Edited Digest of FundClass Topic #10, February 1998
Facilitated by Larissa Golden Brown
Larissa Golden Brown lives in Portland, Oregon where she is currently Director of Development, Corporate and Foundation Relations for The Salvation Army, Cascade Division. She spent the last few years working part-time as a grant writer and part-time as a consultant, teaching grants management to nonprofit groups. She's worked with all kinds of nonprofits, from arts to social service. Some include: The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Oregon, The Oregon State Library Talking Book & Braille Services, The City Club of Portland, Networking For Youth, and Sisters Of The Road Cafe (a nonprofit restaurant serving homeless and low-income people).
Her background -- and her B.A. -- is in Theatre Arts. She's also a playwright and worked her first couple years out of college for regional theatre companies, which is where she learned to write grants.
“Grantseeking can be a nightmare.”
Does this sound familiar? You're staying late at work the night before the proposal is due -- very late. Even the intern went home hours ago. You put on another pot of coffee and slog once again through the 20 pages you've written. Then you spend extra money on FedEx. You swear that after tonight you're not applying for any more grants. You just don't see how the few grants you get are worth the agony.
Or, maybe you have a staff person that handles grant writing. But they just don't seem to be getting that many checks in... or that many proposals out in the mail, for that matter. They're caught up in other development projects and their time is limited. You'd rather not bug them one more time about a foundation resource they're neglecting to tap into. You wonder whether it will ever happen.
Grants are a part of every not-for-profit CEO's life -- whether your organization receives dozens of them, or you are just beginning to wonder about whether you can get them. Grants can be a substantial and meaningful funding source for many kinds of projects and organizations. However, seeking and maintaining grants can become more complicated than it needs to be. And once it becomes complicated, it gets placed on the back burner while more easily-handled matters arise.
Whether you are writing grants yourself or you have a staff member doing so, you can make grantseeking an efficient part of your development effort. To do this, you or your staff person in charge of grants will need to create a system that keeps the grants process moving, guards against missing important deadlines, and helps you to develop relationships with foundation and corporate funders.
You will need to create a system that is best for you and your staff. But whatever system you choose, it will most likely be based on anticipating needs, deadlines, and questions, and being ready to act efficiently when opportunities arise. To get started, you can incorporate several simple but essential actions -- listed below -- that will help you get the best value out of your grant-seeking time.
each potential grant-maker the way you would a major donor. What is their capacity to give, and their average grant amount in dollars? Have they given to causes or projects similar to yours? Does anyone on your board know someone on theirs? Why did you think of them in the first place? What is your best approach? Create a form to use every time you work on qualifying a foundation as a potential donor.
the right program with the right funder. Research on the funder's past grant-making, and your own creativity, are the tools to do this effectively. With practice, this will become the most exciting part of grant-seeking.
yourself for success by only asking for grantworthy programs. Ultimately, that means those that match well with a grant-maker's purpose, guidelines, and capacity to give. In general, a grantworthy program is one that can be visualized as a finite program or project.
A grantworthy program often serves many people or makes a major difference in the community, involves partnerships with other organizations, and has some tangible component. It is most often limited in scope -- it can be viewed as a whole, distinct project. Grantworthy programs may include new projects or services, direct services, special one-time expenses, major expansions of existing programs, buildings, or technical assistance, such as needs assessments. Grants most often do not pay for staff time, conferences, travel, or general operating expenses, unless they are part of a larger, more interesting project. Resist the urge to waste time asking for the latter alone. Zero in on what is most grantworthy, then propose it.
information you will be asked for over and over, so you don't waste time writing the same thing over and over. Create base documents that literally form the foundation of every grant proposal. These documents most often include:
You or your appropriate staff should keep these materials up to date and have many copies ready all the time.
your organization on one page. Include:
Yes, you can get this all on one page!
the number of people who participate in the proposal writing/editing process. You will definitely want the CEO (yourself?) included at some point, whether it be throughout the process or just at the very end. You will also want key staff and volunteers involved. But grants need not go to your entire development committee and board, unless the funder requires a board resolution (very few do, and it will be in their instructions).
