Note from Diane: We often get asked, how many grants can one grant professional write in a year? Or how do you best balance multiple deadlines? We are beginning a short series looking at grant professional capacity both from the consultant and employee point of view. Have a specific capacity question you want addressed? Drop me an email (email@example.com) and we’ll do our best to build it in to the series as it unfolds. Excited about our first post today that comes from Julie Johnson as it comes full circle to her post a few years ago about how she went about establishing her business plan. Missed it? Read it here.
As a grant consultant, I’m often advising my clients to realize their organization’s grant strategy and capacity. I found that it’s a question I need to ask myself as a consultant too. What is the grant capacity of my consultancy? How many clients do I have the capacity to serve? My business plan answers these questions for me.
Like the complicated moving parts of managing grants in an organization, the same can be true for a grant consultancy. The ebb and flow (think Gantt chart) of my workload timeline, shows some consistent, busy times and a few doldrum (think vacation) times of the year. With that said, a few moving pieces out of my control can quickly change my plans.
I found my capacity limit in a sudden overload earlier this year. First, a few of my current clients had government agencies change the deadlines for huge applications, and the new date was the worst timing for my clients’ event calendars. Next, a potential client that I had been speaking with for months received budget approval to offer me a retainer. Said client, as an absolute best fit for its order of grant needs, had to immediately pursue a very large, collaborative, assessment grant. Simultaneously, all the consultancies that I subcontract with were swamped with work too.
The result of this unforeseen convergence of work was me working six to seven days per week for several weeks. How or why did I work overtime? I did it because I knew it was temporary and my business plan laid out what to do.
My business plan predicted that I might reach capacity this year, my third year, as I want to remain a consultancy of one rather than building a grant team to oversee. To remain focused on the work in front of me, I referred new inquiries to other grant writers and I temporarily reduced the work I could offer in subcontracting. And, I hired more help in my personal life such as housekeeping, gardening, and food preparation, so I could solidly represent my clients during these converging deadlines.
I’m not saying this was a comfortable time. I felt fatigue like I imagined lawyers feel as they prepare and focus for a big case. Yet, having a plan in place helped guide me through the process. Managing grant client loads in a consultancy is like planning a grant calendar in a nonprofit. It’s a complex, changing process with multiple unknowns.
I would love to hear about your consultancy. What is your strategy? How has your business planned served you in crunch times? Do you work alone or have you built a team? Either way, what are some of the scheduling challenges that you’ve faced and overcome? What have you done in the opposite situation such as too little work or too few clients?
08 Jun 2017
Grant writing is not a creative writing exercise. Writing grant applications is like writing research papers for a college class. Each professor has their own set of instructions and requirements. If the student does not follow those instructions and requirements, the paper is marked down. Same is true for grantmakers. They each have their own set of instructions and requirements for their grant application. Some have many requirements. Others have few. And if you do not follow their instructions and requirements, your grant application might get thrown out.
To avoid this, you need to plan ahead and conduct thorough research before even starting to write a grant application.
The first thing to research is the qualifying requirements:
- Geographic Scope: where in the world does this grantmaker want to fund projects?
- Areas of Interest/Mission: what areas does this grantmaker want to fund?
- Type of Funding: what type of projects does this grantmaker want to fund?
- Amount Range: what are the typical amounts this grantmaker gives funded applications?
- Funding Cycle: what are the deadlines for this grantmaker?
If your nonprofit aligns with the grantmaker in these areas, then you can move on to researching the actual application requirements.
It is important to look at the requirements of the application. Always read through all requirements before starting a grant application and share the information with your grant team. By reading through beforehand, you can allow enough time to complete all sections.
- Is the application an online application, email submission, or a hard copy?
- If a hard copy, how many copies of the application does the grantmaker request?
- What are the page requirements of the application?
- What font and font size is required?
- What sections are required in the proposal? Needs statement, project description, budget, capacity, sustainability, etc.
- What attachments are required? – Letters of recommendation and/or support, Determination Letter (501(c)(3) letter), Operational Budget, List of Board Members and/or Staff, Project Budget, etc
- Do you need to have a partner?
Be sure to follow ALL requirements in filling out grant applications. Just like a professor will mark down a paper for not following all requirements, a grantmaker will throw out applications that don’t follow all of their requirements. This means no funding. So don’t give the grantmaker reason to throw out your application before even reading it.
School is coming to a close in Northern New York, so children are getting excited for summer vacation (even those that like my two daughters love school, because really, who doesn’t love summer vacation?!). When you are in elementary school, your teachers often recognize the learning styles of their students and they support those individual learning styles as best they can. Yet, we as individuals aren’t always able to articulate what our learning preferences and styles are until we are further along in our education or perhaps even until we are adults.
I have always known that sitting in a large lecture hall was my *least* favorite way to learn new information. It wasn’t just the subject matter for Econ 101 back at Cornell University that taught me that, but it certainly highlighted the points. Class lectures have always been a reinforcement or initial framework for what I would learn by reading and highlighting in books or exploring hands-on by myself.
Now that I spend so much time each week, as an Approved Trainer for the Grant Professionals Association, teaching and reinforcing best practices each week, I am also intrigued to hear about the learning preferences of a new client I am coaching or a new small group that I am creating a custom training for so that I can ensure the training approach is well matched to their preference(s).
15 May 2017
As Mother’s Day was approaching and I paused this past week to prepare with my two daughters for what they wanted to send my mom, Grandma Elaine, I reflected on the countless lessons she has taught me. In addition to all the years of patient advice and guidance related to growing up, raising daughters, and never settling when striving for my personal goals, she also was my first editor. The editing started with whiteout and typewriters (yikes, I’m dating myself!) but thankfully quickly became a little easier as my family purchased its first computer so that I didn’t nearly cry when an absent comma could just about bring me to tears with the idea of retyping a piece for school.
In her honor, today I’m sharing three of our most beloved and well-read posts about editing to help us all continue to improve our work as grant professionals – everything from semicolons to collaborative editing processes.
In Diversify Your Nonprofit’s Revenue back in April, I laid out why your nonprofit should have diverse forms of revenue. Diversifying your nonprofit’s revenue will make your organization more sustainable and ultimately more competitive for grant funding.
Now, let’s talk about diversifying your program’s revenue specifically. When reviewing your grant application, grant makers will ask, “Is the project/program solely dependent on grant funding and specifically our funding?” Your grant application will be more competitive if you can answer no to both of those questions. The sustainability section and the budget for the program are great places to outline all the revenue for the program. Most grant makers do not want to be the sole funder for a project/program.
I work with a civic theatre located in a medium-sized city in Indiana. One of the programs we provide is a theatre program for adults with disabilities. To diversity the program’s revenue, the civic theatre uses the following forms of revenue:
- Individual Donations – Individuals give specifically toward the program.
- Grant funding – We write several grant applications a year for the program.
- Fees for Service – We do charge a small fee to participate in the program, and we sell tickets to the performances.
- Volunteers – We do have a Drama Therapy Director who is a paid staff member, but she needs volunteers to help with the program each time it meets. We always include the time and the value of their time in our budgets. If we did not have the volunteers, we would need to pay part-time employees. The Independent Sector has a chart that outlines the value of volunteer time per state, and they keep it updated from year-to-year.
For the theatre program for adults with disabilities, we utilize individual donations, grant funding, ticket sales, and volunteers so that we can keep the tuition fee minimal for the participants.
As you can see in the example, many of the types of revenues you use to diversify your nonprofit’s revenue you can use to diversify your program’s revenue such as individual donations, grant funding, fundraising events, fees for service, in-kind donations, and volunteers.
How do you diversify your program’s funding?
Pick one of your programs and studied its budget.Does the budget even list all the revenue for the program? If not, start adding in the revenue. Once the budget is updated, think about what types of revenues could be utilized for the program. Do you need to start seeking individual donations specifically for it? Is there a way you can charge a fee for service? Are you utilizing volunteers? Make a plan to start adding in multiple forms of revenue into the program within the next year.
Diversifying your program’s revenue will ultimately help you diversify your nonprofit’s revenue and build your capacity as an organization.
How can you diversify the funding for one of your programs? Share your thoughts for how to further diversify your program’s revenue and enhance your sustainability statement in your applications. We’d love to hear via the comments section of the website or via social media!