Five Days of Grant Proposals: Program Design

The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook. ISBN 978-1-300-59094-1. $24.99.

Now that we have examined the multiple needs that you are working to address and described your organization’s vision for a better world, we can start to design the program. In this section, we will explore:

  • Purpose and Relevance—To begin, we will articulate an overall purpose for the program and connect this to needs and opportunities.
  • Assumptions—Assumptions are individual or collective beliefs that guide our behavior. They are often implicit and unexplored. In this section, we will identify, articulate, and determine if the assumptions upon which your program is based reflect the realities of multiple stakeholders.
  • Research Base and Best Practices—In this section, we will explore how your program integrates or connects with research and best practices.
  • Program History and Results—Next, we will explore the evolution of your program and the impact it has had in its most recent year.
  • Fit with Internal and External Objectives—This section will investigate how your program connects with organizational and community priorities and goals.
  • Goals—We will clearly define and articulate specific goals for the program.
  • Program Reach—This section will explore the number of people who will be impacted, both directly and indirectly, by the program.
  • Partners—Earlier, we identified your organization’s partners. In this section, we will explore the relationship related to this program and identify prospective new partnerships.
  • Activities—This section will outline all of the specific activities and tasks that need to be performed for your program to be effectively implemented.
  • Program Management—Here, we will explore how to build controls and accountability processes into your program design.
  • Implementation Plan—The implementation plan will outline all of the specific components of your program development and implementation. It will also provide you with an opportunity to assign responsibility and deadlines to each of those components.
  • Anticipated Challenges—To conclude, we will explore possible challenges in implementing your program and identify specific strategies to both prevent and circumvent such challenges.

The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook can be purchased at our store. An eBook version is also available.

 

Five Days of Grant Proposals: Vision and Mission

The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook. ISBN 978-1-300-59094-1. $24.99.

Grant proposals often require inclusion of your organization’s mission statement. Your organization likely already has an established vision and mission statement. In case it doesn’t, this page will explain what they are, how they can be developed, and how they are used.

Vision and mission statements define your organization and set its direction. Because your vision and mission statements are the basis for your organization’s existence, its programs and services, and it goals and objectives, it is imperative to attentively construct and communicate meaningful, motivational statements. Both statements should be short enough to memorize, yet informational and inspirational. After reading your vision and mission, a person with no prior knowledge of your organization should have a good understanding of what you do and why you do it. Vision and mission statements should be definitive yet open and flexible enough to respond to environmental changes. Vision and mission statements tend to be in place for the long-term; however, they can be revised as the direction of the organization shifts. In fact, some people have suggested that they are too prescriptive and therefore unnecessary. Because many philanthropic partners request a copy, they are certainly relevant and necessary for nonprofit organizations.

A vision statement is idea-oriented, while a mission statement is action-oriented. I find it helpful to think of the vision as the map and the mission statement as the directions.

A vision statement is a short phrase or sentence that paints a picture of the end result of your organization’s work. It is written as though your organization has accomplished all it has set out to do. It is the organization’s reason for existence. It is your guiding light.

A mission statement describes your organization and explains who you are, what you do, how you do it, where you do it, and why your organization’s purpose and goals are important. It explains how your organization is going to achieve its vision.

Because it can be so integral to the purpose of your organization, the process of developing vision and mission statements should be undertaken with great care. Input from all stakeholders should be considered so that these guiding statements are truly reflective of not only the organization but also the community which the organization has been designed to serve.

Once the vision and mission statements have been established, they can be used internally to guide organizational priorities and decision making in addition to being used externally to succinctly communicate the essence of your organization’s work. They can be used on your website, newsletter, annual report, and other documents to ground your organization’s communications in the vision and mission.

Use the worksheet on the next page to document your organization’s vision and mission statements. If you have not already established these, you can use the questions on the worksheet to guide discussions with stakeholders so that the statements can be developed.

The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook can be purchased at our store. An eBook version is also available.

Five Days of Grant Proposals: Speak with a Program Officer

The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook. ISBN 978-1-300-59094-1. $24.99.

The staffing structure of each philanthropic partner will vary according to its size and organizational design. Most partners will have a designated person to whom inquiries about the feasibility of partnership may be directed. In larger foundations, there may be several program officers with each assigned to a specific geographic or programmatic area. Others might have one volunteer who manages all of the affairs of the organization. Check the organization’s website and annual IRS information return for information about the best person to contact.

When you contact a program officer prior to submitting a proposal, your goal will be to establish a trusting, mutually beneficial relationship. To do this, you will need to balance getting to know the program officer with helping her or him understand the work of your organization.

Prior to calling:

  • research the philanthropic partner;
  • strategically think about how the work of your organization fits within the scope of the philanthropic partner’s work; and
  • identify your goals for the conversation and partnership, but remain open to unexpected possibilities.