people of their part in the process. Write it out. Reiterate it at management meetings. No one should misunderstand when and how they will be called on to participate in grant writing. Use forms to remind people when their input is needed, for instance when you need some stories from a program director to include in a follow-up letter to a funder.
targeted questions of yourself and your staff, to get the information that is key about each new project for which you are writing a grant. Develop a list of questions to use every time.
your grant writing time into blocks. Rather than working all over the place, have a specific time for grants each week, and have specific times to work on research, writing, follow up, and filing.
yourself with a mechanism to remind you of deadlines. If a funder does not have a deadline, create one for yourself. Create deadlines for follow-up reports as well as for the initial proposal. Keep each deadline on an index or Rolodex card, so you can keep it in front of you as you work, and put it away for next year once you mail off your proposal.
everything twice. If a funder does not provide a checklist of what should be included in a grant, read their materials carefully and create one for yourself. Make sure that paper is bound, hole-punched, or assembled according to their instructions.
only the key information, and keep it accessible. Files need not include all your notes and phone conversations -- only the ones that contain vital information for later use. Once you have reduced all your grant files to only the essentials, they won't take up so much space, and it will be easy to keep them readily accessible to yourself and others. Filing alphabetically by funder is best, since it eliminates wondering. Codes or separate areas for different stages of proposals can only lead to confusion if someone is looking for a grant file when you're not there. You don't want to be the only one who can find these things!
the status of all the proposals you send out and answers you receive. Keeping this information on a single sheet is extremely helpful when it's time to apply to the United Way, report to the board, recognize donors, or create an annual report.
early and often with key others. They may include the person who opens the mail, the bookkeeper, the person who handles donor recognition, the program staff, the board... anyone who plays a role in the system you create. Brief reports to the board can keep them informed of received and pending grants, in case they receive phone calls from potential funders. Brief reports, or copies of your tracking sheet, can keep the donor recognition person from sending a form letter to a foundation.
your follow up activities. Once you have received a grant, create deadlines for yourself to send the funder quarterly reports, holiday letters, "What a Difference" letters, stories about people whose lives have been touched by their generosity, and any other materials you may find appropriate. Also, whether they require it or not, schedule a final report at the end of the grant period.
all the time for stories about people whose lives are saved or changed by your organization. Also be alert to unmet needs. These will become ideas for grant proposals or follow-up reports to funders. Ask your staff to keep photographs of people working together -- volunteers and those your organization serves. Include stories and photos in all grant proposals and follow-up reports.
And last but not least...
the grant more often, and further down the road, than you might think is necessary. Funders are impressed when you write to them five years after a grant was made, and tell how tremendously your organization has grown and benefited from their "investment" over the years. Remembering their role in your success just might encourage them to get involved with you all over again.
Question: I sent a three paragraph letter to about 20 foundations asking for their application information and annual report. If they responded to that request is that a sufficient "invitation" to send a proposal or do I need something more specific from them?
Responses: If the foundations you contacted sent annual report and guidelines, I would move right ahead unless the foundation makes it clear it accepts only invited proposals. In most cases I'd call and make contact with a program officer to make sure your project fits the foundation's current interests. Ask also if that person would be willing to answer questions as you are going through the proposal process.
Read the guidelines and judge whether you've completed what they ask for. If they ask for a 2-3 *page* letter of inquiry, you may still need to go through that step, even if you've sent a letter asking for information. Then call them up, ask questions. Being an educated novice is one of the best ways to build relationships with foundation staff
Question: I have a couple of questions on what funders want in letters of inquiry and application letters. I have found several foundations that fund a project such as mine. After seeing we meet all the requirement for funding, it said to send a letter of inquiry. What do they need in this type of letter? How long should it be and how much information? Also, if it states that there is no formal application, apply by letter, does that mean send a proposal or letter of inquiry?
Responses: In my experience a letter of inquiry should convey very basic information -- 2 pages or maybe 3, with a short statement of need, your response to the need (your project) and cost. In a letter of inquiry you are requesting an invitation to submit a full proposal. You can refer to things you will include in a full proposal. For example, this project costs $100,000 per year; we will submit a detailed budget in a full proposal.
If they say to "apply by letter" that means to send a letter proposal. Different from a letter of inquiry, for me a letter proposal is usually five to six pages long. If you are new to writing grants, a good idea is to use the guidelines from a foundation that has detailed guidelines. A letter proposal should have attachments of a budget, your board list, and your tax determination letter.
Knowing the person who will read the proposal is the most important single thing we do. I try to cultivate the friendship of someone in every foundation or corporation that I solicit. It pays!
As far as my thoughts on relationship fundraising -- it is absolutely true that the grant proposal is the smallest piece of what we do. And our work only *begins* the day the grant is received.
In creating a system like the one I discussed at the beginning of class, there should be a way to remind yourself to call and write to foundations regularly. And any time you have news directly related to their grant you must write to them and send copies of any press. When it's time to apply for another grant, you can then call them and they will be more likely to discuss with you what would be best to apply for.
Capital Campaigns and Relationship Building
I am a new fundraiser who just started a $500,000 capital campaign for a humane society in southern Vermont. I know it's good to build a relationship with the foundation, but for capital campaigns, if I'm not looking for repeat giving do I still try to get a communications link going before I submit the proposal? Will they expect it?
I will say that in a capital campaign, it is my *opinion* that you will want to cultivate donors just as you would for any project. Because next year you may want to approach them for something else. And two years down the road you will want to follow up on how the building they helped create is serving the community.
I agree with Larissa on this. It is always important to stay in touch with donors and build donor loyalty. A capital campaign will be challenging these donors to give much more to meet your organizations needs. My topic on capital campaigns will be coming up in the next couple of weeks.
I also agree with Larissa. One important function of a capital campaign is to broaden your base of support for the future. Any capital campaign appeals to new donors ought to be treated like the beginning of an ongoing relationship.
Unless the foundations you are looking at gives only to capital projects (and you don't plan to have any more capital needs), they are prospects for a future relationship. If the foundation folks don't want to hear from you, they'll let you know. It's not often they won't offer at least the feedback mentioned above. Also call after the proposal is submitted and to be sure everything was received in proper order and to find out if there are any immediate questions.
Relationship Model in Grant Writing
My local library carried Secrets of Successful Grantsmanship: A Guerrilla Guide to Raising Money by Susan L. Golden so I checked it out and then ordered it.
She says the successful model is the relationship model of grantseeking. Concentrate on establishing and maintaining good relationships with grantmakers. Grant awards follow more from ongoing dialogue between grantmaker and grantseeker than from proposals. She addresses: - gaining access to grantmakers - basic scenarios/conversations - how to identify/qualify grantmakers - planning, conducting in-person meetings with grantmakers, from get-acquainted sessions to site visits - how to orchestrate advocacy efforts after your proposal is submitted. -- I am finding her book very helpful. Any comments on the relationship-building aspect of grantsmanship?
I have heard that Golden's book mentions an "adversarial" relationship between funders and nonprofits. I believe that that is true in a way. I'd call it a status relationship. They have money that you want. But you mustn't be afraid of working with them. Grant seeking is not a mystery.
Small Nonprofits and Relationship Building in the Grant Process
I have been reading with interest and think this is one of the better discussions since I signed on. Frankly, I've read a ton of tomes about grant-writing and have been to workshops. How-to is not the mystery. Who, when and what happens later are the sticky parts.
By that I mean, in a small organization where a handful of folks are tasked out, how is one person to become the "development director" and keep up with RFPs, let alone go out and build relationships. Believe me, I see the value in building relationships; I'd just like to hear *how* someone - in a small organization - did it.
I am not an expert at all, and am actually quite new to development (2 1/2 years) and I also feel a bit like a little fish. However, I think I can share a bit of experience from the project I'm working on, without getting too far off the topic. The art gallery I am working for has been in the community for 29 years, and began as a very grass roots organization. Most of the Board was made up of artists - not any foundation contacts there. When I came on board just over 2 years ago, most people in the city still did not know where the gallery was or what it did. I was hired to improve the public profile, and work on a capital campaign to build a new facility.
For foundations, the public profile was important. We needed to show that the community supported us, so a lot of time was spent getting out and talking with people. We found out what the public wanted in a new gallery, put more effort into joint projects with other groups and community outreach programming. At the same time we were recruiting in the community to try to find people who supported the arts, and would have the influence and contacts to approach foundations. (There were other phases to the campaign, but I'm just focusing on the foundations aspect) A key aspect in community support, is that we are a public gallery and have a strong relationship with the City. They are providing the land and a large portion of the funding.
Our success was less than we hoped for from foundations, but not a wasted effort. There was only one person in this city of 75,000 who had the contacts and influence we needed. He approached 2 foundations with our proposal, and through the process of several visits and many phone calls, we received $75,000 between the two foundations. We keep them updated every 4 to 6 months on our progress.
Many other proposals were sent out, however they were cold calls. We received about $1,500 from the rest. There were other factors involved though. Many foundations that we were supposedly eligible for, had very recently changed their policy and no longer supported the arts, or no longer supported capital projects. Also, adequate follow-up has been lacking here due to a lack of staff resources and conflicting priorities.
On a more positive note, we have recently attempted to obtain a grant for one of our programs in which we partnered with another organization. This also was a cold call, but was extremely well received. The advantages we had were: 1) Due to the theme of the event and the partnering organization, we were eligible for a grant for promotion of womens' equality, we didn't have to rely on arts funding. 2) The funder was excited about our program, and about getting an application from a group that had no previous connection with them. They were looking to distribute funds over a wider geographical area, and we fit that criteria. 3) Many funders prefer to support an active program, rather than a capital project.
To sum up, I guess I would say that from my experience (however limited), an organization needs to establish itself in the community first, and then share this with the foundation. Creating partnerships with other groups, such as schools, other NFP's, or perhaps seniors, shows how you benefit the community as well as the animals that you are helping. Also, foundations want to see that your organization is well-established, so forming a partnership with a respected, community group with a long history, may look good for you. Get media coverage of these partnership programs, and save copies of that coverage.
Secondly, recruit influential people in the community to be on your Board and to sign letters. Foundations want to see lists of who is on your Board and what their occupation is.
Thirdly, I think cold calls to foundations are more difficult, but can be rewarding and exciting. This is definitely an area I will be working more on in the future. In hindsight, I would do more phone calls before sending proposals, to begin establishing a rapport and to get the latest info. I learned that even 6 month old info can be outdated. After rejections or continued lack of response, I would do more follow-up.
I am probably in a medium-sized pond here in western Maine. All relationships start with communication... my advice is to do your research, target good "fits", and then simply make that first "cold" call. Ask for advice. Explain your situation. From there on in, you will have begun your relationship-building. Another bit of advice... network with your peers in other states, other parts of the country. Someone will know someone, and that someone may be willing to help pave the way for you with a specific donor possibility.
I don't know if anyone has already mentioned this, but you should consider contacting other similar non profits to find out how they started their development programs (who they went to, how they built relationships, what industries--as well as foundations--they've had success with, etc..)You will probably get as much good advice--or more--from them than you will from us.
A couple of comments. Lots of people are in your situation. My suggestions are to
1) research the foundations and select a few that you think are appropriate for you. Then, call them and be honest about your situation. Do it in a very positive way. No self-pity, whining, etc. Ask for their advice. Most of the time someone will be happy to give it and you've just made a contact. Foundations usually have different types of grants they give out. One is an exploratory grant, which is designed to allow someone to look into the feasibility of a larger project. Another is a start-up grant. Both are usually not huge amounts - the money is being used to test your organization's ability to do what you want to do. This may be a good way to start.
"Developing a relationship" can be as simple as placing a phone call to a foundation program officer and asking a few well-thought out questions. You should have at least two ideas in mind when you call. Ask for advice. Be polite and grateful for their help. Try not to take up much of their time because most program officers are overworked.
If you leave a message for the program officer, wait a week before calling back if he or she hasn't returned your call. If they don't call back after a second call, it's probably best to give it up and send them a query letter or find another foundation.
This approach often works better with larger foundations; often small foundations are staffed only by an administrator who makes no funding decisions anyway. (I've found that contact with foundation trustees is often the only way to get a grant from small foundation.)
And sometimes you will run into a program officer who is having a bad day or is just plain rude. Don't take it personally. Go ahead and send a letter anyway, or find another foundation.
