Category Archives: Fundraising Strategies

Why Are Financial Goals Important?

Your organization probably has a mission statement and strategies in place for achieving your program goals, but do you also have concrete financial goals? Whether you administer a nonprofit, faith-based organization, or a small business, you have to think about the financial health of your organization.

Your mission and program goals are, by definition, tied to financial goals. Serving your clients and families, as well as paying your staff, requires funding. If you haven’t thought about the health of your current budget or your future financial goals, now is the time! The 4 steps outlined below can guide you.

Step 1: Assess your organization’s finances.

  • First, you may need to spend time reviewing your current revenue, expenses, and the quality of your bookkeeping. In this process, engage your leadership team, board of directors, and/or financial consultants.
  • If needed, determine how to improve your accounting practices. Keep in mind that accounting and other supportive services are part of what enables your programming to have the desired impact.
  • If your organization is not consistently breaking even, then that will inform your financial goals. If your revenue exceeds your costs, how are you reinvesting it in your mission?

Step 2: Set specific goals for your program, such as increasing funding or serving more clients.

  • Separate from the process of reviewing your budget, do you have ideas for the future of your program?
  • Does your organization have an up-to-date strategic plan? In your planning process, did you start by determining the end results that you want to see?
    • What are your plans for program improvement? Goals for Financial Goals Blog
    • Is your organization looking to replicate its services in another geographic region?
    • Did your needs assessment indicate that you should expand to serve a broader range of clients and families?
  • As you are going through the process of turning big ideas into program goals, be sure that you make your goals Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely, or SMART.

Step 3: Set financial goals that will enable you to meet your program goals. What will it cost to meet these goals?

  • You may have some goals for your organization that do not require additional funding. Perhaps you need to prioritize your current funding and/or staff time.
  • Other goals, like serving additional clients, expanding to a new region, and increasing staff wages, do require additional funding.
  • Quantify your specific short-term and long-term funding goals. Then, specify how these goals help you achieve your desired outcomes.Financial Goals-Blog image

Step 4: Develop specific strategies to accomplish your financial goals.

  • One possible strategy is decreasing your current costs. Review your spending from the past few years to see if there are opportunities to save money.
    • You may find that your organization is using resources for activities that are not as closely tied to your mission as they should be.
    • Could you negotiate with any of your vendors for lower service fees?
  • Bringing in additional revenue can be a daunting task. Break it down into smaller pieces.
    • What type of funding are you already accessing that could be increased?
      • Could you raise more from individual or corporate donors?
      • Could you increase your fees for services?
    •  What other funding sources are you not already accessing?
      • Could you write a grant for the first time?
      • Is there government funding available that supports your field?

As you assess the overall health of your organization, remember to focus on areas in which your background is not strong. If you are the director of early childhood education program, then your experience and education is likely in the field of child development. You probably have a lot of ideas to improve the quality of education at your program. Also be sure to consult experts in other areas, like finance, to ensure you are making the most impact!

Our team is currently engaged in a project funded by Partnerships for Early Learners, a program of Early Learning Indiana. We are working with 10 early learning programs across Indiana to help them meet their financial goals. Going through this 4-step process is different for each program. The programs are structured differently and bring unique skills to the table. Despite their differences, each program has been able to set specific goals and find funding strategies that will work best for them.

If you’re ready to jump into this process and need some help with goal setting or fund development, contact us at Transform Consulting Group for a free consultation!

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Why You Should Consider Implementing STEM Curriculum

It’s all the buzz right now, so what is STEM? The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s an approach to education that’s designed to revolutionize the typical teaching of subjects like math and science by incorporating technology and engineering into regular curriculum.

STEM Education shifts the typical teacher-centered classroom by encouraging a curriculum that is driven by problem-solving, discovery, exploratory learning and hands-on activities. Some programs have added “A” for art making the acronym “STEAM”. By adding art, educators are promoting creativity and flexible thinking among students in a science and mathematics context.Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 9.47.29 PM

Workforce and economic development experts strongly support the need for a STEM/STEAM focus, which may be why it’s such a hot topic right now:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics & Statistics Administration, career opportunities related to STEM over the past ten years have grown three times as fast as non-STEM jobs.
  • In 2018, there are projected to be 2.4 million STEM jobs in the U.S that could go unfilled due to the lack of qualified workers.
  • STEM occupations have wages significantly above the national average wage for all occupations. The national average wage for all STEM occupations was $87,570, nearly double the national average wage for non-STEM occupations ($45,700).

