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Grant ideas

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Tips for Writing Effective Grant Proposals

Writing a successful grant proposal (one that gets you the funds) is not a simple task. There is research and excellent writing expertise that need to be in place before proceeding with the development of a proposal. Many organizations do not have an experienced grant writer on staff to handle grant management, development, writing, and editing – and the job inadvertently falls on the executive director’s shoulders. If you do not typically receive grants and yet put a lot of hard work into writing them, take a look at some of the tips we have compiled this week on writing effective grant proposals. If you feel you could use even more help than what these tips provide, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 303-355-2919 for an assessment of your needs and goals.

Reader Tips:

-from David Jones, Finance and Public Relations Director of Grand Teton Council Boy Scouts of America:

1. Follow the guidelines from the grant maker, do not overstep the boundaries asked for, IE: # pages, typeset, etc.

2. Do some homework on what the grant maker is looking for – use your resources to find the information from many different sources.

3. Make a call, if needed to talk with someone at the foundation for more information needed or to get an inside look at what the grant maker is looking for.

4. Collaboration with other local agencies (and listing them as assets) will help with your proposal and project.

5. List in the proposal if you have received money from the foundation in the past…[Be specific about what the money has helped your organization accomplish.]

6. Get a second look at your proposal before it is submitted…[Try to find someone who has grant writing experience to review the proposal before you send it.]

7. Even if you’re turned down try again next time. Some grant makers are on a rotation basis and may say yes to the same proposal next time or may have more money to give next time.

8. Always thank the grant maker, as appropriate through given guidelines:A. Recognize the foundation/grant maker with a personalized note. B. As required through follow-up reports and results of the grant. C. Through a Press Release via the newspaper – send a copy to the grant-maker when it comes out or at least an original of what was submitted. D. Even if not asked for, send a follow-up of the results of the gift.”

Tips from Richard Male & Associates:

  1. Include real life stories We try very hard, however short the application format, to include at least one example of how the organization makes a difference in people’s lives.   Some proposals lend themselves to “chattier” formats, but even with a very formal application, you can use the cover letter to talk about a real situation where your organization made a positive impact. It brings dry facts and statistics to life.
  2. Focus on the positive . Foundation staff and trustees read hundreds of proposals, many with very grim statistics and stories of suffering. However tough your mission—helping the homeless, rescuing abused animals, or trying to protect the planet from polluters—it is vital to talk about successes. Funders want reassurance that their money will be part of the solution.
  3. Eliminate jargon and acronyms . Never assume that the people reading your proposal will understand the jargon and acronyms of your industry, even if it’s one of their key focus areas. Even if the proposal deals with nuclear physics you should make an effort to explain your program so that lay people understand at least the summary, if not the details.
  4. Live within the limits/machete editing . Don’t try to get around the page limit by shrinking the font size and narrowing the margins. You don’t have to tell the funder every single detail about your programs or mention every award you received over the past five years. An attractive layout with white space and a readable font is more likely to endear you to the foundation staff and trustees (at least those over 45) than book-length proposals in teeny tiny type that requires a magnifying glass.
  5. Write the proposal from the standpoint of urgency without crisis. Make sure you are clear about the urgency of the dollars now because the competition has stiffened dramatically with the recession. Unless your organization is in a real crisis or you are crisis-oriented (such as the Red Cross), do not write your grant proposal as if your organization will fold if it does not receive the money now .
  6. The first paragraph is critical. Ask for the dollars in the first paragraph so the grant officer does not have to hunt for how much you are seeking. Make sure the grantor knows early in the proposal how much you want, for what purpose, for what time period, and state the importance of the money.
  7. Summary of the proposal is valuable. Writing a one or two paragraph, well crafted summary of the proposal is very important. If the foundation officer likes your proposal, and wants to recommend it for funding, he/she will need to write a short summary that goes to the trustees (who rarely read your proposal). It makes the program officer’s life much easier if you already have a summary (plus it allows you to describe your program in your terms).
  8. Send the proposal to the grantor 30 days before the deadline.By mailing the proposal 30 days prior to the deadline, you will be able to use that time to lobby your request, make any last minute changes, make phone calls, and get support letters which can enhance your chances.
  9. Design the budget carefully. Make sure the budget is well done. The numbers must be added correctly, the goals and objectives have to match the money you are asking for. It is also beneficial to put the in-kind contributions or donated dollars into the budget in a separate column. This lets the funding source know what you will be bringing to the table service-wise.
  10. Write self-sufficiency plans into the request. Most funding sources are not interested in funding your organization long-term. They will fund you to start programs and to keep them going for a few years. In the proposal, write a section on how you will sustain the program once the funding expires.

