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Michigan Women's Foundation
Women's Road Map
August 1997

Grant Tips: Going Beyond "Read the Instructions"

Donna Stewart, grant coordinator for Family Services of Midland, Iowa, says over the years she's picked up a few tips that often don't appear in basic GRANTWRITING 101. She offers the following examples:

The two most common comments made in rejecting a proposal are "we had so many applications" and "it didn't fit our guidelines." While usually legitimate, they are also often used as a general, catch-all reason for turning down a proposal. If you are faced with this, try to make sure you get the real reasons for your rejection.

One way to do so is to ask the funder -- very nicely -- for examples of projects that were particularly good "fits" with funder guidelines. Once you have this information, look for trends. Then in future proposal, stress your guidelines. For example, if you're looking for funding for a multi-site project, indicate that you selected sites "that seemed to fit in best with your guidelines".

In other words, you show that in selecting your activities, participants, etc., you basically conduct a screening process to make sure that all players fit the funder's guidelines.

This article from Federal Assistance Monitor is reprinted with permission of CD publications. For a free copy call 1-800-666-6380.

Corporate Philanthropy: A Moving Target

Anyone who has spent much time recently reading our trade's publications would probably assume that corporate philanthropy has a bleak future. Consider some of the widely publicized facts and opinions:

Indeed, fund raisers who are searching for corporate prospects among the Fortune 500 list have cause for concern. Today, the most exciting prospects for corporate gifts are more likely to be found in our own Small Business News. The challenge is to recognize these economic shifts among the merging leaders in our own community, rather than maintaining a nostalgic (and ultimately self-destructive) adherence to the way things used to be.

We have found that if we apply the time-tested principles to the new economic paradigm, there is much reason for hope.

"People Give to People"

In even the largest corporation, giving decisions are ultimately made by people. Too often, we spend our time crafting the perfect proposal or conducting exhaustive research rather than identifying the corporate decision makers and cultivating a relationship with them. Ask one or your board members to help you cultivate relationships with successful business owners.

"Involvement Leads to Commitment"

The most successful fund raisers are those who seek out the opinions and aspirations of prospective donors. When the leader of an emerging corporation has an authentic opportunity to help you craft a solution to community problems, she is much more likely to provide generous financial support, as well.

"People Give in View of the Gifts of Others"

Your case to a corporation is strengthened when you can cite the inspiring example set by one of their peers in corporate community.

Time after time--in small towns and mid-size cities--we have participated in fund-raising programs that attracted generous support from corporate leaders: a 38-year-old successful entrepreneur in a small Midwestern town that had been abandoned by "traditional" industry, or the third-generation leader of a family-owned retail business who was continuing the charitable legacy established by his father and grandfather.

We are pleased to report that the charitable impulse is still alive and well, but we must search for it in new places.

John G. Goettler, GRFE, is executive vice president of Goettler Associates, Inc., a fund-raising consulting firm based in Columbus, Ohio.

Boards Must Take Lead In Fund Raising

To raise funds or not raise funds. Is that the question? With apologies to William Shakespeare, it's certainly something today's nonprofit board members are asking themselves. And, increasingly, the answer coming back is yes, development activities are at the heart of what directors must contribute to their organizations.

And for nonprofits that have development committees made up of board members and others, the question is: Are those committees all they could be?

Eugene Tempel, an associate professor of philanthropic studies at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, insists that nonprofit boards must take the lead role in fund raising.

In his booklet, Fund Raising Begins with the Board, published by Washington's National Center for Nonprofit Boards, Tempel said board members bring credibility to the process of raising funds for the organization -- something that can't be delegated to others: "Organization executives and fund-raising professionals who oversee successful fund-raising programs repeatedly cite board-member involvement as critical to their success."

"There's a range of activities that the board can be involved in, but the most effective thing they can do is to be personally engaged in asking for funds for the organization," Tempel said.

A variety of tasks included in that process are:

Tempel's views have a wide support among non-profit executives contacted by Crain's.

Brenda Rayford, executive director of Detroit's Black United Fund of Michigan Inc., said while her organization doesn't have a separate development committee, her board members are involved in fund-raising and are required to make a minimum personal contribution or $150, which is earmarked for an endowment fund.

