Category Archives: Nonprofit

7 Strategies to Maximize #GivingTuesday

As 2019 comes to an end, we’ve talked a lot about how to end the year with a bang when it comes to your fund development goals. (Find our 10 tips for your year-end giving campaign here). This blog is all about Giving Tuesday – the National Day of Giving.Screen Shot 2018-11-12 at 3.41.39 PM

Giving Tuesday falls on the Tuesday right after Thanksgiving. The idea is to have a day for giving thanks (Thanksgiving), followed by two days for deals (Black Friday and Cyber Monday), and then there is a day dedicated to giving back (Giving Tuesday!).

Giving Tuesday provides a unique opportunity for your organization to engage with donors, partners, and volunteers – and hopefully raise some money! To get the most out of your Giving Tuesday strategy, we recommend implementing these seven strategies:

  1. Set a giving goal
    Decide how much money your organization wants to raise on Giving Tuesday and what the money raised will go toward funding. Once you decide your goals, share them with your supporters! Donors want to know where their money is going and the difference it will make. This strategy will also help build excitement throughout the day as you creep closer and closer to your day’s goal.
  2. Focus on new donors
    Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to engage with new donors, no matter the size of the gift! Use messaging that clearly illustrates your mission and work for individuals who may not know much about your organization. Talk about the importance of your services and your impact in the community. Include options for gifts as small as $5 on your donation pages to get new supporters in the door.
  3. Engage millennials Giving Tuesday is a very social and hashtag friendly day of giving. It may not connect with all donors (which is why Giving Tuesday should only be one piece of your year-end giving campaign), but it is a perfect opportunity to get millennials excited about your mission AND sharing your campaign.
  4. Use various communication mediums Videos, pictures, and testimonialsScreen Shot 2018-11-12 at 3.39.46 PM are all great tools for sharing your organization’s story. Since Giving Tuesday is primarily an online campaign, you will need to think of how you’re engaging supporters in a way that stands out in the often-distracting digital world. Check out case studies from Giving Tuesday campaigns in 2017 here. Notice the unique messaging, visuals, and strategies used. You’ll see that not everyone focuses on raising dollars during their campaign. In-kind donations may be just as valuable for your organization. You can frame your entire campaign around your organization’s specific need.
  5. Schedule “pushes”
    Tuesday, November 27th may be the big giving day, but planning content to promote leading up to Giving Tuesday will really increase your impact. We recommend 1-2 additional communications in the weeks prior to Giving Tuesday. Promote on your social media platforms that your organization is participating in Giving Tuesday, and share what the day is all about. Send an email blast to your contact list to get them excited about participating. It’s not too early to start building excitement!
  6. Implement peer-to-peer fundraising
    Giving Tuesday is the day to rally the troops and get your network engaged in your fundraising goals. Encourage volunteers, board of directors, staff, and partners to share why they support your organization on their own personal social media platforms. Provide your supporters with content and language to share that is consistent with your messaging. Encourage key contacts to create their own fundraisers on your organization’s behalf.
  7. Follow up with donors We know it’s a busy time of year, but don’t neglect your donors. Acknowledge every gift, no matter the size. Have a process in place for depositing gifts in a timely manner and issuing gift receipts for tax purposes.

As the holiday season approaches, our team would love to support your fundraising efforts. Check out our services here, and contact us today for a free consultation!

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Besides an ask, did you say thank you?

Research shows nearly a third of giving happens at the end of the year, so now is the time to focus on communication and donor stewardship. Hopefully your year-end campaign will bring in new donors as well as repeat donors. Throughout your campaign, don’t forget to circle back to those who give and follow up with your gratitude.

According to Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report, retention rates for first time donors are between 25-30%, but for multi-year donors, the retention rate doubles. We know it’s a busy time of year, but at TCG we recommend building in time to thank your donors and begin (or continue) building a relationship that will continue throughout the year and for years to come. Ultimately, this continued engagement will help grow your donor base.

