Grant Management

7 Common Grant Writing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

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While individual giving makes up a large portion of funding for a nonprofit, grants can be instrumental in rounding out fundraising plans. All too often grant proposals are dismissed quickly after the foundation or corporation receives it. Poorly researched proposals and other glaring mistakes cause more harm than good. In this article, we’ll summarize seven common grant writing mistakes and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1 – Rushed Research

Learning about the granting organization is the most valuable part of the proposal writing process. Start by reviewing the last three years of grant 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 – Tardy Applications

We know that work can get busy, but that is not an excuse for turning in your grant application late. Always be on time!

Mistake #3 – Too Much Content

It is important to provide proof of the excellent work your organization is doing. 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 proposal.

Mistake #4 – Unclear 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. Remember that a grant proposal is a plan of action, not an educational brochure or annual report. Explain the problem but then move on to clearly explain what you’ll be doing about it.

Mistake #5 – Numbers That Don’t Add Up

Create the budget and check it twice. Make sure that the numbers included is 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 – Failure To Plan For The Follow Up Call

You get a call from the foundation, and your application is part at the top of the consideration list. 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 they call you.

Mistake #7 – Not Saying Thank You

Regardless whether you get the grant or not, it’s always appropriate to show appreciation. Thanking foundation directors and anyone else at the organization who helped you with the grant application is the right thing to do. A sincere thank you goes a long way towards making a positive impression for your organization.
Winning grants takes 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.

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.

What Impact Will You Make – Even After the Grant Ends?

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Before submitting a grant application, ask yourself one question: Have I demonstrated how the funds would make an impact even after the urgent need is satisfied?

Most nonprofits focus on their immediate, pressing needs when completing grant applications. That’s natural: when you have a leaking roof, a new program to fund, or a dire need for cash flow, submitting a grant pitch that heavily emphasizes the urgency of the needs at hand is common.

But consider the viewpoint of the grantor or foundation. They want to know not just what the funds will do today but the impact they can make for years to come.

It is this intersection of satisfying an immediate need with producing a sustainable future result that makes a big difference when applying for grants.

Providing for the Future: 3 Scenarios and Examples

Grant applications must include many points, including both the current and future impact of the funds. To improve your applications for funding, ask yourself the following:

  • What is the immediate effect of these funds?
  • What will the impact be one year from now?
  • What will the impact be five years from now?
  • Can the impact be sustainable without the infusion of additional funds from the grantor?
  • Does the future impact align with the goals and mission of the grantor?

It can be challenging to imagine how funds received today for an immediate need will carry over into the future after a grant ends. There are different ways to make this point to grantors depending on the type of funds sought, the nonprofit’s mission and need, and the grantor’s mission. The better the alignment among need, nonprofit, and grantor mission, the higher your chances of securing funds.

Here are three examples that show how the alignment may work and how different needs can translate into future impact.

Example 1: Homeless shelter pitch for a new fire suppression system.

A homeless shelter requires funds to replace an outdated fire suppression system. Without the new system, the city will revoke their permits, and the shelter will close. The shelter needs $150,000 in grant funds to improve the fire suppression system in the existing building.

The grant application may cover the following:

  • Immediate need: Without the new fire suppression system, the city will force us to close. If we close the shelter, hundreds of men and women may lack basic shelter on cold nights.
  • Future impact: If we are awarded the funds and can install the new system, we can keep our doors open for at least another five years when our lease runs out. The effect will be significant upon several hundred people we serve in the city.
  • Mission alignment: The grantor’s mission is to support programs that serve the basic needs of people for food, water, and shelter. The alignment between the immediate need, the future impact, and the mission should be made clear.

Example 2: A therapeutic horseback riding program seeks funds to build an indoor arena.

An indoor horse arena provides a covered space for horseback riding activities. It enables people to ride horses in inclement weather and to continue lesson programs despite the snow, rain, cold, or excessive heat.

A therapeutic horseback riding program that helps children with disabilities seeks funds to build a new covered arena. If they receive the grant, they will be able to hold therapy sessions six days a week and throughout all seasons.

  • Immediate need: It is clear to what purpose the funds will be used when they are awarded.
  • Future impact: To provide a thorough grant application, the therapeutic riding program should address how they plan to maintain the building. Perhaps a private sponsor has agreed to pledge funds for maintenance, or the organization intends to hold an auction each year to raise maintenance funds. The organization should state their vision for the future care of the building to persuade the grant organization that their donation will continue to make an impact in years to come.
  • Mission alignment: The grantor supports charities that benefit children. Demonstrating how therapeutic riding helps children with special needs can help secure the grant.