"Most of them, of course, do much more," Rayford said. Black United Fund has a network of volunteers, including a Committee of 100, whose members' responsibility is to raise $100 each.

At the Calhoun County chapter of the American Red Cross, based in Battle Creek, Executive Director Madeline DeLong is well along in a drive to get her directors more active in fund-raising.

"It started with a board campaign with a goal for 100 percent participation and a monetary goal," she said. "We're currently at 86 percent participation and well over the financial goal we set."

Convincing her board to step up its involvement is a process that's ongoing. "We discussed the need to be more aggressive, and the board members recognized that their commitment was needed," DeLong said. "But we're still in the beginning process. We'll see how they respond."

Joe Barger, director of development for Royal Oak-based Judson center, agrees board members need to be active fund-raisers. He also acknowledged that's not always an easy goal.

"Practically speaking, every organization struggles with this," he said. "I don't think there's an organization that has perfected, and the reason is, no matter how smart you are or how much money you have, there are still people who are uncomfortable asking others for money."

The importance of board involvement in fund-raising also is recognized at Grand Rapids-based Family Talk Inc.

"We recognize the importance of the board in fund raising and are trying to develop board membership that focuses on areas where we can get financial help," said James Kool, board president. He said while most of his fellow directors are not directly involved in raising funds, they do provide valuable contacts with individuals who can help Family Talk.

"That's an important aspect of any board-centered fund-raising effort," said Time Lipan, executive director of the Muskegon Oceans chapter of the American Red Cross. "I might be able to target a company and ask for an appointment, and I might never get in the door because they don't know me," Lipan said. "But my chairman who sits on a bank board and is a member of Rotary can get the 20-minute appointment we need to ask for a contribution."

Indiana's Tempel thinks board involvement is key to a successful fund-raising profile. "We believe their (directors') first responsibility should be governance, but they should do the fund raising," he said. "A lot of boards are in denial over their fund-raising responsibility, but successful programs begin with board involvement."

Written by J.D. Booth. Reprinted with permission from Crain's Nonprofit News, March 26, 1997.

How to Improve Your Development Committee

What can you do to make the fund-raising work of your development committee that much more valuable?

  1. Name someone from your board as chairperson of the committee.

  2. Don't be afraid to expand the committee's membership. As one executive director put it, "You can't have too many people".

  3. Make sure the committee members get the training they need.

  4. It takes time to groom a committee and board that are highly involved in fund-raising. Be patient but persistent.

  5. Encourage -- even insist -- that board members show they're "walking the talk" by contributing personally to the organization each year.

  6. Consider bringing in an outside speaker to demonstrate to board members the need for hands-on fund-raising.

  7. Recognize that not everyone will be prepared to ask for money. But those who can't bring themselves to ask should be willing and ready to provide valuable introductions for the organizations to follow-up.
Written by J.D. Booth. Reprinted with permission from Crain's Nonprofit News, March 1997.

Advice to Corporate Grant-Seekers

Our practice at the Conservation Company encompasses extensive work with both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors, so we are often asked how to access corporate dollars and what companies are interested in. My advice is not especially original but it is succinct:

  1. Do your home work. Don't approach companies that are not interested in your field if you're looking for significant levels of support.

  2. Build relationships. Don't start with a proposal, but with a discussion-preferably brokered by a board member or intermediary.

  3. Use any opportunity to educate corporate funders about a societal need or about a societal need or about your unique approach to a problem.

  4. Explore a variety of possible roles for the corporation beyond funding: in-kind support, hosting an event, taking a leadership role, board membership, technical support.

  5. Be proactive in considering a corporation's needs. Avoid the tense moment when the company raises the issue of recognition or public relations; explain candidly how you might work together for mutual benefit.

  6. Consider requesting capacity building support, especially where you have an established relationship. This might include a grant for strategic planning, a fresh approach to development, technical assistance, planning a merger, etc.
Remember, corporate funders are looking to make quality grants that make a difference while supporting their business interests. Your role is to help them in this task.

Written by John E. Riggan. Copyright 1996/1997, Advancing Philanthropy, NSFRE, Alexandria, VA. Reprinted with permission.

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