We are pleased to introduce the first issue of MWF's newsletter for the staff of organizations serving women and girls.
Women's organizations are uniquely qualified to provide critical services that address problems and needs of Michigan women. However, because many are relatively new and have limited resources, they often lack the credibility and skill to compete successfully for limited public and private funding. Thus many struggle constantly for organizational survival and may not reach their full potential for serving women and girls.
The Michigan Women's Foundation was established in 1986 as a way to increase support for programs and projects targeted to Michigan women and girls and is one of over 60 women's in the United States. MWF uses donors' contributions to make grants to women's organization, to provide training and consultation to women's nonprofits to help them strengthen their management, and to increase awareness of and support for the needs of women and girls among other foundations, individuals and the corporate community.
Thanks to a grant from the Chrysler Fund, WOMEN'S ROAD MAP will be published bi-monthly and free of charge as a project of our ongoing Management Assistance Program. Our goal is to improve the management of women's organizations and, this, enable them to compete more successfully in the nonprofit marketplace.
We look forward to bringing you an easy-to-read source of accurate, usable, action-oriented information and technical assistance on a wide variety of management topics - from fund raising to leadership, from financial management to grantseeking. And we look forward to your suggestions, comments and questions.
Planning Special Events: Some solid suggestions that should help just about everyone planning a special event:
More on Special Events: Women's organizations tend to set their fund raising goals very low and to favor special events - which often translates into lots of work for very little reward. Before forging ahead on a special event, consider two things. First, how much do you realistically think you can raise with the event and is it really worth the effort? Second, if you only have people on the planning committee, who want to make decisions - like what color napkins to use or how much spaghetti to cook - but few who are willing to sell tickets, don't do the event. Selling tickets is the work that will make or break your event.
Mail Matters: Consider using a custom mailing house to do your large mailings such as newsletters and donor appeals, rather than having staff or volunteers spend many hours doing everything by hand.
You may be surprised at how inexpensive it can be to use a mailing service - sometimes as low as $50 per 1,000 pieces of mail. Weight that cost against the staff time expended in labeling and zip-sorting a large mailing by hand. That's important when you have a small, overworked staff.
Look under "Mailing Services" in your yellow pages. They can stuff and seal envelopes, label, zip-sort, apply postage, take the mailing to the post office; some can even run your mailing labels for you.
Also, postal rates just went up - to 29 cents for a first class letter and with a corresponding increase in bulk rates. Have you accounted for a minimum 15% postage increase in your 1991 budget? Here's another area where mailing houses can be helpful...they can zip-sort your bulk mailings for the best possible rate. And this is a good time to scrutinize your mailing list and remove bad addresses and "dead wood," in order to reduce the cost of each mailing.
Publications & Other Luxuries: Virtually every women's organization has a tight budget - so tight that "luxuries" like office improvements, staff recognition and celebrations, training, and publications are left out of the budget. We would argue that these and similar expenditures are not luxuries at all but rather things that will, in the long run, pay for themselves in better staff morale and more efficient and effective programs.
Publications are a good example. An annual publications budget item of just $150 would buy one-year subscriptions to three credible, useful nonprofit publications - Nonprofit World ($59), Grassroots Fundraising Journal ($25) and The Chronicle of Philanthropy ($57.50).
Among the three publications, you could keep on top of what's happening in the nonprofit world - issues, trends, facts, ideas and solutions. We can almost guarantee that what you would learn from reading these three or any of a number of other nonprofit publications will easily save you $150 a year in operating costs and/or bring in $150 more in donations and other income.
On top of reaping financial benefits, making it a priority to read several publications each month is a quick and easy way to increase your skills and widen your perspective.
Next time you're preparing a budget, think carefully about whether you can really afford not to spend money on some of those so-called luxury items.
Effective grantseeking is not a mysterious process and is most successful when approached in a systematic manner. First and foremost, a grantseeker must be certain (and able to document) the need of the proposed program or project. In today's economy, foundations are forced to carefully allocate their resources and prioritized their giving. Only those proposals that are carefully thought out, prepared and clearly address a need, will be given consideration.
Probably the most important part of the proposal is the budget. Grantmakers are skilled in analyzing a balance sheet and quick to spot a budget that is not accurate (padded). Be forthright, concise and honest -- inaccuracy is the kiss of death. Also, beware of duplication; foundations are not into reinventing the wheel.
Once funded, is there a reasonable expectation that the program or project will survive after the grant monies run out? Foundations are like any buyer; they like to get the most for their buck.
Eschew verbosity. Staffs appreciate it and trustees, who make the grant decisions and are volunteering their time, love it.
Finally, carefully research the foundation(s) under consideration to determine their funding guidelines. For example, it's a waste of everyone's time to approach a foundation for capital support when bricks and mortar are not within the foundation's giving pattern. Foundations have "personalities" and usually have specific areas of interest. This information is available at certain libraries housing Foundation Centers and from the Council of Michigan Foundation's publication, The Michigan Foundation Directory.
Beth Goebel, Executive Director
MWF Note: The best research on whether a foundation will consider your request is done by telephone and/or in person. WE realize that this approach is scary to most people but it really will pay off in more successful grantseeking.
Do the basic rules of proposal writing seem obvious? Maybe not -- some recent applications for MWF grants overlooked a few things in their applications:
According to Sally Helgesen, author of The Female Advantage: Women's Ways of Leadership (Doubleday, 1990), it isn't necessary for women to be "imitation men" to succeed as leaders. She contends that women lead differently from men and in these differences lie great strengths, not weaknesses. Her argument is based on her research and case studies of several highly successful women leaders.
Helgesen contrasts women's ways of leadership with the analyses of male leadership that shape much of the classic literature on leadership and business success. She found several patterns of similarity and dissimilarity between the women she studies and the male leaders described by other researchers: