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Grant Management

Not Winning Enough Grants? We May Know Why

By | Grant Management | No Comments

How’s your batting average these days? We’re not talking about baseball, although since it’s summer, you’re forgiven if your thoughts turned to the diamond and the outfield.

We’re talking about your grant application batting average, or your ratio of wins to losses. How is your organization progressing towards its grant goals for the year?

If the answer is, “You don’t want to know” then we encourage you to read on…because we might just know what the problem is and how you can fix it.

It’s Not You, It’s the Grant Guidelines

Grant guidelines may be crystal clear or clear as mud. Yet, depending on your industry and focus, you may be stuck applying to those muddy waters. It’s up to you to gain clarity  on them and to approach grant writing as scientifically as possible.

Many organizations prepare grant guidelines as if those seeking funds understand their jargon and have a window into their thought process. They may use legacy forms and language, failing to update the grant guidelines for today’s problems and nonprofits. Or, they may prepare the guidelines with a committee who throws everything, including the kitchen sink and the bathtub too, into the application. The resulting languages reads like a confusing stew of wishful thinking.

As nonprofits who rely upon grant funds, it’s up to you to decipher whatever you are presented with in order to apply for funds. A few tips:

  1. If the grantor offers a conference call to potential applications in which to ask questions, attend it. You may not have to ask your questions – someone already on the call may ask exactly that question which is on your mind. By attending the call, you can listen to the conversation and discussions and glean insights into the thinking process behind the grant.
  2. Keep accurate notes of past years’ applications. A good grant contact management system, for example, can help you track information uses for last year’s grant so that your current application isn’t re-inventing the wheel.
  3. Join groups gathered to provide input to the grantors when they develop the language for their applications and forms. This provides valuable input to ensure jargon-free, logical grant applications.
  4. Ask questions, if you can. If the application offers contact information to ask questions, do so.

And If You Prepare Grant Applications…

If you’re on the other side of the desk preparing grant applications, the nonprofits of the world would like to ask a favor. Please make application instruction clear!

It’s not that organizations don’t want to submit the appropriate paperwork and documentation. They do. But if you make the instructions a study in obfuscation, you’ll only make it harder on yourself when it comes time to review the applications. It frustrates nonprofits and it frustrates those reviewing the applications who may complain, “Why can’t we get a decent grant application?”

Provide explanations and examples of what you’re looking for, too. Terminology varies from organization to organization. What may be clear to you may be very confusing for the person writing the grant application. Simple examples, illustrations, and guidelines save a great deal of time for all.

Organize, Then Write

Lastly, for those who are still wondering why their batting average for grant wins remains low, consider how better organization around the application process may help. Many grant writers plunge into their applications without stopping to organize their paperwork and build an outline of their pitch.

Take time to focus on the grant information. Read it several times and ask for feedback if you’re unclear. Gather background information and paperwork. Then, write. Be sure to align your organization’s mission and values as well as provide specifics about programs that the money will be applied to so that the granting organization sees how their funds will be used. These simple tips will help you improve your awards to hit a home run.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Write Better Grant Applications with This Tip

By | Grant Management | No Comments

How’s your ratio of grants submitted to grants awarded? Are you tracking it using grant software?

If you are tracking your “grant batting average,” so to speak, you know how you stand. If you’re not achieving the success ratio you desire, and your grant applications seem to be sinking into the black hole of the “denied” bin, it’s time to take a different approach. After all, doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results never works!

Let’s take a look at one of the big mistakes that new grant writers often make: failing to identify the actual problem the promised grant will solve.

The Problem Statement: Are You Stating a Problem or a Need?

Review several of your grant applications from the past six months. Look at the ‘problem statement.’ Did you list a problem you intend to solve or what your organization needs?

A problem statement identifies the audience served and the problem they encounter. The solution, which your organization creates with the grant money, tells the granting organization how you intend to spend their money to fix the problem.

A few examples may help clarify this explanation.

Example 1 – Homeless Shelter

The Homeless Shelter on Tulip Street often faces shortages of beds on cold nights. There are more people lined up for room to sleep safely than they have beds. Their grant application asks for funds to expand the shelter.

The problem they seek to alleviate with the grant money is the effects of poverty and homelessness, and the actual application is to add X number of beds to the shelter to accommodate peak needs.

However, a new grant writer may write the grant application to request money for “program expansion” or “adding two rooms to the existing building.” Both may describe what the nonprofit plans to do, but they do not address the problem. The problem is that people need a warm, safe shelter to sleep in and that the local economy has been depressed for a while, making more people homeless. That is the actual problem that should be written up in the grant request.

Example 2 – Farmer’s Market for Food Deserts

So-called “food deserts” are urban areas which lack access to fresh produce. Studies have shown that the less access people have to fresh produce, the higher their risk of diseases related to diet and nutrition. To combat this, a local town council plans to open a farmer’s market in an empty lot in an urban area. They need permits, fencing, signs, tables, advertising for vendors, and a few other things to make the idea work.

