Sunday, March 11, 2012

Researching Potential External Funders

You've been charged the task of raising money for your school.  Perhaps you are already a fundraiser, as I am, with a variety of experience.  Either way, whether you are experienced or not at all in fundraising, you will need to seek out the best fit in external funders for your organization or school. 

Your "constituents" seem pretty obvious, right?  School families, church families if it is a church-based school, local businesses perhaps, but what after that?  Where do you go next? 

A good old Google search will provide some information.

For example, "education grants in Illinois," "art education grants," and other similarly specific searches will give you direction. 

Target, offers grant funds to elementary schools for the purpose of education.

In the St. Louis area, Innovative Technology Education Fund, offers funding to schools specifically for the purpose of upgrading technology.

You can also locate a listing of Foundations by state for Missouri listings and for Illinois listings.
Sit down at your computer with a cup of coffee and peruse the listings.  You will be able to cross most off the list by definition; however one good lead is all you need.

Once you have that one good lead, research past grant recipients, find out all that you can about their grants, processes, what they like to fund, etc.

Another very important aspect of grant-writing is begin succint and making a very specific ask.  To write a grant and simply ask for $15,000 because you need $15,000 in your general operating fund will not fly.  Find a needed project and then write a grant requesting funding to meet that need.  Some things are easier to write for than others; however, the overall objective is to match your need to the funder's desire to donate. 

Let's take the Target art grant for example.  They do not typically fund "art supplies."  Ask your art teacher what they would really like.  A successfully written grant applcation will request, for example, the "John Smith" art series which highlights famous artists with books and videos which can be integrated into the current curriculum.  Another request might be funding for a specific guest artist to interact with the students.

As you are being specific with the ask, you must also be specific and reasonable with your anticipated costs.  Let's go back to the artists curriculum additional material.  The cost of the curriculum is $XXX, shipping is $XXX.

If you think about the guest artist, you might list their cost for the event, travel expenses if required, food, etc.  Think in terms of everything you would need to completely implement the event/project.

Next time we'll look at the typical parts of a grant application and how to complete them.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How to Set an Appointment with a Funder

So, you've done a little research and found a great grant opportunity!  Good for you!  Now, the work begins.  Funders state that they WANT potential grantees to contact them, to let them know what they are doing, and keeping them updated on their project(s). 

I think it's somewhat difficult for fundraisers to really believe that funders WANT to see you...they really do.  How better to get your great story about your very important project?  Before you make the call consider a couple of things:

1.  Check your information and get the most up-to-date contact name and phone number.  As an aside, this is NOT a place to email unless you've been instructed to do so.  An old-fashioned phone call is the ticket here.

2.  Write a script beforehand to be sure you cover all the points you need.  We all get a little nervous and sometimes we're prepared for the voicemail and when a real voice answers, we get a little shook up.

Here is a sample script I've used before:

Hi, this is Lisa Masters with XYZ.  Is Ms. ABC available?  Ms. ABC, I am working on a project for XYZ and I was hoping I could set down with you for 10-15 minutes to get your input on how best to proceed in the grant process. 

You will get an appointment or you will be pointed in the direction of the right person to contact.  Sometimes this is the Executive Director and sometimes it is a Program Director or similar titled person.

In any event, you've made the first, best, and most important step....keep going!

Next time we'll have some tips for getting fully prepared for this all-important meeting! 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Technology Grant Awarded!

A process started in April of 2009 culminated in that much anticipated, "you have been awarded..." telephone call.

It had happened!  It had finally happened!! 

I was on a quest for technology funding for our school which was a about 5 years or more behind the proverbial curve.  The following details a portion of the story...

1.  Searched online for "technology grants, technology funding, funding for private schools, etc."
2.  Found the Lutheran Foundation in St. Louis and saw that they had indeed funded some schools.
3.  Applied and was denied from the Lutheran Foundation
4.  Listened to a Lutheran Foundation staff person at an Association of Fundraising Professionals "Meet the Donor" breakfast and they noted that funders like to hear from those requesting grant funds.
5.  Contacted the Lutheran Foundation staff person who directed me to their president.
6.  Met with the Lutheran Foundation president for lunch and presented information about our school and asked for direction. *sent a thank you letter
7.  She put me in touch with the executive director of the Innovative Technology Education Fund with whom they work in granting funds to Lutheran schools.
8.  Contacted the Innovative Technology Education Fund (ITEF) executive director who put me in touch with their program officer.
9.  Met program officer from ITEF for lunch and presented our marketing information .  I explained what we were looking to do and asked for direction. *sent a thank you letter
10.Applied for grant with as detailed information as possible and with suggestions from the program officer.
11.Received word that we were selected for a site visit.
12.Prepared for and hosted a successful site visit. *sent a thank you letter
13.Heard those wonderful, wonderful words, "you have been awarded a grant!" *sent a thank you letter

Nearly three years had passed since we began.  What are our lessons?

You must perservere, you must research and get on the phone and ask questions. 
Don't be afraid to meet and ask a funder what they suggest. 
Always, always have information prepared to give to a funder to back up your reasoning for requesting a grant. 
When you return from a meeting, a great phone call, a site visit, or a congratulatory phone call, ALWAYS send a thank you letter on professional stationery.
When communication throughout the grant application process, be completely honest, ask questions if necessary. 
Return grant paperwork as soon as possible
Maintain accurate records as grant fund purchases are made so that impact, mid-grant reports, follow up reports, etc. are easily assembled.

Next time:  How to get a meeting with a funder!