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Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

I provided a podcast over at BlogTalkRadio that you’ll want to listen to.  I talked about social media strategies to earn funds for your cause.  Social media gives organizations like yours opportunities to share your mission, build a community of supporters and raise funds!

With Social Media non-profits can tell their organizational stories in order to inspire donations. Learn the best four platforms to start with.  Discover what five other organizations are doing best on social media. Below are the links to the organizations I talked about and their best social media platform.

World Wildlife Fund — Check out their Facebook

American Red Cross — Check out their YouTube

Charity: Water — Check out their Pinterest

Second Harvest Food Bank — Check out their Twitter

Music for Minors — Check out their website and the “Donate Now” button. They are a small organization with a presence on facebook and twitter.

How To Win Grants From Banks

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

Banks are a source of grant funding you may not have tried.  The first question on your mind may be: where do I find bank grant opportunities?  Banks are everywhere, in every state and every community.  However, banks vary greatly in their grant making programs, and some may have no formal program at all.  Those with formal grant programs may have funding priorities and guidelines like other corporations.  Some banks may be open to any community needs.  I’ve come across hefty applications and short applications.  I’ve seen both local grants and the more competitive regional grants.  Some larger banks have foundations that handle their charitable giving and many consider sponsorships as well as grants.  With annual charitable giving in the hundreds of millions of dollars, banks are worth a look.

There are two places to start your search: locally and online.  Look around you.  What banks have a branch in your community?  They are all potential funders for your organization.  Does your organization bank with any of them?  (That’s not a necessity).  What banks do your board members use?  Which banks are the closest to your facility?  These are just places to start.  As the development director, you can walk into a local bank and ask who the community giving officer is.  You may be met with a blank stare or you may be given the name of the branch manager.  That manager will lead you to the correct person.  To initiate the conversation introduce yourself and ask when their next grant making cycle is.  You may be handed an application, warmly told that they love your organization, or informed that there is no application process and you just need to write a proposal letter. I like stopping in a bank in person and making that contact.  If that person knows of your organization that is a good thing.  Especially when they say, “just bring your application to me and I’ll submit it to the committee.”  Often bank funding is decided by branch representatives so you want that one person fighting for your proposal.  Of course, you may prefer to research online instead of in person.

How To Win Grants From Banks by Victoria M. Johnson

Banks Want to Support the Communities They Serve!

When I typed in bank community giving in my search engine (such as google or yahoo or bing) several options popped up, including:

US Bank

People’s United Bank

TD Bank

Bank of America

Wells Fargo

Chase Bank

You can also search online by typing in your state or city name in your search engine, for example, when I typed in bank community giving California more options popped up such as:

Union Bank

California Bank & Trust

You can also type in your bank’s name and the words community giving.  Or go directly to their website and use their search feature with a word like: community, charitable giving, corporate giving, foundation, or social responsibility.  These options take more time than the first two options above.

Once you go to the bank’s website you’ll find grant guidelines and deadlines and a contact person.  Follow the guidelines (and my tips) just as you would for any other grant proposal.  Remember, you can’t win a grant if you don’t apply.  Good luck!

Lessons I Learned From Jane Goodall

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

I had the privilege of meeting Jane Goodall in person.  She was the featured speaker at the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) conference in San Diego.  At the time I didn’t know why Jane Goodall would be invited to a fundraising conference—after all she has spent her entire career in jungles with chimpanzees—but I was delighted at the thought of hearing what she might say.  After a few anecdotes Jane revealed that she fell in love with Tarzan as a child and she thought he married the wrong Jane.  “He married the wimpy Jane,” she said.  “I would have been a better match for Tarzan.”  Everyone in the audience agreed.

Jane told us that she’d never forget that her career started because of a philanthropic donation.  If it weren’t for that first grant award she never would have been able to pursue her dream of living among wild animals.  She remarked that in 1960 she had no degree, no formal training, no organization backing her, no permission from the African government, and no money.  But she had the chutzpah to pursue her dream anyway.  She went off to Gombe, Africa—with her mother, because British policy did not allow a woman to move to the jungle alone—and began the adventure of a lifetime.  That first grant got her started and more grants kept her research going.  Now 50 years later, Jane continues sharing her knowledge of chimpanzees, as well as awareness of the urgent threat facing wild chimps.

Jane and Freud

Here’s what else I learned:

1. Jane’s passion and dedication for her cause comes through when she speaks, in her mailings to donors, the JGI website, and in her books.  Her mission and purpose is on everything!

2. The Jane Goodall Institute relies on more than grants these days; they use direct mail campaigns, social media campaigns, sales of products, sponsorships, and other methods.  The JGI diversifies it’s fundraising.  I concur diversification in raising donations and raising awareness is key to sustainability.

3. The one thing all these above vehicles have in common is Jane’s belief that we can make a difference.  And look at all she has accomplished in fifty years by making us believe we can make a difference, too. That’s what I think grantwriters should learn from Jane—we must show others how their grant will make a significant impact.  Make the reader believe that their support will change lives, or change the world. (That’s the Grant Whisperer’s mantra)!

