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grants, nonprofit development, startup nonprofits

What data does my nonprofit need?

You have an eloquent proposal, an innovative program, and an established reputation, but public response has been lackluster, or you are coming up short in your grant requests. Why?

You need DATA – and it needs to tell a STORY.


As the competition for available funds and attention continues to increase, it is essential to prove your organization’s success. Get the measurable results you need to enhance your proposals and public image through a well developed data collection and evaluation plan. You know you are doing great work. But it is important to use data to tell the world your story in a fresh and compelling way. Here’s how to get started in devising a data collection and evaluation plan:


Get the data

Step One – justify the need:
Conduct a web and literature review of existing research. Find relevant facts and research findings that support the need for your cause.

Step Two – specify goals: Identify SMART goals for your program

S = specific      M = measurable      A = actionable      R = realistic       T = time-constrained

Step 3 – decide what you will use to measure​ those goals
Once you have defined SMART goals, decide what tools you will use to measure each one. Common tools can include quantitative measures (ex: surveys, evaluation forms) and qualitative (ex: interviews, focus groups, observations). For the best picture of what is really going on, use a mix of both quantitative and qualitative evaluation tools (ex: conduct a survey AND a few classroom observations).

To keep your thoughts organized, I suggest using a table such as this, with a SMART example:

Goal Outcome Tool to measure

Timeline

Increase awareness of STEM careers 80% or more of participants will show increased awareness of STEM careers program survey (comparison of pre-and post results) survey administered at beginning and conclusion of each program; analyzed within 1 week
goal 2
goal 3
goal 4

Grant applications are most successful when you can prove that your programs work. And the only way to do that is with data 🙂

Stay tuned for my next post, which will give ideas for using your data to share your successes.

 

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grant research, nonprofit development, startup nonprofits

Quick Start Guide to Grant Research

Ready to start looking for grants? Here is a quick start guide to grant research:

Step 1:

Collect all the basic information about your organization in one place (I like GoogleDocs). You will use this information to screen for your eligibility when looking for potential matches. You need to know your:

  1. Month and year incorporated as a 501c3
  2. City, State, and County where your nonprofit is registered
  3. Geographic service areas
  4. Mission statement
  5. Target audience(s)
  6. Focus areas (ex: education, STEM, health, arts, etc.)
  7. Annual operating budget
  8. Your top three funding needs (in other words, what specifically do you want to fund/accomplish within the year?)
  9. Desired award amount (if known)

Step 2

Research begins! Use grant research databases to locate and screen for qualified potential funding opportunities. The Grantsmanship Center is a great place to start, and is free!

Step 3

As you find potential matches, enter your results in a database (Excel file of GoogleSheet; download free template here) which includes:

  1. Funder name
  2. Website
  3. Award amount
  4. Deadline
  5. Approach (proposal or LOI)
  6. Focus areas
  7. Notes (if applicable)

Step 4

Create a strategic plan to focus your grantseeking efforts. It is critical to have a plan, and you must find the right fits. Otherwise you are wasting your time, and the time of potential funders.

Step 5

Write your grant applications or LOIs and submit!

 

Get an instant download of this Quick Start Guide to Grant Research here!

 

grants, startup nonprofits, writing

Education Grants: Writing a Winning Grant Proposal

As budgets around the country continue to tighten, it is increasingly important to seek external funding for classroom projects. If you are a teacher or administrator interested in seeking grants to support your school’s efforts, listen to this podcast featuring Greater Good Consultants Owner Ashley Pereira. Join Ashley and host Larry Jacobs for an overview of where to find education grants and how to make your proposal stand out in the crowd!

grants, nonprofit development, writing

How to Write a Grant Evaluation Plan in Three Simple Steps

Even if the prospective funder does not explicitly ask for one, you need an evaluation plan. Whether big or small, every project and every nonprofit organization needs to show that a clear plan exists to measure the effectiveness of its programs.

To write a good evaluation plan:

  1. Name specific things that will be measured. Examples could include student confidence levels, knowledge regarding computer science, or time spent with a certain resource.
  2. Describe how those things will be measured. In other words, name the data collection tools that will be used to measure what you defined in number 1. Common tools include tracker charts, surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
  3. Explain how the data will be used. This is the most important part. Once you have the data, what will you do with it? Why?

The degree of detail to which these concepts will be delineated will be driven by the requirements of the funder. For example, National Science Foundation proposals require in-depth evaluation plans that are often several pages long. Conversely, smaller foundations often ask how you will measure results, which can be answered with the above three questions within a paragraph.

