Tag Archives: Grants

3 Steps for Creating a Fund Development Case Statement

A fund development case statement is a broad three- to five-page overview of your nonprofit organization that highlights who you are and what sets you apart from other similar nonprofits. Your case statement sets a foundation for grant applications and donation requests.  

Fund Dev Case Statement Blog

At Transform Consulting Group, we use 3 steps when partnering with organizations to create a fund development case statement. We recently used these steps to develop a case statement for the Johnson County Learning Center (JCLC): Early Learning Community. JCLC provides early childhood education for families in Johnson County. Right now, they are seeking to increase their overall funding and diversify their funding streams. They are new to fund development, so one of our solutions was to help develop their case statement.

Step 1: What is the Need?

Address the compelling need for your organization or cause. Why do you exist? What happened to spark the founding of the organization? Why do you continue to operate? What problem(s) in particular are you working to solve? Consider the following:

    • Demographics: Who is your target population? What are some key data points that characterize them and demonstrate their unmet need?
    • Services: Is there a lack of services like yours? Are you filling a critical gap? Do you provide speciality services that are needed and missing?
    • Research: What does the literature say about why your work matters? What studies have been done that demonstrate the importance of your work and cause?

Tip: Use available, relevant information. Perhaps organizations in your community or region have conducted needs assessments. For state and national data sources, check out our blog.

For JCLC’s case statement, we used Census data to help funders and donors get a sense of the community’s demographics. Since they work in the early learning and education industry, we pulled data from the Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee’s (ELAC) county profiles and interactive dashboard and the Indiana Department of Education.

Step 2: What are You Currently Doing?

Address what you are currently doing to meet the need. How does your organization fill the existing gap in your community? Consider the following:

    • Programming: What are the programs and services that you offer? What makes them uniquely effective?
    • Impact: What are your results and accomplishments, including the numbers served and outcomes? What positive trends or recent changes have you identified?
    • Stories: Who can tell personal stories about the positive impact of your organization in their lives?

Tip: Use existing language from your website, annual report, and newsletters.

JCLC had already developed content for their website to communicate their mission and programming. In addition, they pulled some data reports to provide more detail about their reach and partnerships. We were able to use their existing language and data as a foundation for their fund development case statement.

Step 3: What are Your Plans for the Future?

Address what else you hope to accomplish that will better meet the need of your target population. This is why you are asking for grant funding. Consider the following:

    • Unmet Need: Why do you want this grant funding? Is there a population or geographic area you are unable to serve?
    • Your Case: How is what you are currently doing (while great) not enough to meet the compelling need? What are your limitations?
    • Your Proposal: How would you use the funding in order to meet the need?
      • Expand Services: Is the need overwhelming and you need to serve more?
      • Enhance Services: Do you need to refine your services or programs in a particular way, such as specializing or retooling them to meet the needs of the target population?
      • Launch New Services: Do you need to start something new to fill a gap, perhaps based on new research; a new community needs assessment; or a changing target population?

Tip: There’s no need to start from scratch if you don’t have to! Consider if you have written similar information for other grants or reporting requirements. More than likely you have this information in multiple places and just need to thoughtfully pull it together.

Data from ELAC and Child Care Aware of America shows that in Johnson County, there are many families who cannot afford the cost of early childhood education. At the same time, a growing body of research shows the positive impact for children, especially low-income children, attending a high-quality early education program. These children can achieve positive academic, social, and economic outcomes (ELAC Annual Report, 2018). There is a need for community investment to create a more robust scholarship program that would help make sure all families can access the education needed for their youngest children. Now, JCLC will share this data with local funders to seek the specific dollar amounts necessary to increase the number of children served by their scholarship program.

If your nonprofit needs to seek additional funding or you would like help reviewing or creating a fund development case statement, contact us today to get your organization on the way to financial strength and sustainability!

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Looking for Grants? Learn About Funders with Foundation Directory Online!

