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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.


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.

How Stories Can Strengthen Your Grant Proposals

Friday, February 4th, 2011

If you haven’t yet visited my Blog Talk Radio Show, this is the week to do it. Special guest Andy Goodman visited on the February 2nd episode to talk about Storytelling the Next Big Thing. He talked about the 6 categories of stories and how you as fundraisers and grantwriters could use each type of story in your organization to advance your mission. Now for those of you who have been reading my book, Grant Writing 101, you will notice that I wrote about some of these same topics that Mr. Goodman points out, although I didn’t refer to them as stories.  But he presents it differently and I like that. It is always good for you to hear things presented another way until you hear the explanation that grabs you and causes you to say, aha, I get it!

Storytelling As Best Practice

But Mr. Goodman also points out stories that are not in my book. For example, he talks about the ‘Creation Story’, which is the story of how your organization started. It’s the spirit of your organization and it’s vibrant history. These are compelling stories to gather, and as effective as his other stories not only for advancing your mission, but also for grant writing. Click here to listen to the program.

Let’s Talk About Mission Part II

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Now that you know the importance of identifying your organization’s mission, let me stress once more that mission will come up again and again when you write grant proposals. Not only that, but mission will be front and center when dealing with donors, sponsors, and grant funders. And believe it or not, mission is or should be on every piece of collateral material, advertising, and social media your organization uses. Organizations that are effective at emphasizing their mission this way will draw many supporters and advocates of the mission to them. And we all know how critical community support is to our organization’s vitality.

Hospice care

It’s important to note that if your organization has a wimpy, or vague, or uninspiring mission statement, or if your current mission statement is no longer reflective of all you do, then it’s time to rewrite it. Do not resist. It’s worth spending the time to have a kick-butt mission statement. It’s actually imperative that you do. Click here for an article on creating a mission statement. Click here for another article on writing a mission statement.

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’.

Watch Your Tone of Voice

Friday, December 10th, 2010

What does tone of voice have to do with grantwriting?  Plenty.  Just as when you’re talking to your child when they’ve done something good, or your spouse when they’ve done something bad; and just as a manger talks to you at work, tone means everything.  When you’re writing a grant proposal keep your tone in mind.

Tone of voice is your attitude.  You don’t want to come across as over-confident, yet you don’t want to come across as needy, with your hand out.  In grantwriting there is a happy medium.  That’s what you want to aim for in your grant proposal.

Often the grant itself will determine your tone. If you’re requesting a grant for ill children in a long-term care hospital, your tone will be more serious. You’d want a tone that offers a sense of hope for the children and their families (with the grantor’s support).  If you’re writing a grant for children’s musical theater, your tone will be more upbeat and fun.  But in ALL cases, your tone stays true to your organization’s mission.