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grant research, grants and opportunities, startup nonprofits, STEM education

Get a grant in 5 easy steps

While perpetually busy, summer is a time when educators and busy nonprofit directors can find time to step back for a moment and reflect upon the year thus far. We are half way through 2017 – how is the year going? Are you programs or curriculum well defined? Do you have a clear focus on what you want to do? Do you have a plan? If you answered yes to these questions, add applying for a grant to your summer to do list! Here is how to get a grant in five easy steps:

Step 1:

Clearly identify what you are doing. You should be able to articulate what your mission is, who your target audience is, what makes you/your idea/your program stand out from the crowd, and what makes you well-qualified.

Step 2:

Define what you want to do. You should be able to articulate all aspects of your idea, new program, etc. What is it exactly? How many will you serve? What will your process be? What are the desired outcomes? What materials, time, space, etc. will you need? How will results be measured?

Step 3:

Research for grants that match. This is potentially the most challenging (and time consuming) step. It is not necessarily difficult, but is often a matter of weeding through many poor fits to find a few of the best matches. Use a grant research database to simplify the process. To find the best matches, look for organizations in your town, county, and state whose mission most closely aligns with yours. Click here to download a free e-book containing the best grant research tips, tricks, and free databases to get started.

Step 4:

Prioritize. When you do get a good research list together with several viable prospects, prioritize your list. Start with grants that have approaching deadlines, those that require the least expense of time (LOIs rather than proposals), or ones where you and/or your school may already have connections.

Step 5:

Apply! Write your LOIs and proposals in exact accordance with the funder’s stated expectations. Include what they say, in the order they say it – and NO typos! 🙂 There is no ‘special trick’ to grant writing. The key in writing an effective grant application or letter of intent (LOI) is to present a compelling case, backed by concrete evidence.

 

And that’s it! Five simple steps to getting a grant! While the process itself is not overly challenging, it can take quite a bit of time. Set a goal to do one step a week – breaking the process down into small steps makes it more manageable, and ensures the process will be done by the end of the summer! Now get out there and get a grant!

grant research, nonprofit development, startup nonprofits

FREE resources for grant research

Is applying for a grant on your summer bucket list? If so, check out these FREE resources to help you get started!

Once you have a well-defined plan, grant research is often the first step in the grants process. It can be a very time consuming process, but it is imperative to find the right funding fits. Not only is sending out random requests a waste of time, it can also damage your reputation in the (small) world of philanthropic giving. So how do you find the best fits? Here are some FREE resources to find grants:

READ

Finding Grant Funding, for Free! (download e-book)

Learn how the grant research process works, and how to find the best fits for you. Also includes top suggestions for FREE grant research tools to streamline the process.

WATCH

How to search for grants using grants.gov

Grants.gov is your one-stop-shop for every grant that exists from the federal government. Using grants.gov can seem intimidating at first, but the process is quite simple once you know where to look!

Using twitter to find grants

Twitter is like duct-tape – a million uses and counting! Watch this quick video to see how to use Twitter hashtags and search box to find grant opportunities.

DO

Grant research template spreadsheet

Stay organized with this simple Excel spreadsheet. Includes funder name, website, award amount, approach, deadline, focus areas, and notes. Everything you need to keep your research list organized, ensuring you don’t forget any important information!

 

At Greater Good Consultants, we are firm believers in individual capacity building. Thus, we provide these free resources to help you develop your innate talents and abilities to propel your organization to new and exciting places. All these resources have been created by GGC staff, and are free and available for download and use to promote the greater good within individual nonprofit organizations. Good luck!

 

 

grants and opportunities, nonprofit development, startup nonprofits

Start up nonprofit survival: without these three things your nonprofit will die

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the United States. As the number of nonprofit organizations continues to grow each year, competition for available funds – whether individual donors, business sponsors, or grants – has become fierce. With limited funds, ambitious Founders and Executive Directors often support their start-up nonprofit organization through massive outpourings of time and money. However, this method quickly becomes unsustainable, and the nonprofit fails once personal resources are maxed out.

The key to success in a start-up nonprofit is to have a strategic plan to guide and organize the organization. Here are the three essential parts of a nonprofit strategic plan:

  1. Strong Board: The importance of a strong Board of Directors is often overlooked, but is critical to organizational success. Simply having board members is not enough. You need to have active, engaged, well respected board members that add value to your organization and help you do the heavy lifting. Especially in a start-up nonprofit’s early days, good board members will help you spread the word, activate their networks, and drive engagement. Board members should also assist in the daily and administrative tasks that can quickly overwhelm and consume a nonprofit executive director. Nonprofit board members can also give your fledgling organization credibility within the community, and with funders. Consider asking well-regarded members of your community to serve as a member of your board. Elected officials, faith leaders, community activists – try to get as many people on your nonprofit Board of Directors as possible. Not only will this help spread the message throughout your community, but it will also add credibility for your organization especially as it starting out.
  2. Data Collection and Evaluation Plan: You have an eloquent proposal, an innovative program, and an established reputation, but you are coming up short in your grant requests. Why? You need DATA. As the competition for available grants continues to increase, it is essential to prove your organization’s success to potential funders. Get the proven, measurable results you need to enhance your proposals through a well-defined research and evaluation plan. You know you are doing great work, but that is not enough. You must collect multiple forms of data, then use it to prove to the world just how great it truly is.
  3. Sustainability Plan:When planning for your budget and operational costs, it is imperative to devise a sustainability plan. Your nonprofit MUST earn its own income. At a minimum, 75% of your projected revenue should come from earned income streams such as contracts, merchandise purchases, fees for service, etc., as well as individual donors. Grants should be used to scale something that is already working well – NOT something to help you get off the ground. Nonprofits that rely on grant funding, particularly those that are smaller, just starting out, and with no proven track record often fumble and struggle to make it through the first year. Sadly, many fail within the first few months.

Without a well developed strategic plan that includes a strong Board of Directors, research and evaluation plan, and a sustainability strategy, your nonprofit will struggle to survive. Unfortunately, over 98% of all US nonprofit applications are approved. A well-defined, sustainable strategic plan is hardly part of this process! But if you really want to make it in the nonprofit world, these are the three essential components that must be part of your nonprofit strategic plan. Is is quick and easy? Absolutely not! But it will position your nonprofit for success, while many around you flounder.

nonprofit development, writing

Make it or break it mission statements: How to write a powerful nonprofit mission statement 

According to Google, a mission statement is “a formal summary of the aims and values of a company, organization, or individual.” Every single grant application or proposal that I have ever encountered asks for your organization’s mission statement, most often as the very first question. In a nonprofit mission statement, you are essentially boiling down the crux of what you do and who you serve into one powerful sentence. Here’s how to write a nonprofit mission statement that funders will love in three easy steps:

1. Summarize WHAT you do
2. Define WHO you serve
3. Hint at WHY it is important

The crux of your organization should be immediately apparent in one clear and concise sentence. Here is an example of my mission statement from a STEM education project that I recently launched:
CareerInSTEM develops the next generation of STEM leaders and innovators through engaging resources and training for students, parents, and educators.

This mission statement combines all three of the above steps. Here’s how:

1. Summarize WHAT you do: engaging resources and training
2. Define WHO you serve: students, parents, and educators
3. Hint at WHY it is important: develops the next generation of STEM leaders and innovators

The trick is to combine all three into a short yet descriptive sentence. When you have a draft of your mission statement ready, ask yourself these questions:
a. Would anyone be able to read this sentence and have a clear idea of what the organization is about?
b. Is this sentence compelling?
c. Would someone want to learn more after reading this?

If you answered ‘no’ to any of these questions, go back to the drawing (or writing…) board and keep trying! Once they are all ‘yes’ to you, go out and ask at least five people the same questions. When you encounter a ‘no’, ask for their honest feedback and use it to make your mission statement better. Anyone is fair game – people on the street, subway passengers, friends, family, even via online survey. In fact, strangers are often ideal sounding boards, as they are truly objective and can provide clear insights that people close to you may not be able to provide.

