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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!

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.

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


Three Ways To Improve Your Persuasion Skills

Monday, June 20th, 2011

If you’re a grantwriter it stands to reason that you’ll need to sharpen your communication skills. You’ll be called upon to write clear, accurate, error-free proposals. But there’s one other communication skill that isn’t frequently mentioned in job descriptions. The skill of persuasion.

Who's Lives Will You Change With This Project?

Persuasion is the ability to influence, to win over, and perhaps change somebody’s mind.  In the world of grantwriting, you may see how this capability would come in handy. You want the grantor who is reading dozens of proposals from other organizations to be affected by your proposal and your cause. Ultimately you hope to sway them to say yes.

But how do you persuade others?

1.    You convince them that the project serves a pressing need in the community.

Identify specifically what the need is, whom you’ll serve, and how you’ll fill the need. Remember to tie this to your mission.

2.    You ensure them that trusting your organization is a good investment.

Tell them about your track record of implementing your mission to serve the community. Briefly highlight your history in the community, notable partnerships, and any other facet that lets them know you’re a responsibly managed organization with strong community support.

3.    You urge them to action.

Give a compelling case of why this can’t wait. What are the consequences or who will be impacted if you don’t gain their support? Tell them what you need from them to put the project into place. Give them a visual.

Ethics and Grantwriting

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

Ethics includes a person or organization’s moral principles, values, and philosophy.  As a fundraiser and grantwriter, it is imperative to conduct oneself in a professional and ethical manner.  Consider the following:

1. You represent your organization.

2. You represent your organization’s organizational values.

3. You affect your organization’s image and reputation.

4. Your practices and your behavior affect your organization’s ability to raise funds.

Practice the profession with integrity.

At all times you must strive to demonstrate professional and ethical practices.

For grantwriters that means you should practice accountability in the way you present your organization in your grant proposals. Ensure that you inform potential grantors with accurate information, a truthful history, real accomplishments, and correct budgets, etc.

Do not exaggerate. Do not mislead. Do not lie.

Do not cover up information that would make a funder turn you down.

You also need to demonstrate sound accounting principles and practices.

Manage the gift acceptance process. (A gift acceptance policy or guidelines can define the steps your organization follows to receive and record grants and contributions).

Inform donors about the use of their funds. (Some funders will ask how their funds were used; some grantors require a written report after the funded project has ended). Some might not ask at all, but you should certainly let them know the results of the project.

Practice accountability by adhering to donor intentions.

You can only spend grant funds in the manner allowed by the approved grant proposal; or the instructions that came with the check; or, if you want to change any elements of the funded project, by approval of the grantor. (It’s important that everyone involved is on the same page regarding how the funds will be spent—BEFORE you submit the grant application)!

Five Rookie Mistakes To Avoid

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Listen to internet radio with GrantWhisperer on Blog Talk Radio
Common errors can prevent your organization from winning a grant. Learn what traps to watch for and avoid. The Grant Whisperer will show you what to do for success. Click on the arrow above to listen to the 16 minute audio episode.

Tie Your Grant Proposals To The Funder’s Interests

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Yes, your organization’s mission is vitally important. We’ve discussed that your mission is why your organization exists. Your mission also guides organizational decision-making and it gives the organization a sense of direction. In other words, just about every activity your organization engages in has to do with furthering your mission. Just as every communication out of your organization has to do with your mission. And naturally, every grant proposal you write has to do with supporting your mission. Do you see how your mission drives everything? So knowing how crucial YOUR mission is, I now ask you to consider your FUNDER’S mission.

Animal Shelter

That’s right. Your potential funder’s mission is vitally important, too. Why? You can have the most wonderfully written grant proposal ever submitted, but if it doesn’t match the funder’s interests and mission, your wonderful proposal will be rejected. The reason they can’t fund projects that don’t match their mission is because the reason THEY exist, or their funding priorities exist, is to fulfill THEIR mission—just like your organization. The lesson here is to be sure your grant proposal matches the funder’s interests, priorities, and mission. You’ll be a step closer to winning a grant award.

Let’s Talk About Mission Part I

Monday, January 31st, 2011

If you’re new to grantwriting or if you’re new to the nonprofit world, you may have questions about your organization’s mission. What is a mission statement and why is mission so important? I define mission as the reason your organization exists. It’s the purpose of your organization. Does your organization exist to feed the hungry? To teach music to elementary school students? To provide hospice care? To provide a shelter for animals? You must first know the answer to this question before you can write a mission statement.

Children Playing Music

A mission statement is necessary for grant proposals. It’s a brief statement that immediately lets a potential funder know what you’re all about. And before they award you a grant, they want to know all about you. A mission statement is more than a couple of sentences; it guides decision-making, it gives the organization a sense of direction, it can announce your organizational values or ethical position and it can include the organization’s goals. It should be meaningful and truly identify why you exist. Click here for sample mission statements. Or just visit the web sites of your favorite nonprofits, such as the San Francisco Symphony or the Los Angeles Zoo. The zoo shows their mission in blue words under the heading, ‘about the zoo’.

The Bare Minimum to Include in a Proposal

Tuesday, January 11th, 2011

Last week on Blog Talk Radio (January 5th episode) I discussed the bare minimum to include in a grant proposal. Wait let me back up. You never know where you’ll pick up a kernel of grantwriting wisdom. For me, I attended a philanthropy award luncheon and (I love acceptance speeches) one of the awardees, board president Robert Borawski of the Robert Brownlee Foundation gave a marvelous acceptance speech that had the crowd roaring in applause. He said that he looked for three things in a grant proposal that came across his desk and he urged everyone in the room to start writing proposals that included those three things in two pages!

I remember hearing gasps, and whispers, and ultimately applause for this unusual request. The room was filled with about 600 fundraisers, professional grantwriters, and development executives. Many had never heard a funder suggest a two-page grant proposal before. But when I heard him name the three things, it made sense, and I realized that these were the bare minimum that should be included in a grant proposal. Listen to the Gant Whisperer BlogTalkRadio show episode: Grant Writing 101.

Tips For Grantwriting

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

I promised to let readers of this blog know about cool articles I come across and today I found a very informative one. Judy Kunofsky, of consulting firm, Zimmerman Lehman, wrote an article called Ten Tips For Grantwriting. In her ten tips Judy mentions a handful of items that I take for granted and I likely would not have talked about them. Three of her tips: 1. Tell the foundation how your project matches their priorities, 2. Echo the foundation’s language, and 3. Ask someone in-house to read your proposal, are topics I cover in my book and you’ll tire of hearing me say here. But one of her tips, the first one in her list of ten, is worthy of singling out. She states, “Pay more attention to describing your program than your philosophy.”  I like this tip. You often have a limited word count when you write grant proposals. Get to the heart of the request quickly and while you’re there elaborate on what matters to the potential funder! Judy also states, “Groups are often weakest in describing what they plan to do if this particular grant is funded.”  She’s right. Don’t leave out this valuable information. And remind the funder that their support will make it all possible. To read Judy’s full article click here.

Where to Find Grant Proposal Samples, Part II

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

Other than online, where else can you find grant proposal samples?

1. Look at your internal files.

Has your organization ever applied for a grant? If so, you’re in luck. You have some history to learn from. (See Part I to review what you’re hoping to learn from reading). But if you’re the first in your organization to write a grant proposal, don’t worry. The Grant Whisperer is here to help.

2. Look at the grantor’s web site.

The funder you are applying to may have grant samples on their web site. Some funders may have a grant orientation meeting where they provide grant samples. Government agencies are great at providing grant samples to prospective applicants. Which is fabulous since their applications can be cumbersome.

3. Visit your library.

Your library’s reference section may have a book with grant proposal samples. Your librarian may even be able to help you locate sources for grant proposal samples. (My book will be coming soon)!

4. Ask a colleague.

Whatever industry your organization falls under there is a colleague you can call. A colleague from a local non-competing industry may be willing to show you a successful proposal. For example, say your organization is an art museum; perhaps you have a connection to someone at the women’s shelter, which is, generally speaking, a non-competing industry as far as grants go. Also, a colleague from a long distance ‘similar’ industry may feel unthreatened sharing a sample with you. Say your art museum is in Topeka, Kansas. Most likely, a San Francisco art museum isn’t competing for the same grant dollars that you are. Perhaps your executive director or other staff has a connection to an organization that is happy to help out.

Where to Find Grant Proposal Samples, Part I

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

If you’re new to grantwriting, one thing I recommend is for you to locate and read grant proposal samples before attempting to write one yourself. You have much to gain by reading proposal samples such as: get a sense of how to tackle certain questions, see how the proposal is structured, learn the types of questions that may be asked, and become familiar with grant writing styles. Also, by reading proposals, you can see that they are not mysterious, intimidating documents, but rather, something that you, yourself can gain confidence to write.

Where do you find grant proposal samples? Below are a few places to look.

Online sites such as the Colorado Grants web site, which provides 3 samples at:

and the School Grants web site provides several education-related samples at:

Be wary when searching for grant samples online. There are many websites that seem like they provide samples but when you get there, you discover that they are advertisements for you to hire grant services or they want you to buy something.