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There is a saying among fundraising professionals that proposal writing is both an art and a science. The art aspect refers to how well an inspired writer describes a project and the grant-seeking organization. The science aspect refers to the comprehension of the technical structure upon which those words are arranged” (Blanchard & Bullock, 2010).
Grant funding can be a great way for a nonprofit to boost its revenue, with giving by corporations and foundations in the United States in 2013 amounting to $67 billion. Many nonprofit organizations are active in the grants marketplace, seeking funding to support their programs and operations; but with the number of nonprofit organizations on the rise over the last decade, the competition for funding has become more intense. Grant seekers must find ways for their proposals to stand out among the rest.
While many nonprofits give much attention to fundraising and grant writing, they often place less emphasis on supporting areas – such as planning and budgeting – that can improve the likelihood that a grant request will be funded, as well as lead to further financial stability of their organization. It is not always enough for an organization to write an amazing grant proposal. While that may help to win grants from some funders, other funders will want to take a more in-depth look into the organization and the program before awarding funds.
Some of the most common errors with grant proposals as identified from the perspective of the grant reviewer are:
Nonprofit organizations rely on a strong base of volunteers. Getting people behind a cause is not particularly difficult, but learning to harness the energy of your nonprofit’s mission can take some work. The following tips will help you gain, manage and inspire volunteers for any nonprofit.
When someone expresses interest in volunteering for your organization, make sure that it is followed-through with immediately by you or a member of your staff. Urge the person along by either email or calling them a.s.a.p. If they don’t get back to you within a week, call to re-express your need for their time.
2. Shower Volunteers with Recognition:
You basically cannot say thank you enough to volunteers. Let them know often how much you appreciate them putting in their time and effort towards progressing the mission of your nonprofit.
3. Discuss How Their Contribution Helps:
Often volunteers may feel jaded that their efforts aren’t making much of a difference. Let them know exactly what their contribution does for your organization.
4. Know What Volunteers You Need:
To get the most out of your volunteers, make sure to know what type of volunteer services you need to achieve the long and short term goals for your nonprofit.
There’s a saying that often refers to personal relationships: Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.
But think it over for a bit, and you’ll soon see that it’s quite applicable to management, too. It takes time for an organization to build a good reputation, but it takes only one publicized issue to ruin it.
The issue in question doesn’t even have to be true. The public’s perception of the brand value of an organization (whether it’s for-profit or nonprofit) is easily affected once talk starts to spread. In this day and age of social media, news — especially the bad kind — spreads fast, and no one is exempt.
However, according to a poll conducted by Deloitte (one of the Big Four professional services firm in the world) during a webcast, only 24 percent of the participants belonged to organizations that had formal ways to measure and assess brand value. Worse, fewer than 22 percent believed that their respective organizations would become the subject of negative publicity on social media. The problem with this outlook is that it leaves organizations ill-prepared to handle large-scale PR problems.
As a keen volunteer at our local charity, AlphaTutorials, I was tasked with helping them try to attract more students, as they were in decline every year. The charity seeks to improve the education of those in need for free, while also providing tuition for students. This is done with the help of local teachers who volunteer their time. The centre had helped me a couple of years prior, by allowing me to earn my A level Psychology, which was something I decided to do to improve my own education. It felt right that I do something to help them back.
One thing was apparent when I sat down and tried to figure out how I would help AlphaTutorials as a volunteer. I knew that the main resource we had available at our disposal was knowledge. We had qualified teachers in all the main subjects taught across the UK, from Mathematics to the sciences, and therefore it made sense to try to utilise this to our advantage somehow.
Only a few weeks prior, I had stumbled on the story of Pat Flynn, who wrote about how he had sold educational resources which proved popular when he started his website SmartPassiveIncome.
I saw no reason why we couldn’t do the same, with our goal being to funnel students to the centre, but also diversify into resources. We sat trying to understand our market and we found websites focusing on Sociology revision resources doing quite well when giving them away for free. We obviously couldn’t compete with a free product, so we decided the best subject for us would be psychology,as that was one of the most popular but underserved subjects in terms of online resources. We set up a partner website, Loopa Psychology and spent the last 12 months focusing our efforts on trying to make it more visible within the searches. Our main method of doing this was utilising our network of teachers to have schools refer students to the site or have us added among their list of recommended reading websites.
SEO & Link Earning Strategist
This blog post is for nonprofit organizations and charities that are looking to increase their online exposure (without spending loads of money) so they can receive more volunteers, donations, attention etc.
Here are some tips for nonprofits to improve link earning within their online communities.
Link earning is building relationships with valuable websites within ones specific industry that generate high quality content.
