blog http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/ Assessing Grant Readiness http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/assessing-grant-readiness/ <p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;"><img class="left" src="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/Images/AreYouReady-cpd.jpg" width="124" height="116" alt="" title=""/>You may have heard talk about grant readiness and how to know if your organization is ready to pursue grants.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Board members or executive directors may say, "Ready? Of course we're ready. We need that money now. Where do we sign?"</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">That's not the kind of readiness we're talking about. I actually like to help organizations think about two different kinds of readiness:</p>
<ol style="margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 18px; margin-left: 19px; padding: 0px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;"><li>Is your organization ready to apply? </li>
<li>Is your organization ready to manage the grant once it receives one?</li>
</ol><p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Each one of these is critical to your readiness. If you can't answer "yes" to both, you're not really ready, especially for state or federal grants.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Let's talk today about what it means to be ready to apply. Next month's newsletter will delver more into assessing your readiness to manage a grant.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">We've created a handy checklist you can use. You can go get a copy from our website (link provided below) or in the forthcoming <em>Writing to Win Federal Grants: The Workbook.</em></p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Being ready to apply means that you have the capacity and the skills to write a good proposal. Who is that person on your team?</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Being ready also means that your organization will be competitive going up against all of the other organizations trying to get that same grant.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">What makes you competitive? You have a good reputation, stable finances, and community impact. You have a track record of measurable outcomes.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">If you are considering going after a state or federal grant, can you afford to pay for all grant activities up front? You may have to wait, sometimes for months, to get reimbursed.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Here are some other important details you should consider as part of your readiness self-assessment:</p>
<ul style="margin-top: 0px; margin-bottom: 18px; margin-left: 19px; padding: 0px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;"><li>Are your bookeeping systems set up so you can accurately track grant funds (this usually means a way to keep grant funds separate from all other funds)?</li>
<li>Do you have experienced and qualified people to deliver your grant activities?</li>
<li>Do you have space to deliver the activities the grant would fund?</li>
<li>Can you perform the type of evaluation the funder will require?</li>
</ul><p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Perhaps most important of all, do you have a clear, concise mission statement? AND does the grant you are considering going after fit your mission? Trying to cram your round mission into a square funding hole rarely works.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">The checklist offers more criteria by which to assess your organization's readiness, especially to pursue government grants. A checklist with lots of checkmarks in the "no" column should prompt discussion at your organization and can be a great roadmap for what you should focus on. That way, you can be ready next year!</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Get your checklist on the Grants Resources page. We won't SPAM you for coming to get a checklist. We won't even know you've been here unless you leave a comment on this blog.</p>
Tue, 07 Apr 2015 23:04:47 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/assessing-grant-readiness/
Writing to Win Federal Grants is Here. Order Your Copy Today. http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/writing-to-win-federal-grants-is-almost-here-pre-order-your-copy-today/ <p><img class="left" src="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/Images/_resampled/resizedimage250339-wwfg-book-3d-Web.jpg" width="250" height="339" alt="" title=""/></p>
<p> </p>
<h1><span style="font-family: Kalam; font-size: 38px; letter-spacing: -1px; line-height: 1.214;">Writing to Win Federal Grants: A Must-Have for Your Fundraising Toolbox</span></h1>
<p><span style="font-family: Kalam; font-size: 38px; letter-spacing: -1px; line-height: 1.214;"><span style="color: #474951; font-family: 'Century Gothic'; font-size: 17px; line-height: 28.8999996185303px;">This </span><span style="box-sizing: border-box; font-weight: 700; color: #474951; font-family: 'Century Gothic'; font-size: 17px; line-height: 28.8999996185303px;">In the Trenches</span><span style="color: #474951; font-family: 'Century Gothic'; font-size: 17px; line-height: 28.8999996185303px;"> book was released on March 11, 2015.  Here's the URL to order direct from the publisher:  </span></span><span style="font-size: 1.5em;"><a href="http://charitychannel.com/bookstore/all-fundraising-aspects/writing-to-win-federal-grants/?recommend=3ef815416f775098fe977004015c6193" target="_blank">Order<em> Writing to Win </em>here</a>.</span></p>
<p><span style="color: #474951; font-family: 'Century Gothic'; font-size: 17px; line-height: 1.7;">Do you want to add federal grants to your fundraising toolbox? Do you want to push past the hype and scams to what really works? Do you ever feel intimidated by complex rules for how to apply?</span></p>
<h3 style="box-sizing: border-box; font-family: Kalam; clear: both; margin: 0px 0px 0.618em; font-size: 1.387em;">The Solution: Writing to Win Federal Grants</h3>
<p style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px 0px 1.618em; font-family: 'Century Gothic'; font-size: 17px; line-height: 1.7; color: #474951;"><em style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 1.6;">Writing to Win Federal Grants</em><span style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 1.6;"> will help you overcome your fears and build your skills. Written in a conversational style, </span><em style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 1.6;">Writing to Win</em><span style="box-sizing: border-box; line-height: 1.6;"> is like sitting down for your own personal workshop with the authors. Cheryl Kester and Karen Cassidy have been winning federal grants and teaching others how to do the same for more than fifteen years. They’ve raised more than $346 million from almost 40 different government agencies.</span></p>
<p style="box-sizing: border-box; margin: 0px 0px 1.618em; font-family: 'Century Gothic'; font-size: 17px; line-height: 1.7; color: #474951;">Now you can tap their knowledge and experience whenever you need it. And let’s face it. We really need it when we’re struggling through a challenging part of our grant that’s due in three days – not when we have time to go to a workshop.</p>
Tue, 07 Apr 2015 16:27:47 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/writing-to-win-federal-grants-is-almost-here-pre-order-your-copy-today/
