WEEK 7: What a great semester! You learned how to write the best grant proposal possible; identify the needs of your organization; develop a project or program; schedule a kickoff meeting; and write all of the parts of the narrative. You can write S.M.A.R.T. goals, objectives and outcomes; you can develop a logic model (or at least follow the thought process to identify strengths, weaknesses, and holes in your proposed projector program). You can create your own personalized Google search tool and develop a master grants database. You can prepare for reports and evaluations, and you know how to be persuasive in your proposals by keeping a focus on the human element.
Don’t forget the eight basic sections of a grant proposal:
- Problem Statement
- Future Funding (sustainability)
Remember the importance of ensuring that your organization has diversified funding: rather than relying solely on grants (local, state, federal, corporate), add special events and fundraisers to your calendar — which, in turn, introduces unrestricted funds to your budget and helps to fill in the gaps of the funds restricted to grant-specified funding (think: emergency funds for your clients, office supplies, rent, etc.). Diversification of funds also helps ensure organizational sustainability.
Represent your organization with a professional manner, proving it can manage funds smartly while working towards a impacting true change. You (and your organization) are the true community steward, providing the hands on hard work. Establish yourself as a subject matter expert for your population. Develop a good relationship with a media source in your community, with whom you can maintain a dialogue about your organization and the plight of your population. Get on social media. It’s free and easy. Find one or two platforms that work for you and become an expert on them. You don’t have to find a teenage intern … I promise: it’s not rocket science.
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Using Research and Evidence
- PBS classroom resources: Research Guide – Assessing Sources
- Cornell University Library: Introduction to Research
Wrapping up the evaluation discussion from week 5, we reiterated the importance of planning for results and evaluations from the beginning stages of actually writing your grant proposals. How clearly you identify the problem you’re trying to solve and how well you are able to measure it allows you to best convey how far along the road your organization is to solving the problem.
Organization is key when managing a grants program. Some smaller organizations are rather fortunate if they have one or two grants to manage; other organizations, like the Alliance of AIDS Services – Carolina where I was the grants administrator for three years, have several dozen at any given time … on different funding cycles, with different reporting dates. Yikes.
One of the best-practice approaches I developed was a dynamic, workable grant database in Excel that I maintained for myself, but could share on a whim with my colleagues, executives and the Board of Directors. There are all kinds of solutions, from Excel to Access, to hiring someone to develop something specifically for your organization. I try to use the tools available to the organization I’m working with, and apply the KISS principle — Excel is readily available, doesn’t require any extra training, creates tables and charts, and has built-in (read: simple) calculations for keeping a running tab/scorecard. To develop your own database, make sure you have tabs for in-progress grants; completed grants; in-progress reports; completed reports; and funding opportunities not pursued. Once a funding year cycles through, archive the tabs and start new ones with the current funding year. NEVER delete information because why research the same funders again if you know you’re going to submit to them another year?
Make comprehensive documentation a habit. It doesn’t come naturally for everybody–I know it didn’t for me, but through force of habit I was able to develop a good work flow.
Don’t forget that supplemental material. Each funding agency will have requirements to suit their process, but the basic documents you need to have accessible are:
- Federal tax identification number
- Agency budget
- Most recent audit
- Most recent 990
- Most recent solicitation license
- IRS tax exempt letter confirming 501c3 status
- Certificate of liability insurance
- List of Board of Directors (including mailing [work] addresses, ethnicity, length of terms, officers)
- IRS – Obtaining an Employee Identification Number(EIN) for An Exempt Organization
- NC Secretary of State – Charitable Solicitation License application form
- N.C. Center for Nonprofits – Information Central
- Charity Watchdog Shakes Up Ratings To Focus On Results
- Charity Navigator
Continuing with what I like to think as the “watching paint dry” blah stage of the grant process (remember: I’m a creative writer, so the numbers angle is always a challenge to my attention span), tonight we learned about the evaluative process. Again, this is a crucial piece of the grant funding puzzle, so take a deep breath … have another piece of chocolate and pay attention. 🙂
An evaluation is the how you present the findings and results of your program or intervention that’s laid out in the logic model. It’s how you document accomplishments, organize data, prepare reports, and define variances between the planned and actual program. Don’t forget that a good evaluation comes from a really good logic model (a logic model is not a must, but it sure helps). Remember: during your planning process (whether it’s while you’re writing your grant proposal or developing a logic model … or both), you need to plan how you’re going to gather metrics and data for your evaluations.
There are generally two types of evaluations:
- Process Evaluations
- Outcome Evaluations
Process Evaluations are sometimes called Formative Evaluations, and are effective during the first year of a multi-year grant because it allows you to see where any weaknesses might lie, or identify elements that need to be tweaked or changed for the forthcoming years of funding. These are qualitative observations. You can pull material for process evaluations from the Outputs section of your logic model.
Outcome Evaluations are sometimes called Summative Evaluations, and they measure a program’s impact on the community or population served. Very often, if the impacts of your intervention/project will make big impacts that are measured by health departments or boards of education, then larger entities than your organization make those observations–or, like with some larger or federal grants, a formal Evaluator will be required to be part of your team. These are quantitative observations. You can pull material for process evaluations from the Outcomes section of your logic model.
We used a sample case study to take surveys and write evaluative statements. In the end, writing quantitative or qualitative surveys isn’t the worst thing you’ll have to do in the grant process. Ha!
When you’re writing your goals and objectives, be sure to write SMART outcomes:
Don’t forget to check out this on-point Rhymes with Orange panel, too!
Tonight we covered a deep topic: logic models. I’ve never been a fan of flow chart, but in the grant world, a logic model can be a lifesaver. A visual representation of your program, project or organization … logic models lay it all out for you to visualize.