In a recent project, our team worked with an organization to apply for a 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant. This non-profit organization offers after-school programming for middle school and high school students. Part of their grant application included implementing STEAM in their weekly curriculum and connecting students to local STEAM career pathways. As we worked to implement this curriculum shift, the organization saw four major benefits.

Benefits of STEM / STEAM:

  1. Help students accomplish their postsecondary education attainment and career goals.
  2. Address the community’s career pathways gap.
  3. Pave the way for new partnerships.
  4. Open doors for securing additional funding to sustain the program.
1. Help students accomplish their postsecondary education attainment and career goals.
 

By offering STEM / STEAM focused curriculum, you are supporting students’ development of skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary for success in postsecondary education and economically viable career options. This focus encourages strong community partnerships, which allow students to participate in internships and apprenticeships. It also provides additional opportunities for creative and innovative academic enrichment that support students in developmental areas such as academic, social/emotional, civic engagement, wellness, etc. By exposing students to various STEM / STEAM careers, it helps them identify their postsecondary education and career pathway.

2. Address the community’s career pathways gap.

By offering a STEM / STEAM program, you can help set your community up for success by encouraging skills needed for the local workforce. In our example regarding the 21st CCLC grant application, we found that a STEM / STEAM focus for students could really pay off for the entire county. In one school district included in the program, 55% of the students enrolled in college within a year following graduation. Unfortunately, the students are not persisting through completion. Currently, only 29% of the county adults hold an Associate’s degree or higher. That is less than half of the students who enrolled in postsecondary education and the state’s projected goal and need for 60% of adults to have postsecondary education. In this same community, manufacturing jobs – high-skilled and high paying jobs – represent almost half of the employment in the county. Expanding students’ knowledge of STEM-related careers and creating stronger partnerships as well as career pathways will be a game changer in this county!

Boy Assembling Robotic Kit In Bedroom

3. Pave the way for new partnerships.

With a structured STEM / STEAM curriculum, organizations can pull in local partnerships to enhance programming. With the organization mentioned above, we had numerous businesses in the community agree to facilitate field trips, presentations, and hands on activities to enrich the programming for students while also educating the students about local career pathways available. This is invaluable experience for a student who is trying to figure out what their options are after graduation. It is also a beneficial partnership for businesses who need to maintain their workforce pipeline.

4. Open doors for securing additional funding to sustain the program.

Because STEM / STEAM is all the hype right now, there are numerous funding streams available to support your work. Funders see this as a significant need in our education and workforce systems and are looking to support organizations who can successfully address this need. For the 21st CCLC grant, priority points were given to organizations who included STEM / STEAM in their programming. There is ample data available to convince local businesses and philanthropic partners to invest. Having a clear, focused curriculum in place can open NEW doors for additional funding streams.

As education and technology continues to transform the way we live, work, and learn, STEM / STEAM is something to consider for organizations serving young people. If your organization is ready to take the plunge and shift your curriculum focus, we’d love to work with you. We can help find funding, research programs, write your grant, evaluate existing efforts, and more. Contact us today and let’s chat!

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How to use 990 tax forms for grant writing?

Writing grants can be a long, arduous process.  In this past blog, we talked about five steps for grant writing.  Once you have identified possible funders who share alignment with your organization’s mission and goals, you want to gather more information to make a compelling grant request.

Some helpful things to know about a possible funder before submitting a grant application are the following:

  1. Who have they funded in the past?Tax form image
  2. How much have been their grants?
  3. What have been the projects / services funded?
  4. Who is on their Board of Directors?

This research is not an absolute that would change your grant proposal but would help inform the overall approach and priorities to pitch. In general you want to know the types of organizations that they have funded in the past to see if you fit into the category.  For example, if the funder has only supported direct service organizations then they may not fund an intermediary organization. You would still want to ask the funder to make sure you fit their description of possible grantees but this might provide some good insight.

Secondly, it is really important to find out their typical grant funding range. You don’t want your ask to be too small when you could have asked for a higher amount based on their past funding. At the same time, you don’t want your ask too large if that is well beyond what they have funded.  Again, you still want to talk with the funder about what you are proposing, the need and an appropriate amount.

Third, it is helpful to see the types of projects that they have funded. Typically, the funder will list acceptable areas of focus and uses of the grant funds.  However, sometimes that information is not readily available.  For example, would the funder support capital projects, capacity building projects for the organization, or the types of direct services?

Fourth, grant writing is so much more than the technical writing and submission of grant applications.  It is really about building a relationship with the funder and grantee.  The funder is a partner and extension of the work of your organization.  As such, you will want to build a relationship with the funder including the staff and members of their board of directors.

Some funders do a good job of including this information on their website.  However, we find that not all of this information is readily available. A great tool that we turn to is finding the funder’s “Form 990-PF” tax return.

What is Tax Form 990-PF?

Tax exempt organizations must file some version of the Tax Form 990 with the IRS each year to maintain their standing. Non-profit organizations file Form 990, and private foundations file Form 990-PF. The “PF” stands for Private Foundation.

The 990-PF provides fiscal data for the foundation, names of trustees and officers, application information, and a complete grants list.  The last item is most helpful for your research.

The funder lists all of the organizations who received a grant in the past calendar year.  It essentially answers the three items listed above: who they founded, how much and for what!

The 990-PF can also be useful for relationship building with the funder. For example, an organization’s Form 990 includes the contact information for the private foundation if they do not have a website. In addition, the 990 provides the names of the people on the board and the officers whom you might know and start to build relationships.

Where can you find the Form 990-PF for Funders?

In today’s information age, there are some great online tools to find organization’s 990s.  

  1. Search Engines: You can search an organization’s 990 through different online search engines, such as Google by using keywords.
  2. Funder’s Website: Some funders will post their past 990s directly on their website, so start there.
  3. Foundation Center’s 990 Finder: they have developed an online search tool specifically for 990s. There are other organizations, such as Charity Navigator, that post 990s but they link back to the Foundation Center. 

If you are looking to increase and diversify your funding through grant writing, contact us.  We would love to learn more about your goals and see how we can accelerate your impact!

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How to Create a Fund Development Plan

At Transform Consulting Group, we know how stressful and time consuming it can be to find funding sources that match an organization’s mission and vision that are also sustainable for future growth. We have found that taking the time to create a fund development plan and have some additional resources on-hand can greatly reduce the stress and confusion related to finding (and landing!) funding.

In this blog, we will share some of the tips and strategies we use with clients to formalize their fund development plans.

Start with the END in Mind

Before you choose which fundraising strategy to pursue, you need a clear vision of Future-Ahead-e1420924231992where you (and your Board) want your organization to be as a result of this funding ask. In order to know where you want to end up, start with these two steps:

Step 1: Review your Strategic Plan

Having a clear and updated strategic plan can be a very helpful resource in deciding which funding streams to pursue to support your organization’s goals.

Step 2: Identify Top Program and Financial Goals
  1. What are your program goals for additional funding?
    • Do you want more professional development for staff? To implement a new program? Expand your service capacity? Grow into a new geographic market or target population? Improve your year-end campaign?
  2. What are your financial goals for your organization?
    • Are you relying too heavily on grants and want to diversify your funding streams? Do you want to increase your cash reserve? Strengthen the financial stability of your organization? What are your overall goals for your organization for the next 2-5 years? Do you want to increase staff wages or benefits?

Having goals for your organization helps guide you to the type of funding to pursue.

How it’s Done

At Transform Consulting Group, we have divided the fund development process into three focus areas:

  1. Past: review past and current portfolio of funding to identify themes and potential opportunities. fund-development
  2. Present: review the current research, assess industry trends, and benchmark other successful organizations.
  3. Future: create and help implement a fund development plan based on your future goals.

Funding Analysis

Taking a look at past and current funding sources provides historical context into the types of funding partnerships, including opportunities for growth. During this funding analysis, it’s important to review the following:

  1. Funders over the past 5-10 years –  what they funded, the amount funded, and the relationship with the organization.
  2. Prospect list –  which groups or individuals did not agree to funding your organization and reviewing why.
  3. Financial statements – identify the current revenue sources by funding category and pros/cons of each to determine growth area(s) needed.

