Category Archives: Fundraising Strategies

5 Steps for Grant Writing

You have a grant that you want to apply for and submit an application.  First, check out the types of grants available and our checklist to ensure your organization is ready before jumping into the grant writing process. Okay, now it’s time to start writing your grant!

5 Steps for Grant Writing

At Transform Consulting Group, we have identified 5 simple steps for grant writing:

1. Research: Spend time getting informed and researching grant opportunities. There are millions available through grants, and it can feel like a full-time job just trying to find them all! The purpose of the research step is to identify all of the potential funders who align with your organization’s mission and purpose.
Here are some good places to start in your search:

Foundation Grants:
Government Grants:
Trade Industry:

Within your organization’s area of expertise, there are “intermediary” organizations that are current with the latest news. Regularly check out those organization’s websites, sign-up for newsletters, and monitor who is doing what or trends in the industry. They often will promote grant opportunities for your industry!

2. Monitor Grants: Once you have identified your “affinity” funders, create a list of those possible funders.  In today’s information age, you can find out a lot about funders by monitoring their internet footprint.  We recommend subscribing to funders’ social media channels and signing up for their newsletters. This will help you receive information about grant updates (e.g., changes in grant focus or new application information), receive updates about the status of programs, and be informed about their latest news. This will help provide great context to writing your proposals and developing a partnership with the funder. .

3. Track Grants: You can pay for grant tracking software, invest in an internal database or use basic Excel or Google sheets to track grants. We suggest tracking important information, such as the funder, their focus area(s), timeline for when grants are due, the point of contact, and any application details.

As you start to do outreach with funders and submit applications, you will want to track your grant application outreach.  For example, you would include notes about who you talked to and their feedback.  When you submit an application include the focus area, amount requested and status. Having all of this information included in a shared system helps to keep your team on the same page and also creates a record history for future staff or contractors.

4. Develop Relationships: Most funders look to their grantees as a partner and extension of their mission.  When working to develop a grant proposal to a funder, you want to first have a relationship with that funder. You can do this through a personal connection, social media outreach, cold calling, a letter of inquiry or by networking at different community groups and meetings. When looking to build relationships, we suggest focusing on the “program officer”.

Program officers oversee a “portfolio” of programs usually in a focus area, such as youth, environment, safety, etc. A program officer for a government entity would “manage” a grant program. At a minimum give them a call and schedule a meeting to learn more about their focus areas and goals as well as share about your organization and possible areas of alignment.  Some next steps might be to invite the program officer(s) to an organization event to observe your services in action or learn about them.  We liken this engagement to “dating” – a period of getting to know each other to see if there is a good fit!

The one caveat here is to make sure that you follow the grant guidelines.  In most cases, government grants preclude you from communicating with the granting agency beyond asking clarifying questions related to the application.  You may need to cultivate these relationships when there is not an open grant application.  Always follow the grant guidelines to ensure that you do not disqualify your organization from submitting a grant application!

5. Submit: Winning grants involve submitting grants! You will want to carve time out of your schedule to regularly work on devoting time to the items above and submitting grant applications.

In this blog, we discussed the low success rate of grant writing. Some studies suggest as low as 7% of organizations receive funding after submitting a grant proposal. While there is no silver bullet, we have found that following the steps above gets you on the path to success.

At Transform Consulting Group, we understand the different types of funders and their grant application process. We know what funders want and how to interpret and follow complex federal, state or private grant applications. We are available to support your efforts at all levels of grant development including the strategy, research, narrative, and final submission. Contact us today and let’s chat!

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Are You Grant Ready?

Do you have big plans for your organization and now just need the funds to get the ball rolling? We covered the different types of grants here – foundation and government grants – but how do you know if your organization is ready to jump into the grant writing process?

The competition for grants can be fierce, and most of the time there are more organizations applying for grant money than there is money available to award. Some numbers show that as low as 7% of organizations receive funding after submitting a grant proposal.

It can become very frustrating to put so much time and resources into the tedious grant writing process only to be turned down. At Transform Consulting Group, we work with our clients to make sure they have checklist-ss-1920focused on other key priority areas BEFORE taking the grant writing plunge. This leads to a much more successful process. Here is our checklist you can use to make sure your organization is grant ready:

Organizational Leadership:

Are your organization’s leaders engaged and on the same page? Do you have a Board of Directors who is actively meeting and contributing their time and talent to the organization? Funders might ask for a list of the Board members, their attendance, previous Board meeting (especially noting if this new grant program was discussed) and percentage or amount that Board members give. If you’re concerned that your leadership may not be up to par, check out our Board Development services here.

Mission, Vision and Goals:

Do you have a clear mission, vision and goals for the future? Make sure your organization has laid the proper foundation of your purpose, so that you can best communicate who you are. This also helps ensure that there is good alignment between your organization’s purpose and the funder’s goals.

Accounting Practices and Systems:

Do you have policies and procedures in place to ensure proper accounting of funds? It’s vital to have accounting practices and systems in place to make sure that any funding you receive is properly used and tracked. Funders may want to see a good track record of managing other funds.

Operating Budget:

Do you have a clear organizational budget that outlines your operating expenses and supports why you need additional funds? Funders want to know how will you use the money you receive from grants. They may want to see your organization’s full budget to determine how much of this grant will support the organization. Is this a large percentage of the organization or a small percentage?

Strategic Plan:  

Do you have a plan for the next 3-5 years?  How does this service or grant program that you are seeking funding for support your plan?  You’ll need to work with your staff, partners and stakeholders to evaluate the current position of your organization and set a plan for achieving short and long term goals. If you’re having trouble figuring out the direction of your organization, take a look at our Strategic Plan services here.  We may be able to help!

History of Effectiveness:

Do you have a track record of accomplishing your goals and doing what you say you will do?  Everyone wants to be on the winning team, right? When applying for grants, funders want to know that you are a reliable partner.

Organizational Capacity:

Do you have sufficient capacity (staff, infrastructure and resources) to manage this program or services if you receive the grant funding? Before taking on more funding, you have to make sure that you have the capacity to handle it. For example, if you’re asking for funding to expand a particular program then you need to show your current staff or facility can handle it. If you don’t have the current capacity, then determine what you need to get there.

After completing this grant readiness checklist, you might determine that you are not ready yet.  Applying for grants takes time, resources and focus.  It might be a better use of your time to work on one of the checklist items identified above.  In the meantime, you can seek other funding to support your organization while you work on these items. Check out our fund development services and blogs for ideas of other resources to support your work.  Contact us for help in becoming grant ready!

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Grants 101 – Types of Grants

We love seeing our partners accelerate their impact and serve their communities in a variety of ways. However, we understand the challenges you face and know that to do good work, you need money.  Grant writing is one strategy for raising funds to accelerate your organization’s impact.

There are two types of grants: Foundations and Government and both come with their benefits and challenges.

Foundations

Foundation grants can be community and public, private and family, or corporate.  According to Giving USA, foundations gave $59.28 billion in 2016.

Giving-USA-2017-Infographic

Benefits:
  • Foundation grants are usually broad in scope. They cover a variety of causes and are offered to organizations of all sizes.
  • These grants are usually more flexible. There is often freedom in making the grant work best for your goals and needs.
  • Once you receive a foundation grant, you will realize how much more hands-on foundation representatives are with your organization. There is a relational aspect as you go through the process and utilize the funds.  
  • Often the application for foundation grants is less cumbersome.
Challenges:
  • Foundation grants have a limited timeline.  They are typically for one-year and often for smaller amounts.  
  • Foundation grants are more relationship-oriented as noted above, which can be a benefit AND a challenge. If you are a recipient of a grant from a foundation, you will likely work closely with the people gifting the funds and are more susceptible to their opinions and ideas.

Government Grants

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Government grants are awarded at the federal, state and local level. The federal government spends over $500 billion a year distributing grants to state and local governments. 

Benefits:
  • Government grants are usually awarded in larger amounts and are often gifted over multiple years.
  • Government grants are more stable funding sources, and you can use these grants to make goals/plans for the long-term impact of your organization.
  • Government grants can be a great way to scale and expand a program or service.
Challenges:
  • The guidelines and requirements for government grants at any level are often more prescriptive and rigorous than foundation grants.
  • Applications for government grants can be cumbersome and often require more information on your organization, track record of success and results, and strong systems in place.
  • The competition for government grants is often high.
  • There are usually more reporting and accounting requirements with government grants, which can be a challenging process to monitor.

funder_grantee6At Transform Consulting Group, we sit on both sides of the table. We work with the funders to develop, implement and manage funding programs AND grantees (or recipients) of those funding sources. We know looking for, writing, or applying for grants can become a daunting task so stayed tuned for future blogs with helpful tips for taking your next step.