Is Your Proposal Overdressed? http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/is-your-proposal-overdressed/ <p><img class="left" src="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/Images/formalgown.jpg" width="131" height="185" alt="" title=""/></p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">I often have other grant writers ask me about grammar rules. Is it ever OK to use first person? Should my proposals follow a style manual? My boss, or a board member, or my 3rd grade English teacher told me to never [fill-in-the-blank].</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">To which I say -- this is a tempest in a teapot. And I think organizational style guides are communist plots.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Since I just broke one of the sacrosanct grammar rules by starting that last sentence with a conjunction, I guess you know where I likely stand on many of the "rules" that hem in and constrain our writing.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Am I advocating for purposefully sloppy or poor grammar? No!</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Rules have their places. We should not break them lightly. But don't become so enslaved to the rules that your writing becomes hard to understand, or, even worse--boring!</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">In grant proposals, the levels of expected formality shift depending on who you are writing to. For local family foundations, you can afford to take a warmer, more personal tone. In research proposals, it's all third-person clinical prose. You adapt.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">A recent discussion in one of the grantwriting online forums raised the questions of active voice versus passive voice and first person versus third person.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Some writers get these two mixed up. Meaning they think writing in third person equals writing in passive voice. Not so. Although it can be more challenging to put third person constructions into active voice.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">And that, my friends, is my major beef against writing grant proposals in third person. Even most of my federal proposals are written in first person. Clarity and space are the two biggest reasons. First person usually takes up less space (fewer words).</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">In most circles today, third person can sound pompous. You have to engage in some complicated gymnastics to communicate some important concepts in third person.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">But don't take my word for it. Two former grantmakers jumped into the online conversation. One wrote, "personally, I enjoyed applications which used first person and active voice, as I felt like the person writing the proposal was more engaged in the work."</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">A former corporate grantmaker was more blunt: "Passive voice is never compelling or clear; succinct, evocative and personal writing often is."</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">She went on to say, "Ideally, audience-appropriate, targeted content should trump grammar and style."</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">Both were quick to say that poor spelling, clumsy grammar, or awkward constructions do not reflect well on an applicant. But they agreed that clear, lively, specific writing can incline a grant reviewer to view your proposal more favorably.</p>
<p style="margin-bottom: 15px; color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px;">I would love to hear your experiences with writing style and  grammar decisions. Please leave a comment or question below.</p>
Mon, 02 Mar 2015 16:20:37 -0600 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/is-your-proposal-overdressed/
Upgrade Your Partnerships http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/upgrade-your-partnerships/ <p>Do you depend on another organization to help you fulfill your mission? Most of us do, in some way.</p>
<p>It may be as simple as the high school's community service program sending you 20 volunteers every semester. Or maybe you get to use meeting space for free at the nonprofit across town.</p>
<p>This wonderful arrangement probably came about because of people. Two people who knew and trusted one another agreed to work together. A quick email or phone call can accomplish a lot and can fill a need quickly.</p>
<p>Good for you!</p>
<p>Does anybody else at your organization know about this relationship? Is it documented anywhere besides somewhere in your email inbox? Would it keep operating smoothly if one of you suddenly became ill or changed jobs?</p>
<p>Once a collaborative effort grows from a one-time favor into something more long-term, it's time to make the relationship more formal. This does not have to be complex or time consuming.</p>
<p><em><strong>Great First Step</strong></em><br/>One giant step forward would be to just create a document that lists all of your partners and what each does for the other. Write up a memo listing how the partnership works. "We get to use their board room once a month, and we promote their services via our newsletter." Simple.</p>
<p>Then share it. With your team or on the organization's shared drive. With your boss. Whoever needs to know what to do if you got beamed to Mars tomorrow.</p>
<p><em><strong>Second Step</strong></em><br/>Internal documentation is great and can avoid a lot of train wrecks. Can you take it one step further? Can you get your partner to sign this memo? Include the contact person at both organizations and have both organizations sign them for their files.</p>
<p>Bonus if you can estimate the dollar value of each contribution. You know why, right? Yep. Then you can count that dollar value as match in appropriate grant proposals.</p>
<p><em><strong>Gold Standard</strong></em><br/>If there is actual money changing hands, as in a grant situtation, or if one or more partners has significant responsibilities, get out there and execute a formal Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This doesn't have to be scary and all legalese. But MOUs with enough detail can help avoid a lot of misunderstandings.</p>
<p>You can Google sample MOUs or ask fellow grant writers for good examples. Most of us love to share. And watch for the <em>Writing to Win Federal Grants Workbook</em>, coming later this year from CharityChannel press. We stuffed several model MOUs into the workbook for you so you don't have to reinvent the wheel.</p>
<p>We want to hear your stories of great partnerships and ones that fell apart. If we use your story in our book, we'll send you a free copy hot off the presses.</p>
Thu, 13 Feb 2014 12:22:42 -0600 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/upgrade-your-partnerships/
Do You Know Why You Got That Grant? http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/do-you-know-why-you-got-that-grant/ <p><a class="selectedImage" title="Blog Post photo bracelets" href="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/Images/Blog-Post-photo-bracelets.jpg?r=66626"><img class="left" src="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/Images/_resampled/StripThumbnail-Blog-Post-photo-bracelets.jpg" alt="Blog Post photo bracelets" title=""/></a> If foundations were people, their wrists might look like this one -- laden down with the various causes they support.</p>
<p>But, just because you know what organizations your foundation prospects support doesn't mean you know WHY they support them.</p>
<p>We sometimes focus our post-award questions to funders on the negative results. Why didn't we get the grant? What could we have done to make our application stronger?</p>
<p>Next time you do get the grant, don't stop at "thank you." Although, of course, thank you is essential. Ask this extremely important question -- "What inspired you to support our project/cause/organization. . .?" Or, "What about our work is the <em>XYZ Foundation</em> most interested in?"</p>
<p>Don't assume that you know why you got the grants you received. Assumptions can be deadly.</p>
<p>We learned this tip from fundraiser extraordinaire <a href="http://thekestergroupllc.createsend1.com/t/j-l-thjdjjl-itchltil-yu/"><strong>Gail Perry </strong></a>in her webinar  on major donors. It's a great addition to the grants officer's toolbox as well.</p>
<p>This question can open up so many avenues for exploration with the program officer or family member at the foundation. You can ask for advice about how to expand that aspect of your work or better communicate the results your funder is interested in.  You can better tailor future requests.</p>
<p>The conversation may even lead to new ideas for ways to collaborate in achieving your mutual goals or an invitation for future applications.</p>
<p>If you've used this strategy, post a comment below, to let us know how it worked for you -- for better or for worse. And if we inspire you to try this out, please come back later and fill us in.</p>
Wed, 30 Oct 2013 15:11:55 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/do-you-know-why-you-got-that-grant/
Anticipating Funder's Needs http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/anticipating-funder-s-needs/ <p><img src="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/_resampled/resizedimage8978-binocs.jpg" width="89" height="78" alt="" title=""/>I was tempted to title this post "Training Your Grantor." You have probably been in more than one workshop  in which you were told to not include anything in your proposal the funder didn't ask for.</p>
<p>I certainly have. And I've said the same thing in my workshops. Respond to the guidelines, and only the guidelines. Anything else is just asking for trouble.</p>
<p>I've recently heard a persuasive argument to re-examine this accepted truth. No, don't ever exceed the page limits. If the guidelines say, "please don't send us a DVD," don't act as if they mean everyone but you.</p>
<p>But what about when the guidelines don't ask you for something? Something you know is important?  If the guidelines only ask about the history of my organization, I usually interpret "history" to mean right up until yesterday. That way, I shift the focus onto what we are accomplishing today. </p>
<p>What do you do if your grantor does not ask for goals or objectives? Or a target population? What if they never ask you, "and what will improve in the community if we fund you?"</p>
<p>To be honest, I usually found a way to squeeze impact in somewhere. But if I was not asked for goals and objectives, I sighed a sigh of relief and moved on. Now I am being encouraged to think differently. To think that the grantor really does want this information. They just either 1) do not know to ask about it at the application stage or 2) are going to spring this on us at the reporting stage.</p>
<p>Either way, you can avoid a lot of grief and trouble if you include goals and objectives in your application even if they are not requested. Your project will be stronger and in a better position to reach its desired goal.</p>
<p>Bonus? You have started the measurement conversation with your funder, hopefully heading off the need to redesign measures at the end of the project. You will also be able to to track your meausres from the moment the grant is awarded, saving you a lot of time and effort at the reporting stage.</p>
<p>If you clearly state your target population or audience, even if it is not requested explicitly, you can ensure there are no misunderstandings about who is receiving your services. Anything that helps my organization avoid awkwardness and meet our funders' expectations is a good strategy in my book.</p>
<p>What about you? Was there a time you included information that had not been requested and it backfired? Was there a time you took this leap and were grateful you did? Please post your comment here.</p>
<p>Thanks to my colleague and occasional co-presenter, Barb Putman, Executive Director of the Community Creative Center for sparking this discussion.</p>
Thu, 12 Sep 2013 18:03:19 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/anticipating-funder-s-needs/
Becoming Grant-Ready: Federal Grants http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/becoming-grant-ready-federal-grants/ <p>Being prepared in advance is one of the best ways to enhance your competitiveness for federal grants. This is if you already apply for federal grants or want to enter this arena.</p>
<p>According to PhilanTech's <em>State of Grantseeking</em> spring 2013 report, for organizations whose annual budgets exceed $1 million, federal grants comprise the largest source of grant funding (no doubt because the individual grant amounts can be quite large).</p>
<p>Since you often only have 30 days from the date a competition is announced until the submission deadline, anything you can do to pre-position your organization before-hand will save time. Not being frantic right before the deadline decreases the chance of errors and increases the quality of your writing.</p>
<p>Take these steps to be ready to move quickly when an opportunity presents itself:</p>
<ul><li><strong>Get registered on Grants.gov</strong> - This actually requires at least three different registrations and can take time. It's a one-time registration (update annually). Very clear instructions are offered on the Grants.gov website (or in our book - see article below).</li>
<li><strong>Pre-sign Certifications and Assurances</strong> - Sandard Certifications and Assurances are available at Grants.gov, or download an open application package and obtain the documents. Your legal counsel should review and approvet them. Then get a signature by the CEO or Board Chair, and keep a signed copy in your office.</li>
<li><strong>Learn Federal Budgeting - Get familiar with </strong>federal budget categories and spending rules. (E.g. - some things you may call "equipment" are likely considered "supplies" by the feds.) You can even set up a budget template in a spreadsheet (samples of these are provided in the workbook to accompany our federal grants book - see below).</li>
<li><strong>Gather Attachments</strong> - Have ready to go a scanned copy of your organization's IRS 501(c)(3) letter. You should also have on hand a current organizational chart suitable for upload, the most current organizational budget, and last year's audit. Ask your auditors to send you a PDF version.</li>
<li><strong>Obtain Previous RFA </strong>- Read carefully the guidelines from the most recent competition held for the program to which you want to apply. Usually, you can begin planning your program and even writing portions of the narrative based on these as long as you remember to scour the new RFA for changes as soon as it is released.</li>
<li><strong>Talk to Previous Grantees - </strong>Most grantees can't share their previous proposals with you, but you can ask for general advice. If you have been unable to find a copy of the most recent RFA online, ask if they will send that to you. Find out about what reviewers like and don't like in applications.</li>
</ul><p>Doing as much work as possible before the RFA comes out will help you be more competitive.</p>
Sat, 17 Aug 2013 21:31:46 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/becoming-grant-ready-federal-grants/
From the Program Officer's Mouth http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/from-the-program-officer-s-mouth/ <p><img src="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/_resampled/resizedimage67107-girlbulbXSmall2.jpg" width="67" height="107" alt="" title=""/>A recent webinar delivered by the <em>Chronicle of Philanthropy</em> offered a rare opportunity to hear from a program officer who was willing to talk about how grants really work.</p>
<p>Some of her advice challenges the conventional wisdom about how to be successful winning foundation grants. Especially when it comes to that very elusive process of "building relationships" with foundations.</p>
<p>But her first piece of advice was that successful grant seekers are honest about their place in the world and the community. Demonstrate that you know who else is doing work like you. Claims like "no one else is doing (our mission)" or "we are the only organization who . . ." make the foundation think you are operating in a silo and not plugged into your community.</p>
<p>You've heard it before. More and more, foundations are looking for evidence that organizations are cooperating and partnering. You do yourself no favors if you try to build yourself up at the expense of your colleagues.</p>
<p>Second, she reminded us that foundation staff can be inspired by stories. She urged grant seekers to tell stories about those the grant will serve or successes your organization has experienced in the past. You can even share "victories" your clients/students/patients/patrons experience outside of the grant-funded program.</p>
<p>Now, on to that building relationships problem. Sometimes development officers think of foundation staff as just another major gifts prospect and try to lure them out for coffee or lunch or to fancy events. No, no, no, our program officer said. She was firm, "we want to be inspired, not wooed."</p>
<p>She also shared one of those insider secrets about how it "really" works that you don't often hear from foundation staff -- going over or around the staff through the foundation board is "not viewed favorably." Find a way to follow channels and reach out to the staff.</p>
<p>Last one. If you are asked to host foundation representatives for a site visit, they want to see an "honest showing" of how your program operates and the people you serve. Don't be afraid to reveal flaws, and don't lock them in an office with the Executive Director all day. They want to meet the people who are doing the front-line work.</p>
<p>Wow. This information only scratches the surface of what we learned that day. And, to be honest, I've only touched on the content of one of the two speakers! Another post altogether will have to cover those invaluable tips.</p>
<p>Two more webinars are scheduled in the <em>Chronicle's</em> series of grants-related education. April 11 will focus on winning corporate grants, and August 13 will focus on winning government grants. Visit the <em>Chronicle of Philanthropy</em> website for more information or to register. <a href="http://www.philanthropy.com/webinars">www.philanthropy.com/webinars</a></p>
Thu, 21 Mar 2013 21:00:30 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/from-the-program-officer-s-mouth/
A Board that Gets It http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/a-board-that-gets-it/ <p style="color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 17.98611068725586px; margin-bottom: 15px;"><img class="left" src="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/Images/meeting2xsm.jpg" width="174" height="110" alt="" title=""/>Ahhh. It's so nice when it happens. A board that gets it.</p>
<p style="color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 17.98611068725586px; margin-bottom: 15px;"><span style="font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 17.98611068725586px;">I had the privilege today of spending time with a non-profit board in my community to talk to them about grants.</span></p>
<p style="color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 17.98611068725586px; margin-bottom: 15px;">They asked smart questions. They had reasonable expectations. They knew they aren't a fit for some funders.</p>
<p style="color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 17.98611068725586px; margin-bottom: 15px;">Here are some of the questions they did NOT ask:<br style="line-height: 13.333333969116211px;"/>    1.Can we pay you out of the grant?<br style="line-height: 13.333333969116211px;"/>    2.Can you write one letter and send it to all of the <br style="line-height: 13.333333969116211px;"/>       local foundations?<br style="line-height: 13.333333969116211px;"/>    3.Why don't we try the Bill and Melinda Gates <br style="line-height: 13.333333969116211px;"/>       Foundation?<br style="line-height: 13.333333969116211px;"/>    4. We need $100,000 in 6 weeks. Can you get that for us?</p>
<p style="color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 17.98611068725586px; margin-bottom: 15px;">What did we talk about?</p>
<p style="color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 17.98611068725586px; margin-bottom: 15px;">Which programs are a priority for funding. Building their staff capacity.</p>
<p style="color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 17.98611068725586px; margin-bottom: 15px;">How long a grant can take to be funded. Which funders in our region will be more sympathetic to their cause. Fitting grants into other fundraising strategies.</p>
<p style="color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 17.98611068725586px; margin-bottom: 15px;">Focus. On the right things. Smile.</p>
<p style="color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 17.98611068725586px; margin-bottom: 15px;">This (rare) positive experience has served as inspiration for an upcoming article on what boards need to know about grants.</p>
<p style="color: #6b6b6b; font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13.333333969116211px; line-height: 17.98611068725586px; margin-bottom: 15px;">Please tell us.<strong> <span style="color: #006400;">What do you wish nonprofit boards understood about grants?</span> </strong>Credit for all good ideas cheerfully given where it is due. Post your comment today.</p>
Thu, 28 Feb 2013 11:14:01 -0600 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/a-board-that-gets-it/
Why Should I Care About the Strategic Plan? http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/why-should-i-care-about-the-strategic-plan/ <p><img class="left" src="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/_resampled/resizedimage134210-strategyxsm.jpg" width="134" height="210" alt="" title=""/>I'm sure you do pay attention to your organization's strategic plan -- if there is one. But what does it have to do with grants?</p>
<p>The easiest answer is that an organization that knows where it is going can quickly make good decisions about which funding opportunities to apply for and which are not a best fit.</p>
<p>The fact is that more and more grantors request a copy of the strategic plan with your application. The implication is clear. The agency with a weak plan or one that is clearly outdated will not be considered a strong grant recipient.</p>
<p>Even if the plan is not requested, the guidelines may require applicants to show that the grant request is directly linked to the organization's top priorities. Being able to quote the strategic plan and mention its recent adoption date is the easiest way to demonstrate this connection.</p>
<p>We've talked in this space before about how foundations are being much more careful how they invest their money in grant recipients. They want the confidence that the applicant agency is strong and has good planning skills.</p>
<p>So, you need to be able to point to a current strategic plan to demonstrate how your mission aligns with the funder's priorities.</p>
<p>There is another important link between the strategic plan and grant proposals. From the writing perspective, think for a minute about how time consuming it sometimes is to craft strong, specific objectives for your proposals. Yes, it can be a real challenge.</p>
<p>Imagine our delight last month when it took less than 10 minutes to provide four specific measurable objectives in a grant proposal. All because we were able to pull them directly from a current strategic plan. The client didn't even have to edit them.</p>
