How YOU Can Write Powerful Grant Proposals

How YOU Can Write Powerful Grant Proposals

Grant proposal writers are in great demand these days. Mission-driven organizations typically survive on contributions and grants, and the competition for those dollars is fierce. So everyone wants a grant writer who can come in and work some magic.

Fund Raising Magic

Grant writers, though, do not come with magic wands to wave over the fundraising operation, and today’s post highlights one of the challenges some of them face: Grant writers are sometimes expected to spin compelling grant proposals out of thin air. Or out of a jumble of bits and pieces.

Imagine being handed a big box of puzzle pieces, all the same color. You can start framing the puzzle by finding all the straight-edges and corners, but what about the middle? There are few visual clues to help you assemble the rest of the puzzle quickly. So you stumble along in trial-and-error fashion until you finally get all the pieces in place.

Sometimes grant writers inherit this kind of challenge.

When a grant writer gets a proposal deadline, but little information to draw from, office life might get a little tough. The frustrated grant writer is “grilling” the staff for information. The already-busy staff is “pouting” about having to dig up that information. And the flustered exec answers the grant writer, “We hired you to figure all that out.”

Solving the Puzzle

So, what’s the solution? A partnership between the grant writer and the staff. The organization’s leaders and staff know the ins and outs of the agency’s programs, and the grant writer needs to know that too.

Trouble is, sometimes all that knowledge is locked in somebody’s head—usually several somebodies, but it’s not written on a page. And since grant writers don’t usually come equipped with mind-reading skills, someone has to harvest all that knowledge.

Today’s video gives you 4 specific steps you and your staff can take to better equip your grant writer for success. I’m not offering you a magic wand or fairy dust; you’ll have to put some work into it. But if you do these things consistently, you’ll lay a foundation for more than fundraising.

Beyond Grant Writing

For example, you’ll be better equipped to recruit board members, make public presentations, and respond to grantmakers’ questions. The organizational knowledge that was once locked in “someone’s” head will be available for your board and staff to use in many ways.

So relax for 4 1/2 minutes and watch the video, Grant Writing: 4 Steps to More Powerful Proposals, and I hope you’ll see why hiring a clever wordsmith is not enough.

The power in your great proposal lies in its ability to tell the grant maker a compelling story based on real information. If this looks like a lot of information to process in 5 minutes, I have a solution for you. Inside Nonprofit Startup Academy, I offer a coaching program called Your First Proposal. I teach you grantwriting basics and coach you through the process of creating your first proposal. You can learn more about that program HERE.

Meanwhile, please drop down to the Comments and let me know YOUR biggest concern about grantwriting. And if you found this article helpful, please share it to your favorite social network!

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Change: Get Ready, Stay Ready!

Change: Get Ready, Stay Ready!

We know Change is coming. So why are we caught off guard when it shows up? Maybe we’re too busy to think about it. Or maybe we expect Change to stay away until we’re ready for it. We cruise along with our heads down, hustling to complete that ever-bloated To Do list until we’re smacked in the head by Change.

Pain, Pain, Go Away

Change–whether good or bad–draws us out of our comfort zones. It rips away our cozy routines, and it creates more work. Sometimes it brings painful choices. And sometimes Change brings loss.

Marriage, for example, is Change. When I got married, I gained the love of my life but lost the ability to see my parents every day. They were now many miles away. And I left a job I loved and became another DC-area job hunter.

That Change was our choice, but it still brought joy and pain, loss and gain.

In an organization, of course, Change is far less romantic. (At least it was where I’ve worked.) But organizational Change still brings joy and pain. And being human, we’d rather avoid pain whenever we can.

So we steadfastly ignore the fact that Change may visit us, bringing his unpleasant little minions with him. Then, while we’re enjoying the scenery in the Land of Denial, Change smacks us in the head, knocks us off our feet, and rocks our cozy, predictable worlds.

We can’t ignore Change any longer.

A Fond Farewell To Procrastination

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know already. If you’re over the age of 10, Change has come to visit you at some point in the past. What I AM doing is giving you a reality check and, hopefully, a swift kick in your Decisionmaker Before it’s too late.

another thing added to your list. But I’ve been on the receiving end of emergency calls from nonprofits who failed to prepare for Change until it struck, too.