- See more at: http://richardmale.com/tips-for-writing-effective-grant-proposals/#sthash.r3UAzT69.dpuf



Prospect Research Tactics

As you probably already know, 85 percent of all private donations in America ($250 Billion) come from individuals, while less than 15 percent come from private foundations and corporations. This clearly indicates that all nonprofit organizations that raise philanthropic dollars need to devote time and energy to raising money from individuals. Although you won’t generate dollars as quickly as you would from a private foundation, you have to remember that individual donors will stick with you for years, even decades.

When developing a major donor program (typically $1,000+) you want to do your homework. You must research the individual prospects to get a clear picture of who they are and how much money they may be able to donate.  For decades the largest nonprofits in the country have hired prospect researchers to pull together information on targeted individuals — the kind of information they research includes:


–Gift potential

–Biographical information such as size of family

— Giving history

–Passions and interests

The information is put into a two-to-three page profile and the prospect researcher makes some estimates about the giving potential of the donor.  The CEO and the solicitors use this information when asking the potential donor for support.

Generally the steps in prospecting for major donors include:

1. Identifying and qualifying the prospect

2. Making a list of prospects

3. Prospect research

4. Initial contact of the prospect

5. Discussion with the prospect about their interests and passions in an effort to pinpoint the “match” between their interests and your organization

6. Sending follow-up materials and thank-you letters

7. Setting up a strategy to ask for the gift

8. Solicitation

In this week’s Tips, we look at some of the reasons why prospect research becomes critical for major donor solicitation:

1. Saves time. When organizations and staff are already stretched thin, it becomes critical to correlate time with money, which means being as efficient as possible when gathering information prior to soliciting a donor.

2.  Know your donor. When approaching a donor for a major gift it is important to understand who the donor is in terms of their interests, their professional background, giving potential, where they went to school, passions, etc.

3.  Know what the donor is capable of giving. With proper research you sometimes find that a donor is capable of giving $10,000+ rather than just $1,000, which is something you clearly want to know prior to asking for a gift. This does not mean that you will always get what they are capable of giving, but it will give you an indication of their future potential

4.  Rank your donors. Every year, you should sit down with your leadership and come up with a list of between 10-50 new “potential major donors” and develop a ranking or a priority process so you spend the most time with the largest giving potential.

5.  Rifle rather than shotgun. Focus your time and effort on those prospects that you believe have a strong potential for turning into major donors.  It may take three or four “cultivations” prior to the ask, but if you prioritize and focus your efforts, you are much more likely to succeed

6.  Ask staff/board/volunteers. When identifying prospects, start off by asking your key stakeholders (staff, board, volunteers, existing donors) for names of people who you could begin cultivating this year.

7. Collect and save the background information. It is imperative that you have the discipline to collect information on prospects and donors. Information may include such things as their relationships and networks, where they went to college, boards on which they serve, birthdays, number and names of children, etc. All of this information MUST be put into an organized database.

8.  Read the business sections, society pages, and local newspapers. On a daily basis make sure you read the local newspapers, business magazines, and other publications; clip out articles on people who just sold their business, moved up in the business world, and/or made significant donations to other organizations.  Pay attention to the activities of the chamber of commerce, business groups, Rotary Clubs and other networks where people of wealth gather.

9.  Consider hiring a consultant or prospect researcher. If the donation you will be asking for is large enough, it may be worth paying a professional $100-$150 dollars to conduct a prospect research report for you to gather the critical information described above.

10. Key web sites if you want to do this work yourself. If you just want to do a ‘down and dirty’ search for people, some of the key websites that Richard Male and Associates uses include:  Google.com; Yahoo.com (go into people search); www.rpbooks.com (I Wave – this is a Canadian company that does sophisticated prospect research but will give you one day free); www.northernlight.com.