<p>When the applicant is organized and has a clear plan that makes for stronger grant proposals.The beginning of the year is an excellent time to review your most recent strategic plan. Make sure it is up to date. If it is less than current, advocate with your Director and the Board to bring it up to date.</p>
<p>We'd love to hear your comments about experiences, positive and less than wonderful, with using your organization's strategic plan to guide grant proposals. Please take a moment to comment on this article.</p>
Fri, 25 Jan 2013 08:40:50 -0600 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/why-should-i-care-about-the-strategic-plan/
Increasing Grants Revenue http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/increasing-grants-revenue/ <p><img class="left" src="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/Images/_resampled/resizedimage7575-thoughtful.jpg" width="75" height="75" alt="" title=""/>The end of the year is a good time to review your year in grantseeking and lay out your plans for next year.</p>
<p>How did you do?</p>
<p>Did you get the grants you expected to get? For the amount you expected them to be?</p>
<p>What should be your strategy for those who turned you down? Do you try again or cross them off your list?</p>
<p>It is too easy to fall into complacency in our grantseeking and keep going back to the same stand-by funders every year. It is safe. There is less fear of rejection. You only have so much time.</p>
<p>There are only a few ways you can increase the grant funds coming into your organization:</p>
<ol><li>Write more proposals</li>
<li>Ask the same funders for larger amounts</li>
<li>Ummm, write more proposals. Sorry, can only think of two.</li>
</ol><p>But, you ask, who has time for more proposals?</p>
<p>You must be strategic. Review your entire grants portfolio thoughtfully.</p>
<p>If you are an Executive Director or Director of Development who writes most of the proposals, it’s time to let go. Allow someone else to develop his or her grantwriting skills</p>
<p>If you have several years of sample proposals and the ask is always similar, let a junior development person, board member, or intern take a go. You will still edit and supervise.</p>
<p>Are there grants you get every year that are very small for too much work? Be ruthless and cut that guaranteed $500 if it takes 20 hours to write and manage. Still must submit that grant for political or other reasons? See above – hand it off to someone else.</p>
<p>Focus your efforts on funders willing and capable of making larger grants.</p>
<p><img class="left" src="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/Images/_resampled/resizedimage14687-growth.jpg" width="146" height="87" alt="" title=""/>Have you increased your ask amount to your long-time funders, or are you stuck in a rut? Take a look at the last few 990s. If they regularly make larger grants than you ask for, bring your ask amount in line with those other gifts amounts.</p>
<p>The only way to increase revenues from grants is to spend more time on those proposals most likely to generate the greatest return.</p>
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Fri, 30 Nov 2012 14:27:06 -0600 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/increasing-grants-revenue/
Invest in Us! http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/invest-in-us/ <div style="background-color: #ffffff; margin: 8px; min-height: 200px; width: 583px; font-family: Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; color: #000000; font-size: 100%; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial;">
<p>Your grant proposals should consistently send one message, loud and clear, to all of your funder prospects. No, it’s not, “we really need your money.” It’s not,“see how great the need is in our community?” It’s not even “look at the impact your grant will make in our community.”</p>
<p>No. Your grant proposals should shout from every section: “Pick me, pick me! We are the best choice for your grant dollars.”</p>
<p>Some funders come right out and ask you to answer questions about your organization’s capacity to deliver the proposed services. They want to know how qualified your staff are, how stable your leadership is. They want to know that you have launched new programs in the past that have been successful.</p>
<p><img class="left" src="http://www.kestergroup.com/assets/investsm.jpg" width="150" height="107" alt="" title=""/>Sometimes, they want you to assure them that you have enough space or time or financial resources to deliver all that you have promised. This is not the same as your Organizational Profile, even though your profile should also send a consistent theme of competence and professionalism.</p>
<p>But, when we are forced to describe our project in 2000 characters or less and the funder never comes out and asks how capable we are, what should we do? Tell them anyway.</p>
<p>It is essential to make space to describe your organization’s earlier successes and any awards or recognitions you have received. Drop names. Mention other foundations or major donors who have supported your work. In our region, if a local foundation knows you have received United Way support, they know you have a Logic Model, good demographic data and survived a site visit.</p>
<p>Sometimes the funder is asking about your financial procedures to ensure that you have appropriate checks and balances to properly manage and account for grant funds, or they may want to know that your board of directors is independent and not made up of your three family members.</p>
<p>One of the best ways to demonstrate that your organization is the right one in which funders should invest to achieve their goals is hard evidence of previous success.</p>
<p>Even if you are on a very tight budget and have been unable to perform an extensive evaluation of previous efforts, any organization can afford to send out a web-based survey to recipients of its programs. Just be sure to be thoughtful about the questions you ask so that you elicit more than just “satisfaction,” but real results.</p>
<p> If the space in which to make your case is extremely limited, you may have to content yourself with working in adjectives or short phrases to create the aura of competency. Possible samples include, “our qualified staff,” “previously successful programs,” “highly-rated client services.” But, never send out a proposal that doesn’t scream, “Invest in us!”</p>
<p> <strong><em>Convincing Others to Invest in Your Organization</em></strong></p>
<p>1. <em>You must share previous successes—this is no time for modesty!</em></p>
<p>2. <em>Complete public profiles such as GuideStar’s. Donors check these.</em></p>
<p><em>3. Invest in surveys or other evidence that your clients/ students/</em></p>
<p><em>    patients, etc. received excellent services from your team.</em></p>
<p><em>4. Use the language of success and competence</em></p>
<p><strong>Give us your suggestions on squeezing in a message that says “Invest </strong><strong>in Us!”</strong></p>
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Sat, 27 Oct 2012 20:53:49 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/invest-in-us/
What 'Impact' Means for Your Grant http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/what-impact-means-for-your-grant/ <p>The word “impact” gets thrown around a lot, both in our profession and by the general public. We all have a general idea of what “impact” means, at least what it means to us.</p>
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<p>Grantmakers use the term “impact” in two important, distinctive ways that affect your grantseeking.The first usage of impact is the one most grants professionals are familiar with — asking applicants to describe what the impact will be of the proposed grant-funded activities.</p>
