5 Tips for Government Grant Writing

Republished from www.sagewords.net:

Last week at the GPA* Annual Conference, I attended featured speaker Phil Maestri’s presentation. As Director of Risk Management Services for the US Department of Education he has a significant amount of experience evaluating grant proposals. During his presentation, he shared the top five areas his team uses in evaluating grant proposals.  I captured his tips for you here. Use them next time you submit a government grant proposal.

  1. Clear Objectives– According to Mr. Maestri, too often grant proposals fail to include a CLEAR objective.  Be sure the objective you set is easy to understand and articulate in your next proposal.
  2. Time Frame– Set a clear time frame; 2013 is not a clear time  frame.  Set and communicate clear and specific dates in your proposals.
  3. Logic Models– While logic models can be confusing to understand and even more difficult to articulate, there are a few key aspects grant makers are seeking.  As you compose your grant keep these areas in mind.
    • Define what success looks like.
    • Prove that the activities in your proposal are indeed valuable.
    • Share the expected return on investment.  Define how your proposal is going to make a difference.
  4. Will it Work– Grantors want to know if your proposal will actually work.  In your proposals, point to proven success in your own experience or even in other models.  If the proposal is innovative and existing models are not to be found, share an educated hypothesis that details risks and benefits.
  5. Measure– As with all grant proposals, it is critical to share how you plan to measure the success of the grant.  Share what measures will be used, when success will be evaluated, and how said measures will be shared.

Take-away: Maestri’s, parting advice to grant writer’s is to be clear that the grant you are applying for fulfills your nonprofits mission.  Too often he finds that organizations apply for grants outside of the breadth and scope of the nonprofit.  In those cases, even if awarded the grant may not be a true win.  Writing grants can be extremely complicated, so keep things as simple as possible, be transparent and accountable; and you are sure to find success with your next proposal.

*GPA is the Grant Professionals Association, a nonprofit membership association, builds and supports an international community of grant professionals committed to serving the greater public good by practicing the highest ethical and professional standards. GPA is THE place for grant issues. We provide professional development by way of an Annual Conference and Webinars, professional certification (GPC), Journal and E-Newsletter, local Chapters, member benefits and more! http://www.GrantProfessionals.org.

The Most Powerful Word in Building Loyalty


You can’t win them all, but you sure can apologize and own your losses.  Pleasing everyone is a daunting task, and if that is all you try to do you probably won’t ever get anything done.  Worse, you are pretty unlikely to be successful.

With all of that said, one of the best tools you have to create a positive experience in an unfortunate situation is the power of the phrase, I am sorry.  I think we all know it, but it can be hard to execute.  It means that you may have to have a difficult conversation or swallow your pride, but I can tell you an apology can go a long way to build loyalty.

Take-away: Next time you are in an unpleasant situation here are some steps to follow.

1. Listen to the person share why he/she was upset.

2. Repeat what you did that upset the person in question.

3. Apologize for that action.

4. Share what you will do to prevent that action from happening in the future.

5. Take action to prevent the action as you indicated you would.

6. Move on!  Life is short, don’t dwell on mistakes.  After all, we are all human. 🙂

There are those who backup and those who will!

It was bound to happen…

last week my hard drive crashed and just like Kerry, I had not backed up any of my current files.   Sure I have the old stuff saved on the network, but it seemed easier for me to save the things I was working on, on my desktop.  (BAD IDEA!!!)

I find it pretty ironic that the same week we are launching our cloud suite (huge benefit; of course, is never losing data) I lose all of my data.  Why me????



3 Event Fundraising Tips: How to Drive Up Silent Auction Prices

At a recent event for the nonprofit I volunteer with, we were blown away by the overwhelming success of our silent auction, and the great experience it created for our constituents.

Here are a few event tips that worked really well for us.

1. Yes, we accept credit cards. Throughout your event make several announcements that you accept credit cards.  People want to be able to pay via credit card.  In our case, just saying that we accepted credit cards helped drive traffic to the silent auction tables, and we are all convinced that it helped drive up the prices of the items.

2. Yes, we have something for everyone. Make sure you have items that interest everyone in the room.  Our biggest shock was how much the guys enjoyed bidding.  We had lots of spa packages, but the best sellers were camo hunting bags.  Plus, the competition amongst the men drove prices up substantially.  We were sure glad we had those items in the auction.

3. Yes, paying is fun.  When we decided to use the iPad as our payment device, we had no idea that it was going to be the talk of the event.  Our biggest win of the night came from the check-out line. Everyone wanted to pay and sign on the iPad.  It was so popular that we created a raffle on the spot so that everyone could make a donation and sign the iPad.  In addition, when we swiped their card we were able to capture all of their information, and the application emailed them all receipts.  Now that is a win/win experience!

Take-away: At your next silent auction take credits cards, have something for everyone, and most importantly make sure checking out is fun!

To learn more about Mobile Payments check out this great white paper.

Lessons learned from the JCC Conference

This past week I had the pleasure of presenting on social media and fundraising at the JCC Biennial Conference.  As I often find, I learned just as many things as I taught. 

Lesson 1- Think differently

I know we all say we should do this, but it’s rare and so much easier to do the same old thing.  During the event fundraising session Rich Dietz encouraged people to think outside of the typical gala, and the ideas were a plenty.  How about a movie premier theme to show a new film, a carnival to bring more kids into your organization, or even a boxing tournament.  FUN!  On twitter that evening, I was sent this great Pintrest board with other fun ideas.

Lesson 2- There is a new world of professional

The “locking down” of social came up time and again.   Organizations are fearful that someone is going to say something bad.  To that, I say “they are going to do it anyway, so it may as well be in your control.”  I found this great visual  here, and it really illustrates the professional world we live in today.

Lesson 3: Size does matter

During our event fundraising session one of the participants asked about us leaving out a very important tactic.  Personal phone calls-I quickly added, “Sure those are great, but who has the staff to do that?”   He responded, “We have 45 board members.”  That hadn’t occurred to me.  Not sure why, I know many nonprofits have large boards that are willing to work, but 45.  WOW, that changes everything.  It was a great lesson for Rich and I.  As we work to construct session and valuable content we tend to gravitate to those smaller nonprofits with the greatest need, but it is important to remember that the big guys need help too.

Lesson 4: Hurricanes can be very scary

The conference was held in the city of New Orleans.  It was a very surreal experience to be in the city again after Katrina.  Everything looked so great. It was inspiring to talk to some of the people who had been there during the devastation, and to learn how they have rebuilt their lives.  My lesson 4 did not come from that very real reality though…I already knew that.  My learning came from one too many Hurricanes (the drink).  🙂

Take-away: Even when you are the teacher, you can always learn new things.

Three fundraising lessons’s from Apple’s ipad

Raise Funds Faster than Apple Sells iPads

Apple’s iPad has more than 15 million customers, and I have joined the ranks of the 15 million.  I was convinced that I didn’t need an iPad, but now I am not sure how I will live without it.  

As nonprofits, I think we have an opportunity to start thinking more about how we can innovate and borrow best practices from those that are doing it well.   

Mind Map

1. Be cool!

iPads are undeniably the must have gadget of the young and the cool. They are easy to use and visually appealing.  We need to make sure that our organizations are attractive to younger generations. 

Organizations that are doing the work to appeal to younger generations are becoming wildly successful.   If you need an example just take a look at charity:water. They embody “cool”, and they are by no means the largest fundraiser in the space.  They are using their “cool” along with some fantastic marketing strategies to very successfully connect with GenX and GenY donors. 

2. Be fun!

The iPad is used about 1/3 of the time for games.  It is alluring to step into the shoes of a race car driver or a super hero even if it is only for a few minutes. Think about how to make your next event, program, or project fun.  Is there a way you can turn your giving program into a game?

3. Be Shareable!

The Ipad makes it easy to share information. You should do the same for your organization.

Nonprofits can use simple tools like forward to a friend in emails or share in social media icons.   Tools like Sage Fundraising Online shown above allows supporters to promote their fundraising efforts through Facebook and other social networks; or let supporters embed a form directly into their personal website or blog with a simple copy and paste. 

