0 comments on “Are You Failing Grants 101?”

Are You Failing Grants 101?

How well do you remember middle school?  Lockers, watching the clock for the bell to ring, changing classes, who likes whom, keeping track of your own assignments, tardies, the absence of the beloved recess….  For many students, this is their first experience with most of these areas, and when you combine all that newness with the pressures of grades ACTUALLY COUNTING for something and the social awkwardness of teens and tweens, life can be pretty overwhelming!  Do you remember that horrible, hollow burning feeling in the pit of your stomach when you discovered that you forgot to bring your gym clothes?  Or what about that sudden panicky sickness the first time you realized that you only get half-credit for late assignments…and it’s only late because you left it in your locker and in all your nervousness to get to class on time, you FORGOT YOUR LOCKER COMBINATION?  And of course, there was THAT teacher…you remember…the one who’s only enjoyment in life seemed to come from making you sing an embarrassing song while standing on your chair for neglecting to bring your pen/pencil/calculator/book/folder/notebook to class. Just the thought of middle school makes me break out into a cold sweat!

Lucky for most of us, middle school is just a misty far-away memory.  All of that turmoil and social angst are behind us, and we are stronger, smarter, and more responsible because of it.  We’ve learned to manage our time, organize our papers (even if the system of organization only makes sense to ourselves!), do our work neatly and completely, and, most importantly, complete our tasks by their deadlines.  Or have we? Which brings this K-8 teacher to the point of this blog post….

If grantseekers were students, what kind of grades would they be making?

Pretend your grantwriter–or the grantmaker for those of you that are grant writers–is the teacher, and you are the student.  Take a good, honest look at your grantseeking habits. Do you make the grade?  

  1. Do your assignments. The first step to writing a successful grant is to make sure you complete all of the required tasks.  Accurately fill in the basic company information.  Send the requested copy of your 501c(3) tax letter.  Email that list of boardmembers and their bios.
  2. Turn your stuff in on time.  Let’s face it….we are all busy people.  On any given day, there is too much work to do, and not enough time in which to do it.  However, grants wait for no man (or woman), and the unfortunate thing is, if you do not get your grantwriter the requested information in a timely fashion, she cannot complete your grant application by the deadline.  Executive directors: Did your grantwriter send you an email asking you to approve, click, and sign the grant for the final submission by the grant’s deadline?  If you don’t, then you are only hurting yourself and your organization.
  3. Follow instructions.  Grantmakers are like teachers…they want things done in a specific way.  If you do not comply, you’ve wasted valuable time, energy, and resources, and your grant will go immediately into the recycle bin without a second thought. Did you follow page counts, font size, margin, and spacing requriements?
  4. Listen & Pay attention.  Really, truly listen, to the grantmaker’s description of the grant….to your grantwriter’s suggestions for improvement or for needed items….  Pay attention to due dates….to needed information….to grant period reporting requriements….to it all!!  If you have a hard time remembering, take notes or ask for an email copy of the grant instructions.  Set up reminders on your phone or calendar (remember those assignment notebooks from middle school?).  There are some magnificent apps out there.  The important thing is to find a system that works for you.
  5. Do your work neatly and completely.  Just like in school, it will help you avoid misunderstandings, mistakes, and problems down the line.  Did you receive that grant?  Great!  Please keep the required receipts, statistics, and other required information, and file your reports COMPLETELY and neatly.
  6. Respect yourself and others.  As with anything, please respect the time and energy of those who are involved in the process of writing your grant application.  It takes many hours of hard work to write a successful grant, and sometimes grantwriters feel like we are constantly nagging our clients to provide us with timely, completed information that is vital to the grantwriting process.  Do you remember that kid in your class whom the teacher constantly had to nag? Jake, where is your pencil?  Jake, are you working on your report that is due Friday?  Jake, have you read chapter 5? Jake, did you turn in your homework?  Jake, are you paying attention? When you honor your grantwriter’s time and efforts by doing all of the things above, you eliminate (or at least drastically reduce!) the need for your grantwriter to constantly remind you for items required to obtain your grant.  

In what areas do you need to improve?  Are there areas in which you are getting tardies, half-credit for late assignments, or 0 participation points?  How will you improve your grade in Grants 101?

With Grantitude,

Lisa Sig

Lisa Wagner is an Associate with SNF Writing Solutions, LLC.

0 comments on “Knock Their Socks Off with a Powerful Thank You”

Knock Their Socks Off with a Powerful Thank You

How to Show Appreciation to Funders (and Non Funders!) That Will Get You Noticed

By Amy Shankland

You got the grant. You’ve celebrated with your staff or client and the organization is ready to implement the project. You’ve already talked about both the regular and financial reporting requirements and are feeling ready to go.

