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.

 

Advertisements
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! 

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!

 

grants, nonprofit development

Submitting an online grant application? Read this first

Submitting an online grant application-

 

It is Thursday night at 11:50pm. You are furiously uploading all the required documents into a funder’s online grant system to submit by 11:59pm – the deadline. Suddenly your cat jumps up on the desktop to come sit in your lap, but turns off your computer with his paw on the way up. You frantically turn the computer back on, begging it – “Come on, please still be there, please still be there!”

CRAP!

Only the first part of a 15 part application was autosaved. It is now 11:56pm. There is no way you will be able to upload everything in the next three minutes. You give up and go to bed, possibly shedding a tear along the way. Over 20 hours of work in the past month – for nothing! Your only consolation is that there will be another opportunity to submit this application…next year.

The truth is that this is not an uncommon story. Not only is it more stressful to be submitting a grant application close to the deadline, there are more reasons to avoid this common pitfall:

  1. TIMESTAMPS

Oftentimes funders print out grant applications submitted online so each Board member gets a copy. Online grant systems often print a cover page, and the very first item on this cover page is typically a timestamp. So say your cat did not jump up and you were able to submit by 11:58pm. The very first thing funders will see is that you submitted one minute before the deadline. If you can’t get your act together enough to submit early, can you really be trusted with a $1 million grant, as you were requesting? Not to say that submitting close to the deadline would completely count you out, but in today’s extremely competitive grant cycles, there is absolutely no room for anything less than perfection. Funders are inundated with grant applications, and they need something to thin the crowd. Seeing that you submitted very close to the deadline would be an easy way to go directly to the no pile before they even read a word.

2. OTHER PROCRASTINATORS

When there are lots of people (procrastinators!) on a website at one time, especially when it comes to grant application systems, those systems sometimes fail. Don’t take the chance – get in the system when it is calm to avoid any issues. I always recommend that clients submit at least two days before the deadline.

3. SYSTEM INCOMPATIBILITIES

Sometimes it takes doing it to realize if something is not going to work. For example, in one grant application system they required PDF documents only, when I had created Word docs. Luckily I had plenty of time to convert all the files and upload them, as there were still a few days to go. But had it been 11:50pm on the deadline date, I would not have had time for this simple fix. I have also heard of browser incompatibilities, difficulties copy/pasting into the application boxes, and the list goes on. By getting in there early, you will be able to address any incompatibilities well before the deadline.

4. RUSHING = SLOPPINESS

You never produce your best work when you are rushed. You make typos, don’t answer the question fully, repeat yourself, and other major grant writing no no’s. By planning to finish your grant writing and application a week before the deadline, you save time to come back to it in a day or two with fresh eyes to ensure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed. Again, there is no room for error, so your narrative and all associated documents must be perfect.

 

While it is true that some people cannot complete work unless a hard deadline is looming, massive amounts of stress, anxiety, and eventual heartache can easily be avoided with some simple planning when it comes to grant deadlines. As they say, those who fail to plan can plan to fail! Stay tuned for my next post where I will explain how to make a simple plan and never miss a grant deadline again!

grants, nonprofit development, startup nonprofits

Can a grant pay for salaries?

Can a grant pay for salaries?

It is a question I get a lot, and like most things in the world of grants, the answer is….

it depends.

Here are some scenarios of when it is possible to fund employee salaries with grants, and when getting a grant to pay for salaries is simply not realistic:

You could PERHAPS get a grant to pay for an employee salary if…

  • You have been invited to submit a proposal by the funder. This means they know you, are familiar with your work, and want to support you.
  • The RFP (request for proposals) or grant opportunity description says the funds can be used for salaries.
  • The grant offers ‘operational support’. This is the gold standard of grants, as is it can be used at your discretion to support organizational needs, including staff member salaries.
  • You have at least five years of existence as a registered 501(c)3 organization
  • You have consistently delivered well-established programs with measurable, positive impacts on your constituents. The salary would help you do something bigger, better, or keep it going strong.
  • You have existing income streams to support the other costs of your organization. Funders do NOT want to support your organization, particularly when it comes to personnel.

You likely WILL NOT get a grant to pay for an employee salary if…

  • You are a start-up organization (especially within your first three years).
  • The grant is intended for program support (although sometimes salaries can be included as part of the overall program).
  • You have no data to prove that your program works and imparts positive impacts on those whom you serve.
  • You rely heavily on grants (over 30% of your operating budget).

While there are no hard rules, these are my general observations of what I have seen when it comes to successful requests for salaries….and unsuccessful requests.

Do not make a salary request your first grant request

It is my recommendation not to request funds to support salary expenses at all within the start-up period (the first five years). If you are a new organization just starting out, request funds to support a specific program, and ensure nearly 100% of the funds go directly to programmatic costs. Do as much as you can with volunteers and your Board of Directors for the first five years, then when you have proven results and a successful program, consider a salary request.