As the competition for available grants continues to increase, a solid evaluation plan will go a long way in setting you apart from the competition and building trust with the potential funder.

grants, nonprofit development, startup nonprofits, writing

Grant Application Submission Checklist

Before you write a word, it is important to understand the items typically required as part of the grant application submission process. Use this simple checklist to start gathering the materials that will likely be requested. Start early to be sure you are not rushed at the last minute. 

GRANT APPLICATION SUBMISSION CHECKLIST

  • Fully edited, proofread, and finalized version of the proposal narrative
  • Current annual operating budget and, if appropriate, the program budget
    • budgets should reflect BOTH revenue and expenses for the organization/program
  • Letter(s) of support
    • ensure they are signed!
  • 501(c)(3) tax determination letter from the Internal Revenue Service
  • Most recent financial statements (audited preferred)
  • Copy of the most recent Form 990 filed with the IRS
  • List and brief biography of current Board of Directors
  • List and brief biography of key staff
  • List and descriptions of relevant partners and existing funders
  • Other pertinent supplemental documents (brochures, newsletters, etc.) if requested/relevant

Submitting an online grant application? Read this. And be sure to double check everything before submitting!

Click here to download this checklist as a PDF, free! 

nonprofit development, startup nonprofits, writing

Nonprofit Press Release Tips and Tricks

A press release is “an official statement issued to newspapers giving information on a particular matter” (Google). Through press releases, you have the opportunity to raise awareness of your nonprofit, communicate the value and impacts of your work, and build public trust. Nonprofits can submit press releases to announce:

  1. fundraising events
  2. new partnerships
  3. successful programs, events, campaigns, etc.
  4. public engagement opportunities (ex: volunteering)
  5. events and services offered

Aim to submit press releases quarterly to maintain your public face and remain fresh. Like newsletters and email marketing, you must find the happy medium. Too many and people ignore you and become resentful, too few and you are forgotten!

To begin, define the purpose of your press release. What do you want people to do after reading it? Visit your website? Purchase tickets to a fundraiser? Your writing should guide readers toward the desired goal throughout the release.

Your press release should fit within one page (around 500 words), and should present a clear and compelling message framed within the context of a story. Editors and reporters are looking for human value – be sure to deliver. Here is a great example of a nonprofit press release.

Once written, you are ready to send out your press release! I have found the most success in copy and pasting the text directly into the email body. Like all of us, editors and reporters are a busy bunch and typically will not take the extra step of opening an attachment. Save them the hassle and copy your press release directly into the email body.

Need an expert-crafted press release but don’t have time to do it yourself? We can help!

nonprofit development, startup nonprofits, writing

How to write a vivid grant proposal

Stop using clichés in your writing!

You’ve been hearing it since elementary school, yet many of us still fall into the trap (cliché!) of using cliches in our writing. But your cranky english teacher was right. If you want to write a compelling grant proposal, you need to find fresh ways to make your points and convey your message.

It is simple human nature to respond to the new and novel and ignore the old and bland. Scientists believe the reason is actually programmed into our genes as a primitive survival trait. Whenever something new entered the environment, our ancient ancestors needed to quickly investigate to determine potential risk. That is why advertisers are always touting their “new” product or offer – it makes us pay attention!

Similarly, sentences free of clichés, fluffiness, and superfluous (I almost said over-the-top there!) adjectives garner the attention of the proposal reviewer. In today’s highly competitive world of grants, reviewers are looking for pretty much any opportunity to toss your application to the ‘no’ pile. Keeping your writing vivid and fresh is one of the best things you can do to avoid this common fate. Tired clichés and lifeless text bore people. And a bored person is not going to be inspired enough to give you money!

Have you been using clichés in your grant proposals? Check out this big list of common clichés – if you find them in your proposal, your writing needs a refresher! For more simple tips to write better, right now click here.

grant research, nonprofit development, startup nonprofits

990s: the secret weapon of grant research

What are 990s?

As a nonprofit, you are likely familiar with 990 forms. A 990 is a form filed to the IRS by a tax-exempt organization, typically on an annual and/or quarterly basis. The 990 form lists organization income, expenses, and basic information. As you dive into the world of grant research, be sure to put 990s review on your list. Here’s why….

How can 990s help with grant research?

As I have discussed in previous posts, it is critical to find the right fits when it comes to potential funding requests. Fortunately many funders these days have well-developed websites which aid prospective grant applicants in learning more about the funders focus areas, priorities, and requirements. If the funder looks like a good preliminary fit based on the information from their website, the next step is to see if they have given to organizations similar to yours. Enter the 990!

