two groups who work toward meeting the mission goals. The Executive Director (ED) and maybe some staff workers run the daily operations. All are paid employees of the nonprofit.

Overseeing them are a board of directors made up of a President, Vice President, Secretary, and Treasurer. There could be other board members, too. All board members are volunteers with the board president being the ED’s boss.

Having a volunteer board overseeing a paid staff creates a unique relationship. People who volunteer to do a job and those who get paid for the job can have vastly different motivations for doing that job.

Both groups will have a sense of duty toward the success of the mission. Yet, they may see achieving that success based on what inspires them. Is it a personal feel-good of community service or a desire to pay the bills at home?

Both inspirations can be good or bad. They are just seeing the mission accomplishments in a way they believe based on why they are there.

I am a board member of a nonprofit. Although I see myself more of the grant writer than a board member. To write grants, I work with the Ed and paid staff. We all try to ignore that I’m a board member. Grant writers should avoid being a board member.

Instead, a grant writer should be aware of the different motivations between volunteering and being paid. This awareness is important when combined with people’s personalities and egos.

At a minimum, grant writers should meet regularly with the ED, talk to the board president, work with the nonprofit staff, and smile at the board members. Focus on the success of the mission. Everyone else is doing that, just maybe with a different purpose.

Diversified Income

Nonprofits should receive money from as many different sources as possible. These sources include private donations, churches, other nonprofits, foundations, businesses, communities, fund raising events, and government agencies.

The more sources the better for a nonprofit since no source is a guaranteed income. However, it is not possible to work on all of these sources because each takes a certain amount of time and effort. Priority is needed.

Everything ends up being a choice of two methods. Getting a lot of money from a few sources or a little money from a lot of sources.

Getting a lot of money from a few sources means each request is generally long, complicated, and littered with traps. Competition is usually high with the funding organization wanting to trim out as many applications as possible using any excuse. Most of these sources are government agencies.

Using this method of few sources allows a nonprofit to focus more on these applications, giving them some upper level of chance. Yet, requesting a lot of money from a few places also means one denial can be catastrophic.

The other method of submitting to a lot of sources, means a lot more work. However, competition is usually lower and the submissions are not as cumbersome to complete.

This method requires being organized. There are more people to know and more time expended. However, one failure has a small impact. Also, getting a little from a lot means greater success since the source is not expending a large portion of their funds.

It all is a matter of personality. The first method is a greater risk with a higher payoff. The second method is less risk with a lower payoff.

Personally, I would always take the second method. It’s more work, but more assurance of success.