- See more at: http://richardmale.com/prospect-research-tactics/#sthash.LGXreCfe.dpuf

Getting Donors to Become Fundraisers

Tips from our reader Margie McCurry, Ph.D. Central Coast Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice Foundation: We’ve had very positive success having our board members…and even non-board donors…just call some of our top donors each month to say “thank you.” The relationships that have been made are positive and strong, we learn a lot more about our donors from these calls…and find those making the phone calls are then much more receptive to go on visits with the staff to the donors they have called; they say why they believe in the nonprofit Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, either as board members or prior donors, and are comfortable either asking for another, larger gift…or letting the staff guide the conversation into an ask. This is a 53-year old VNA and Hospice providing skilled in-home nursing care to almost 5,000 square miles in central California….we’ve been in a lot of bedrooms!

Rich’s Tips

“Focusing on raising donors means that an organization systematically diversifies its sources of funding, builds the number of people helping raise money and diversifies their skills.” – from Kim Klein’s book, Fundraising for Social Change

This weeks Rich’s TIPS is the third part in our series on individual donors. In the first piece two weeks ago, we listed ways to identify potential donors. Last week, we went through ways to close the ask and ‘trade-up’ donors. This week we’re looking at some strategies for turning donors into fundraisers.

Clearly before someone becomes a fundraiser for your organization, they must FIRST become a donor – without this they have no integrity in asking others for money. This is just the first step. When donors donate money, they demonstrate that they trust you and see some value in your organization. Your goal with any donor, is to deepen their investment and involvement in the organization. The next step is to get donors to become a fundraisers for the organization.   How do you stir them to ‘open-up’ their Rolodex and say to their friends: “I think you should support this group and let me tell you why I support them.” Here are some tips for moving this process along:

  • Collaboration, Moves Management - In fundraising ‘lingo’ the term “moves management” implies tracking the ‘moves’ or collaborative steps of your donors to know as much as you can about them and  to track information on them such as: family members, birthdays, anniversaries, where they went to college, what boards of directors they are on, et cetera.   Try to have at least three contacts or ‘moves’ with your donors per year.   This will deepen their involvement and engagement in your organization.
  • Donor Thank-you - After each ‘move’ or meeting with your donor, write a personal, hand-writtennote, acknowledging their support and involvement.   Get these out within 24 hours after the donation.
  • Ask and You Will Find - The number one reason people contribute is that they are asked (most successfully by someone they know). Ask your closest donors whether they will give you a list of 10 potential donors. If this list includes very wealthy individuals ask your donor to set up a luncheon meeting with you in attendance. It is often difficult to recruit your donors to ask their friends for money. Don’t ask them to ask for the money.   Ask them to set up the meeting for you(or the CEO) or another board member to ask for the money.   Other ways to ask:
    • Ask the donor to ask their company for corporate sponsorship dollars to underwrite the cost of your golf tournament, annual dinner, or special event. Also have them look into their company’s matching gift program.
    • Ask your donor who goes to church or synagogue to set up a meeting, for example,  with the president of the congregation’s Women’s group and ask if you might be able to speak to the women over lunch.   Always collect snail and email addresses from the women in attendance.
    • Ask your a major donor to set up a parlor meeting in their home and invite 10 of their friends. You don’t have to ask for money at the parlor meeting, but it could be a wonderful cultivation opportunity.
  • Direct Mail - Acquire lists of 10 names from your closest donors and send direct mail pieces to the people on these lists. When writing the direct mail letters, ask the donor to write a personal note in the front of the letter and to follow-up with a phone call.   If they make a phone call, the giving should increase almost 100 percent.
  • Prospect Research - When you are invited to go to a prospect appointment with a large donor, always make sure you do your homework and research to find out the prospects: interests, age, where they went to school, giving interests and passions; what boards of directors they are on, and ‘appropriate giving levels. ‘

Ultimately, the goal is to build deeper and more committed relationships on behalf of your organization while at the same time expanding the base of support. Engaging committed donors in the process will require a commitment of time and energy on your part, but the rewards can be exponential.

- See more at: http://richardmale.com/getting-donors-to-become-fundraisers/#sthash.3gAeiFlW.dpuf



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