 

How 990s can help in grant research

The best way to know if you have found a great funding match is if everything on their website seems well aligned with what you are doing, AND they have given to programs/organizations that are similar in size, scope, and focus as yours. This is precisely the information that can be found of funders’ 990s.

Step 1: Find the 990 forms the prospective funder. I like the Foundation Center 990 Finder. It is free and simple to use. Just type in the name and state of the funder you want to research, and it will pull up the organization’s 990s from the past several years.

Step 2: Once you have the 990s pulled up for a specific funder, go through at least three years of their returns to answer the following questions:

  • what is their average award amount?
  • are they giving to organizations in a similar field as yours (ex: education, health, etc.)?
  • are they giving to organizations similar in size to yours? (may require some googling of the grantees listed)
  • do they seem to care about the same things that you care about?
  • what type of awards are they giving? (operating expenses, program support, equipment, etc.)

If all of the questions above are yes, then congratulations, you have found an excellent funding fit! You can be relatively sure that they will be interested in what you are doing, and have done as much as possible to make sure that you are choosing a funder that is well-aligned with your organization. From here, apply! Be sure to review their website carefully and follow the application directions precisely for each organization.

 

 

 

federal grants, grants

10 things you need to know about federal government grants

Federal grants are defined as awards given and/or sponsored by the US government. Examples of federal funding agencies include the National Science Foundation (NSF), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Here are 10 things you need to know about federal government grants:

  1. Federal grants are the big leagues. If this is your first grant application, federal grants are likely not your best first step.
  2. Federal grants are highly competitive. Typically less than 15% of applicants are awarded funds.
  3. Federal grants are often the most valuable. It is not uncommon for grants to be upwards of $250,000 or more. Many startups see these lofty award amounts (listed on the solicitation pages) and dream big! But with much money comes much responsibility 🙂
  4. Often federal grants are awarded to larger, well-established organizations, especially those with high award amounts.
  5. An increasingly popular trend is partnerships. Groups of nonprofit and for-profit organizations are gathering together towards federal proposals. This is a smart move. Funders like the reputation and proven track record of the larger organization, coupled with the innovation and creativity of smaller, scappier organizations.
  6. Use grants.gov to quickly and (relatively) easily find available federal grants from every agency, all in one place. Watch my video to see how easy it is.
  7. Federal grants come with many strings attached. If successful, be prepared to devote significant time (and money) towards reporting, research, and evaluation measures required by the grant.
  8. Read the opportunity solicitation at least three times before you write a single word. The first time is to get a general idea of what the opportunity is, and what they are looking for. The second time is to look for how you fit in, and  the third time is to understand the main components and requirements.
  9. After reading through (usually 50+ pages), create an outline to ensure you address all the requirements.
  10. If a contact person is listed, don’t be afraid to ask questions! I have found these individuals to be very helpful and responsive in providing clarification and assisting with navigation. Just keep in mind that they cannot tell you anything that they have not told everyone else. Look for names and/or emails within the program solicitation. They are not always the easiest to find. For example, NSF calls these people ‘cognizant program officers’.

 

Good luck in your federal grant endeavors! If you need any help along the way, please get in touch at ashley@greatergoodconsultantsCT.com

 

grants, nonprofit development, startup nonprofits, writing

Top 3 Do’s and Don’ts of grant writing

People ask me all the time, “What is the secret to grant writing?”

The truth is, there is no secret! The difference between winning and losing proposals are pretty simple, and here are the top three:

Winning proposals…

1.Answer all the questions!: Writing a successful grant application is actually more of an exercise in careful reading rather than writing, as the number one reason grant applications are not funded is for failure to answer all of the questions adequately and appropriately.

2. Use data: Don’t just say you do something, or prove it! Use data rather than fluffy language to convey the impacts and successes of your program, as well as justify the need.

3. Follow the rules: If the grant guidelines say to use 12-point font Times New Roman, use 12-point font Times New Roman. If only PDFs are allowed, submit PDFs. If their maximum award amount is $10,000, don’t request more than $12,000. This really comes back to number one above – read carefully to ensure you have done everything the funder says, exactly as they want it. And be sure to also follow the rules of proper writing, grammar, and citations. NO typos!

While seemingly simple, following these three rules will help ensure that your grant application does not go directly to the ‘no’ pile. From there, funders will have the opportunity to read about your innovative ideas, and see how valuable your work is!