Four Ways Grants Are Like Blizzards

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As the DC area (where Altum is headquartered) prepares for what could be one of the worst snowstorms in the region's history, here are four ways that grants are like blizzards:

  1. They benefit greatly from preparation.  Everyone in the mid-Atlantic and beyond has spent the past several days buying groceries, snow shovels, ensuring that flashlights have batteries, and, if they're like me, ensuring that there's enough ground coffee in the house to be able to use a French press for the requisite caffeine fix if the power goes out.  While preparing to write grant proposals and manage the grant once it's awarded involves different components, preparation is equally important.  Proposals require thought, time, and attention, and it helps to have all of the components lined up well before the deadline to be able to write a compelling proposal.  And what happens if your organization gets the grant?  Are you prepared to execute the programs you proposed?  Do you have the right resources lined up/available to run the project?  Preparation is key.
  2. Timelines are beyond your control and can't be changed.  While there's more predictability to grant deadlines than to when blizzards will hit, the timelines are beyond your control.  Grant applications will have deadlines set by the funders, as will any post-grant reports.  And those deadlines can't be changed, even if they don't fit well with your schedule.  Just like an impending storm.  It's undoubtedly inconvenient for many people that this blizzard will hit starting this afternoon.  They had other things planned.  They don't want to rearrange their schedules to accommodate this one big thing.  But rearrange their schedules they must.  And with grant deadlines, grantwriters and others involved in the process must accommodate the funder's schedule, not the other way around.
  3. They can cost more than you anticipate.  Bad winter storms can cause some damage, and cleanup can be costly.  While grants help the organizations to which they are awarded, sometimes they cost more than the organization anticipates.  That's why it's important to evaluate the net grant - how much a grant is really worth - before applying for a new grant opportunity.
  4. They involve piles of white stuff.  Forecasters are predicting at least 2 feet of snow in the greater DC area.  But even two feet of snow doesn't stack up to the piles of paper that can be involved in the grantwriting process.  And that's where grants software, like PhilanTrack, comes into play. 

Learn

And stay safe!

 

Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/foox404/8367145381

Author: Dahna Goldstein
January 22, 2016, 02:37 PM

Grants Management System for Nonprofits - Convincing Your Board

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Perhaps you’ve heard these things before:

  • "We don’t need software for that."
  • "Our current process works just fine."
  • "We have a donor management system.  Can’t we just use that to manage our grants, too?"

There are many versions of those statements, but they all amount to the same thing: your board or senior management indicating that investing in grant-specific software isn't high on their priority list.

But you know that grants management software will make your job easier, and will also help your organization raise more money and direct more resources to your mission.  So how can you make the case with your board or senior management?

While every organization is different, there is one common thread: nonprofits exist to pursue a mission and make the world better in one way or another.  Your job in convincing your board to invest in a grants management system is to help them see that the system will help your organization better pursue its mission.

Here are a few things to try:

  • Quantify how much time you (and your colleagues, if other people in your organization are involved in finding, applying for, and management grants) are spending on all of your grant-related activities.  Include things like:
    • Researching new funding opportunities
    • Communicating with prospective funders
    • Communicating with current funders
    • Tracking down documents submitted to funders in the past
    • Managing documents that funders request (e.g., 501(c)(3) determination letter, audited financial statements, etc.)
    • Keeping track of deadlines for proposals and progress reports
    • Writing grant proposals
    • Writing progress reports
    • Etc.
  • If you – and any other staff members who work with you to pursue grants – were spending less time on one or more of those activities, what could you spend that time doing?  Would those activities be putting staff time to better use?  Would they help your organization raise more money?
  • Articulate your current challenges with grantseeking and how they would be solved with an online grants management system?
  • Talk with your board or senior management about your organization's fundraising goals.  Are you consistently meeting your fundraising goals?  Are you striving to raise more money in general?  More grant funds in particular?  Does your organization want to diversify its funding sources so that it isn’t overly reliant on one source of funding?  How does getting more grants, with more efficient use of staff time, fit into those goals?
  • More broadly, talk with your board or senior management about your organization’s mission, and what resources are required to pursue your mission as best you can.  Can more resources be obtained and put to use if your organization raises more grant funds? 
    • In some cases, boards and senior management may be hesitant to spend money on software that could be spent on activities that directly pursue mission objectives.  In that case, you can try to remind your board or senior management that an investment in software is not a direct tradeoff – it will position you to raise more funds that can then be dedicated to pursuing your mission.
    • On a related note, the Overhead Myth is trying to help tackle this problem.  Investing in things that help your organization grow will help your organization better meet its mission. 

Share your tips for making the case with your board and senior management in the comments below, or request a demo to learn how PhilanTrack can help streamline your grantseeking.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_warfield/4992455554/
Author: Dahna Goldstein
July 24, 2013, 11:40 AM

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