Whether you’re a seasoned grant writer or just starting out, it can be a challenge to find possible grant opportunities. In today’s information age, the internet is an incredible resource to find information on potential funders. However, not all funders who award grants have an online presence. In fact, only 10% of foundations have a website. Another useful strategy for finding possible grants is through word of mouth in your local community and region.

FDO-foundation-directory-onlineIf you rely only on the internet and relationships for possible fuding, then your organization may be missing out on potential grant opportunities to support your fund development goals. One of our “go-to” sources is the Foundation Directory Online (FDO) database. FDO is one of the services provided by Foundation Center. There is a fee to access the information in their database, but we find that it is worth it due to the amount of information that you will be able to gather, as well as the ease of searching in their database. 

3 Ways That Foundation Directory Online Can Help You

  1. Find Possible New Funders – You may have an idea for a new project, or you might want to expand an existing part of your programming. In order to accomplish this, you need to find funders with available grant opportunities that could support your goals. The FDO search fields let you specify the subject of your project or program, your geographic area, and the population you serve (e.g. youth or veterans). For example, if you want to find funders that would support your homeless programs in Michigan, you could type in those categories to find possible funders. You can add more layers to the search to narrow the focus or remove restrictions to broaden it. You can save your search criteria each time, allowing you to come back to your results as needed.
     FDO-Michigan-homeless
    Some private and corporate foundations, particularly larger ones, have websites with detailed information about the types of projects and programs they fund, as well as their grant application process. In these cases, it is typically best to rely on the information on funders’ websites, rather than the FDO database, since it may take some time for FDO to be updated. The Joyce Foundation is an example of a funder with a lots of detail about projects they have funded on their website. However, when foundation websites do not exist or do not contain enough information, FDO can fill in those gaps.
  2. Complete Prospect Research on Funders – Let’s say that you FDO-grant-size-chartrecently learned about a local or national funder, and you want to find out if they would be a good partner for your organization. You can search FDO for information about that particular funder, including the types of projects they have previously funded. You may also want to find out how much you should ask for in a grant, so you could use FDO to find information on their past grantee award amounts. FDO lists each grant made by each funder, the dollar amount of each grant, and the reipient of each grant. They also compile data in chartsand graphs, giving you quick access to summaries, along with the option to click for more detail.                 Pro Tip: Sometimes funders have a different legal name than the name you know. If you’re having trouble finding them by their organization name, you can do a keyword search.
  3. Benchmark Other Nonprofit Organizations – Nonprofits can also learn from other similar organizations in the same region or industry. FDO can help you benchmark the funding strategies of those organizations. Search for similar nonprofits by name or keyword to find out what kind of funding they have received in the past.

The process of seeking grants from private and corporate foundations often requires some level of relationship-building with staff at the foundation. Once you have identified potential funders that fit your subject area, geographic region, and population served, then you need to determine how to approach the foundation about funding your project. Many foundations note that they do not accept unsolicited grant applications. This usually means they want to have a conversation with you or receive a Letter of Inquiry from you to get an overview of your organization before you submit a proposal. This will help them determine if it is worth your time to prepare a detailed grant application or if your proposal does not match their funding goals.

FDO compiles information from many sources, including foundation websites and 990 tax forms. If you access FDO, then you do not have to conduct this research yourself. Some of the most helpful information in FDO is found on each funder’s Grantmaker Record page, and we have found some good ways to search for results.

Tips for Making the Most of Foundation Directory Online

  • As you navigate FDO, it is important to remember that what you type into each search field continues to impact the records you pull up. For example, if you type “Indianapolis Colts” into the keyword field and then click on the Grantmaker Record for Indianapolis Colts, Inc. Corporate Giving Program, you will not see the full information about this grantmaker. Instead, now that your “Indianapolis Colts” search pulled up the full name of this grantmaker, copy the full name and then clear that search. Next, go to the “Organization Name” field and paste or begin typing “Indianapolis Colts, Inc. Corporate Giving Program.” Once that name pops up as a choice, select it, and click search. Now, when you click on that Grantmaker Record, you will see all the details about this funder.
  • Some organizations, like Central Indiana Community Foundation, both receive grants and give grants. Therefore, FDO has both a “Recipient Record” and a “Grantmaker Record” for them. Be sure you are looking at the right record in order to get the information you are seeking.
  • Within the Grantmaker Record, you can filter your results to focus in on only previous grants given to organizations similar to yours, projects like yours, or programs in your geographic area. As you move from screen to screen, be sure that the tabs and filters selected are the ones you want to see.

If your nonprofit organization is on the smaller side, you may find that the costs of a subscription outweigh the benefits. You can always do your own research into prospective funders’ 990 tax forms. Check out our blog on 990s and this free resource for finding 990 forms.

Whether your nonprofit is large or small, Transform Consulting Group can help you navigate grant research and writing! Contact us today to get started.

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4 Tips for Writing an Effective RFP

We are fortunate to work on both sides of the grant making process. We work with funders administering grants to organizations to help carry out their mission and purpose.  We also work with organizations pursuing grants from funders and have written several blogs about grant writing here and here.Tips for RFP

In this blog, we are going to focus on the funder side of the grant making process and strategies that funders can employ to improve the outcomes of their grant awards.  Yes, the structure of a Request for Proposal (RFP) can have a positive or negative impact on the outcomes of grantees and funders accomplishing their goals.

Whether a funder is establishing a new grant program or looking to update their current grant, how your RFP is structured can influence the outcome of how the grant funds are ultimately used.  This is why we are sharing our tips to help improve the overall grant making process starting with the RFP.

1. Have a Clear Purpose for the Grant Program.

One of the first questions we ask funders is what do they hope to accomplish from this grant funding source.  As a prospective grantee, since we work with many of them, it can be really challenging to write a grant application when there is not a clear purpose and focus.  Having identified goals, program priorities and guidelines helps the funder select grantees who are best aligned with supporting the accomplishment of their goals.  It also helps the prospective applicants know how their organization, programs and services are a good fit (or not) for supporting the funder’s goals.

We worked with a funder who wanted to review one of their current grant programs.  They were not seeing the outcomes they had hoped from the grant program and after reviewing their RFP, we saw some areas for improvement.  Their identified goals were very broad and general, so the applicants were submitting proposals that lacked focus and direction.  We worked with the funder to get clear about what they wanted to accomplish with this grant program and revised the RFP to better communicate the goals, priority focus areas and expectations.  The next grant cycle resulted in not only better applications but ultimately grantees with intentional purpose to support the funder’s goals!

2. Seek Partner Feedback and Alignment.

Grant programs are administered by the funder but can be developed through a collaborative process.  We are seeing a growing trend of funders reaching out to partners for feedback and input to inform a grant program.  This is especially helpful when launching a new grant program and/or seeking revisions to a grant program.  When doing this, we recommend including partners who will not have a conflict of interest for participating in the grant development / RFP process.  We also suggest a variety of stakeholders with different perspectives.  This may include researchers, consultants, past recipients, trade association representatives and other funders.

We worked with a government agency to help them implement a new state grant program.  The client could have developed the grant program and RFP internally, but they saw the value (and we agreed!) in seeking input from key stakeholders to help inform the development of the grant program.  Over the course of 3-4 months, the stakeholder group spent time reviewing data in the state, researching best practices in other states and developing the program goals and guidelines. The result was a comprehensive RFP that laid a solid foundation for the new grant program.  While it was more time up-front spent planning, it created tremendous buy-in and ownership in the industry as the new grant program launched.

3. Develop a Well Structured and Organized RFP.

While it might seem mundane and simplistic, the simple details of how a RFP is packaged can make all of the difference to the application, selection and award/ monitoring process.  It truly sets the tone for the grant program.  Here are some simple tips that we find helpful when writing the RFP and responding to them as grant writers:

  • Include a “Table of Contents” that outlines the key elements included in the RFP package.
  • Use “Headers and Footers” to identify page numbers, date of the RFP, and name of the RFP.
  • Use a “Numbering System” to communicate each new section, such as Introduction, Submission Instructions, Narrative Requirements, Forms, etc.
  • Use “Section Headers” to identify different sections within the big Numbering System.
  • Include “Forms” that communicate how you want the information provided.  This could include forms for a Budget, Evaluation Plan, Target Population Demographics, etc.  Forms can also be a great space saver.
  • State the “Selection Criteria” that will be used to rate the applicants.  If you have identified points for particular sections that is even better.
  • Include a “Checklist” with the order of the grant application package.  This not only helps the applicant double check that they have all of the required items, but is also an internal check for the funder that everything needed is being requested.

We worked with a client who awards funding to support before, after and summer school programming.  The program and RFP process had been operating on “auto pilot” for many years being passed on from one staff person to the next.  As a result, the RFP application and forms had become a consolidation of different forms and information that resulted in a disconnected RFP packet.  It was no wonder when the applications came in that they too were not well organized or structured, which made the review process very difficult.  We worked with the client to review the application package and identify what information was necessary, the order in which the information was needed and what could be removed.  We removed half of the RFP from its previous version, and there was much more clarity/ focus in the new RFP!

4. Go Digital with the Application Process.

With the growth of technology, there are a variety of options and systems that can be implemented to help make the RFP process more efficient and effective for both the funder and applicant.  When possible, we encourage clients to use digital forms for posting grant application information and receiving applications.  A free option is Google Forms.  There are several low-cost online options for creating and accepting forms that we encourage funders to consider if their budget allows.  Some funders choose to design their own system embedded on their website to accept grant applications. Whatever the path, there are options available for nearly every type of funder and their budget.  We often see a ROI on time saved through the use of technology, and applicants tend to appreciate these digital systems.

We worked with a funder who still wanted to have multiple hard copies of the grant proposals and on a CD-ROM.  A flash drive was not acceptable.  Many computers are being made without CD-ROMs.  The client hadn’t considered new digital systems available to submit grants that could make the process easier for both them and their applicants.  We presented different options that they might consider for their RFP.  The funder ended up taking a “baby step” of accepting email submissions.  We hope that the next step will be using one of the digital options.

By investing some up-front time in thoughtfully planning and structuring a grant program’s RFP application, the funder will see positive benefits in helping to accelerate their impact.  Transform Consulting Group is available to support funders in accomplishing their goals through the grant making process.  Let us know if you have a new program you need assistance setting up or want someone to take a look at an existing program.

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Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps Funding Available

 

americorpsThe U.S. Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) have partnered to create the Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps funding opportunity. AmeriCorps grants are awarded to eligible organizations to recruit, train, and manage AmeriCorps members during a defined term of service.

This AmeriCorps funding opportunity provides grants to programs that help youth who have been adjudicated in the juvenile justice system, convicted in the criminal justice system, or identified as “at-risk” for incarceration, to serve as AmeriCorps members. Youth will have the chance to participate in a national service program and receive meaningful mentoring while they serve.

Public or private nonprofit organizations, institutions of higher education, local or state governments, veterans’ service organizations, labor organizations, and other partnerships/consortia are all eligible to apply for this funding. Proposed programs should meet the following goals:

  • Establish and maintain mentoring relationships between experienced members and disconnect Youth AmeriCorps members.
  • Evidence of collaboration with entities that provide reentry or reentry-related activities.

A Letter of Intent is due Monday, April 20th.  The full application is due Wednesday, May 20th.

Recipients of the Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps grant will need to enroll new AmeriCorps staff members to provide mentoring and coaching to at-risk youth. Recruitment should involve finding individuals who have mentoring experience and/or applicable life experience to serve as mentors and coaches to support the successful participation of youth in the program, and position them for success after their service ends. For more information, click here.

Transform Consulting Group has successfully helped programs apply for AmeriCorps grants in the past, including the United Way of Central Indiana. Interested in how AmeriCorps staff members could improve your organization’s impact? Contact Transform Consulting Group today to learn more.

 

 

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