4. A single grant launched Jane’s career and the important work she set out to do.  NEVER underestimate the power of a single grant.

5. I totally agree—Tarzan hooked up with the wrong Jane!

The Foundation Center

Monday, June 4th, 2012

Fundraisers: Here are some free online classes that may interest you. The Foundation Center is a fantastic resource for nonprofits, grantwriters, and development officers. While there are numerous educational opportunities out there, The Foundation Center is a trustworthy source offering free as well as fee courses. Also check out their free online tutorials: The Foundation Center Online Classes at:

Is a Fundraising House Party Right For Your Organization?

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

Fundraising house parties can be an exciting way to earn funds for your cause. How do you know if house parties are right for your organization? How do you organize one? The Grant Whisperer answers the age-old question ‘should you bring a llama to a house party’ and more over at BlogTalkRadio. The episode gives you tips to have a successful event that puts the fun back in fundraising!

A common question is how many staff should attend the fundraising house party. My recommendation is, as few as needed. The host counts as one, add a board member, and then the staff person making the presentation. Three is good for a small house party; add more as needed for a larger crowd.

The host and staff/board member coordinate the event to ensure the project or program is highlighted in the best possible way, all the elements of the event harmonizes with your organization, and that an ask is made.

Click on the arrow below to hear more useful tips in the 16-minute episode.

Listen to internet radio with GrantWhisperer on Blog Talk Radio

The Frankenstein Grant Proposal

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

I had fun over on my Blog Talk Radio Show today.

What happens after you have written a great grant proposal and your executive director wants the input of several people in your organization before you submit it? You get a Frankenstein Grant Proposal! The Grant Whisperer shows you how to salvage your proposal and your sanity.

Listen to internet radio with GrantWhisperer on Blog Talk Radio

Click the arrow below to listen to the eleven minute episode.

A Dose of Inspiration…

Friday, March 16th, 2012

As you create your song, may you help others with theirs and may your song and theirs be one of great hope.


Are You Smarter Than A Sixth-Grader?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

My sixth-grader grand daughter just received the astounding news that she won a scholarship to Space Camp!  She went through an excruciating application process that would bring many adults to tears.  I’m bringing this up for two reasons.  First, I’m an incredibly proud grandmother.  Second, I think you might learn something from her experience.

  1. Her scholarship award was extremely competitive.  Yet, she applied anyway.  Sometimes organizations pass up highly competitive grant opportunities because the slim chance of winning doesn’t justify the amount of work required.
  2. It took a lot of time and effort to gather and/or create all the required attachments to the application.  Yet, she meticulously gathered and/or created each item.  In her case she didn’t have any of the items and so she started from scratch.  Your organization may already have some of the required attachments, so it may take you less time than you think to create an application package.
  3. It’s difficult to sort through a daunting application package. Yet, she thoroughly read and followed all the instructions. You must carefully review application requirements and have another set of eyes go over the checklist with you to ensure nothing is overlooked.  After all the time taken on an application, you don’t want to hear that you were rejected for not following directions.
  4. It’s easy to give up and put your focus on something easier. Yet, she kept her eye on her goal.  She really, really wants to attend Space Camp.  Science is her favorite subject and the scholarship is the only way she can go on this science adventure.  For fundraisers, it may be the prestige of winning a special grant, or the higher level of support, or any number of reasons that lead us to pursue highly competitive grants.  The thing is, the grant is going to go to somebody.  It won’t be your organization if you don’t apply.

If a sixth-grader can do it, so can you.  For more inspiration, here’s a link to an earlier post:  Are You Smarter Than A Fifth-Grader?

Space Camp


Celebrating Success

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

After a three-year fundraising effort, I’m pleased to say the incredible team I’ve worked with, and I, have recently celebrated a major success—the grand opening of a new library.  The board members, community volunteers, town leaders, and residents all came together to make the dream possible.  This phenomenal type of success doesn’t happen everyday.  It’s not something to take for granted, and it is certainly something to celebrate when it is achieved.  And so I’m taking a moment to write down a few thoughts.

The first thing I did was to take a deep breath.  I savored it for as long as possible.  “We did it.  We REALLY did it!”  Then I thanked those around me, again.  It couldn’t have happened without everyone’s hard work and dedication.  But I realize that the multi-year endeavor needed a clear VISION and sustainable LEADERSHIP to achieve the goal.  So while we held a festive donor appreciation event, we know we need an internal party, too.  Leadership is something that is vital to a capital campaign.  And our campaign had that secret ingredient.  The celebrating isn’t over with thanking our valued donors; we must also give praise to those who led the effort.

I’ve learned this about campaign leadership:

  1. Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes,
  2. People step up when you need them most—if you ask,
  3. People connected to your mission will amaze you,
  4. Support your leaders at every step,
  5. Give your leaders the resources they need,
  6. Your leaders need sub-leaders—they can’t do it alone,
  7. Success and leadership go hand in hand,
  8. Your campaign cannot succeed without leaders!