They didn’t “have time” to plan for Change in advance, either. But then the organization was in crisis and had no choice but to deal with Change. They had to make time. And, trust me, when I tell you that when Change catches you off guard, you might face the pain that naturally comes with Change and the pain of being unprepared.

Still Think There’s No Time?

Nobody can predict and prepare for every possible form of Change, but we can minimize the discomfort and disruption that comes with some predictable events like the loss of a top performer who just got offered the job of a lifetime. Somewhere else.

Or maybe it’s your founder and board chair–the one with major charisma, contagious passion, and a list of high-powered contacts. The founder is retiring and taking her toys with her to Florida.

These aren’t bad events, but you’d better believe your organization will feel the pain if you’re not prepared.

Your Stakeholders Are Depending On You

Don’t wait. You can prepare your organization for Change by planning for events like the ones listed here. Gather your board and staff leaders and start the conversation right away:

  • The exit or absence of key leaders and staff
  • The exit or absence of key board members
  • The opportunity to pursue an important new grant source
  • Loss of a single major funding source
  • The need for organizational layoffs
  • Negative press or organizational scandal

Too Small to Fail?

Did your heart skip a beat when you read that list? Or maybe you think your organization is small enough that you can deal with those things. You may be right.

But if your program is around long enough, some of them WILL come up. Navigating those things smoothly will help your clients or customers, your funders, your community, and any other stakeholders continue their faith in your organization. And you can leverage that faith into practical support.

So What Next?

Talk about how these situations and others might play out in your organization and how your board, staff, clients, and stakeholders might be affected. Create written plans that will help you minimize the damage, take advantage of any opportunities that arise, and settle things down as quickly as possible.

If you’ve followed headlines in the nonprofit sector over the past few years, you know Change often shows up without warning. And while planning won’t stop Change, it can help your organization face the challenge with more intelligence and grace.

By managing Change well, you might just win even more support for your cause. Isn’t that peace of mind worth adding preparation for Change to your To Do list? I sincerely hope so.

Please Comment and share YOUR stories about Change. And if you found this article helpful, please share it to your favorite social media sites!

4 Reasons Your Church Should Say Yes to Nonprofit Startup

4 Reasons Your Church Should Say Yes to Nonprofit Startup

I grew up in church learning godly values like telling the truth and helping those who are less fortunate. I’m sure your church teaches those same values. And if your church is like mine, you put action behind your values by giving practical help like food and clothing to your neighbors in need.

In some places–especially urban areas–no matter how much help our churches offer, the need never ends. In fact, it can outstrip our resources and leave our church leaders searching for answers. It’s been that way here in the Washington, DC region for a long, long time.

SO WHAT CAN WE DO?

Starting a separate charitable nonprofit is one possible answer. But this is a big decision for a church. One reason is that churches often work differently than nonprofits, and the “clash of cultures” can be disruptive.

4 REASONS TO LAUNCH A NONPROFIT

So even though starting a charitable nonprofit is not the only answer, I can tell you at least 4 good reasons for your church to do it. Take a look and see if any of these feel right.

SCALE

You’ve probably seen a steady increase in the people coming to your church for help. It’s common for social services agencies and houses of worship to receive far more requests for help than they can answer. If your church plans to meet that growing need, you’ll have to increase the scale of your program.

Another word for that is “expand.”

Burnout

Let’s admit it; in most churches, a few members do most of the work. The dreaded Pareto Principle–known as the 80-20 Rule–pops up in the church, too!

You DO NOT want to burn out or drive away that faithful 20 percent by asking too much of them. You may want to run your expanded programs with church volunteers, and maybe you can. But with a large enough expansion, count on needing either additional outside volunteers or paid staff. Or both!

You may also need more space and better recordkeeping and program management as you increase the scale. A nonprofit organization can give you the structure you need to manage the expansion and ensure high-quality services without causing your active members to tip out the back door.

So reason #1 to say yes is the ability to expand and serve many more people.

SCOPE

Here’s another common situation: As you feed hungry families, you realize the parents need help with job training, résumé development and, interview skills. They’re unemployed or underemployed and need to solve that in order to pay the rent and buy necessities.

So you decide to deepen the scope of your services to answer those needs, too. “Deepen the scope” is another way of saying you want to tackle the root cause of the problem instead of just patching the problem over and over.

