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.

The Greatest Number of People

Foundations want to give to nonprofits who can help the greatest number of people. This is a problem for nonprofits where the need is great, but the population is low.

However, a nonprofit can show that they are helping more people by:

  • Partnering with other nonprofits with similar missions. As an example, a homeless shelter and a nonprofit providing domestic violence services can, many times, share the same clients. I always encourage nonprofits to work together, yet they usually do not. When it does occur, it is successful when the effort comes from within the nonprofits rather than from an outsider (like a grant writer) trying to push two nonprofits together.
  • In the grant application, explain how people can benefit from helping one person who helps another. As an example, by teaching one person to learn English, that person will likely help their children and family members. In another example, if one person receives an education and gets a job, they can motivate their families and friends to do likewise. A nonprofit should include all these people in the grant application.
  • A nonprofit can also help more people by expanding their services to nearby areas through satellite offices. As an example, a food pantry which distributes food to families can work with churches and communities to set up distribution centers where more people can be helped. This allows the nonprofit to claim support in nearby counties and partnerships with other organizations.

Whether they highlight it or not, all foundations look for a nonprofit’s greatest impact when considering a grant application. On grant applications, every nonprofit should consider all the people they are helping.

Make Time to Edit

I am currently editing my young adult, science fiction novel and found that editing takes a lot longer than writing that first draft. Of course, I knew that. I didn’t realize how much longer.

Writing the first draft is not editing. While both involve creativity, the first draft has empty pages to work from. Nothing into something. Editing is changing that something into a less confusing something. A different way to think, I think.

New writing has flaws and drifts in thought. Editing eliminates the dead ends, makes grammar make sense, and forgives an absent trail of logic. If a writer is working on a schedule to finish a piece of work, they need to budget the bulk of their time to editing what they wrote (this goes for grant writers, too). From start to publication, editing will take the most time to complete of any project. Or, should.

So many writers spend as little time as possible during editing.

It goes back to editing being a different way of thought. Some writers are good at creating something new, some good at making that creativity better, and others can do both. A writer should decide what they are best at and ask for help with the other.

As I continue to edit my novel, I have changed my way of thinking about what I wrote. I am being more careful with the editing. The first draft was fun and fast. Editing is slow and business-like. It took some time to adjust my way of thinking and I hope I am there now.

This means spending a lot of time to make sure my novel sings the way I want my novel to sing. No flat notes allowed!

Be Positive

When writing grants, be positive.

So many grant requests start off talking about how bad things are and all the things that need to be done for the nonprofit to succeed. Don’t do that.

Being positive is not difficult. A grant request should outline how things will be improved with the foundation’s money. A grant writer should discuss the past only as background and not about all the things that went wrong. From the background, lead quickly into what will be accomplished with the foundation’s funds, the progress to be made, and (more importantly) the people who will be helped.

I once had a nonprofit focus their efforts on closing down if they did not get more funding. Many times, negativity like this creeps into a grant request without the writer realizing it. This nonprofit needed to put that negative energy into what they would do with the grant money they received. They should plan for success for many years.

Yes, the worse could happen but there are many more good things that could happen instead. Foundations want to support nonprofits who are optimistic, hopeful, and confident. People want to give to positive people.

Before writing the grant request, decide it will be successful. There will be rejection and failure, but don’t make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Let negativity come from the foundation for missing an opportunity to help people. Do not make it easy for them to send a rejection.