<p>To us, the discussion about metrics and demonstrating outcomes is not new. Some funders have been moving in this direction for several years now. What is happening is that this way of thinking continues to trickle down from state and federal government funding agencies, to national foundations, until now it is reaching smaller, local and family foundations. Good for them.</p>
<p>The second way funders use “impact” is to emphasize that they want to achieve “impact” with their funding. Of course, they have always wanted to achieve impact. But in today’s economy, this often really means, “We are reallocating our giving so that we can make a few big gifts instead of lots of small grants.”</p>
<p>There are many reasons funders do this . Mirroring the population of individual donors, foundation staff and boards want to be more “strategic” in their giving. Never, ever forget that “foundations” are run by people. There is quite a bit of donor research out there that tells us what motivates people to support causes and explaining how donor motivations and expectations are shifting today.</p>
<p>At the foundation level, the strategic rationale for reallocating grant making into larger grants grows out of the concept that making a few, larger grants will have more “impact” than sprinkling the foundation’s limited grant making funds among several smaller organizations.</p>
<p>One ironic outcome of the economic downturn is that the sheer number of nonprofits who have had to cut services or staff or who struggle to remain openseems to prove to foundations that making a few small grants to many organizations is a poor investment. A grant won’t keep the doors open of a fiscally unsound agency. It only prolongs the inevitable.</p>
<p>Other rationales come into play as well. For example, foundations have also had to reduce staff. If you are making fewer grants, it doesn’t take as many people to manage your grantees. Or, we may suspect that some funders go for one or two high-profile gifts because they want the publicity. That’s their right.</p>
<p>We have always said in our profession, “they who have the gold make the rules.” Foundations are perfectly within their rights to give one giant grant per year that maxes out their funding budget, if that is what they think will get them the most “bang for their buck.” This is a continuing trend we are going to have to keep watching. We are only now beginning to feel the effects of more and more foundations reconsidering their giving policies and reducing the number of their grantees. </p>
<p>Larger agencies with regional or national reach might benefit from larger grant awards. Ensure you have excellent relationships with your long-term funders, that you are up to speed on what inspires them, and come into meetings with big ideas. Are you the one they call when they want to do something new?</p>
<p>Smaller agencies may see a decrease in grant funding or in the number of funders supporting them. A program officer on a funder’s panel just two weeks ago declared that their foundation will be reducing its number of grantees.</p>
<p>It’s not all doom and gloom if you are a smaller agency. However, you will have to be prepared for a possible drop-off in grant funding. You will likely have to work harder for smaller grants from more local funders. And you need to get creative about partnering with other agencies to increase impact.<br/><strong> </strong></p>
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<p><strong>Succeeding in the New World of “Impact”</strong><br/>1. You must absolutely be able to tell a compelling story<br/>2. It’s essential to link the funder’s grant to measurable impact<br/>3. Invest in better tools or skills for you to measure and report impact<br/>4. Seek opportunities to collaborate and partner to extend impact<br/><strong> </strong></p>
<p><strong>Please share your thoughts and concerns about shifting giving </strong><strong>allocations.</strong></p>
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Fri, 29 Jun 2012 13:41:40 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/what-impact-means-for-your-grant/
Tips from Foundations http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/tips-from-foundations/ <p> </p>
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<ul><li>We fund organizations who are stable and who have multiple sources of funding. </li>
</ul><ul><li>Requests to “save” a program are not inspiriting.</li>
</ul><ul><li>We want to see that you are absolutely sold on your mission. We hate it when applicants hint “what do you want us to be?” because we can tell they are just trying to get the money.</li>
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<ul><li>Don’t try to make a square peg fit into a round hole trying to keep your funding. Funding is not guaranteed and program priorities [of the foundations] can change.</li>
</ul><ul><li>Be as respectful as you can of the priorities. [of the funder’s program priorities].</li>
</ul><ul><li>Our small grants toward a huge goal are not interesting. [translation: they don’t believe they achieve “impact” by making a small grant to a big project; right-size your project to the funder] </li>
</ul><ul><li>“Political splits” are less likely to be funded. Try to be aware of who else is doing what you do and how you might collaborate.</li>
</ul><ul><li> Make sure your application pays a lot of attention to detail on the true outcomes and outputs that are measurable. What is the ‘measuring plan?’</li>
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<div><strong>Any questions? Post them on the blog. We'd love to hear from you.</strong></div>
Fri, 29 Jun 2012 10:34:16 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/tips-from-foundations/
What should be on my resume if I want to start a career in grantwriting? http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/what-should-be-on-my-resume-if-i-want-to-start-a-career-in-grantwriting/ <p align="left">This just in! A question from a college student already thinking ahead to a possible career in the non-profit sector. Wow. I was not that organized when I was an English major back in 1991.</p>
<p align="left">Make sure you have writing classes there. This student is a journalism major, but anyone can take writing courses. If your institution has a grantwriting class take it. Check the grad school and see if they will let you audit one of theirs if there is no class at the undergraduate level.</p>
<p align="left">Go to workshops like those offered by local chapters of GPA or AFP and make sure to list any such professional development on your resume. Any past work experience working for or volunteering at a non-profit agency, especially in anything to do with fundraising, would be a plus and should be highlighted.</p>
<p align="left">Of course if you can volunteer or intern somewhere and get some actual grantwriting experience under your belt, even better.</p>
<p><strong>Please share your tips on our blog.</strong></p>
Sat, 26 May 2012 12:51:42 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/what-should-be-on-my-resume-if-i-want-to-start-a-career-in-grantwriting/
Prioritizing Your Prospect List http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/prioritizing-your-prospect-list/ <p align="left">If you’ve been to a grantwriting workshop, you probably learned that you must do research to identify your funding prospects. You learned that the “shotgun approach” (a letter to every foundation in the state) will fail. You get that.</p>
<p align="left">So, off you go to do your research. You may come back with a long list of foundation prospects. Now what? In my experience, people love to teach you how to use a resource like the Foundation Center’s online database. But few bother to teach you what to do with the results.</p>