Many clients approach us with unique challenges or opportunities when we begin working together. Because we have worked with the funders and grantees, we are able to bring a holistic perspective and understanding to our clients regardless of what side of the table we sit. This often leads to meaningful engagement and collaboration – which we love!

Is your organization ready to tackle a grant, but don’t have the manpower to work through the application? Are you wondering what grants are available for your specific cause? Contact us today!

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Why More Funders Should Collaborate

“Partner” and “collaborate” are the buzzwords in the non-profit sector.  The idea of partnership is not limited to the individual organizations administering programming and services, but also applies to the funders awarding grants and funding. AfiStock-588266018ter years of funders encouraging grantees to partner, they are taking their own advice and working collaboratively.

Funding in the non-profit world can be siloed, with organizations often competing for limited funding for similar programs or services. At the same time many funders focus on similar issues and have a common desire to make a difference.  An after-school youth tutoring program can easily apply to a dozen funders seeking resources for their program, because all of those funders have some interest in youth development and education. This means that after-school program is completing twelve separate grant applications that all request somewhat similar information in a slightly different package.  Some funders are taking note of this trend and working collaboratively to support common causes.

The idea that funders can make a bigger impact with their resources by working together rather than independently is enticing.  In Central Indiana, this is exactly what has happened through the launching of the  Summer Youth Program Fund. The Summer Youth Program Fund (SYPF) is a collaborative effort among funders who support organizations that provide summer programming for Marion County youth.  The funding effort is made up of 11 funding partners (public and private) who support over 200 summer youth programs in Marion County. These individual funders have come together all with a common interest to support programs working with youth over the summer.  

The benefits of this type of funding partnership include the following:

  • Efficiency for the grantees.  There is one application that the grantees complete to be considered for all funding opportunities.  The grantees can spend more time on their programming and staff development and less time writing applications.
  • Collective impact.  Through a unified application, the funders have an opportunity to clarify and unite the intended focus, goals, and outcomes, which could lead to greater impact in the community.
  • Improved programming.  By working together, the funders could share capacity building resources made available to the grantees, such as combined professional development and technology.
  • Accountability and monitoring.  With a unified grant application and clear focus for the services, the evaluation, monitoring, and reporting is transparent and upfront. Common assessments and evaluation tools could be shared with grantees to implement.Blog infographic

Collaborative funding certainly has several benefits for the organizations receiving funding and the funders.  If a funder is interested in a collaborative, there are some lessons learned to consider:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Establish operational procedures (e.g., application process, grantmaking, contracts)
  3. Identify affinity funders to potentially join the collaboration and share common interest
  4. Keep the focus on the grantees and adding value to the grantmaking process

GrantCraft, a service of the Foundation Centers, has created a Guide on Funder Collaboratives: Why and How Funders Work Together.  There are some great strategies and resources to help guide the process.   
We have worked with funders to develop and manage their grantmaking process.  If you would like to talk about enhancing your current grantmaking program or exploring a funder collaborative, give us a call or send us an email!  We would love to help you think through the process and see how we can improve your impact.

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Federal Grant Opportunity: YouthBuild

Nationally, there are more than 2.3 million low-income 16-24 year-olds who are not pursuing education, employment or training. In communities across the country, there are less young people who are educated, high skilled, and actively employed contributing citizens. This means communities are limiting their growth potential, and young people are limiting their possibility.

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 10.50.01 AMThis is where the national program, YouthBuild, can be a solution. Through YouthBuild programs, young people earn their education, learn construction skills and gain skills needed for future, long-term employment. The youth work with partners to build affordable housing in their neighborhoods as well as other community assets like schools, playgrounds, and community centers. As a result, the YouthBuild program has a ripple effect in communities by not just helping the youth, but the individuals and families getting access to affordable housing and the communities gaining important infrastructure as well as a skilled workforce.

YouthBuild formed a partnership with AmeriCorps, so many of the YouthBuild program sites are able to obtain valuable education awards for postsecondary education. In addition, the AmeriCorps program helps young people develop an identity as a community leader and active citizen in giving back to their communities.

Research on the program has shown positive outcomes for the youth participate in the program. YouthBuild programs lower recidivism rates by 40 percent. For every dollar invested in YouthBuild produces a return on investment of $7.80 up to $43.90.