Ways to Stay In Touch

  1. Celebrate your success
    Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 8.17.13 PM
    During the end of the year frenzy, don’t forget to thank your supporters and volunteers! Dedicate one of your emails to celebrating what your organization has achieved this year. Include a list of highlights, pictures from events, or a holiday picture of staff, and start building excitement for the coming year.
  1. Send a thank you
    Once you receive a donation, the job is not done yet. Make sure that each donor receives a receipt with their donation. That is required. But don’t stop there. Send your donors a dedicated thank you email or letter. Sooner than later. Want to really say thank you and engage your board? Have board members call or write major donors to express appreciation for their gifts.
  1. Add another communication check in
    It is also part of good donor stewardship to communicate regularly with your donors. Engage (or reengage) your donors in your nonprofit as it is obviously a cause they care about. After the first of the year, welcome new donors. They might have given because a friend or family member supports the cause without knowing the details of what you do. Create a welcome series of emails to get them better acquainted with your organization. And for all donors, connect with them throughout the year and include a call to action – to sign up for your newsletter, tour the facility, attend a program, or volunteer!

TIMELINE. For Follow-Up

You have your campaign strategy and a plan for following up with donors. Here’s a timeline of how everything works together!

Timeline:

  • Start campaign week of Thanksgiving (11/19)
  • Giving Tuesday outreach (11/27)
  • Touches throughout December until December 31st
  • January-February:  Review the data to see how your campaign performed. How many new donors, recaptured donors, and repeat donors did you have?
  • Keep in touch throughout the year!

Want more ideas for your year-end campaign? Check out our latest blogs on Giving Tuesday and 10 Tips for Year-End Giving Campaign. If you want to learn more about how your campaign performed this year or to improve your organization’s fundraising next year, check out our services and contact us today!  

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4 Free Ways to Increase Your Nonprofit’s Fundraising

Nonprofit leaders know that fundraising is critical to success. There are some easy and free electronic giving options that you can start using now! Regardless of how small or large your organization is, you can benefit from your supporters’ regular shopping habits. These donations can become a consistent part of your comprehensive fund development plan.

We have identified 4 such platforms making these donations possible—either through retail companies or third party businesses. The basic formula for all of them is the same. You register your nonprofit with the platform for free. You let your supporters know that they can register themselves with the platform for free. Your supporters choose your nonprofit as the donation recipient. They make purchases, and you receive a small donation with each purchase. The donations come from either your supporters themselves or the retailers.

4 Apps and Websites That Help Nonprofits Raise Money

  1. RoundUp App – This app allows nonprofit supporters to donate the change from credit and debit card purchases to help fund a nonprofit of their choice. Shoppers use the app’s secure connection to link their bank or credit card. At the end of the month, RoundUp tallies the change from your supporters’ transactions. Then, the company sends you a donation from your supporters in that amount. On average, each RoundUp App user donates $20-$30 per month.  
  1. Giving Assistant – Nonprofit supporters first create an account with Giving Assistant. When they shop at online stores, such as Target, Macy’s, and Best Buy, they earn cash back. Then, users have the option to donate part or all of their cash back to the nonprofit they choose. Giving Assistant states that organizations receive an average of 10% of sales from supporters’ everyday purchases. This can add up to around $100 in donations per year from each user.
  1. AmazonSmile – When Amazon customers register for AmazonSmile, the customers designate a nonprofit to receive a percentage of their purchases. When users shop, they go to smile.amazon.com. Then, Amazon donates 0.5% of customers’ purchase prices on eligible items to the supporters’ nonprofits of choice.
  1. eScrip – When nonprofit supporters create an eScrip account, they don’t get an eScrip card to use with purchases. Instead, they securely connect their existing store loyalty cards, credit cards, and bank cards to their eScrip account. Then, users choose which registered nonprofit or school they want to support. When customers shop at participating retailers with their registered cards, those retailers donate to the selected nonprofits.

5 Ways to Get the Most Out of These Fundraising Tools

Once you have these accounts set up for your nonprofit, let your supporters know how to use them!

  1. Tell your staff, board, and volunteers!
  2. Add clear instructions on your website’s giving page.
  3. Post them on your social media channels with links and directions.
  4. Put them in your newsletters and other communications.
  5. Track your donations to see how active your supporters are. Link their giving amounts with the promotion work you’ve done. Then, you can see which promotional activities (e.g., social media posts, newsletters) have the greatest return on the investment of your time.

When you promote the use of these fundraising platforms among your existing and prospective supporters, you are also raising awareness for your cause. Check out our blog on this topic for more tips!

Using these platforms can also be a good entry point for getting all your staff, board, and volunteers engaged in fundraising. Everyone who supports your organization has an important part to play in fund development. Encourage them to recognize and embrace their role!

Do you need help in determining how to maximize your funds across all your fund development efforts? Check out our fundraising strategies services, and contact us to learn how we can help you meet your goals!

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10 Tips for Your Year-End Giving Campaign

2019 is quickly coming to an end! Before you know it, we’ll be saying “Happy New Year” and plans for 2020 will be underway.

We’re heading into the season of giving. It is that time of year where donor dollars increase significantly. Year-end giving trends suggest blog infographic 1that 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 (view our video recap of these tips here):

  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.blog infographic 2
  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.
  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 (read our blog with tips here). 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.
  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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How to Register to Apply for Federal Grants

Congratulations! You’ve determined you are Federal Grant Ready, and it’s time for you to apply for federal grants! Before you can jump in, there are many administrative steps to take care of first. Applying for federal grants is tedious. Getting set up to apply requires attention to detail. You also have to build in enough time to wait for your submissions to be processed. From beginning to end, it could be longer than a month, so get started now!

Although it takes attention and time, the whole process is free. At Transform Consulting Group (TCG), we have successfully helped several organizations apply for and receive multi-million dollar federal grants. We know this process, and we’ll guide you through the steps.

3 Steps to Get Registered to Apply for Federal Grants

Your ultimate goal is to get your organization registered on grants.gov. This registration will allow you to apply for federal grants. You’ll complete these 3 steps to get everything set up. 

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  1. Confirm that you have a DUNS # with up-to-date organization information.
  • Use the Dun & Bradstreet D-U-N-S® Number Lookup to find out what your 9-digit DUNS # is. 
  • Look at the information associated with your organization to make sure it’s up-to-date.
  • Contact Dun & Bradstreet if you need to update your organization information.

    Pro Tip: Be sure that the organization name associated with your DUNS #  matches your legal name exactly. That includes commas and periods that are part of your legal name, such as “, Inc.”
  1. Register with SAM, or reactivate your organization’s SAM registration.

SAM is the System for Award Management, and it is the key to being able to receive federal grants!

SAM-logo

  • Contact SAM if you’re not sure if your organization has never had a SAM registration or if you think you may have an inactive registration.
  • If your SAM registration is inactive, then someone at your organization probably already has a user account they can use to log in.
  • Once you know whether you’re creating a new registration or reactivating an old registration, follow the appropriate steps.
  • You’ll need your organization’s Tax Identification Number (TIN).
  • You’ll also send a notarized letter to SAM from your organization’s authorizing official. You may need to email that letter as well.

    Pro Tip: You can (and should!) contact SAM’s help staff for free. 
  1. Register with grants.gov
  • Refer to these details when setting up your grants.gov registration.
  • Then, connect your grants.gov account to your SAM registration.

Renewing Your Registration

Once you’ve completed all these steps, set a reminder for next year. Each year, you’ll need to complete SAM’s annual renewal process. Completing your renewals on time means you won’t have to go through the more lengthy reactivation process!

If you need help seeking federal grant opportunities or completing a grant proposal, let us know!

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3 Tips to Use Your Data to Drive Program Improvement

Nationally, only about half of students who start college actually complete and earn college degrees, according to the National Student Clearinghouse. It is much worse for students who start at a community college or 2-year degree program. This means many students are increasing their debt (from student loans) and not reaping the financial benefits of a college degree and higher earnings. In addition, colleges are losing money when students dropout. It’s a lose-lose game.3 Tips to Use Your Data to Drive Program Improvement

Colleges have been getting increasing pressure from the federal government and others to improve their college completion rates. They have turned to data analytics to better understand how they could intervene earlier with students who might be at risk of not completing their degree and dropping out.

When I first heard this podcast from The Hechinger Report on how “Colleges are using big data to track students in an effort to boost graduation rates, but it comes at a cost” it made me want to listen closer.  As a #datalover and #datanerd, this topic certainly peaked my interest. I am also a first generation college graduate and can personally relate to this topic of college dropouts since many (over half) of my high school peers didn’t finish their college degree.

