nonprofit use

Getting Along with Small Businesses

Nonprofits should develop good relationships with everybody. This includes local small businesses.

Nonprofits should not want money from small businesses or even volunteers. These wants put stress on these businesses who are already stressed out enough for being small. Instead, be helpful by providing resources the businesses can use such as trained workers (giving people a chance to recover).

Mostly, invite feedback from small businesses. While the ego is happier with positive responses, be more open to negative feedback.

Nothing builds relationships more than solving problems caused by the nonprofit, who may be unaware of the problem. As an example, a soup kitchen offered take-out with the leftovers. After leaving the soup kitchen, wherever people finished eating they dumped the styrofoam containers and littered the area.

The executive director reached out to local businesses and discovered other people had to pick up the containers. The soup kitchen instead packaged the leftovers for facilities with more responsible people. The politicians, who heard the complaints, were more favorable to the soup kitchen and nonprofit after this solution.

Politicians pay more attention to businesses than nonprofits. Prospective donors respond to nonprofits who help small businesses. Small businesses are “It.”

When talking to local small businesses, do not go to a Chamber of Commerce. Go directly to the business. This takes more time, but the benefit is gargantuan. Good relationships help nonprofits in many ways and a good relationship with small businesses has the potential for great benefits.

Even though these benefits may not be noticed right away, the positive outlook from businesses will be noticed by the local government and community. In the long term, nonprofits will benefit.

To Be (the Grant Writer), or Not To Be: That is the Question

I was involved in a nonprofit who could not decide whether they wanted a grant writer or not. The staff were capable of writing grants, but they were already understaffed. I helped the nonprofit out with the indecision by not deciding if I wanted to be their grant writer or not.

The first thing nonprofit leadership and a grant writer should do is decide whether they want each other or not.

Grants can be written by someone outside of the nonprofit such as a volunteer or contractor. Or someone on the nonprofit staff. Or a combination of these. While a nonprofit might want grants, they do not necessarily need a grant writer.

Or maybe a nonprofit does not want grants. Writing grants can be a lot of work and some nonprofits can survive on only donations.* These are the decisions the nonprofit leadership should make before diving into the grant world. Once there, they should decide if they want a grant writer. Also, the grant writer should decide if they want to work with that nonprofit.

My relationship with the nonprofit was undefined and unending. As a grant writer, I should have better defined my relationship and planned for an ending to that relationship since the nonprofit did not do it.

In the end, I am not their grant writer which is okay with me.

* Note: I suggest nonprofits have a diverse stream of income that includes donations, fund raising events, and grants.

Getting to Know People

Funding for nonprofits is more than grants and donations. Nonprofit management and staff should get involved in events and groups in the community even if it does not involve money. Here are some ideas.

    • Expand on business relationships such as getting involved in associations and clubs. The nonprofit can show businesses what benefit they can provide that helps with profitability. Also, businesses can provide feedback, positive and negative, to help the nonprofit with their mission. Of this, negative feedback is more important. Many problems can be solved easily instead of having them linger. Relationships can be much better after.
    • Attend community events that do not include raising money. This provides “face-time” where people in the community can meet the people in the nonprofit and learn about what is going on to include successes and failures. This can lead to more volunteers.
    • Create a relationship with other nonprofits, particularly if they are not in the same mission area (prevents competition). This can be no more than regular meetings once a month, maybe even for a coffee outside of the offices. I found that few nonprofits talk to one another. Forming a group will include sharing information about resources, problems, and solutions.
    • To be successful, it is critical that every nonprofit meet with, invite over, and talk to all elected officials. Not only locally, but also State elected officials and maybe Federal, too. But, never go political or choose political parties. Politics are fleeting and will always hurt the nonprofit.

The point of this blog post is to meet people and join their groups without asking for money. The more people who know about the nonprofit, its good and bad, successes and failures (hopefully there are more good and success stories), the more opportunities that can become available.

Getting Emergency Grant Money

Grant money is slow to get. There’s the application period, evaluation phase by the foundation, approval (hopefully), and then a period of time before the nonprofit gets the check. What if a nonprofit needs money now?

The “now” can be some catastrophic event like a hurricane, wildfires, or a virus that affects a lot of people. When this happens, foundations send checks out of cycle and without the need for much paperwork. Yet, there are “now” events that affect only one nonprofit.

This is why relationships are important. But, don’t run to a foundation asking for help when something happens. Evaluate the emergency situation, gather facts and data, reasons for the emergency, and plans for a solution. It is very important to lay out all this information before meeting with the foundation’s board members.

A grant writer should write up a complete explanation with a way-ahead. Most people understand that emergencies occur; however, they are not willing to give money that may not solve the problem. The key is assuring confidence the emergency is under control.

The emergency may not be in total control by the nonprofit staff and leadership. Yet, it should be enough that there is a reasonable chance of success. Foundations (like most people) enjoy honesty.

I wrote this blog because of a recent similar experience. A nonprofit I worked with was renovating an historic building. Of course, old buildings do not like to be renovated. When they are opened, they reveal surprises.

I convinced the nonprofit staff to step back and evaluate the situation. The building was still standing (yeah!). The immediate goal was to keep it that way. We are in the process of collecting photographs, getting help from a local architect, and presenting our findings to a local foundation. A work in progress, but things look hopeful.