YouthBuild Sites
YouthBuild Sites

For the past twenty years, YouthBuild has become a model program funded by the U.S. Department of Labor through a competitive grant process. The US Department of Labor just released the grant application for the next round of funding for YouthBuild grants and below is more information to know about the grant.

Some Key Facts to Know about this Federal Grant:

  • Grant applications are due May 9, 2017.
  • Eligible applicants are public or private non-profit agencies.
  • Individual grants will range from $700,000 to $1.1 million and require a 25 percent match from applicants, using sources other than federal funding.
  • For a more complete list of eligibility requirements and application details, download the Grant Opportunity Package here.

Transform Consulting Group has helped organizations apply for and receive federal grants. We use our program development and research and analysis services to help write a compelling grant proposal for our clients. If you are interested in moving forward on this grant or other grant initiatives, contact us today for a free consultation.

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Grant Opportunity: American Honda Foundation

AHF-LOGO-American-Honda-FoundationThe American Honda Foundation was established in 1984 by the American Honda Motor Company to celebrate it’s 25th anniversary of operation. Since it’s inception, the American Honda Foundation has given over $32 million to organizations across the United States. Eligible organizations must help to meet the needs of Americans in the areas of scientific and youth education.

The American Honda Foundation places a strong emphasis on youth education, and organizations wishing to apply should have a focus in at least one of the following seven fields of youth education:

  1. Science
  2. Technology
  3. Engineering
  4. Mathematics
  5. Environment
  6. Job Training
  7. Literacy

501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations, public school districts and elementary schools are eligible to apply for American Honda Foundation grants. However, any organization must have at least two years of audited financial statements available. Interested applicants can apply online by first completing an eligibility quiz. Grants are accepted throughout the year in different quarters, for a schedule of due dates and reviews, visit the website.

Grants range from $20,000 to $75,000 over a one-year period, and can only be applied for one time within a twelve-month period. Any applicants that request less than $20,000 will not be considered for funding. Over the past five years, the American Honda Foundation has distributed approximately 27 grants per year.

Transform Consulting Group has helped organizations across the state of Indiana apply for local and nationwide grants. For help with your latest grant-writing project, contact us today for a free consultation!

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Federal Program Spotlight: AmeriCorps

acThis post is part of Transform Consulting Group’s blog series highlighting federal programs that provide education opportunities and/or youth development services in communities.

AmeriCorps is an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) that leverages community service to tackle critical community issues such as poverty, education, public safety, health, and the environment. AmeriCorps programs are located in nonprofits, schools, public agencies, community centers, and faith-based groups across the country.

AmeriCorps was created under President Bill Clinton through the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993, incorporating Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). AmeriCorps just celebrated its 20th Anniversary, with over 900,000 Americans contributing to over 1 billion service hours. AmeriCorps VISTA also celebrated a recent anniversary, highlighting 50 years of volunteers serving to fight poverty across America.

AmeriCorps VISTA aims to combat poverty in local communities through capacity building. VISTA members commit to serving an agency for one year, working full-time on a specific project aimed at improving their organizational, financial, or administrative reach. Some examples include grant management, volunteer coordination, and food program design.

AmeriCorps VISTA differs from AmeriCorps State and NCCC service programs because VISTA members do not provide direct service. NCCC programs are available to citizens between the ages of 18 and 24, whereas AmeriCorps and VISTA only have a minimum age of 18 to serve.

AmeriCorps programs benefit nonprofits by providing service members that design, implement, and evaluate an organization’s programs to expand its impact. In addition, AmeriCorps programs provide citizens an opportunity to learn valuable work skills, earn money for education, and develop a greater appreciation for service. It is clear that AmeriCorps programs benefit organizations and service members alike.

Organizations may apply for a grant directly from the Corporation for National and Community Service if they are:

  • A national nonprofit organization that operates in two or more states
  • An Indian tribe
  • A consortia formed across two or more states, consisting of institutions of higher education or other nonprofits, including labor, faith-based, and other community organizations
  • A state or territory without a State Service Commission

Organizations may apply for a grant through the State Service Commission (i.e. Serve Indiana) if program activities take place in a single state and the organization is a:

  • State and local nonprofit organization
  • Community and faith-based organization
  • State, local, and higher education institution
  • State and local government
  • U.S. territory

Transform Consulting Group can help you plan and strategize how to use AmeriCorps resources to meet your organization’s goals, as well as help you write your next AmeriCorps grant application. Transform Consulting Group has successfully helped other organizations like the United Way of Central Indiana and Early Learning Indiana receive AmeriCorps funding. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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New Federal Grant: American Apprenticeship Grant Program

UntitledThe U.S. Department of Labor has recently announced the winners of a new grant program that awarded $175 million to 46 public-private business partnerships in September of 2015. The American Apprenticeship Grant Program was created with the intent of increasing the development of apprenticeship programs across the United States.