A logic model explains the main elements of an intervention and how they work together.
By now, you’ve written most pieces of the narrative portion of a grant proposal: mission statement, agency and program overview; you have developed some of your boilerplate material, and know what roles in your organization and the community for data and content. You’ve learned to write the goals and objectives in the correct format, but for this class we’ll use logic models to help us build the content for the goals and objectives.
Your logic model, whether you write it as a flow chart, bulleted list in Microsoft Word, or as a spreadsheet in Excel, should have the following headers (or main ideas) that will all directly correlate with one another:
Resources (inputs) –> Activities –> Outputs –> Outcomes –> Impact
Like most things, building a logic model is a process. If you follow the steps in order, it sort of writes itself. Which, if you follow that logic, means that your evaluative steps (evaluations, results and reports) will flow more easily, too.
One of the most effective ways to write a successful grant is to treat it like you’re telling a story … a story of the population you are representing.
Just because you’re the grant writer for your organization does not mean that you are a natural writer–but as the responsibility for bringing home the bacon falls on you, I hope you’ll feel as confident as I do that you are building up your word-smithing skills and grant acumen so your agency will get the support it needs.
During our Discussion and Workshop sessions, I reminded you of the eight basic components of a grant proposal:
- organization overview
- problem statement
- objectives and goals
Think about corporate branding concepts. How can you best get your message across? Consistent messaging, persuasive writing techniques (repetition, comparisons, prognosticating, storytelling, etc.), own your population, connect with your audience, and introduce the human element by putting a face to the target population. Invite your funders to join the battle you wage against whatever challenges face your population.
And it shouldn’t be a novel concept to apply some of the fundamentals of good stories –fiction and non-fiction – to your proposals. After all, you’re telling the story of your population or cause when you try to get buy-in and support. Pay attention to pacing and make sure all of the words you select are thought-provoking and have a purpose on the page. Avoid redundancies and wasted words (remove things like “that” and “of”), and remember that intensifiers are often unnecessary (“very” and “so”). Most importantly, avoid opinionated words that are not measurable (“the best program around,” “providing an excellent education unlike any other agency”). Although we are southern, we do not have to favor hyperbole all the time.
Consider the 1-sentence, 1-paragraph and 2-paragraph concepts for developing your:
- mission statement;
- target population;
- problem statement; and
- elevator speeches.
These four elements are recyclable in your proposal and general organization informational material.
We referenced lots of news and information this week:
- Ford Foundation – How to apply for a grant
- Forbes – 10 Journalism Brants Where You Find Real Facts Rather Than Alternative Facts
- Dorothy Lange
- Go Fund Me
- Theatre In The Park Caption Contest
- Chance the Rapper donates $1M to Chicago public schools
- Chance the Rapper announces $1 million donation from Chicago Bulls to CPS
- George R.R. Martin Will Kill Contest Winner in Future Book for $20,000
- Krispy Kreme Donut Heist
- ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
- Sarah McLachlan ASPCA
Week Two was another great one!
By focusing on our two main goals of searching and building our resources, we really turned ourselves into funding search rock stars. Further, we have freed our coffers of having to pay for expensive grant source databases.
Remember: as you establish yourself as the grant writer for your organization, you need to impart an earnest, believable confidence that you will succeed in your pursuit of securing your funding source. Be professional, exercise your autonomy in scheduling a project kickoff meeting, assign roles and responsibilities, developing the schedule, and in assembling all of the supporting materials and data you require to tell the best story of and for your affected population. Confidence goes a long way … then again, so does preparation.
Thanks to guest speaker, Matt Sickles, we got a further in-depth session on how to create a stronger, more personalized and FREE online search tool. Continue to build a robust grant and funding source database, which will include: funding organization, due dates, submission specs, reporting requirements, and all required supporting facts and data. Once you find a good funding source, you will likely want to renew your proposal more than once, and it sure is nice to have all of the basics on file for the future.
During our class discussion, we checked out a handful of online resources:
- Grants dot gov
- Fundsnet Services
- 7 Online Resources for Finding Grants for Educators
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
- MAC AIDS Fund
We have a great cross-section of students in this semester of grant writing,
and I can already tell from our conversation it’s going to be an interactive seven weeks.
Our interests and subject matter include the following areas of focus:
- youth leadership development
- non-profit infrastructure management
- workforce and career services
- early childhood and family support
- housing and financial empowerment
- non-profit event planning
- hunger and nutrition
- urban area food deserts
During our discussion, we talked about identifying the needs of our represented community/population, how to speak “grant,” and we looked at the City of Raleigh Arts Grants as an example. We also talked about the importance of being a good communicator as opposed to being a professional writer, and the power of persuasive writing.
Our writing activity focused on the difference between goal, and process objectives vs. outcome objectives. Remember to write SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-oriented) goals … everything should be measurable. Also, write in active (not passive) voice, and use action verbs.
We also began a running list of resources:
- How to Write A Novel, by Nathan Bransford
- Nonprofit Financial Planning Made Easy, by Jody Blazek
- Ten Timeless Persuasive Writing Techniques, by Brian Clark
- The Only Grant Writing Book You’ll Ever Need, Fourth Edition, by Ellen Karsh and Arlen Sue Fox
- Grammar Girl Presents: The Ultimate Writing Guide for Students, by Mignon Fogarty
During this seven-week course, students learn the basics of writing a grant in an hands-on, workshop-style setting. We will cover the different components of grants, and learning to set and maintain a workable grant cycle, building a successful grants management program, tracking possibilities in the business community, and applying good storytelling to a successful program.
Western Wake Campus
Tuesday, March 21 – Tuesday, May 2, 2017
6:30 – 9:30 p.m.