Research Benchmarks

It is essential to take some time to do an environmental scan of current research and new trends that can support your funding requests. Below we outline the flow of research:

  1. Research current trends in the industry that provide important context for the need for your organization.
  2. Benchmark other similar organizations for funding strategies and opportunities that you could possibly replicate.
  3. Identify the need for targeted funding strategies and sources based on your demographics and supporting research.

Create a Fund Development Plan

You made it! You have done your reflections and outlined where you want to end up. Now it’s time to put a plan in place.

Here are the three pieces included in a fund development plan:

  1. Create: You have done the work to get to this point, so now is when you put it on paper. Using the goals identified in your reflection and the findings from your research, outline prospective funding opportunities, target numbers, strategies, timeline, and responsibilities.
  2. Develop: Now that you have your plan outlined, you need to develop your funding tools (case for support, donor letters, funding campaigns, sponsorship packages, grant proposals, etc.).
  3. Implement:  It is a reward getting to this point! Whether this entails applying for grants, making the ask for shared services, or launching an awareness campaign, you are now ready to move forward!

FD 2

Creating a fund development plan takes time and energy, but it truly pays off in the end. Being knowledgeable about your organization’s current state and future goals, the latest trends and community needs, and the appropriate funding sources to pursue will greatly increase your chances of being funded and the financial health of your organization.

Whether you are ready to apply for funding or have no clue where to start, we can help! Contact us today for more information on fund development strategies.

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10 Tips for Your Year-End Giving Campaign

2017 is quickly coming to an end! Before you know it, we’ll be saying “Happy New Year” and plans for 2018 will be underway.

blog infographic 1We’re heading into the season of giving. It is that time of year where donor dollars increase significantly. Year-end giving trends suggest that nearly one third of annual giving happens in December.

At Transform Consulting Group, we highlighted tips for ending your fiscal year strong in this blog. One way to finish the year on a high note, is to kick off a year-end campaign with these simple tips:

  1. Start Planning Now: You can’t wait until the last few weeks of December to reach out to donors or to make the first “ask.” Get a plan in place today that you can implement over the next few weeks.

  2. Send Something: Whether it’s a holiday greeting in the mail or an email blast wrapping up the year, your current donors need to hear from you. You can highlight an accomplishment from this year, share a specific need heading into the New Year, or just thank the donor for their past generosity. Most likely your donors are hearing from other organizations too, and you need to be on their radar.blog infographic 2

  3. Engage Volunteers: Take the time to appreciate your volunteers this year. Thank them for the time they
    invested in your organization. You may even decide to give a special gift to those who met X amount of service hours. Volunteers are twice as likely to donate to your organization. These are the people who are already engaged in your mission and have seen first-hand the work you do. 

  4. Enlist Your Board: Your board of directors can be your biggest asset this time of year. Have board members write personal thank you notes, make phone calls or accompany you to meetings with donors.

  5. Segment Your Contact List: Your strategy should be different for different donors or partners. Organize your contacts into specific lists and plan your approach for each group such as: major donors, once a year donors, volunteers, alumni (past clients if appropriate), board, etc.

  6. Go Visual: Create consistent images and visuals for all aspects of your campaign. Try highlighting major accomplishments or data using infographics (check out our blog series on infographics here). Feature client success stories and quotes with photos (if appropriate). Create images and banners to display on all social media platforms. You can even set up a microsite just for your holiday campaign that clearly showcases your goals and progress over the next few weeks.

  7. Plan A Giving Day: We highlighted tips for implementing your own “Giving Day” in this blog. This can be a unique day that your organization chooses to ramp up efforts or you may decide to take advantage of Giving Tuesday. Regardless of what you choose, make sure you continue promoting your cause until December 31st. Surveys show 12% of funding comes in during the last 3 days of the year, so you shouldn’t just rely on one day for giving, but it can be a great tool to kickstart your efforts.

  8. Make It Easy To Give: Provide your donors with several options for giving and make the options clear! Create a button on your website for donations. Have a link on your social media pages that directs followers to give. Send pre-stamped envelopes for those donors who you know would rather give via check or cash.

