Wednesday, June 29, 2011

To Win Grants Stay the Course!

There's so much competition out there for grant dollars.  You have to be on your mark at all times.  Betsy Baker, once again, gives great advice when it comes to competing for funders.  The devil is in the details and frankly the presentation.  To use the "active" voice is very important, you must appear confident and show the funder that you will succeed, that funding your organization will not be a waste of their money or their time.  Bunnie

by Betsy Baker, Your Grant Authority

Why exactly did I pick the month of June to resume my daily running routine?  Because after more months than I care to share with you without this routine, my body and my lifestyle were paying for the absence.  I could kick myself in the behind for going this long without it and it only makes it just that much harder to get back into the swing of things. 

Could it be that you’ve become lazy like I have when it comes to completing a grant application to the best of your ability?  You let a few details slide at first and then before you know it your application has landed in the rejection pile.  Yes, it’s easy to become a bit more laid back in the summertime but its important not to let your work be a reflection of that.

Remember, you are always in competition for grant dollars.  Here are just a few reminders of details that don’t need to be overlooked:

Pick the Right Grant Funder to Apply for Funding.  Don’t let your research skills slide.  Pay attention to the grant funder’s mission and note what it is they want to fund.  And don’t try to tailor your project to fit their mission just for the sake of their money – stay true to your own mission.  Keep digging and find the right fit looking for a matching mission, the correct geographic location (do they fund where your organization is located?) and an interest in the particular population you’re trying to serve.

Pay Attention to Your Statistics.  A compelling grant application is based on both personal examples and factual statistics.  If it has been a while since you gathered new data for the folks your organization serves it may be time to consider doing so.  Should you complete another needs assessment, organize another focus group or check for updates to other factual data that affects your client population such as, for example, poverty rates, deaths by incident, crime rates, etc.?  According to your nonprofit’s mission, social indicators can bear heavily in a grant funder’s decision to award you.

Make Your Application Visually Pleasing to the Reader.  Whether you like to admit it or not, we are all drawn to something that is visually appealing.  This includes the presentation of your grant application.  Even the application that is filled with compelling stories and facts loses something in translation if it’s sloppy.  Present your application in the third person as this is more professional and write in an active voice.  Be sure to define all acronyms, write in simple sentences and be enthusiastic about your project.  Write “We will…” rather than “We hope to…” as this conveys confidence.  Also, break up the text of your application and highlight key points with bullets, italics, boldface and headings (and charts and graphs where appropriate) but don’t get too fancy!  Grant funders can slice right through all flash and no substance.

Show a Willingness to Collaborate and to Share Your Knowledge.  Grant funders love to see an organization willing to partner with other agencies in a grant project.  There are many nonprofits that serve the same target population and it only makes sense to collaborate to best meet their needs.  Partnerships reduce a duplication of effort and nonprofits can share resources diminishing both cost and effort.  Think about other nonprofits in your area that would be a natural fit for you to collaborate and approach them with an idea.

Also, why not spread the love?  If you have a successful project, be willing to share the “how-to’s” of it.  Feature your project on your website and by other publicity and be available to other agencies in helping them establish a successful project in their own community.  Grant funders take notice to a nonprofit’s willingness to share the how-to steps of their success in helping other communities benefit.  It’s a win-win for everyone.

So, I’m going to stick to my course with no shortcuts this summer.  I will be a lean, mean energetic machine in just a matter of a few weeks!  How about you?  Don’t take those shortcuts and you’ll see a difference too –  as you watch your funding grow by leaps and bounds.  (Hopefully, I’ll be reducing as you’re gaining, right? ;)

Want more grant writing and grant consulting tips?  Be sure to sign up for my f.r.e.e. ezine where I share all my secrets!  Connect with me here..


Friday, June 17, 2011

Strategic Planning…Yuk!

by Bunnie Riedel, Host

I’ve never met a “strategic plan” that I liked.  Mostly because I see them as a horrific waste of time.  It may make a nonprofit board feel good to sit in a room for a couple of days and dream up new and exotic ideas for what the organization should be doing, but rarely do strategic plans (done the typical way) turn into anything but dust collectors.

And don’t get me started on mission statements.  Some boards want to change their mission statements every couple of years.  Then there’s Bylaws. Some boards believe that if they aren’t re-arranging their Bylaws on a regular basis they aren’t doing anything.

But I digress.  

Back to strategic planning.  Let me give you a real life example of what can happen when the “good ideas committee” takes over.

A few years ago, some portions of the federal government decided to change out how they classify their employees.  Instead of having “grades” and “steps within the grade” to determine pay and seniority, the feds decided to go to “pay bands.”  Hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of hours of time were spent attempting to educate the federal workforce about the new pay bands.  

I even sat next to a woman on a plane whose full time job it was to go around the country and have meetings with Navy personnel to educate them about the new system.

So about one year into the new pay band system, portions of the federal government decided it wasn’t working and they were going to go back to the old way of grades and steps.  A colossal waste of time and taxpayer money to say the least.  Why did this happen?  Because a group of well meaning people sat in a room and engaged in strategic planning.

So if you don’t do strategic planning, what should you do?

Action planning.  Plain and simple.  Decide what it is you are going to do and then do it.  And keep the action planning within reach, make it simple and make it immediate.  Figure out what is absolutely necessary for the immediate future (no more than 12 months) and what is desired for the 24 to 36 month timeline.  Here’s some do’s and don’ts. 