Grant-winners have pledged to hire over 34,000 apprentices in leading-edge industries such as healthcare, IT, and advanced manufacturing. The 34,000 apprentices must be hired and trained within five years. To make this happen, the American Apprenticeship Grant Program aims to achieve the following goals:

  • Launch apprenticeship models in new, high-growth fields to equip workers with advanced skills like data analysis, mechatronics, and behavioral health assessment.
  • Align apprenticeships to pathways for further learning and career advancement such as embedding industry-recognized skill certifications or rewarding workplace learning with college credit.
  • Scale apprenticeship models that work to create more access to apprenticeships in more areas of the country, to more diverse populations.

The American Apprenticeship Grant Program will create more opportunities for hard-working Americans to acquire the skills they need to succeed in good jobs that are available now. Click here for a list of programs underway in cities and states across the country.

Transform Consulting Group applauds this initiative to strengthen the American workforce through on-the-job learning. Transform Consulting Group has experience helping organizations submit successful college and career-readiness program grant applications. Let Transform Consulting Group help your organization fund with federal dollars today!

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Grant Opportunity with KaBOOM! Playground

kaboom -playground-5-8-10 webChildhood obesity rates have tripled since 1980 and stayed the same for the past ten years. The average child spends nearly 75 hours a week immersed in various forms of media. With fewer children playing outside and a rise of childhood obesity, many organizations are taking steps to change this trajectory.

KaBOOM! is working to partner with communities to make active play space available for youth across the country. Through the development of playgrounds, KABOOM! is working to bring the importance of play to the forefront. KaBOOM! offers a number of grant opportunities for organizations wishing to begin or modify a playground project. KABOOM has three grant categories:

  1. Build it with KaBOOM! Grants: Provides planning grants to design your playground and funding to then transform the space. The grantee will be provided with a Project Manager, funds, resources and tools to assist community officials in designing and building a playground that is unique to the community.
  2. Build it Yourself Grants: Offers $15,000 grants to help community organizations purchase playground equipment and complete the assembling process on their own with remote assistance from KaBOOM!.
  3. Creative Play Grants: Enhances existing play spaces through creativity, communication and collaboration in play.

Each KaBOOM! grant has a set of requirements that must be met before the applicant can apply. For further information on grant requirements, review the grant application guide. For information on additional playground grants, check out these resources that KaBOOM! highlights on their website.

Transform Consulting Group assists organizations with assessing their current funding and identifying new revenue opportunities. To learn more, contact us today for a free consultation!

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Grant Funding Opportunity with David and Lucile Packard Foundation

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The David and Lucile Packard Foundation focuses on “improving the lives of children, enabling the creative pursuit of science, advancing reproductive health, and conserving and restoring the earth’s natural systems.” Since 1964 the Foundation has helped programs and people across the nation through four program areas:

  1. Conservation and Science
  2. Population and Reproductive Health
  3. Children, Families and Community
  4. Local Grant-making

One of the programs, the Children, Families and Community Program awards grants to organizations that support the following three causes:

  1. Early Learning Provides support to adults caring for children through investing in training for caregivers and educators and providing resources to parents and families.
  2. Children’s Health: Funds state-based child advocacy programs, national organizations and, at times, local organizations that demonstrate best practices in improving child and parent health outcomes.
  3. After-school and Summer Enrichment:Supports high-quality after-school and summer enrichment programs.

It is the goal of the Children, Families and Community Program to improve outcomes for children across the United States and ensure that every child gets a strong start in life.

Organizations eligible to apply for grants supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation vary but must meet one of the three cause areas. Applications are accepted at different time periods throughout the year. Visit their grants database to get an idea of previous recipients who have been funded. Available grants range from $15,000-$200,000+ in award amounts.

Transform Consulting Group assists organizations to both increase and diversify their funding to support their mission. To learn more, contact us today for a free consultation!

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