  9. Focus On Donor Stewardship: It’s very rare that you can ask a person for money, and they give it to you on the spot. You need to steward a relationship with them first. Build trust and learn about the causes they are interested in. Donor stewardship is important for engaging new donors but also for helping to move current donors to the next level of giving. Don’t expect that your holiday postcard sent in December will be enough to gain significant traction. Make plans to meet up with specific people who you know can give more or should be giving period. Start those conversations today.
    year-end-campaign-donordrive-300x256
  10. Make It Personal: Regardless of what methods you use to ask for gifts (email blast, mailings, one-on-one meetings), you need to bring the focus back to the people you serve and causes you are working to impact. Put a face to your mission and make it personal. Share specific stories of how your programs changed a family’s life. Introduce a donor to that single mom who went back to school. Highlight exactly where the donor’s dollars are going and who will be impacted. Along with the personal anecdotal stories, don’t forget to include your outcome results. Need help with having good data to share? Check out this blog or our services.

At Transform Consulting Group, we understand the many challenges that organizations face and often it begins with funding limitations. We want to work with you on ways to maximize your funding, so that you can move your cause forward. We love thinking outside of the box to come up with unique ways to engage current and new donors. Contact us today and let’s put your year-end campaign into motion!

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Shared Services: How Can Your Organization Maximize Impact While Minimizing Costs?

Many organizations struggle to secure enough funding to have the maximum impact on the goals aligned to their mission. In addition to seeking new funding to support your organization’s goals, you can examine your current expenses to find ways of reducing costs in order to put more money into programs that help accomplish your mission.

There is a national trend of small and medium-size organizations coming together to “share services,” specifically noncore business services. If your business or organization is small, you may not have the budget to enable you to hire specialists on your staff for all operations, such as payroll, human resources, marketing, and accounting. By participating in shared services, your organization might be increasing your funding by lowering your costs! Shared Services Blog

Is Using Shared Services Right For Your Organization?

  • Shared services can take different forms, but typically a supporting organization has staff that handle operations for member organizations.
  • Member organizations pay fees to receive shared services. These fees are often lower than the cost of employing in-house specialized staff or seeking these services independently.
  • While guidelines can vary, in general, any organization or business—for-profit or nonprofit—can use shared services. Smaller organizations may reap more benefits, but larger entities are not prohibited from participating.
  • Shared services require collaboration.
    • Members must be willing to disclose their financial and business practices. This may feel uncomfortable for some. However, it allows members to get the full benefits of the shared knowledge and expertise of centralized staff.
    • Individual organizations maintain autonomy over some decisions—such as personnel management. However, issues related to centralized services require collaboration.

What Do Shared Services Look Like In Action?

Transform Consulting Group actually uses shared services in our business model! Human Capital Concepts (HCC) provides us with human resources expertise, as well as payroll and benefits administration. HCC is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), which means that our Transform staff members are co-employed by HCC along with their other clients. Therefore, we are part of a larger employee pool—allowing us to get the best rates for our health insurance and 401K plans. As a small business, we don’t have to worry about having a human resources director in order to maintain compliance with state and federal laws. Because of the services we receive from HCC, we can focus on projects that advance our mission!

Chambliss Center for Children in Chattanooga, TN is a nonprofit organization that operates an early childhood care and education program that serves over 300 children. In addition to operating their own site, they have management agreements with 5 other early childhood programs in the community. Administrative staff at Chambliss Center for Children manage the day-to-day operations of these 5 programs, but each of the programs has their own board of directors. Some of the services include payroll and benefits administration; insurance contract coordination; maintenance; and purchasing of food and supplies. The programs report that some of the positive impacts for them are the ability to increase teacher wages; decreased staff turnover; and improved program quality!

What Can You Do If You’re Interested?

Contact local and statewide partners to learn about shared services providers in your area.

  • Your local United Way
  • Your community foundation
  • Local chapter of the Chamber of Commerce
  • Area small business resource center

Transform Consulting Group provides an array of services related to fundraising strategies. Shared services may be a good fit for your organization as one piece of your overall fund development plan. For more information about increasing your impact while decreasing your costs, contact us for a free consultation!

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Plan a “Giving Day” to Raise Funds and Build Awareness

Are you tired of putting so much time and energy into another fundraising event? Maybe you’re going to the same donors repeatedly asking for money, and you want to start broadening your reach. Many organizations across the country are jumping on the concept of a “Giving Day.” A Giving Day is a day-long online fundraising effort that unites a community around local causes. It’s an initiative that many non-profit organizations and educational institutions are utilizing to diversify their funding streams.Giving Day 2

Unlike your typical fundraising in-person event, Giving Days are focused primarily online. There is usually a landing page for giving and then social media outlets are utilized to build hype and engage an audience.

Benefits of a Giving Day
  1. It’s more than fundraising: A Giving Day is not just a fundraiser, but it’s an awareness campaign. A Giving Day allows you the opportunity to share your mission, your organization’s story and purpose all day long.
  2. It’s more accessible: The advantage of hosting a Giving Day over an event is that people can engage on THEIR time. They don’t have to drive to a certain location or schedule a 2-hour timeslot. They can hop on their social media channels to watch interviews, read testimonials, and choose to give when it’s convenient for them.
  3. It broadens your audience: You don’t have to limit yourself to your local community. With an online campaign you can engage EVERYONE! You can reach people across the state, the country or the world through one simple click on their computer.
  4. It builds momentum: The task of planning a Giving Day can be daunting during year one. However, this is a campaign you revisit every year. Once you have the plan in motion and start building excitement, each year gets easier.

WDM Creative, a public relations and creative firm, wrapped up another successful Giving Day Campaign with the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indianapolis (RHI) on September 22nd. They have created a systematic approach and strategy to tackling Giving Days. They graciously shared some insight on their process.

Giving Day “Must Haves”
  1. 6 Months for Planning: WDM President Lori Winkler suggests a 6-month timeline to adequately plan your Giving Day. This time leading up to your actual day of giving is a great opportunity to build excitement and start promoting your campaign.
  2. Sponsorships & Match Dollars: It’s important to have some dollars planned before the actual Giving Day rolls around. Talk to corporations to partner with you, not just on the day of giving, but during the months leading up to the event! Have conversations with donors who may be willing to offerGiving Day 1 matches or incentives throughout your full Giving Day to build excitement or competition.
  3. Website Platform: It’s important to have a landing page up and running months prior to your Giving Day. Update content regularly as you nail down the schedule of the day or new corporate partners. Then have another page ready for the actual Giving Day where people can start making donations and see the money being raised in real time. Make sure your platform can handle the influx of visitors. Your 24-hour giving period is not the time for technical malfunctions!
  4. Social Media: Amp up your social media engagement for months prior to the Giving Day. You can create a Facebook Event like WDM did with RHI’s Giving Day. They also utilized Facebook Live and had hourly interviews with a variety of key stakeholders to share their story about the impact of the cause: patients, staff, researchers, donors, etc.
  5. Marketing Plan: You’ll want to develop a brand specifically for your Giving Day. Create logos, collateral material, etc. that accurately describes your organization and the goal of your Giving Day. These are all tools you can then reuse every year.
  6. Manpower: Whether you’re able to bring on a team like WDM or have a committee of volunteers, understand that you’ll need manpower to plan your day just as you would for an event. Even though your main focus is your online engagement, you may want a hub to generate excitement locally. This hub serves as a place for people to bring in cash donations and/or interviews to take place. If you’re hosting it at your organization, it is a great visual for staff or clients who walk through your doors daily. You may want an Emcee, someone who can shoot video for live Facebook interviews, people monitoring social media platforms and posting updates.
  7. Day Schedule: Plan out your day and market the schedule. Maybe you’ll host small competitions or matching opportunities. If there is a timeframe that you want to ramp up donations, consider providing a gift or incentives to donors during that time. If you have a special spokesperson that you’ll be interviewing live, then communicate often when viewers can tune in

At WDM, they have found that Giving Days not only lead to new donors, but also elevates current donors’ giving. It’s a great strategy for an organization who is willing to think outside the box to accelerate impact.

If you’re looking for new strategies to fundraise, contact us today and we’d love to chat about our services!

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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.

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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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