·         If it ain’t broke, don’t “fix” it.

If your organization has some program that runs like a well-oiled machine, leave it alone.  Say you have an awards banquet you do every year that brings you recognition and a few dollars, stick to the formula.  The truth is people find comfort in something they know and can depend on, think the McDonald’s Big Mac, for forty years it hasn’t changed and yet people go back to it time and time again because they know exactly what they are getting.  Or how about the new Coke?  That was a huge failure and they had to introduce “Classic Coke” to re-capture their market.

·         Take what you are doing well and do it better.

Maybe this year the awards banquet could use a celebrity speaker.  It doesn’t have to be Hollywood celebrity, maybe it’s a local news anchor or well known physician.  Maybe it’s time for your quarterly publication to go online or become a downloadable app.  Maybe it’s time to grow your tradeshow from 20 vendors to 50.  Figure out where your success spots are and make incremental improvements and of course, heed the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it" rule.

·         Analyze what’s not working and if necessary, toss it.

This is kind of like cleaning out a closet.  If you haven’t worn it for 2 years you probably need to get rid of it.  Is our membership system relevant?  Is our board too large (or too small)?  Do we really need to hold a conference?  Is our continuing education units program working?  Before you come up with a new program or new service, analyze what is working and what’s not, don’t be hamstrung with the “but we’ve always done it this way” mantra.

·         Everything requires time, money, resources.

It’s a shame that there’s only so many hours in a day, a limit on spending and boundaries on what human beings can do in a 24 hour period, but that’s the way it is.  You can’t take a 3 person staff and expect them to do the work of 20 people.  You can’t have champagne taste on a beer budget.  For every program or activity your organization is doing you must factor in time, money and resources.  Resources being staff, volunteers, technology, space, talent, intellect, mobility, property, etc.  Given our time, money, resources…what are we really capable of accomplishing in the next 12 to 36 months? 

An action plan identifies what you would like to do to meet some kind of need and then puts a definitive timeline on that action.  It identifies what is to be done, who’s going to do it, what it will take to do it (time, money, resources) and when it will be done.  An action plan calculates the likelihood of success and what the fallout might be if there is a failure.

An action plan prioritizes the actions and is realistic.  I once saw an organization with a budget of around $500,000 per year claim they would raise $10 million in 10 months.  Truth was they barely kept up with their annual budget.  I may not be able to add 5 new staff this year but maybe I can add one.  We may not be able to increase the attendance at our awards banquet by 50% but maybe we can increase it by 10%.  Be clear about what you can actually accomplish given your time, money and resources.

And then…go out and do it!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Seven Things a Media Spokesperson Should Be and the Media Are Hungry For Pictures

After a brief break, I thought I'd return with one of my favorite media experts, Bob Crawshaw, of Mainstreet Marketing Australia.  And it's not just one post but two that I thought went well together.  If you are choosing a media spokesperson you need to give thought to how that person  "presents."  And every organization should plan how to present their story in pictures, video and graphics.  I think Bob's bottom line advice is plan and prepare.  Most recently Bob has begun a blog talk radio show Traffic on Maine StreetTune in when you get a chance!  Bunnie


Bob Crawshaw, Mainstreet Marketing


Seven Things a Media Spokesperson Should Be


A key part in setting up a media relations program is selecting a spokesperson(s) to be the public face of your organisation when the media calls.  This is a very important job and most agencies, businesses or not for profits identify the CEO, Chairperson or person responsible for communications to fill this role.

Irrespective of the choice, your spokesperson(s) should:
  • Know the topic you are presenting to the media.
  • Be able to speak with authority about what your organization does and answer general as well as specific questions.
  • Be well-groomed and dress suitably.
  • Uses plain language and speak clearly and simply.
  • Be continually contactable by mobile or cell phone.
  • Be reasonably flexible about when and where to be interviewed.
  • Be available by phone or email for any follow-up questions after the interview.
 Journalists do not expect not for profits or smaller businesses to have well trained media spokespersons, but they do expect them to be represent your organization, provide information and be able to tell a good story.   

Training in media interview skills is not really necessary unless your issue is controversial, you plan to talk to the media often or your spokespersons are not comfortable performing this important job.  If so consider investing in professional media training for your spokespersons because good media coverage is so important to the future health of your organisation.  

The Media Are Hungry for Pictures

 A picture is worth a thousand words

Today our lives are so busy and time poor we rely on images as short cuts to help us process information and make decisions.

Media organisations have a constant appetite for images for their screens, on-line pages and portals.  Even radio station websites cry out for pictures.  That means a not for profit, business or agency that can offer compelling video or digital imagery to communicate its cause increases the likelihood of getting its story told.

Think about the imagery associated with your story before even approaching journalists  You can supply your own photos and video to the media. This can work well with local papers and other small outlets with limited staff, however it rarely satisfies larger media organizations that need broadcast or print quality imagery.  The best approach with them is to set up deliberate opportunities at your event for their news photographers and TV crews to get good pictures.

Good imagery - whether video or photographs – graphically and emotionally depicts what your organisation does.  It might show a client using a service, staff helping someone or some picture-worthy aspect of your operation.  The more emotion an image sends, the more likely the media will use it and the more likely they will report your story.   

Imagery is so important you need to think through about what you can provide and then how you could describe your imagery over the phone to a TV producer or reporter. If you plan to send imagery to a local outlet regularly it is certainly a good investment in time and money to get a commercial photographer to help you or build up your own in-house skills.