<p align="left">You must winnow that list down into a short list of realistic, good-fit prospects. Go for quality, not quantity. Grant proposals take time to write. Lots of time. Maybe you are squeezing proposal writing in between planning the 5K and the year-end mailing. You have to choose wisely which ones will get your time.</p>
<p align="left">When you run your search, you can check a box to exclude from the results foundations who give only to pre-selected organizations. But if you didn't know to do that, skim your list now and pull those funders out first.</p>
<p align="left">Then jump to the “limitations” section of the profile. This avoids the heartbreak of getting excited about a foundation who looks like a great prospect, only to learn as you keep reading that you are not eligible for some reason.</p>
<p align="left">After you exclude prospects for these two obvious reasons, you have to get more strategic and less black and white. Here is what you need to understand, those database profiles are only the beginning. They help you make a list and cross the obvious lemons off the list.</p>
<p align="left">Then you have to dig further. Your two main resources for this are the foundation’s website and their tax return. You will be surprised by how many do not have a website, but search for one. The tax returns are free at guidestar.org.</p>
<p>The goal of getting the tax return is to get the complete list of grants made. You don’t have to be a CPA to understand it and don’t have to read the whole thing. But you absolutely have to find out who the foundation supported in the most recent past. Sometimes who they are giving to does not match up with what they say are their priorities . You need to be a bit of a detective to figure this out.</p>
<p align="left">So, here are the things we look for as strong indicators of a good fit:</p>
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</ul><p align="left">The more of these you hit, the higher quality the prospect.</p>
<p align="left">Then, here are a few other details to consider about the foundation prospect:</p>
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</ul><p>Using these criteria, rank your prospects into A,B or C-level prospects. A-level prospects are a perfect fit. You must apply this year! B-level prospects have no reason they would not give to your organization, but no clear connection. Try to work proposals to one or two of these onto your calendar each year. Finally are the C-level prospects. There is no reason they would give to your organization, but you are not explicitly excluded. I put them on my “rainy day” list, for days when the boss asks, “have we really tried absolutely every possibility out there?”</p>
<p align="left"><em><strong>Focus on the Best Prospects</strong></em> </p>
<p align="left">1. <em>Omit those not accepting applications or whose limitations exclude you </em></p>
<p align="left"> 2. <em>Find a clear link between their funding priorities and your project</em></p>
<p align="left"><em>3. Investigate who they gave to in the last 2 or 3 years</em></p>
<p><em>4. Be realistic — ask yourself, “why would this foundation support us?”</em></p>
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<p align="left"><strong>What other criteria do you use to decide whether to apply to a foundation?</strong></p>
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Sat, 26 May 2012 12:01:00 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/prioritizing-your-prospect-list/
OGE Accepting Applications for Teacher Grants http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/oge-accepting-applications-for-teacher-grants/ <p>OGE Energy Corp.’s Teacher Grant Program focuses on helping public school classroom teachers fund unique projects that teach math, science and reading skills. Grants up to $1000 are now available for the 2012-2013 program. Applications can be submitted by teachers in grades pre-K through 12 who teach in a public school district in the service area, which is defined as any territory served by OGE or Enogex. This includes Oklahoma and certain cities in Western Arkansas. Specific cities served are listed <a href="http://tinyurl.com/7wedp56">http://tinyurl.com/7wedp56</a>.<strong> </strong>The complete program description and criteria are located at:<strong> </strong><a href="http://www.oge.com/community/teacherskids/teachergrants/Pages/Overview.aspx">OGE_Teacher_Grant_Program.</a><strong> </strong>Applications are due June 1, 2012.</p>
<p>OGE awarded grants to 34 teachers in 2011. The grants were used for a variety of innovative projects. With their funding, Cotteral Elementary School in Guthrie, Oklahoma purchased equipment for the project “Look What’s Hatching,” which allows students to observe the growth and development of chicks, starting as eggs. A grant given to Barling Elementary in Fort Smith, Arkansas paid for a project to use eBooks to reinforce curriculum and foster a love of reading in students. A list of the 2011-12 winners is located at: <a href="http://www.oge.com/community/teacherskids/teachergrants/Documents/2011%20Teacher%20Grant%20Winners.pdf" target="_blank">Teacher_Grant_Winners</a>.</p>
<p>— Blog by Laura Chioldi</p>
Wed, 16 May 2012 08:32:58 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/oge-accepting-applications-for-teacher-grants/
Can a Fifth-Grader Understand Your Proposal? http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/can-a-fifth-grader-understand-your-proposal/ <p>Remember how we learned to write in college? All of those long sentences? With strings of clauses separated by commas?</p>
<p>That’s my default style. Complex sentences. Parenthetical expressions. Grammatically correct—I paid good money for those two English degrees!</p>
<p>Have you noticed anything different about this article? How about short sentences. Short paragraphs. Ohhh, how about sentence fragments for all of you out there with red pens in hand?</p>
<p>If you are in a hurry or if you are tired, which is easier to read? Quick sentences that each contain one idea, or complex paragraphs that force you to dig for the point? Ok, I guess I gave away my bias in that sentence.</p>
<p>Some experts say our writing should be at a fifth-grade reading level to be effective. “But,” you say, “my readers are better educated. They are sophisticated. I don’t want to look too informal or talk down to them.”</p>
<p>Yes they are. But they are also busy people with many decisions to make. You want the decision to fund your grant to be an easy one. You want your proposal to be the one that doesn’t make their head hurt. Maybe fifth grade shouldn’t be your target. Maybe it’s ninth grade. But have a target.</p>
<p>I took my examples to the extreme in the first few paragraphs of this article to make a point. The best writers mix up sentence lengths for variety. For some reason, our brains find this an easier reading experience.</p>
<p>But most of us fall into the trap of endless sentences that drag on for five or six lines of text. When I am editing—whether my own proposals or my writers’ — I spend most of my time making the text less complex. I chop sentences, use bullets, and break up paragraphs.</p>
<p>Keeping it simple won’t get you a grant if you don’t have meaty content in the first place. Of course, you need inspiring stories and a great plan to change the world. But you need your readers to be able to grasp that vision quickly and fully.</p>
<p><strong><em>Keeping it Simple</em></strong></p>
<p> </p>
<ol><li><em>Limit yourself to only one idea per sentence</em></li>
<li><em>Break down complex concepts into bite-sized pieces</em></li>
<li><em>Illustrate, don’t just pontificate (charts or pictures)</em></li>
<li><em>Be ruthless — cut extra words that don’t really add value</em></li>
</ol><p>At what grade level do you think your proposals should be?</p>
Mon, 23 Apr 2012 09:48:12 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/can-a-fifth-grader-understand-your-proposal/
Keeping Proposal Content Fresh http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/keeping-proposal-content-fresh/ <p>When I worked for a university, I sent out letters for scholarships, year after year. Proposals to foundations who had funded us were more challenging, because I knew they had read last year’s proposal!</p>
<p>The same is true when raising general operating funds or “project” funds when you have the same project year after year (building homes, or offering literacy classes, or doing stream cleanups). How do you keep it fresh?</p>
<p>Here are a few suggestions. Most you will probably have heard before, but maybe today one will resonate with you when you need it:</p>
<p> <strong>Get Out!</strong></p>
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">That’s right. Get out from behind that keyboard and take a walk. Visit your colleagues and pump them for information or stories. Sit down next to the Down’s Syndrome client patiently stuffing envelopes. Watch the kids playing ball. Listen to the navigator helping a patient through confusing paperwork. Take photos if they’re allowed. We can all be energized by these real life reminders of why we love our job and our organization. You’ll get content. You’ll have mental images of the smile on a child’s face that you can turn into a story and transfer to paper.</p>
<p><strong> Get New Content</strong></p>
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">Every year, I reminded colleagues that I needed new student stories—more than one, please. I can’t keep using the same story every year of the kid who was saving up his workstudy earnings to buy his mom a pair of shoes for Christmas (not Sex and the City shoes; basic necessity-type shoes). It was  heartwarming, but even funders who turned us down are probably starting to recognize that story. What’s happening this year? Who is our new poster child?</p>
<p><strong> Get Fresh Eyes</strong></p>
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">I have always thought that one of the best favors we grant professionals can do for one another is to swap old, tired proposals and have a “jazz it up” session. But, we usually don’t like to share our proposals with each other. So, even if you just verbally explain to someone new what your organization does and why it matters, that can often get you reenergized. The questions they ask or what gets them excited about your mission may give you a new angle.</p>
<p> <strong>Get Away</strong></p>
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">Sometimes we just need to leave. To go get a Mocha Latte. Or a massage. Or exercise. Or pray. Distance, especially if you are really frustrated or burned out, can be a sanity saver and is essential to true productivity. If you can’t leave the office, then catch up on filing, reading those fundraising magazines, or emptying your email trash bin. Two are mindless repetition; one is professional development. Any will give you a break from feeling like you need to produce right this second and will give your brain a chance to re-set.</p>
<p> <strong>Get Someone Else’s Content</strong></p>
<p style="padding-left: 30px;">Whenever I’m stumped, I consult proposals written by others like those in the Foundation Center’s two volumes of sample proposals or the ones that accompany other grant books. Even after (or maybe because of) writing grant proposals for years, I can find inspiration to get out of the rut of how I’ve always done it and strike out in a new direction by seeing how someone else did it differently.</p>
<p><br/>What do you do to stay motivated, get over writer’s block or liven up old content? <br/>(A longer version of this article was originally published by <em>Grants and Foundation Review</em> at CharityChannel.com in December 2008.)</p>
<p> </p>
Tue, 27 Mar 2012 21:04:04 -0500 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/keeping-proposal-content-fresh/
It's the Opportunity, Stupid http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/it-s-the-opportunity-stupid/ <p>With apologies to a presidential candidate some of our readers are too young to remember, we urge grant professionals everywhere to adopt this new mantra. (Ok, my mother would never allow her children to call anyone stupid, so you can drop that part, but be sure to keep the opportunity part.)</p>
<p>In fact, I must give credit to Sandy Edwards, a renowned fundraising professional in Northwest Arkansas who is at that new little art place we have here called Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. She recently spoke to the northwest Arkansas chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Can you imagine the challenges of raising money for an organization that everyone thinks has already been completely paid for?!?</p>
<p>Sandy said, “Don’t focus on the need. Focus on the opportunity!”  The opportunity to be a part of something big, something exciting, something that is changing lives is what motivates donors. Well, guess what? Those foundation prospects of yours are “donors” too. Funding decisions are made by people. And people like to work with winners.</p>
<p>Am I suggesting that you leave the Need section out of your proposals? No. I recently had a client tell me that our description of the challenges facing her neighborhood made her want to cry. (Took that as a compliment, you know.) Of course, you must have the Need section.</p>
<p>However, what separtes a great grant proposal from an average one is how you quickly turn that Need into an opportunity. Instead of presenting such a dire a situation that the reader feels there is no hope of making a difference, you spell out exactly how, with the parternship of the funder your are approaching, your organization can make a dent in this need. Foundations want to invest in a cleaner, safer, healthier world. (Just listen to their promos in the national media.) You are giving them a chance to do just that.</p>
<p>While communicating the real needs you plan to address, don’t forget to weave in real-life stories about real people that show your organization has a track record of meeting those needs. This is how you communicate that you are a "winner" the foundation should work with.</p>
<p>However, just tooting your own horn is not enough. Don't spend all of your time getting the funder motivated to help through your touching Need section, getting the funder excited about addressing this need through your fantastic organization in the Organizational Profile, only to fall flat when it comes to the program.</p>
<p>Don’t try to pass off a poorly-planned project and hope the funder doesn’t notice. They will. In these days of penny-pinching, even at foundations, it is more important than ever to have a strong project design that dots all of its i's and crosses all of its t's. In other words, the funder has to be confident that if they give you their money, you will spend it in a well-thought-out manner that can achieve real results. No more resting on our laurels and, in essence, expecting funders to "just trust us."</p>
<p>Convey that your organization has its act together and is a wise investment. Convey that your people are top-notch and have the education and experience to do what you are planning. And convey that you have an excellent, realistic plan for helping that foundation achieve its mission to make the world a better place.</p>
<p>That is how you create an Opportunity.</p>
<h2>Tips to Take-Away - Keep on the Sunny Side:</h2>
<p>1. Show how your organization is perfect to meet the need</p>
<p>2. Share exciting stories that demonstrate success is possible</p>
<p>3. Make sure your proposal has a clear, convincing plan</p>
<p>4. Keep a tone of invitation, not begging or dire need</p>
<p> </p>
Mon, 23 Jan 2012 10:30:00 -0600 http://www.kestergroup.com/blog/it-s-the-opportunity-stupid/