Link earning helps improve search engine rankings and drives traffic to the website. It’s great when people share your content; it’s even better when they are real people doing it of their own accord. Quality content is the foundation and incentive for shareability.
Arizona Campaign Director
In April, I left the helm of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, after ten years of building it into a force for strength and progress in serving the state’s nonprofit community. It was not easy to leave the Alliance, because I still consider the position of CEO of the Alliance to be one of the best anybody could have. To work every day with and for some of the most inspiring and passionate people dedicated to building a stronger Arizona was a dream come true. Only the opportunity I am now pursuing at Open Primaries to reform our political system could draw me away, because I know that nonprofits need a stronger partner in government in order to succeed.
So, as I made my transition – keep in mind that I am still working a nonprofit, just a c4 instead of a c3 – the moment gave me reason to reflect upon the 10 years of experience I had at the Alliance and with colleagues across the country through the National Council of Nonprofits. I first tried to remember what it was like in 2005. The economy was booming, and nonprofits were talking about creative ways to sustain themselves through social enterprise. Meanwhile, we were concerned about the huge leadership transition coming, as baby boomers, in the top positions at so many nonprofits, were heading into retirement years. And there was much talk about nonprofits running themselves more like businesses.
Wow, ten years passed, and here we are in 2015: social enterprise is the rage, the boomer retirement wave is a concern, and people are talking about nonprofits operating like businesses. Really?
Musical Instrument Museum
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Paris, France to attend the 5ème conférence de fundraising pour le secteur culturel (5th conference on fundraising for the cultural sector) put on by the Association Française des Fundraisers (French Association of Fundraisers). I was able to participate thanks in part to professional development grants from Arizona Commission on the Arts and Sigma Alpha Iota. When exploring your own professional development, I encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to identifying opportunities as well as ways to fund your experience.
This was my first return visit to France since studying abroad in Montpellier twelve years ago. It was wonderful to again be immersed in French culture and language. I rented a little apartment in the Canal Saint Martin neighborhood through Airbnb and pretended for one week that I was “une vraie Française.”
Patsy Kraeger, Ph.D.
This blog post is second in a two part series on Foundation Supported Social Enterprises. Click here to read part one.
Why did they do this?
The Nick Simons Foundation did not have a large staff. The foundation opened in 2005 when Nick Simons, a great lover and visitor of Nepal died. Nick Simons was keenly aware of the medical needs in high altitude low income countries such as Nepal. The family foundation members were interested in funding the development of a unique anesthesia machine that neither requires electricity nor compressed oxygen to function.
This device would be invaluable for infrastructure-weak health systems in low income countries that often suffer from energy shortages or no energy access at all. They wanted to be closely involved with the venture and they want to commercially market and sell the product- a product with a social benefit. They recognized in order to be successful that they need an income stream and they did not want to become a fundraising foundation. Instead they thought of operating a social enterprise. They formed Gradian Health Systems.
ASU Master of Nonprofit
Nonprofit assignments can place volunteers in precarious positions of potential, personal liability. Prior to the 1940s, the Charitable Immunity Doctrine shielded nonprofits from tort liability, but did not protect volunteers. To prevent volunteers from abandoning volunteerism because of liability concerns, the Volunteer Protection Act (VPA) was signed into law by President Clinton in 1997.
The VPA provides conditional immunity for volunteers who are:
(Gross negligence is defined as willful, criminal and/or reckless misconduct, and conscious, flagrant indifference to the rights and safety of the injured.) To elucidate the provisions of the VPA, I have created a hypothetical scenario that presents conditions under which the volunteer might be protected. This scenario identifies an assigned volunteer task, an exigent circumstance, a discussion of whether the volunteer acted negligently, mitigating circumstances, and a discussion about the vicarious liability of the nonprofit.
Laura L Bush, Ph.D.
and Content Strategist
A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a common way nonprofit organizations invite bids for products and services. Any RFP includes a specific list of requirements that all responding vendors must address. In theory, an RFP’s intention is to filter vendors for quality and ensure competitive pricing.
Unfortunately, when it comes to technology-related RFPs, nonprofit organizations often write inadequate proposals that waste time and money for the nonprofit and the responding vendors. Two problems create ineffective RFPs: first, although well-intentioned, RFPs often demonstrate unrealistic expectations about the time and cost for executing on digital products or services; second, nonprofits often solicit technology they don’t need because they don’t know the right questions to ask.
Problem 1: Doing Ineffective Research and Setting Unrealistic Expectations
Instead of backing into their proposal-writing process by doing effective research and setting realistic expectations for time and costs, nonprofit organizations often say, “We have this much money and want to finish the project in this much time. We want the technology to [fill in the blank], and we need to work within our meager budget with as quick a turnaround as possible.”