This is not a new strategy (“predictive analytics”) as companies like Amazon and Google are doing this all of the time with our digital footprint. However, it’s new for colleges and non-profit organizations.  

Georgia State is a case study example of how their university has embraced data analytics to improve college completion rates. Their university now has one of the highest rates of college graduation for public universities in the country, and they have closed the racial equity gap. Students of color are graduating at the same rate as white students at Georgia State. 

So how did Georgia State get there? They used their data to drive and inform program improvement. We’ve talked about this here and here.

The podcast also shares the struggles that other universities face in implementing these changes. It’s not enough to purchase the data analysis software, but you also need trained staff who are able to analyze and interpret the data to take action on it. 

We’ve put together 3 tips to get started with using your data to drive program improvement that’s not only based off of the success of Georgia State but our work with other clients who want to improve their impact.

  1. Have a system in place to collect and track meaningful data. Georgia purchased a data system to help them bring all of their data together and identify patterns. At Transform Consulting Group (TCG) we are big fans of using Tableau Software (see more here and here). We love Tableau, because it can make your data easier to review and understand. We are also adept at using whatever data systems our client has to pull out the information that we need to inform decision-making.
  2. Have trained staff who can analyze and interpret the data. Getting the data from your system is the first step. Then you need to have individuals who know how to identify patterns, ask inquisitive questions and develop recommendations. We are big fans of forming an “Impact Team” at an organization who is trained on analyzing and reviewing your data and can help drive action based on the results. Learn more here.
  3. Have a process to determine program improvement changes. Once you have your data and results, you are now at the fun part – you get to take action on changes to make to improve your results! We find that sometimes organizations don’t have a clear process in place to determine what changes – such as a new curriculum, staff training, client outreach – they will make based on the results. We follow a Continuous Quality Improvement Process using the “Plan – Do – Study -Act or (PDSA)” framework to determine what action steps we will take. Other similar processes might be “Lean/Six Sigma”. At Georgia State they decided to hire additional advisors to use the data to reach out to students at risk. This is one of the many changes they have made, based on their data results, to help students stay on track with college graduation. The goal here is to be intentional on how you will use your data to make programmatic changes and then study the result of those changes to know if it’s working or not.

What are some goals that you are not currently satisfied within your organization? Have you considered how data analytics could help you focus in on improving your results?  Bill Gates said, “Without measurement there is no shared accountability.“ We would love to help you improve your impact through data analytics. Contact us to learn more.

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Why Break Down Data?

When you’re using data to make decisions, are you also taking time to break down data to learn more? Perhaps you are struggling to understand the needs of different parts of the population you serve. Maybe you’re noticing different outcomes in different groups but don’t know why. When you break down data, you can see what’s hidden within your overall results. 

One important reason to break down data is to help your clients who are experiencing multiple adverse events. Our team at Transform Consulting Group worked with Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention (CHIP) to understand the challenges of people experiencing both homelessness and domestic violence. We took a close look at their data. Then we came up with recommendations on how to best meet the needs of this population.

A significant portion of individuals who are homeless have also experienced domestic violence. In Marion County, 21% of individuals in the Homelessness Management Information System (HMIS) had lived in households with reported domestic violence (DV). DV-homelessness-data

Based on national best practices and local data, CHIP and its partners identified potential system and policy improvements. They gathered feedback from domestic violence survivors experiencing homelessness via surveys and focus groups. 

The data and research revealed the need for targeted public policy and legislative protections for this population. When domestic violence survivors leave their relationships, they face economic hardships that put them at risk for homelessness. One policy solution allows survivors to remain in their rental home after the perpetrator is removed from the lease.

Breaking down the data led to this policy recommendation that is specific to domestic violence survivors. This policy change goes beyond what’s relevant for all individuals experiencing homelessness.

In other instances, breaking down data can be particularly helpful to ensure you meet the needs of the most marginalized people. Are children from high-income families able to access your programming more easily than other children? Are your participants of color seeing the same gains as your white participants? Do those in rural areas achieve the same positive results as urban communities? Looking at data in this way can help you focus on equity for your vulnerable populations. 