Or… you didn’t get the grant. In the best case scenario, you’ve talked to the funder to find out what you could have done better and why the panel didn’t select your application. In the worst case scenario, you had to find out that you didn’t get the grant through some online article. The funder didn’t even email you a rejection (don’t we all love those cases?)

In either situation, you need to send the funder a thank-you. Yes, you read that right – whether you are funded or not, you absolutely have to show the funder some appreciation. And not just a two-sentence thank you that you dashed off in an email, either.

Not that an email thank you note is a bad thing. More on that later.

I know grant professionals are busy people, and taking the time to write a good thank you note may seem unnecessary. But now, more than ever, the personal touch of a real “thank you” can help an organization rise above others in the competitive world of grants. In fact, if you’re not funded, it can help you move to the front of the line in the next application round.

So what are some great ways to thank a funder? I’ll start with some simple ideas:

  • Have one of the organization’s clients write the thank you. Why not delegate? This can be anything from a heartfelt drawing from a child who has benefitted from an after school program to a beautiful note written by a senior citizen who now has transportation to medical appointments. Talk about an impact!
  • Pass a thank you card around at the next staff meeting to have everyone sign it. A real card that you can actually send snail-mail style. This is also a way to delegate, but is still effective.
  • Take pictures of the project in action and email them to the funder (remember when I said an email thank you note isn’t a bad thing?) This is probably one of my favorite ways to show appreciation to funders. I simply take a couple of photos and email them to the program officer with a big headline saying “YOU made this happen!” The agency can then share them with their board, the grant panel, etc.
  • Use social media. A true no brainer, right? Check with the funder for a good hash tag and promote the heck out of them with it.

You can take some other steps that are a bit more work, but can really “knock their socks off”.

  • Host a yearly “thank you” breakfast. Have staff and board members serve a continental breakfast, hopefully donated from restaurants and stores, to local funders. This takes no more than a couple of phone calls and 90 minutes on a weekday morning, but can make a huge impression.
  • Host a “thank a thon” with board members making actual phone calls to express appreciation to granting agencies. Prepare a simple script for each board member, give him or her 4-5 program officers to call, and you’re done.
  • Have a site visit with a “thank you” theme. Not only will grantors get to see the project in action, but they’ll be personally thanked by some of the individuals who are benefitting from it. Talk about powerful!

There are literally dozens of additional ways you can show appreciation to funders, but these are my favorites. Feel free to share what you like to do in the comments. But remember, no matter what, always take the time to show a funder appreciation. It will definitely pay off in the future.

 

 

Amy Shankland is a former Associate with SNF Writing Solutions and guest blogger.

0 comments on “Property Tax Caps a Top Challenge for Local Governments”

Property Tax Caps a Top Challenge for Local Governments

I was recently asked what the number one challenge is for local governments. As a former employee of a city in Indiana, I know without a doubt that the answer is property tax caps.

These caps were first introduced in 2009 and were meant to help taxpayers. While the caps have certainly accomplished that goal, they have had a dramatic effect on local governments, especially those that are not experiencing growth. This has led to lost revenue for many communities.

According to a December, 2015 Indianapolis Business Journal report, DeBoer and retired Community Research Institute director John Stafford stated that property tax caps have hit older, industrial cities hard, while the growing Indianapolis suburbs and thriving college towns are faring quite well.

I’ve witnessed the work of top officials at many cities, towns, and counties as they cut costs and slash budgets. I understand that everyone wants governments to work as efficiently and lean as possible. I believe most are accomplishing that goal.

However, the tax caps have still caused some unexpected damage. For example, neighboring school districts are seeing drastically different property tax revenues per student due to coverage areas. And I think we’re just beginning to see tax cap consequences like these.

So what can local governments do in order to keep providing vital services to their communities? Some, like the Central Indiana municipality I recently worked for, are looking at alternative funding such as trash fees. While every other city and town in the county has charged a trash fee, this city is still facing quite a battle to implement one.

Communities are also taking a closer look at local option income taxes for new revenue. As budgets continue to get squeezed, local government staff members will work to apply for more federal, state, corporate, and foundation grants.

New crowd funding campaigns, like those led by Citizinvestor http://www.citizinvestor.com/, are popping up for community projects such as dog parks, public art, and trails. These have been successful for some local governments as long as they invest the time and effort to promote the campaigns.

Like many organizations and businesses, local governments are being asked to do more with less. Alternative funding sources and grass roots community support will hopefully help us all continue to benefit from public safety services, parks, strong infrastructure, and more.

With Grantitude,

Amy

Amy Shankland is a former Associate with SNF Writing Solutions, LLC and guest blogger.