Their new grant writer applies for an agriculture grant for the funds to open the market but lists the problem statement incorrectly as “We request money to open a farmer’s market.” This is not the problem statement. The people in the town do not face the problem of a lack of a farmer’s market; instead, their problem is lack of easy access to fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables in the community. Aligning the problems of poor health, poverty, and lack of access with the requested grant funds gives the farmer’s market committee a better chance at obtaining the grant money. The grant alleviates the problem of food deserts and may boost the health and wellness of local people by making fresh food accessible.

These are just two examples of how a problem statement, tweaked to align more with the outcomes and the audience served, gives a grant application a better chance for approval.

Of course, to see how you’re doing when it comes to grant applications, using grant tracking and management software is essential. A grant management system can help you monitor the grant application process and make it easier to find, use, and share the resources needed to apply for grants.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Insider’s Tips to Winning More Grants

By | Grant Management | No Comments

There’s something about seeing a looming grant funding deadline that sets nonprofits into a tizzy. The grant writer polishes off another pot of coffee while the director paces the office chanting, “Is it done yet?” And, at the end of the process, when you click submit or seal the package for the post office, you wonder whether or not it’s all worth it. Will you get the grant?

Seven Common Grant Writing Mistakes – And How to Avoid Them

We’re here to tell you that you can significantly increase the odds of winning more grants by following a few simple steps. These steps aren’t rocket science. They may strike you as common sense. But a recent informal survey among foundation personnel who review grant applications found some common mistakes among the applications they received. By being aware of these mistakes, you can sidestep them and make your grant applications shine.

Mistake #1 – No Preparation

Grant applications should not be written without preparation. Study the granting organization. Review the last three years of winners. What do they have in common? How can you target your grant so that you have a better chance of receiving funds?

Mistake #2 – Late Applications

We know that work can get busy, but that doesn’t give you an excuse for turning in your grant application late. Always be on time!

Mistake #3 – Stuffing the Package

Sure, you want to impress the people who will review the grant application with every proof of your organization’s excellent work. But pick and choose what you would like to present. Too much information overwhelms reviewers and makes you seem disorganized. Refine the enclosures to support the central message of your package.

Mistake #4 – Vague Proposals

Vague language derails many proposals. Be specific about how you plan to use the grant funds and how it aligns with both your mission and that of the foundation providing the funds. The more specifics you can include in your grant application, the better.

Mistake #5 – Budgets that Don’t Add Up

Do the math. Recheck it. Make sure that any budget numbers included in the proposal are both realistic and accurate. The financials should support the logic that flows through the proposal. Err on the side of realism rather than optimism and have someone double check your figures.

Mistake #6 – Caught Off Guard

You get the call you’ve been waiting for – the foundation is interested, and your application is among the top for consideration. Now they have specific questions about the programs outlined in your application. Don’t be caught off guard. Have a comprehensive plan ready to share with foundation directors when and if they call you.

Mistake #7 – Failing to Say Thank You

Even if you don’t get the grant, say thank you. Thank foundation directors and anyone else at the organization who helped you with any aspect of the  grant application. A sincere thank you goes a long way towards making a positive impression for your organization.

Successful grant applications take time and effort and can be stressful.. With these tips, you’ve just stepped ahead of many others who aren’t taking the time to learn more about the grant application process. Good luck, stay focused, and here’s to your success.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Mid-Year Budget Review

By | Abila, Accounting, Accounting Software, Budget, CPA, Grant Management, Internal Controls, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Let’s face it. Stuff happens. And, though you may wish your hard-fought and well-planned budget was settled, the National Council of Nonprofits says it best, “Budgets should not be ‘written in stone’ because the financial position of the nonprofit may change during the year.”

How is your nonprofit’s budget performing? Have you reviewed it since it was created and implemented? Is your revenue on target? Have any of the following occurred at your nonprofit? …

  • A shift or pivot in strategy or direction
  • Unforeseen events (natural disaster, legal, economic)
  • Organizational structure change (such as consolidations)
  • A change in funding received versus projected funding (such as receiving more or less from planned grant funding or fundraising activities)

A successful budget is one that is carefully crafted and implemented by a thorough budget team, then cautiously monitored and continuously updated throughout the year to reflect the inevitable changes affecting your nonprofit.

Download our Budget Checkup tool to put your Nonprofit budget to the test.

To learn about best practices when it comes to effectively monitoring and reviewing your budget throughout the year, download Budget Checkup: Critical Components of the Nonprofit Budget Review Process.

Feel like you have a pretty good understanding about the importance of the budget review process, but still relying on spreadsheets or an outdated solution? Join a live webinar, “Budget Lifecycle: Key Components to Budget Creation and Support” on Wednesday, June 7, for an in-depth review of how a true fund accounting™ solution can help you improve budgeting, so you can focus on your cause.

Looking for new nonprofit software to track your budget?  Answer these 5 Questions to Measure Fund Accounting System Effectiveness.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact us online or call 206-605-3113 for more information.