Volunteers May Not Be Enough

For these “deeper” programs, you’ll probably need workers with advanced skills, licenses, or specific expertise. You may not have people with these credentials inside your pool of volunteers.

Churches minister to people in many ways, but the church is not necessarily equipped to address all of these social challenges. So creating a nonprofit lets the church focus on its spiritual mission while ensuring that these other needs are also being met.

So Reason 2 to say yes is to help your neighbors overcome obstacles that keep them chronically dependent upon charitable services.

FUNDING

It’s no secret that serving people in need can be costly. If your church needs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars to serve your community, you probably need a funding base that goes beyond family, friends, and church members.

Here’s a Reality Check

Everyone loves the fact that churches help people in need. But most US grantmakers and some individual donors will NOT contribute to programs operated by churches. But a separate nonprofit can compete for charitable and educational grants, contracts, and donations that aren’t available to your church.

Of course, you still want support from family, friends, and members. You just don’t want your services to be limited by the funds they can contribute.

Reason 3 to say yes is to attract large enough grants, contracts, and donations to help you transform the lives of the people you serve. 

LIABILITY

Whenever you work with people, you run the risk of legal challenges. Someone slips on your front step, and they sue. Someone doesn’t like the advice they got from a program volunteer, and they want to sue. A volunteer feels discriminated against, and they file a complaint.

If you run these programs through your church–you guessed it!–your church is the target. So an advantage of running your social programs through a separate nonprofit it to reduce the likelihood that your church will be named in a lawsuit by an unhappy participant.

I Can’t Promise

Now, I’m not a lawyer, and I can’t promise you your church WON’T be sued. People sometimes look for the deepest pockets around and might still try to target your church. But if your nonprofit has an independent board, and if it doesn’t operate programs on church property I believe legal charges related to the social programs would be filed against the nonprofit.

You don’t want one unhappy client to damage your church’s reputation and strip away some of its assets.

I know. The idea of getting sued is rotten, no matter which organization is the target. But lawsuits are a modern reality, so talk with your lawyer, accountant, and insurance professional about ways to protect your assets. And since rules vary from state to state, ask how a separate nonprofit can protect your church’s assets.

Reason 4 to say yes is to protect your church’s assets from liabilities related to your charitable services.

WHAT’S YOUR VERDICT?

I’ve shared 4 reasons your church should launch a separate nonprofit. But let me be clear: I’m NOT saying it’s easier.

Smarter, yes. Easier? Probably not.

You and your team will go through a transition, and we all know change can be hard even when it’s good.

Setting up a charitable organization would be your first transition. So if you’d like to learn how it’s done, click the image below to request my free ebook, Your Nonprofit Startup Guide. It’s a super quick read.

If you’d like to talk with me about whether nonprofit startup might be right for your church, you can request a free 20-minute discovery call HERE.

Request Your Nonprofit Startup Guide

YOUR TURN!

Did any of those reasons strike a chord with you? I’d love it if you’d tell me about it in the Comments. Nothing fancy, just a quick line or two. I’m eager to hear what’s happening at your church!

5 Team Building Lessons You Can Learn From a Marching Band

5 Team Building Lessons You Can Learn From a Marching Band

Today’s post takes a lighthearted look at team building.

Back in the 1990s, we heard a lot about building and managing teams. And we heard phrases like “team player” and “There’s no ‘I’ in team” enough to make us scream.

Or maybe that was just me.

I’ve never seen any magic in the idea of teams. The only reason to create one is, that that’s the best solution for the job, not because it’s “standard operating procedure.” Another mistake is assuming a team will get the job done simply because it exists. If you want to know the meaning of the word frustration, just join an ineffective team!

Or maybe that’s just me again.

Do You Really Need a Team?

If the job requires that two or more people coordinate their efforts over weeks or months, you probably need a team. Otherwise, give the task to someone competent and move on. And while we usually call them committees instead of teams, the same applies to your board of directors.

So, if you need a team and want a team worth having, take a look at this lighthearted little video. It’s football season; so maybe you’ll get a kick out of 5 Team Building Fundamentals You Can Learn From a Marching Band.

TEAM BUILDING
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More Tips?

Want to share your experience with the highs and lows of teams? I’d love to hear your tales; so please leave me a Comment.

And to do your part to keep the world safe from exasperating teams, please share this post using the social media buttons on the left! 🙂

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