Researching national best practices revealed that domestic violence survivors, in particular, benefit from meeting with advocates in locations other than their office. Survivors face transportation and other logistical barriers. This can mean it’s much easier if an advocate comes to their home or neighborhood.

There are more details on all the data and findings in the Report on Domestic Violence Survivors Experiencing Homelessness in Marion County that Transform Consulting Group prepared for CHIP. CHIP-DV-report-cover

No matter what your organization’s mission is, breaking down data can help you learn more about different segments of the population you’re serving. Do you see better outcomes when participants have been in your program for more than six months? Is your curriculum more effective for younger children?

In addition to breaking down your data, check out our other blogs on making sure you’re data literate and putting data into context

If you aren’t using data to look at segments of the population you serve, then you might be missing what is (or isn’t) working well in your program. Let us know if you need help with data analysis or program evaluation!

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Are You Ready for a Federal Grant?

Receiving a federal grant can be a great way to accelerate your impact. There are many positive attributes in applying for and receiving a federal grant. Federal grants tend to be for larger amounts and are often multi-year funding to name a few. However, federal grant applications are complex and not easy to navigate.

We have successfully helped several organizations apply for and receive multi-million dollar federal grants. These grants have really helped to strengthen the organization’s infrastructure, expand their reach, and impact more individuals. There are some times, however, that we recommend a client not pursue a federal grant opportunity.

Before you invest the time and energy with a federal grant application, make sure these four elements are in place to determine if your organization is ready for a federal grant:grant ready blog


1. Compelling Need

Federal grants are very competitive. When they are national, you can be competing with hundreds of proposals. Nearly every federal grant application will begin with a “Need Section” where the applicant is asked to explain the need for this grant funding and support. One of the ways to stand out is to make sure your geographical community and target population fit the profile of need. Then you will want to pull from various public data sources, using citations, to make the case. Depending on the proposal, we might also include some relevant research and citations  that back up the need and proposed intervention (Check out this blog for our go to data sources!). Treat the writing of this section more like an academic college paper.

2. Program Design

When organizations are ready to apply for a federal grant, they need to have a strong design of their program. Many federal agencies are promoting “research-based” and “evidence-based” programs and services (See this blog for more insight!). If your program does not meet those thresholds, which is not always a requirement, then work to make the case for the program’s rigor and (hopefully) close alignment to evidence-based programs and elements of evidence-based programs.

3. Program Impact

There is an overall trend in grant making where more and more funders are wanting to invest their resources in organizations with sound data and results. They want to see the outcomes and solid data to backup your impact. Make sure your program has outcomes and not just outputs (See this blog for some help with outcomes!). If you are a new program or proposing a new intervention, then it is more difficult since you most likely haven’t proven yourself. This is where having a strong, close alignment to an evidence-based program model is helpful and may serve as a proxy for your impact.

4. Fiscal System and Accountinggrants-gov-logo-lg


Last but certainly not least, your organization needs to have strong fiscal controls in place to account for your federal grant dollars. You never know when the federal government will request an audit of your grant funding, so you want to have good systems in place to be able to account for those specific funds. We had one client go through an audit due to some concerning issues with their federal program officer (not anything they were doing wrong), and it was quite laborious and time consuming since this was their first federal grant. They didn’t have all of the separate accounting systems in place. Make sure you are ready to track, monitor and account for your federal funding.

If your organization can check all four boxes, then it may be time for you to consider a federal grant opportunity that could propel your impact and reach forward. If your organization can’t check all of the boxes yet, then you may need some support to help you get ready. The good news is we can help you in either scenario. Give us a call today to schedule a free consultation and see how federal grants may be a good fit for your organization!

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Tools Your Board of Directors Need to be Effective

Every nonprofit organization and school has a Board of Directors that is meant to help govern the organization. There are many companies, books, and webinars that solely focus on supporting Boards of Directors. Over the years, we have found and developed some key tools that are easy to apply to help organizations and their Boards govern more effectively.

Board of DirectorsWhile some of these Board tools might seem standard, we still find that these are missing and/or have not been well developed. We could write a blog post about each of these tools (and maybe we will!). This is a quick overview of the value and purpose of each tool to help your organization think about how you might integrate them into your Board of Directors.

