This morning I am asking for your help with a small project I am working on. A few weeks ago I agreed to help one of my favorite non-profit organizations with a staff transition. Not only did their development director move on to greener pastures at the end of the summer, but their executive director also recently resigned. So, the board asked me to step into the void and help their management team with a variety of year-end miscellaneous projects (e.g. year-end holiday mailing, 2013 budget construction, resource development plan, etc).
One of the projects with which I provide a little assistance is grant writing. I am part of the review team that proofreads, edits and asks questions before any proposal is allowed to go out the door. I am not the only person involved in this agency’s grant writing process . . . there is a grant writer (who is an independent contractor), a program/operations person and a board member. I kind of like the process they’ve designed. It feels comprehensive, responsible and serious.
The other day someone brought another grant opportunity to the team. It was a RFP that would’ve brought $2,000 in the door that wouldn’t have supplemented existing programming . . . it was an “add-on” proposition. Here is a list of questions that the grant writing team started asking itself:
- Is this grant opportunity “budget relieving”?
- Are the program costs totally off-set by the grant? Or will the $2,000 grant only partially cover the expenses of the add-on programming?
- Are there other reasons (e.g. political, relationship building, etc) for the agency to consider writing this proposal?
Somewhere in the middle of this discussion, the board member blurted out the following really good question:
“How many more $2,000 grants are we going to write?”
This question was inspired by a string of two or three grants in a row that this organization had just written. As a businessman, he asked this question because he is accustom to looking at everything through a “return on investment” (ROI) lens. In hindsight, this is what he saw:
- The grant writer was putting in three to six hours researching and writing the proposal.
- The program/operations person was putting in a few hours pull together outcomes data and proofreading the final proposal to make sure we weren’t over-promising anything.
- The board member, who serves on the management team as the agency searches for a new executive director, is investing a few hours in proofreading and asking tough questions to ensure the organization isn’t over-promising and under-delivering. This is essentially the same role that the executive director would play if there was one on the payroll.
- I was back stopping the entire process and doing some same.
WOW! It shouldn’t be a surprise after a few small grant writing opportunities he’d ask such a question.
Of course, this touched off an interesting conversation on many different fronts including a discussion about non-profit fundraising policies.
I promised the group that I would blog about this topic and ask the readership of DonorDreams blog for their best possible world-class coaching and advice.
So, I have a holiday season favor to ask each of you this morning:
Would you please take a minute or two out of your busy schedule this morning and use the comment box below to do one of the following two things?
- share your agency’s grant writing policy/policies, or
- share how your organization makes decisions on when to write or pass on a grant writing opportunity.
Seriously, your feedback this morning will directly help another organization in its pursuit of developing fundraising best practices. Your participation will take all of a minute or two this morning. Please weigh-in. Your collective wisdom is massive and will bring tremendous value to this organization’s discussion. You can consider the few minutes that you invest in responding to this request as your “good turn” this holiday season. Please pay it forward!
Here’s to your health!
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC