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*Note from Diane: We are thrilled to have a guest post today presenting a point of view directly from a grant maker. I am honored to be a part of the LEAD Council for the Northern New York Community Foundation and to be a part of their work in Northern New York. Our guest post today stemmed from the great dialogues Max and I have when I stop in to their new Philanthropy Center between meetings.


Guest Post By Max DelSignore

Assistant Director, Northern New York Community Foundation (Watertown, NY)


A couple envelopes arrive in the mail each week. The enclosed materials are usually the same. A few typed or hand-written sentences put together on a tri-fold, one-page document. Other paperwork may be attached – inserts, publications, or maybe news clippings.

This is the makeup of an obligatory grant report from a non-profit organization. It symbolizes the conclusion of another successful community project. Community foundations across the country receive these required updates.

However, a grantee may decide these documents aren’t enough. The support received is much more than a transaction, so they decide to do more. What comes next can be a tipping point for future support of your organization.


You could hear the excitement from the screen, even though there was no sound.

A local non-profit housing organization recently launched a pilot program to introduce community gardening and healthy nutrition options to families residing in a low-income neighborhood. A $2,000 grant was made by our Youth Philanthropy Council at the Northern New York Community Foundation (Watertown, New York) to support this initiative. When the award was announced, an email was shared with a two-word, all-CAPS statement:


This was only the beginning of the message.

The organization’s director was enthusiastic to share the outcomes of this program. After the project was completed, the director conveyed her appreciation to our organization by requesting an on-site presentation to complement her grant report.

This response is every funder’s dream. It is a demonstration of “next-level” gratitude.

The director conducted a 30-minute presentation in her organization’s board room. The images and testimonials were powerful. The emotions were real. A seemingly modest grant made a meaningful impact on a number of local families.

This organization hopes to expand its program to other apartments and neighborhoods in the future. They maximized their initial funding and created a sustainable program model. We discussed funding options and steps to consider when the next projects were ready. It should come as no surprise that our meeting ended with a hug.


Gratitude has no boundaries. As a grantee, extending a “thank you” beyond the report can carry tremendous value with a funder. An extra act of gratefulness from an organization makes a grantor feel less like an ATM and more of a community ally and friend.

Examples of “next-level” gratitude to a funder or supporter may include:

  • A hand-written note or phone call from the program/project coordinator, non-profit director or organization’s board president.
  • Conduct a special site visit to present the outcomes of a program/project.
  • Provide additional data or details to emphasize how a funder or donor’s investment was valuable to the program/project.
  • Special invitation and access to a “grand opening” or community reveal event.
  • Share examples of public recognition for support (annual reports, newsletters, social media, etc.).

Why does “next-level” gratitude matter?

  • The investment in your organization’s program/project made a clear difference.
  • The grantee was excited to receive and utilize the support for its intended purpose.
  • A stronger relationship is forged and your kindness will be remembered.
  • Future collaborations (and funding) are more likely.
  • The passion is palpable! Your organization, mission and work matters to you.


Before you put postage on that next grant report, think about your “thank you.” Great results can be achieved through “next-level” gratitude. Take a few extra minutes, plan your approach, and make sure your follow up is genuine. Every funder and supporter will be thankful that you did.


Want to see more about the work that the Northern New York Community Foundation is doing? Check out their Facebook page or their Twitter feed.


What do you think about Max’s message about “next-level” gratitude. How have you approached this idea successfully in your organization? What barriers have you had to carrying out your ideas? We’d love to hear! Share your stories in the comments section on the website, or via social media.

14 Apr 2017

Diversify Your Nonprofit’s Revenue

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Grant funding is ultimately awarded to nonprofits that are sustainable. Grantmakers don’t want to fund a sinking ship. When reviewing your grant application, a grantmaker is going to be assessing whether your nonprofit is capable of withstanding major and minor changes in funding. Is the project/program solely dependent on grant funding and specifically our funding? Does the nonprofit have a diverse revenue stream?


Revenue is an amount of money your nonprofit receives. There are many types of revenue a nonprofit might receive.

Types of Revenue

  • Individual Donations – any donation received from an individual
  • Grants – funding awarded from granting agencies
  • Fundraising Event – the net income from a fundraising or special event
  • Rental – charge a fee for others to rent out your space
  • Sponsorship/Underwriting – a person or business pays for a certain cost generally in exchange for you to promote them
  • Interest from investments – any interest on investments your nonprofit makes
  • Membership dues – members pay an annual fee to be a part of your organization
  • Fees for Service – charging tuition for classes, selling tickets to productions, etc.
  • Volunteers – while volunteers are not money in the back, their hours are in-kind donations to your organization


According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, charitable contributions by individuals, foundations, bequests, and corporations reached $358.38 billion in 2014, an increase of 7.1% from the revised 2013 estimates and after adjusting for inflation. Individuals gave $258.51 billion in 2014, an increase of 5.7 percent from 2013. Foundations gave $50.9 billion in 2012, up just less than one percent from 2011.


So how is your nonprofit funded?

You are denied a grant. Individual donors and grantmakers change their giving focus. New officials are elected. You suddenly lose your rental income. The economy tanks. Things change. For your nonprofit to stay sustainable through changes (which will come), start diversifying your revenue and be more competitive for grant funding.


If you are thinking about adding in or expanding your grant funding revenue, take our FREE grant readiness assessment and participate in our FREE 30-day grant readiness challenge.


Which types of revenue do you currently incorporate in your nonprofit? Which types of revenue should you start incorporating?

*Note from Diane: I am excited to announce that I am now blogging for Nonprofit Pro, which has a magazine, website and daily e-newsletter, NonProfit PRO Today. You’ll find Diane’s posts on grants in the NonProfit PRO Today e-newsletter.


This post was originally published on Nonprofit Pro on April 4, 2017 (read full post here).


I never guess. It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts. — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes stories

In our grant applications, we are careful to select the best statistics to set out our need statement. We are careful to use the best descriptions about the demographics of those our organization serves each day.

However, grant-seeking organizations need to remember, in the midst of the overlapping application deadlines, to step back from each organization and look at their own data and metrics related to their entire grant-seeking effort. Pausing to look at the metrics and data about an organization’s grant-seeking strategy and looking at more than just an award percentage, will give clear indicators to an organization’s areas of strength or areas for improvement in their grant-seeking efforts.

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They say it takes a village to raise the child; in the case of a non-profit with visions of growth, it takes that village (or Board of Directors) to raise the funds. While a non-profit’s Board of Directors plays a vital role in an organization’s fundraising success, their ability to positively influence the grant process is often overlooked. Here are a few ways to engage your Board of Directors in your grants program:

Use their connections—Whether your organization is seeking funds from a foundation, a corporation, or an individual, one thing remains the same—people give to people. Behind every foundation are a team of staff and trustees who make the decisions of who will receive funds. More often than not, someone on your Board has a relationship with a funder that can open doors that were previously closed. For every grant you seek, prepare a list of all staff and trustees for your Board. This information can be found on the foundation 990 or funder website. If a Board member has a relationship, ask for an introduction. If at all possible, have that Board member join you for an introductory meeting with the funder.

Use their enthusiasm—If you’re lucky, your organization will have a Board that is engaged and passionate about your mission and vision. Perhaps they were a past client or a professional in the field. Use that passion to show a potential funder that your community is invested in the work that you do. Ask a dynamic Board member to write a letter of support for your organization (take note—only do this if the funder allows additional attachments on a grant application). Have them state exactly why they care so much about your mission. If a funder’s grant process includes a review panel, ask a Board member who is well-versed in your programs to come and provide their support.

Use their expertise—Perhaps a Board member for your literacy organization is an English professor or the Board President of your wellness organization is an esteemed physician. As them to review your grant and provide their notes on its content. In many cases, the review panel will be made up of similar professionals. Their critiques will give you vital insight into what potential grant reviewers will be thinking when they read your application. At the very least, have each Board member edit at least one grant during the fiscal year. You will benefit from a fresh perspective, and they will get an even greater understanding of the wonderful work that you do!

Remind them of their fiduciary duty—The Board is responsible for the financial accountability of your organization. Officers are authorized to enter into contracts, including grant contracts. Make sure your Board is aware of this and encourage them to do their due diligence to oversee the management of grant contracts. Any misleading or fraudulent claims in an awarded grant could lead to legal or financial repercussions. In U.S. vs. Educational Broadcasting Corporation, an organization co-mingled and misused grant funds awarded by three major federal funders. The defendant was forced to pay $950,000 in fines and create a corporate compliance plan. They probably also lost any chance at receiving federal funding for the foreseeable future. A Board that is engaged in the grant process, carefully reviews any grant contracts, and maintains vigilance over how that money is used, can avoid a catastrophic situation and ensure the financial health of their organization.


What other ways have you engaged your Board of Directors in your grant seeking efforts?

Looking for more info about engaging your Board? Check out our other posts about board member engagement here:

Engaging Your Board in the Grant Process

Grant Readiness Challenge – Engage Board Members in Grant Maker Relationships

If you joined me for my free webinar on CharityHowTo last week about Why It is Important to Build Relationships with Grant Makers (the recording is available here if you missed it!), you heard me talk through why relationships are important in grant seeking. I talk about relationships in grant seeking frequently as the key to relationship building that many grant seekers miss is not how to stay in touch *after* submitting, but how to get in touch and have a conversation with grant makers *before* even starting an application.
There are so may different ways that grant makers express their capacity and preference for having contact with a potential grantee *before* they submit an application. And YES, there are grant makers that will NOT allow communication prior to submitting an application.
So, without knowing all the details of the funder and their preference/capacity that you might be interested in, lets talk about what best practices and talking points for a grant maker can look like when you do find a grant maker that is willing or even encourages communication prior to submitting an application.
These talking points below work whether you are chatting with a Program Office for a foundation at a funder forum, in person at a special event, on the phone, or even over email. Before you dig in on writing the application that you send an email using the 3 key elements of the talking points outlined below.
3 Talking Points for Outreach to Grant Makers
1 – Introduce yourself/who you work for in one sentence.
2 – Share one or two sentences specifically addressing why *based* on your research of the grant maker’s work you think your organization is a strong fit for their priorities.
3 – Outline that you have a few questions (ask two or three) based on your research that would help you confirm your competitiveness of your application and also best respond to their priorities.
Connecting with a grant maker prior to starting your grant application using these three basic talking points as a frame work will help you focus your energy on those grant maker that are indeed a good fit, and then hopefully with the responses to your thoughtful questions, help improve the competitiveness of your proposal.
What other talking points have you use when reaching out to grant makers? What have you found works well? What hasn’t? We’d love to hear about your experiences. Share them in the comments section below, or email them to Diane directly at diane

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