Example 3: A college nursing school seeks a grant for a state-of-the-art nursing lab simulator.

A small liberal arts college seeks funds to build a nursing lab simulator. Such simulators include hospital beds, equipment, and realistic dummies that enable student nurses to practice vital skills before embarking on actual hospital rotations with their instructors.

  • Immediate need: The school should make it clear to the grantor how many nursing students each year will utilize the lab and the impact this makes upon their careers.
  • Future impact: Eventually, the effect can be projected to the number of registered nurses entering the profession and filling the nursing shortage nationwide.
  • Mission alignment: The grantor provides funds for health-related organizations. Grants for a nursing lab align with their mission.

Details Matter

When it comes to applying for grants, details do matter. Paying attention to all of the details in your application can make the difference between securing funds and scrambling for money. Many nonprofits neglect to complete the future-casting aspect of grant applications. By adding this vital step to your pitch, you’ll be one step ahead in the fundraising process.

Tracking Grants – We Can Help

The entire grant application cycle can be daunting. That’s why Welter Consulting offers help in selecting the right software to track, manage, and monitor the grant process. When you need to keep tabs on documents, applications, and possible future impact statements, keeping all the information in one place makes sense. We are here to help you with software selection, implementation, training, and audit preparation. Contact us at 206-605-3113 for a consultation today.

Myth-Busting: What Grantors Want You to Know

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Would you like to receive more grants for your organization? Who wouldn’t?

Even the most professional grant writer and  nonprofit organization would like to improve their chances of obtaining more grant funds. Grants, especially open grants that can be used for any expenses, are the financial lifeblood of many nonprofits. Some organizations still struggle with achieving their funding goals.

The reason may be as simple as a misunderstanding. If you aren’t familiar with what goes on at foundations or other groups offering grant funds, you may be giving up too soon in your quest for additional funds. Here’s what granting organizations wished their grantees knew before, during, and after the application process.

Five Myths About the Grant Process

Myth #1: Grantors have all the power in the relationship.

Fact: Grantors wish you’d consider them as equals in the partnership. After all, they want to give funds to organizations that support their mission. They want to partner with you to see that goals are achieved on both sides. Treat them as equals and partners in your mission, and you’ll build better long-term relationships.

Myth #2: Make your pitch first, then ask for funds.

Fact: Instead of a pitch, consider dialoguing with the granting organization. Talk about the common interests and issues you both face and how these might be addressed. Then discuss the potential funds to help address the issue. Instead of making a big lengthy sales pitch, conversation and dialogue interests grantors more than being sold an idea.

Myth #3: Our “no” means “no,” so don’t ask again.

Fact: If you receive a negative response, try again another time. It could mean that the mission alignment isn’t right, but it could also mean that funds have already been earmarked for other groups. There’s no harm in trying again, and you may be surprised by the response.

Myth #4:  We don’t mind multiple calls and talks.

Fact: Although grantors do appreciate conversation and dialogue, prepare for meetings with the same care and attention that you would when meeting with any other donor. Don’t waste a grantor’s time during meetings. Check their website or other resources for answers to your questions before asking. Take notes so that you do not ask the same question over again. Be respectful of the grantor’s time. And yes, they should also be respectful of your time. A grantor-grantee relationship is a professional relationship. Mutual respect and a professional approach is part of building such a relationship.

Myth #5:  If you act like you are a large, prestigious organization, you are more like to obtain grants.

Fact:  Grantors don’t care if you are from a small nonprofit or a large global nonprofit. What they do care about is an alignment between their mission and yours. They want to be sure they understand the mission and values of your organization and how their funds will be used to achieve the mission. Grantors value authenticity more than appearance. It’s okay to admit your nonprofit has only three full-time employees or a small budget. “Be yourself” is a good adage in any situation and especially when meeting with grantors.

Finding and Securing Grants Isn’t Rocket Science

It’s hard work, diligence, and common sense. Securing grants means developing relationships over time with grantors, who value the same things that you do.

To track, measure, and monitor your work, grant, or contract management software can help you remain focused and organized. It will also help you measure the real impact of your efforts. Cloud-based (web) software enables you to continually monitor and track grants and related information even while traveling.

Securing grants isn’t a mystery. When too many myths cloud the facts, it can seem like a mysterious process. Once the myths are busted, however, you’ll be in a better position to work with, not against, grantors to find additional funds for your nonprofit.

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.

Not Winning Enough Grants? We May Know Why

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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.