I run a small non-profit as well, our total cash budget is $62,000. We have had some great success in the past with grants but are now hitting hard times securing them. This is what our experience has been. We have had the greatest success with small, local family foundations. Larger local grantmakers have seldom funded us, and grantmakers outside of our geographic area (large and small) have never funded us. We have been successful in establishing a relationship with one local family foundation, but we cannot count on their support every year. I have found that most grantmakers we have experience with, are not very sophisticated, or are even thinking in terms of "relationships." I fact, many expressly do not want an on-going "relationship" because they are not interested in long term funding for any one program. Even though they do often have this attitude, we still do our best to develop a relationship. It is an uphill struggle.
Our overall approach is to continually decrease grant funding as a percentage of our budget. Although we have been successful (down from 82% to 50%, while almost doubling our budget), we still need to secure grants.
Amen to reducing dependence on grants! I'm really working on our direct mail program and our major yearly fund-raiser. Grants I see as useful to support new programming or on-going programs that meet a specific government or foundation targeted need. We started a new drug rehab program with one state grant this year and are working on 3 others to support a therapeutic camping program that we want to start. All these programs, however, have plans built in to wean us off grant money ASAP. We got some vans and stuff with highway dept grants and have had a few small ($3,000-5,000) grants for little things, but by and large most of our grants are for new programming startup costs. A nice capital endowment campaign is on my agenda as soon as we can quit fighting fires. Grants tend to be special tools in my experience. If you're creating some new program, they may be the only way to go. If, however, you've been around the block a time or two you may want to spend your time using your regular tools like special events, public relations, direct mail and board development.
Grants are seductive to boards. They tend to think, "Hire the fund-raiser dude. He or she sits down at the computer. Then, presto! Money comes rolling in!" It doesn't work that way except in a few special cases. Reducing dependence on grants also means a foundation can't shut you down all by itself by not funding you when you've grown dependent on it. Grants are not owed to your organization and can be withdrawn at will. Remember that as you plan long term.
Does anyone have experience with submitting grant proposals to corporations (banks, large companies in your community)? In general, do they look for anything different in a grant proposal than a foundation would? Do the same "letter of inquiry" and "personal contact" rules apply when looking for corporate money?
On corporate foundations. In my research I've found some foundations whose founding corporations have an indirect link to the pet industry (though giving to the animal realm is not specified in their guidelines). I know the corporation doesn't control the foundation, but would it help or hurt for me if, in the cover letter, I tell the foundation that I know that the corp. has 20% of the pet food market, for example.
Corporations are not usually interested in the level of detail you give a foundation in a full-blown proposal. Corporations give from numbers of different pockets, and it's not always easy to determine who should receive a funding proposal--could be the CEO, the marketing director, a local affiliate, a national headquarters. Call and find out what the practice is at each corporation you want to solicit. Then make a call to whoever will be the contact point to test receptiveness to your idea and get suggestions on formatting your request.
Again, I would make a call beforehand and find out if the corporate foundation considers proposals in your area. You can explain that the foundation corporation's connection with pets is your reason for asking.
On corporate giving: it is usually of three basic types:
A corporate foundation is just like any other private foundation in what they expect for their dollars. Treat them as a foundation.
Corporate giving out of marketing or PR dollars is different. In my experience, businesses will want something more for this. Usually PR and logo placement. Usually the dollar amounts are smaller than foundation dollars.
Matching gifts: this would include matching gifts, employee volunteer grants, workplace giving. This falls under individual giving in my book, but it does *involve* the corporation and is good to know about and mention when you are writing for a sponsorship.
On specific information on the capital campaign grant, pieces that are not in a "traditional" grant that can make or break a capital appeal? . . . .Pictures of the envisioned building. Even if you are not ready to build, hire an architect to draw a rendering with people in it. Also, substantiate how you will fund the ongoing operations once you get this building -- show a five-year budget maybe.
Also, show your community's support. sometimes you want to ask a foundation to come in for a beginning piece of the need, or a closing piece. Show how you will raise the rest, or talk about what you already have in the bag. Get your staff to each give to the building (doesn't matter how much), then you can boast 100% staff support. All of these are helpful in a capital grant.
Process for Ensuring Grantworthiness
Thanks for your informational and inspirational article on grantseeking. As a relative newcomer to the job, it makes me appreciate the amount of work and organization that distinguish a good grants department from a mediocre one.
I am particularly interested in your comments on positioning yourself for success through concentrating on grantworthy programs. As we address seemingly boundless institutional needs, it's sometimes difficult to evaluate and prioritize appropriate projects. I would appreciate more discussion from you and the experts on grantworthy projects.
In your institution who makes the decisions on which projects to submit? Do you have formal processes and/or forms to determine viable projects? How are responsibilities split between the grantseeking individual/department and the grants office?
You will need to find a foundation that makes "seed money" grants for new organizations. A foundation that does seed grants will be used to the lack of track record and lack of audited financial statements, etc.
Another good strategy is to start with your board of directors and who they know. Do they know any foundation trustees? Any middle or upper managers at local corporations? Since you don't have experience, the endorsement of a board member can lend weight.
In your institution who makes the decisions on which projects to submit?
Our policy is that *what* and *how much* are decided by the program staff. They decide their priorities and give them to me in writing. A formal group of program leaders (CEO, City Programs Coordinator, etc.) meets once a week and will give me any major changes in direction.
The *how* is decided by the development staff. So given the above list of priorities, it is my job to strategize where to apply for grants, sponsorships, etc.
So an example: the program staff says we need $100,000 for sports programs for inner city kids. I decide to apply for $25K in each of six places.
Part of my job is to make recommendations given my expertise, and to educate the program leaders about some ways they can use grants. I have asked them to allow me to write a lot of grants for the most "attractive" programs, thus being able to shift general funds into those "unattractive." I have a feeling from reading and working in the field what those attractive and unattractive projects are.
For example, I was able to tell them "Let's go for $300,000 for the sports programs for inner city kids, because we're never going to get any grants to meet the rising minimum wage in our administrative offices."
Do you have formal processes and/or forms to determine viable projects?
I had a friend who made a living betting on horses. he would do his elaborate mathematical analysis, and then before he placed any bets he would go *look* at the horses, and make up his mind who would win. He made enough to put himself through law school.
I don't have a formal process for deciding what is a grantworthy program. For me it's like that last step of looking at the horses. It is a knowledge that comes from reading funders' annual reports, talking with foundation staff, reading the newspaper every day, applying for 70 grants a year, etc.
What is generally grantworthy is also shifting all the time, given trends in the foundation world. You can learn a lot from reading the NSFRE magazine, and from "Foundation News & Commentary." And from very carefully comparing a funder's guidelines to the actual grants they make in a given year.
You might want to take some time and do an in-depth analysis of the grants made in the last couple years by one or more of your biggest prospects.
How are responsibilities split between the grantseeking individual/department and the grants office?
As the grant writer, you are responsible for asking all the right questions. The department needing the grant, i.e., the program staff, are responsible for having the answers. Some things they need to provide you with:
Some things you will come to have that can help:
I always remind program staff that they will be the ones who have to run this program if and when we get the money. I can help prod them with targeted questions, but they are responsible for all the answers.
Grantworthiness when organization is in debt
In considering grantwriting as a component of our community home health care organization's overall fundraising strategy (now being developed for the first time) is it feasible to assume that our proposals will be taken seriously, given the fact that the agency is currently operating under a $500,000 budget deficit?
I'd like your feedback as to whether or not we should commit the massive amounts of time and energy required for grantwriting, or if our time would be more wisely spent in other areas of fundraising, given our deficit? ((Isn't it true that people (foundations/corporations) like a winner? That they don't want to be associated with a perceived sinking ship?))
The Board and president (none of whom have any experience in the grantwriting universe) seem to think that "all you gotta do is write a proposal" and we'll get funded, as though it's as simple and painless as jotting down a shopping list! I think we all know better . . . Please! Tell me to go ahead and write (if that's the case), justifying our deficit by citing the changes in healthcare reimbursement rates, OR to concentrate on other aspects of fundraising at this time. My feeling is the latter, but I've got to sell it to the Board.
It is certainly unusual, not unheard of but very unusual, for a foundation to give you a grant to pay for back debts. However if you have a viable program, you need to keep the current program in operation while you are paying off the debt.
If you secure a line of credit to pay your bills, have implemented good financial controls and record keeping, and have a viable plan for emerging from these financial crises, I have found that foundations will take your proposals seriously. You will need to pursue other fundraising activities to erase your debt, but if you can insure that the foundation grant will go toward programming and not deficit reduction, you probably have as good a chance as anyone.
If you have not made substantial changes in your operation, installed financial accounting systems (manual or computer), and developed a strategic plan for the future I can not imagine any foundations I have dealt with responding positively to you.
This is a good question. Most foundations will not give money to fund a deficit specifically. Whether they will give to a project at an organization that has a deficit, it's doubtful (my opinion).
You bring up a good point in that there are probably some better pockets to search for the money to bring you up to zero. After that, you will be looking much more fit to steward grant money.
However, this is not to say you won't get a grant. If you have a fundraising plan and a good understanding of the case for your organization's existence, you should be able to write some grants without "massive" amounts of work. Especially to local foundations and corporations that may be willing to make an investment in you while you still have a deficit.
I *am* the grant-seeking office and I quite often meet myself in the revolving door that leads to all my other tasks. And I think it would be a very good idea to discuss all the expectations *after* the grant is awarded. There must be many "functions outside of proposal writing" that would be of interest, especially to those of us "little fish" that don't have a big staff or loads of volunteers.
I for one believe that your work just begins when you get a grant. The proposal is a very small part of what we do. At its most basic, I think a "grantseeking office" should contain some kind of calendar or mechanism to remind you to call on your foundation funders at least once per quarter. Your office should also have a place for collection of newspaper articles, statistics, success stories, etc. to use when you write to funders.
For larger grants, you should schedule tours, or at least meetings, to talk about your progress.
This may seem ridiculous when you are very busy, but next time you want a grant your life will be so much easier if you do this!
All I do is keep a file of deadlines. I give each follow up call a deadline. It can be quite simple.
Communication If There Are Issues On Grant Award
Approximately 2 weeks ago, I received a phone call from a corporation from whom I'd requested $2,500 for an annual project. They said yes and that we'd be receiving a $2,500 check.
About a week ago, I received their check for $1,000 in the mail. I was perplexed and so I called my contact at this company and got her voice mail. I tried to leave a message that was gentle, but inquisitive about the amount. I haven't yet received a return phone call and I'm not sure how to proceed.
I've received grants before for amounts that were less than what I requested. But, I've never received a check for less than what I was told our organization would receive. Besides that, last year they gave us $1,500 for this same project (more than the current check.) I don't want to offend or alienate them, but the full amount would just about pay for the remainder of the project. Without it, we're in the hole a bit.
Being absolutely sure you in fact heard the $2,500 amount from that corporation official, makes it no problem to do as you did to gently and properly follow-up with: "Thanks very much for the partial payment, it is greatly appreciated. Would you like a billing reminder from us for the $1,500 balance of the generous $2,500 pledge you made over the telephone?"
That's what I would do -- assuming absolute certainty that there was no question you indeed heard the $2,500 amount promised by your sponsor, but then you received $1,000.
Sometimes, we driven development folks do not mean to, but we show our disappointment or concern when we have a loss of the type you might have. But, we also are aware that the donor could feel just as badly as we do, and to dwell on the loss might very well make them more uncomfortable, and could strain our future relations with them.
Recognizing grant awards
What is the procedure for recognizing a grant in the press? Should the receiving agency issue a press release and, if so, should they receive the permission of the grantor?or is this something the grantor does?
We normally issue a press release about grants, especially if they are large and/or are funding something special/unusual. The key is the "hook": is it newsworthy/interesting to an editor or reporter. We draft the release and then have it reviewed by accuracy by the development officer that works with the foundation, and a foundation representative. We then distribute the release. In some cases, foundations have required us to give publicity as part of the grants' conditions.
Finally, the mystique of grant writing is not quite the science that most of us try to put forth. It is 5% brains and 95% sweat.
Please keep in mind that writing the proposal is just one step in the process -- though a rather daunting step when you're getting started. A mentor can also direct you in learning the how, when, and why to approach a foundation for grant support. And it's that kind of info which will make or break your success in grant writing.
Here are some suggestions for training, in response to a person working in the Chicago area.