Consider that you are the executive director of a typical small or mid-sized charitable organization.
You’re a fantastic supervisor; you believe in your cause and care about the dedicated but strong staff and volunteer team. Your little yearly grant pool has been growing gradually but steadily. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough grant opportunities to hire a full-time grant writer, so you ask your Director of Development to manage things instead. Every year, you apply for more grant money from more sources. Your board is ecstatic, which is fantastic! Your initiatives are assisting a more significant number of people. As you obtain better data on program success, new funding opportunities appear. Everything appears to be going swimmingly… Except it isn’t.
You won’t notice that your Director of Development hasn’t slept in three weeks, and your organization’s recent success with grants is just a tiny fraction of what it might be if the organization was not guilty of the four most common mistakes when administering financial assistance.
Common Mistake #1: Your grants are being written by the incorrect individuals.
Like any other fundraising aspect, grant writing comes down to balancing your team’s time spent on an activity and the money you raise. Consider again that you’re the CEO doing some quick arithmetic on a discarded gala napkin. You’ll most likely discover that applying for six additional grants this year will require your development team to do more than 200 extra work hours.
Where are you getting all of those hours?
There is no way your annual fundraising goals have increased this year. They can’t come from events, membership, or corporate fundraising. Those objectives are just as crucial! Maybe you can squeeze those 200 hours into that planned giving campaign you keep putting off? Perhaps your Director of Development may reschedule those donor visits until next quarter…
Even your incredible Director of Development only has 24 hours each day. This indicates that those 150 additional hours will be taken away from other elements on your annual development calendar, or they’ll come from a staff member working late into the night and on weekends. Another alternative is to delegate the grant writing duty to someone else – perhaps you, the CEO. Alternatively, your organization may utilize an intern. In any of these cases, those extra hours are losing your possibilities and causing stress.
The first and most frequent blunder in grant writing is assigning the wrong person to write grants. As a result, nonprofits lack a vital component: someone who knows how to write successful assignments. If your organization, like many other small or mid-sized NGOs across the country, lacks enough grant work to justify a full-time grant writer, you don’t have one. Consequently, these individuals are given your opportunity instead of focusing on enhancing their skills by conducting donor visits, recruiting new board members, or starting a planned giving campaign.
Imagine if your company’s CEO was in the same situation as our made-up chief executive. Then, consider what your organization could accomplish if your Director of Development had an extra 150 hours (nearly a whole month) each year to develop your fundraising department.
Reduce the amount of work your grant program requires by scaling back or finding someone, such as a contractor or a part-time employee, who can write your grants. This can help to get the task completed for a fraction of what it would cost you to pay your CEO or Director of Development to do the same job and who can produce considerably better results than someone on staff with no grant experience.
Common Mistake #2: Grantors have a poor track record of relationship management.
Foundations are essential to mission contributors, but organizations frequently neglect them once a grant is secured, and the standard acknowledgment letter is sent. On occasion, nonprofits forget to submit necessary documents. It’s easy to see how a foundation’s board and employees would react to this treatment over time.
Nonprofits treat foundations like this for the most part because of two reasons.
Reason 1: The wrong individuals are in charge of writing the grants. For example, CEOs and Directors of Developments have little time to write assignments while also having to spend hours and hours planning and executing a responsibility strategy.
Reason 2: Nonprofits lack the necessary tools for managing these connections. Don’t be fooled by anyone who claims that managing relations is a science. Yes, you’ll need some people skills, but you’ll also need a method or tool to help you run your foundation relationships effectively and efficiently.
During critical personnel changes, losing track of your organization’s connection with its funders is easy. Therefore, it is essential to be prepared for this and ensure you have the people and technology necessary to manage and track your funders long-term.
Solutions: 1) Find people that are capable of writing your grants;
2) Find a CRM (database) with excellent built-in relationship management software so you and your team can use it to implement your stewardship plans while also retaining past connection data.
Common Mistake #3: Grant Opportunities Can Be Difficult To Keep track Of
The grant that was missed is a story that every nonprofit executive has heard before. There are a variety of reasons why this might happen, but the most common one is because the staff does not have enough time to write and submit an application. Unfortunately, this happens for the same reason as Sin #2: the wrong (extremely busy) individuals are writing grants, and proper management and monitoring systems aren’t in place.
Solutions: Find individuals who have the skills and experience to write your grants. 2) To assist with tracking grant possibilities and keeping them on your radar, look for a nonprofit CRM that offers great relationship management software.
Common Mistake #4: Not Exploring New Possibilities
It takes time and money to discover new grant possibilities. Foundation Center’s online directory may cost $1,500 per year, while GuideStar is $2,000 per year. A Google search might get you far, but it is limited by time and money. Nonprofits are compelled to apply from same funders as their neighbors and peers throughout their community and sector each year because of time and money restrictions. This is a good approach; however, it does not help you grow, and it is nearly impossible to detect new prospects due to funders changing their attention or establishing entirely new foundations.
Solutions: Make sure you have the right tools at your disposal. Consider working with a contractor that has access to critical search
tools and the ability to utilize them. Alternatively, consider hiring a part-time employee and buying a subscription to Foundation Center’s online directory.
This is not an exhaustive list of all the blunders made by nonprofit employees; instead, it’s a compendium of some of the most common and fixable grant management issues. Nonprofits strive to do the maximum amount of good with the fewest resources feasible. I commend a small or medium-sized nonprofit with the right time, money, and tools to handle all its fundraising efforts effectively. But I’ve never met them. Taking a bold step like hiring a contractor to manage part of your grant management procedure or purchasing a CRM that will provide you with the tools you need to manage connections and not miss deadlines might be daring. Still, it has the potential to revitalize your organization’s approach to grants and offer new possibilities for expanding your whole development program.
Whether you’re a startup organization or a leading corporation, CommunityForce provides fully customizable, all-in-one online scholarship management solutions to maximize your efficiency, simplify complex processes, and improve collaboration so you can focus on increasing your impact. We’ve helped organizations streamline their entire process no matter the size and scope of their giving.