Thursday, June 20, 2013

Money for changing the world

For KLS, who recently got a job in grant-writing and for BR, who is carrying the vision forward – and for anyone else who can use the information. What follows is a slightly edited version of a handout for a presentation I made at a Temple University conference on Primary Care for the Underserved. The focus is on grass-roots organizations, naturally, and is based on 30+ years of grant-writing and millions of dollars in grants received. This is a distillation of pretty much everything I learned along the way. As always, thanks to Professor Al Shapero at UT Austin School of Business Administration.

Thoughts on Program Planning and Development
Estevan Garcia, MD, Children's Medical Center ED and
Charles Kemp, FNP, Baylor University Community Health
Volunteering at the Agape Clinic


1. Provide real services to people: As noted elsewhere, too many people spend too much time planning and talking. A good idea is the essential first step, but many steps remain. Few grants are awarded on the basis of a good idea or even a need. Granting organizations want to know if you have the ability to provide services that make a difference in people's lives.

2. Explore the problem and resources: This includes providing services – the best means of exploring the problem & solutions:
  • The problem itself (e.g., refugee health or diabetes prevention or whatever) and related areas such as infectious diseases, access problems, cultural issues, immigrant health issues, etc. 
  • Strengths and constraints of the organization primarily responsible for delivering services.
  • Community resources and attitudes.
This is not a literature review, but rather a problem and a dynamic community assessment that is only the first step in the planning process. Too often, a model or plan is fixed early in the process, e.g., we’re going to do parish nursing and this is what parish nursing looks like. Bad planning. Deciding on a plan of action before the problem is understood in its entirety is a mistake. The community assessment is modified as new data emerges and new funding sources arise. Throughout the planning process . . . (see #3 below)

3. Identify potential partners and funding sources; begin planning the project. Researching potential funding sources is an ongoing effort throughout the life of the organization. Funding sources to research should include foundation, corporate, religious, civic, individual, and government (federal, state, and local).

Plans must address the needs of the client population and the desires of funding source(s). Cooperation with other providers is a hallmark of successful proposals. Internally, plans must fit with organization funding development plans. Externally, plans must sometimes be adapted to funding organization constraints. Be flexible! Please note that plans are not yet set.

Write the proposal/finish planning. Creative, effective proposals evolve from a strong understanding of the problem, the community, and a lot of hard work. Proposals/plans must be clearly written, responsive to all requirements of funding sources, show the organization as businesslike and well-managed, and at the same time, be creative. If guidelines are given, plans must be responsive to the guidelines. Using evaluation criteria as a format for the proposal is sometimes possible.

4. Start over again. Rest for a few days and begin again. Successful research, planning, and writing are part of an ongoing process and for me, a lot of failure on the way to success.

Tip. In working on a specific project or a new organization I never sent the first proposal to the best prospect. The more times I reworked a proposal, the better it got. Responding to different sets of guidelines from different organizations taught me different ways of seeing and saying things.

Characteristics of Successful Grant Proposals
  • Responsive to all directions and requirements of the funding source.
  • Meet a specific and recognized (by the funding source) need.
  • Will be carried out by knowledgeable persons who have a history of success.
  • Directed at a population (vs. organization). Funding sources invest in programs to help people. Few give money to help organizations.
  • Innovative and well organized plan of action with reasonable dates for objectives to be achieved.
  • Workable management plan - business acumen is essential.
  • Evaluation plan that will measure and communicate outcomes or impact.
  • Reflect community support in the form of cooperative agreements for organizations to work together.
  • Realistic budget that is neither to high nor to low.
  • Will reflect well on the funding source.
  • Will not die when the current funding runs out - and it always does run out.
  • Carefully written abstract (when an abstract is required). Often the abstract or cover letter makes or breaks the proposal.
Tip. RFPs often have unrealistic deadlines. Tough luck.  That’s just one way of weeding out the unprepared/unqualified. All you can do is bear down and work smart. Everyone else is in the same boat.

Commonly Needed Supporting Documents for Grant Proposals (Start a file NOW - establishing a file of these is part of grantsmanship. Be sure none of this info is dated)
  • 501(c)(3) documents
  • Financial audit letter (if organization is 3+ years old)
  • Organization Chart, including volunteers
  • List of board members, including employment and committee assignments
  • Job descriptions for primary staff
  • Resumes of primary staff (grant-oriented, not employment)
  • Article of Incorporation
  • By-laws
  • Franchise Tax Certificate
  • List of person/agencies likely to support (for obtaining letters of cooperation/ support – which, of course, are about specifics of working together vs. fan letters)
  • Current organization statistics, especially outcomes
  • Listing of current contributors, including in-kind
  • PHS Grants Policy Statement
  • Federal Regulations, Title 45 CFR, Parts 74 and 92 (only if applying for federal grants – which is very complicated)

Steps to Forming a Nonprofit Organization

  • Provide services to clients: Too many people spend too much time planning and talking. Face it. Most of us have good ideas. Few grants are awarded on the basis of a good idea or even a need. Granting organizations want to know if you have the ability to provide services that make a difference in people's lives.
  • Decide purpose and structure.
  • Form initial board of directors.
  • Obtain IRS 1023 application – this document is a great guide to forming a nonprofit! Everything they require is a good thing and something you need.
  • File articles of incorporation.
  • Draft bylaws.
  • Set program plan (mission, goals and objectives, plans of action, and management plan).
  • Develop budget.
  • Develop fund raising plan.
  • Hold formal organizational meeting (elect board of directors).
  • Apply for liability insurance.
  • Establish a record keeping system.
  • File IRS 1023 application [for 501(c)(3)] designation.
  • File Charitable Trust Registration is required.
  • File Employer Registration (federal and state) for income tax withholding.
  • Apply for state sales tax exemption if necessary.
  • Implement the fund raising plan.
  • Register with state unemployment insurance.
  • Apply for nonprofit bulk mail permit (if sending several mailings of over 200 pieces in 12 month period).
  • Develop personnel policies.
  • Begin program activities.
  • Hire staff, obtain space, deliver services, etc.
Continue (1) documenting outcomes and (2) writing proposals and otherwise raising funds.

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