8 Tools to Strengthen Your Board of Directors

  1. Bylaws: This is a legal document and also a roadmap for actions that the organization can take. While there are plenty of bylaws templates online, your organization should customize your bylaws. Some basic items to include in bylaws are: number of board members, how board members are selected, board meetings, committees, voting procedures, conflicts of interest, etc. We recommend that organizations annually review their bylaws and make sure that they are clear and provide good instruction to guide the Board of Directors.
  2. Board Manual or Handbook: The Board handbook is the “toolbox” for Board members that provides more detail than the bylaws. This is a great resource to review during new Board member orientation. Some of the key elements that we look for and include in Board Handbooks are: Organization Overview, Contact Information, Board Meetings, Finances and Fundraising, Governance, Committees, Board Policies, and Board Resources.
  3. Board Member Job Description: The last thing that an Executive Director or Board President wants to hear from a Board member is, “I didn’t know I was joining the Board to do ______.” One of the most prominent issues that we come across in working with Board of Directors is a lack of clear expectations for the Board of Directors. A Board Member Job Description is exactly as it sounds and similar to an employee job description. It clearly articulates what is expected of the Board member, such as meeting attendance, committee involvement, other organization involvement (e.g, attendance at certain events), a “give or get” policy (related to fundraising), and member terms. This information should all be communicated during the recruitment process, so that when the Board member is signing the form there are no surprises and everyone is in agreement about expectations.
  4. Board Self-Assessment: In healthy organizations, there are ongoing performance reviews and assessments to check-in on how well the organization and its employees are functioning. The Board Self-Assessment is a good exercise for the Board to reflect on how well the Board is functioning regarding some key best practices. This could be a good practice to complete with a 3-year strategic plan. We have developed a 3-page Board self-assessment tool, and there are many online.
  5. 1:1 Individual Board Member Check-In: One strategy to engage current Board members is to schedule individual annual meetings with each Board member and the Executive Director and Board President/ Vice President. These individual check-in meetings provide a great opportunity to review the expectations of being a Board member, celebrate the successes and engagement of the last year, and follow up on any concerns. It is also a great time for the Board member to affirm their commitment for the coming year, such as financial pledge, leadership and/or committee roles, and any connections to make.
  6. Board Meeting Calendar and Key Decisions Meeting Calendar: This is a “two-fer”. Yes, it may seem simple to state that a Board tool is a meeting calendar/ schedule, but you would be surprised by how many organizations do not have a clear meeting schedule and then struggle with attendance. We suggest sending out the Board meeting calendar for the year to all Board members and including any additional important dates (e.g., annual member meeting, required fundraising event, etc.). In addition, in order to help drive strategic decisions at the Board meeting we suggest developing a “key decision meeting calendar.” Every organization has some key decisions that the Board will need to vote on and/or participate in, so it is helpful to put those on the calendar, such as annual budget review, program evaluation reports, and strategic plans (planning, check-in, or updates).
  7. Board Member Recruitment Process: While the bylaws should outline at a high-level the process to approve new Board members a more detailed recruitment plan is helpful to standardize the process. We often work with many organizations who struggle with small Boards of Directors and are wanting to recruit more Board members but lack a clear understanding of the type of Board member that would be a good fit and a process for recruitment. We have developed several Board recruitment tools: a board composition assessment (what are your current “assets” and “strengths” on the Board and then your “gaps”); a nomination form that Board members can submit when they want to recommend a candidate; a new member application to gather some key information from prospects; and interview questions that Board members use when meeting with a prospective member.
  8. Communication Flowchart: The last thing that an organization wants is to have one of their board members approached by a volunteer or staff member making a request, and the board member not know the procedure for how certain decisions are made. A communication flowchart explains how decisions are made within the organization and the role of the Board of Directors and its Committees.

How well is your Board functioning? Would any of these tools help improve the effectiveness of your Board? Transform Consulting Group would love to work with your organization to identify opportunities to strengthen your Board and ultimately the impact of your organization. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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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 of dollars 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 involves submitting grants! You will want to carve time out of your schedule to regularly work on 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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