During the conversation:

  • introduce yourself, your organization, and the program you would like to discuss;
  • ask lots of questions to determine the prospective philanthropic partner’s goals and priorities, vision for the future of your community, philosophy of partnership, ideas about potential collaboration with other organizations, and openness to developing relationships with new nonprofit partners,
  • determine whether or not the prospective philanthropic partner is interested in continuing the relationship and, if so, then discuss next steps and the future direction of the partnership; and
  • remember to listen as much as, if not more than, you talk; truly be open to the perspective and ideas of the prospective partner.

After the conversation:

  • send an acknowledgement to thank the program officer for her or his time and to reiterate key conversation points; and
  • document details from the conversation and keep your notes on file.

The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook can be purchased at our store. An eBook version is also available.

Five Days of Grant Proposals: Write a Letter of Inquiry

The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook. ISBN 978-1-300-59094-1. $24.99.

Some philanthropic partners might request that you submit a letter of inquiry before submitting a full proposal. This provides them with the opportunity to evaluate whether or not your organization and program are a good fit for their funding priorities. The resources that are requested nearly always far exceed the resources that are available; submitting a letter of inquiry helps philanthropic partners make decisions without the expense of time required to prepare and review full proposals. Letters of inquiry can also open up dialogue about possibilities. Rather than thinking of letters of inquiry as inviting a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response, think of them as opportunities to establish a connection and to explore meaningful ways your organizations can partner, through funding or other means, to co-create a better community.

Philanthropic partners may have specific requirements for letter of inquiry contents. If they do, be sure to provide everything that is requested in the letter. Remember that you are seeking to create a long-term relationship, not to acquire money. The tone of your letter should be professional, but friendly and inviting as well.

You might voluntarily send a letter of inquiry to precede a phone conversation or meeting request.  Such a letter can prepare prospective philanthropic partners so that they can actively engage in conversation when you make personal contact. Letters should be brief yet descriptive so that they effectively convey the key details of your organization and program.

Letters of inquiry should contain the following contents:

  • a brief description of your organization that might include its mission, history, programs, major accomplishments, and distinguishing factors;
  • an introduction to the program for which you are seeking funding including its purpose, uniqueness, goals, geographic area and population served, and documented impact;
  • explanation of how the program connects with community needs that have been identified by either your organization or by an outside entity such as a university, government body, or another philanthropic partner;
  • explanation of how the program connects with the priorities and vision of the philanthropic partner;
  • a description of established support for the program such as participant input, formal needs assessments, partnerships with other organizations, and secured funding;
  • a specific request which might include a phone meeting, site visit, or submission of a full proposal;
  • an expression of gratitude for the philanthropic partner’s time; and
  • complete contact information for the person making the request, which might be the executive director or development director.

The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook can be purchased at our store. An eBook version is also available.

 

Five Days of Grant Proposals: Introduction

The following is an excerpt from my new book, The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook. ISBN 978-1-300-59094-1. $24.99.

Thank you for using The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook! I am excited that you and your organization are taking steps to organize and strengthen your proposal writing.

I have been writing grant proposals for over 10 years and have raised millions of dollars for a variety of organizations through partnerships with private foundations, corporations, and public agencies. I hope that this book helps you clarify and articulate the work of your organization so that you can connect with philanthropic partners and increase support for your programs and for your organization.

Like all organizational endeavors, writing successful grant proposals is based on meaningful relationships—with program participants, staff, volunteers, other organizations, and philanthropic partners. I encourage you to use this book as a framework for a collaborative grant proposal writing process that invites dialogue to explore possibilities and co-create a stronger, more vibrant program, organization, and community.

While this book was created specifically for requests for program funding, you can use some components for general operating or capital support. This book has been designed to capture a breadth of information related to your organization and each individual program. You may find the process of collecting and analyzing this material helpful for other organizational functions such as program development and evaluation or strategic planning.

The book begins with a summary of everything that needs to be done before submitting a proposal and ends with everything that needs to be done after submitting a proposal. In-between, you will find text, questions, and worksheets to think through organizational information, discovering need, program design and evaluation, organizational capacity, budget development, sustainability, and a communications plan. You may find it helpful to work through the workbook in a non-linear way; each section overlaps and interconnects. For example, it would be helpful to think through your program concept before writing a letter of inquiry.

You might find it helpful to complete a workbook for each unique program, service, or initiative offered by your organization. Feel free to copy the worksheets in this workbook for internal use so that you are able to collect and organize information for all aspects of your organization’s work.

Thank you again for using this workbook. If you have any feedback or would like to share a success story, please send an email. I would love to hear from you!

With best wishes for continued success in community and social transformation,

Jessica R. Dreistadt
Founding director, the Fruition Coalition

The Fruition Coalition Grant Proposal Workbook can be purchased at our store. An eBook version is also available.