Now that you have an idea of the importance of campaign leadership, can you see the significance in celebrating them?  Okay, I’ve taken another deep breath.

The Importance of Community Support

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Of all the elements that must find their way into a grant proposal, there’s one that may get overlooked. This is the element of community support. Include it and you’ll strengthen your proposal; leave it out and you may get a rejection letter.

If all things are equal in two proposals, and one clearly demonstrates community support, that’s the one that will get funded. Why is community support so important to funders? Consider the grantors’ purpose, mission, and funding priorities. They not only have a philanthropic mission to serve the community, but a desire to make an impact in the community.

When your organization makes an impact in the lives of those you serve, what do you do about it? Do you quietly go about your business? Or do you let everyone know? By informing the community of your success—your clients, your donors, your members, potential donors, local media, your industry, your website, your newsletter, your volunteers, your staff, etc.—you’re also taking a huge step to gaining community support. People can’t support your organization if they don’t know about the wonderful things you do. Don’t save all your accomplishments for grant applications and a year-end report! Get the word out in ways that fit your organization’s personality and mission.

Kids enjoying nature trail

How do you articulate community support in a grant proposal?

You want to highlight support relating to your proposal. Say the proposal is for developing a new hiking trail. You’d mention the number of trail users you already have, the number of hits to your trail web site, the other community organizations that support trail use and who endorse the project, comments from surveys that support the need for more trails, the number of members who’ve signed up to receive trail updates, how many years your Trail Volunteer Program has been active and how many participate. Perhaps you have an annual race on the trail, give the highlights of community support for that event. Give whatever details show that trails matter in your community and that trails impact the quality of life of residents.

The grantor isn’t only supporting a trail, they are supporting the people who will develop it, manage it, and especially those who will use it. Again it’s about convincing the donor of the significant long-term impact they can potentially make by awarding your organization a grant.


How To Create An Annual Development Plan

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Special Guest Beth Williams, CFRE, visited the Grant Whisperer to offer her expertise and advice for creating an Annual Development Plan for your organization. She discussed how a development plan helps your organization build the structure for all your fundraising programs: Grant Writing, Direct Mail, Special Events, Major Gifts, Planned Giving and Donor Recognition. Beth also gave her tips on how to prioritize your annual efforts and how to develop a budget to support those efforts. Beth’s knowledge will guide you to creating a plan that gains the support of your staff and board.  She makes it sound so easy!

Beth Williams, CFRE, has over 17 years of fundraising, special event planning and program development experience in the non-profit industry. Since 2002, she has been the director of development at Hospice of the Valley during which time the organization’s annual budget increased from 2 million dollars to $11.3 million in 2010. Prior to Hospice of the Valley she worked for Families First and the Law Foundation Silicon Valley where she was the director of development. Beth is a member of the Silicon Valley Planned Giving Council and Association of Fundraising Professionals where she is currently serving on the Board of Directors. Beth became a Certified Fundraising Executive in March of 2010. (Same date as the Grant Whisperer)!

To hear the 26-minute episode, click on the white arrow in the black circle below.

Listen to internet radio with GrantWhisperer on Blog Talk Radio

BONUS: Here is the link for a Sample Annual Fundraising Development Plan. Take a look. Send me any questions you may have and if I can’t answer them, we’ll take Beth up on her offer to answer a few questions for us. Keep in mind that each organization is different and your organization may not be implementing all of these fundraising programs mentioned in the episode recording or the sample.

Giving Circles—A Fundraising Opportunity

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

I recently attended a workshop on Giving Circles at a local AFP Chapter meeting. Four panelists from diverse communities talked about how their Giving Circle organizations are making an impact in their communities.

But first, let me describe what a giving circle is. A giving circle is a group of individuals who pool their funds together for a common cause. They can be very informal, such as a group of friends or colleagues; or they can be formal 401(c)3 organizations. You may have heard the term, ‘giving club’ which may be a really informal group of friends or relatives doing the same thing. Moderator Hoa Tran of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation called Giving Circles “strategic giving where the donors are more involved.”

Asian Women Giving Circle

Michelle Branch of the Full Circle Fund says, “It’s a member-driven grant process. Members of the Full Circle Fund giving circle determine who the grantees should be.” The members are highly involved with the organizations funded. They have three circles of interest: education, the environment, and global economic opportunity.

Dee Dee Nguyen of Lunar Circle calls giving circles “potluck philanthropy.” She says they reach out to folks who didn’t think they could be philanthropists. They concentrate their resources to the San Francisco Bay Area’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

Donna Delaney introduced the Lantern League a women’s giving circle that has distributed funds to various local non-profit groups who provide educational programs for women and girls.

Each of the giving circles varied in how they are structured, how much they give, how they select grantees, causes they support, and the type of involvement they want with the grantee organizations. To search for giving circle opportunities near you, do a Google search. Type in: giving circle + your city’s name