Here are a few examples:

BREAK IT: We are changing lives through education.
MAKE IT: X Nonprofit equips single mothers in New York City with the job-specific skills they need to achieve financial stability.
Tips: Never use pronouns. Do not use words that end in -ing. Do not be vague. For example, ‘education’ can be lots of different things. Specifically state what you offer. Read more simple writing fixes here.

BREAK IT: X Nonprofit provides drug prevention education programs to at-risk youth in Colorado.
MAKE IT: The mission of X Foundation is to provide transformative educational experiences that result in resilient, confident, drug-free youth.
Tips: This break it was close – it states what the organization does and who they serve. But it did not hint at why it is important. This is the factor that really makes or breaks a mission statement.

Using these three steps, you will be well on your way towards crafting a compelling mission statement that funders will love!
grants and opportunities, nonprofit development

When grants are NOT the answer: straight talk on funding for start-up nonprofits

In a previous post, I wrote about that fact that you cannot rely on grant funding alone to support your nonprofit. In fact, grant funding should represent a relatively small percentage of your overall income.

Nonprofits that rely on grant funding, particularly those that are smaller, just starting out, and with no proven track record often fumble and struggle to make it through the first year. Sadly, many fail within the first few months. So what is a start-up nonprofit to do?

As promised, here are my recommendations when it comes to funding your small start-up nonprofit:

  1. Partner with existing, larger, well-established nonprofits within your field. Start small by joining forces with a larger local organization to offer a new program, collaborate for an event, or run a mutual marketing campaign. In partnering with a larger, well-established organization, you will begin to nurture a positive trusting relationship, and with the ultimate intent to apply for grants in conjunction with this larger organization. When first starting out, this is the easiest and most cost-effective way to make a name for yourself within your community, earn trust of stakeholders in your field, and have a responsible and experienced partner for potential grants.
  2. Seek community based donations before you ever seek your first grant. Many start-up nonprofits that contact me at Greater Good Consultants LLC immediately want to jump right into foundation, corporate, and even federal grants. While these are noble goals, they are not my suggested course action within the first year. Rather, I recommend establishing yourself within your local community first and foremost. For example, perhaps your local grocery store is eager to donate snacks for your after school program. Maybe the nearby pharmaceutical company has company volunteers that would love to come do a workshop with your students. Sometimes local community members might even offer you a cash donation – you never know until you try! Stay tuned for my tips on how to write a simple letter to prospective community partners.
  3. Start small and local. Why? Those closest to you are those most likely to fund you. You have shared interests, you work with the same people, you had the same problems, and you are all working towards the same solutions. Plus, starting within your community will help you gain a reputation, make connections, establish trusting relationships, as well as help you on your way to developing a proven track record with stewarding donated funds.

Those closest to you are those most likely to fund you.

Oftentimes, grants are NOT the answer. By trying these three suggestions, you will be well on your way to establishing the reputation, track-record, and internal capacity you need to apply for and win your first grant. Want more advice? I am always happy to connect! Shoot me an email at ashley@greatergoodconsultantsCT.com.

grants and opportunities, nonprofit development

What percentage of your nonprofit budget should be supported by grants?

What percentage of your nonprofit budget should be supported by grants? Unfortunately the answer is not as high as you likely thought it would be. According to the Foundation Center, one of the largest and most reliable resources regarding nonprofit data and information, the answer to this question is less than 20%!

screenshot sources of funding

According to this research, conducted by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, foundation grants accounted for only 15% of total charitable giving in 2014. Thus, your nonprofit budget should reflect these proportions accordingly. Expecting 50% or more of your organization to be supported by grants in most cases is simply unrealistic and not sustainable.

KEY POINT

You cannot rely on grants to support and maintain your nonprofit organization!

In my work at Greater Good Consultants, I receive daily requests from ambitious nonprofit start up founders. They have noble missions, a passionate heart, and dedication to their field. Yet many of them are mistaken in thinking they can use grants to support the entirety of their nonprofit start up. As evidenced above, this is simply not the case.

When starting a nonprofit, it is always my suggestion to clients to not count on any grants! If you can’t get it done out of your own pocket, then don’t do it. When planning for your budget, at a minimum 75% of your projected revenue should come from earned income streams such as contracts, merchandise purchases, fees for service, etc., as well as individual donors. Nonprofits that rely on grant funding, particularly those that are smaller, just starting out, and with no proven track record often fumble and struggle to make it through the first year. Sadly, many fail within the first few months. So what is a start-up nonprofit to do? Stay tuned for my next post, which will feature my top suggestions for funding small start up nonprofits.

nonprofit development, writing

Write better, right now

The importance of good writing cannot be underestimated. Does your writing stand out from the crowd? If not you may be missing out on countless opportunities to develop and cultivate your nonprofit.

When it comes to writing – letters of inquiry, grant proposals, or even your nonprofit website content – it HAS to be good. Your writing is often the first and and only chance you have to capture the attention of potential partners, clients, and donors. If your writing is not strong, it is a sure-fire way to be overlooked and underfunded. Fortunately, there are five simple and easy ways that you can vastly improve your writing abilities. No matter what you are writing, here’s how to do it better, right now:

  1. Delete that and the: These words are almost always useless. Remove them to instantly make your writing more concise.
  2. Do not use I: In fact, do not use any pronouns (me, us, them, etc).
  3. Remove ‘-ing’: Write in the now, not in the ‘-ing’.
  4. Keep it short: Is your sentence 10 words long? Get it to 5. Challenge yourself to cut it in half, every time. Chances are you have a lot of junk in there. Take it out and your writing will sing a new tune.
  5. Don’t use fluff: Don’t use dilute adjectives – use the real numbers or examples to say what you mean. Don’t have real numbers or examples? Then don’t write it.

 

That’s it! By implementing the simple suggestions, you will immediately be a better writer. Do yourself a favor and check your website content, letters, and any other professional writings. Chances are they are in need of revision 😀  Not sure if your writing is as compelling as it could be? I am always happy to provide a free consultation, so get in touch! The success of your nonprofit depends on it.

federal grants, grant research, grants and opportunities

How to use grants.gov

Thinking of applying for a federal grant? Like all potential grant applications, it is essential to do your research first. Finding the right fit is the first and most important step in grantseeking, and fortunately the federal government has streamlined the grant research process for you. All grant opportunities sponsored by any federal entity are listed in a single place – grants.gov. From the EPA to NIH, DOE to USDA, it is all in one place, saving you the hassle and time of searching through each organization’s website. Check out this simple instructional video to get started using grants.gov today!

Think you have found a good fit? We are always happy to offer a free consultation. Get in touch!

Uncategorized

We’re moving! plus new blog for grant writing tips, tricks, and resources

As many of you know (and have helped out with!), I have been developing a STEM career exploration project. I am very excited to announce that a beta version of the website is finally ready! Please check it out here, and share your feedback!

The new website has its own blog, which will feature the latest in STEM education, educational technology, and career and technical education. This page will now become the blog for the CareerInSTEM parent company, Greater Good Consultants LLC, featuring grant writing tips, tricks, and resources. We hope you will continue to follow us here, as well as join in the conversation at the new CareerInSTEM blog!

As our programs continue to grow and expand, so too has our need for support. Below is a list of available opportunities within Greater Good Consultants:

  • marketing/advertising intern
  • computer science/programming intern
  • education intern (preference for those with a middle/high school interest)

If you or anyone you know may be interested, please get in touch! Thank you!

Careers and CTE, educational technology

STEM teacher opinions needed!

Middle and high school teachers – we need your help! We are developing a new tool to promote STEM career exploration, and we need your input. Please take this very brief survey to help develop the next generation of STEM professionals! Also, sign up to be a beta tester for FREE lifetime access to the finished product!

Thank you very much for your help!