All of these options allow your advocates to share information about your organization easily, just like the iPad!

Take-away: Think of ways you can be cool, fun, and share more with your constituents, and for more tips and to download the full presentation and mindmap visit my slide share account @ “Ipad Like Innovation for Nonprofits.”

A tiny bit of thanks to the Nonprofit World!

I have always been in awe of the amazing things the nonprofit world accomplishes.  Together we are able to provide basic necessities, help people through disaster, care for those whom others have tossed aside, and on and on and on. 

Two years ago, my sister delivered my niece and nephew in emergency pre-term labor at just a day into 24 weeks.  Her story is amazing to read.  This morning when I woke and realized that our (I call them mine all the time, because I love them so much…I wish they were mine.) babies were two.  I broke down in tears of joy.   The harsh reality is they should not have survived.  In addition, the odds of them developing a million terrible side effects between birth and two were not on our side of the court.   But, here we are today with two (almost) perfectly healthy two-year olds.  It is such a miracle!

Camdyn then:    


Camdyn now:


Cade then:

Cade now:

With the help of dedicated nurses and doctors, ground-breaking research, and some amazing nonprofits we all made it through this traumatic experience with a very positive outcome. 

Take-away: Thank-you to all the people and nonprofit organizations that made my two tiny 1 pound miracles into a great big, arms full, kissy faced reality.  Please, take a moment today to thank a nonprofit that has changed your life.

Emerge 2012 Technology Symposium

This week I will be presenting at the Emerge 2012 Technology Symposium.  The Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country in partnership with Rackspace Hosting, the San Antonio Area Foundation, and the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce  is hosting the event that will be offering a look at the latest in innovative technology trends and show casing how they can impact your organization or business with increased revenue. 

I am particularly excited about this conference because I started my career at the Kerrville Area Chamber of Commerce.  I am hoping to see some old friends and share some great information on how attendees can increase loyalty online. 


Take-away: If you are going to be in the area, please join me!

Event Fundraising Best Practices & Checklist

Yesterday I had the privilege of moderating a webcast on Event Fundraising Best Practices with Rich Dietz, and then I headed off for the final meeting for our 2012 Gala.  All in all, it was a great day.

Along the way I decided to put together a final event checklist for our committee.  Finding a good checklist online proved to be an impossible task.  One was too basic and one was too complicated, so I put my own together.  It is nothing fancy, but worked like a charm.

It can be found here.

Take-away: If you are in event fundraising, watch this webcast for some great tips and tricks.  If you need a checklist, help yourself and if you have a better one…share it with us.

14 Great Nonprofit Website Tips

Your organizations website is one of the most important assets you have in communicating your mission, yet it is often the last thing we think about as we prepare campaigns, events, and calls to action.  Here are a few best practices designed to help increase the ROI of your online donations.
1. Keep it short
Use short sentences and simple words.

2. Keep it positive
As a general rule, keep the story positive.  It is fair to share the plight of those you serve, but be sure to share how your organization is changing it, making it better, and how the donor can help.  People are driven to action by the desire to make a difference keep that in mind as you write the content for your site.

3. Use logos, graphics, and pictures
Make sure you are using your own graphics.  Avoid using clip art or stock photography.  Use images and elements that tell your unique story, and convey what your mission is all about.
4. Fire Sale Fonts and Sizing
Make sure your fonts are between 12 and 14px for the majority of your text. Using fonts sizes smaller than that make it hard to read and larger than that are a waste of space.  Stick with Arial or Times fonts for the majority of your text.  These fonts are clean and easy to read, and make sure all the fonts on your site match.

5. The Donate Button
Visibility is key for the donate button.  We recommend that at a minimum you place the button in the top right corner of every page.   It is hard to tell exactly what page a donor will be when he/she decides to donate, so make it easy.

6. Donate, Help, or Give
Test whether or not changing the name of your button makes a difference in your online donations.   We have seen cases where simply changing the text on the button to Help Us has increased online donations.

7. Ask for emails
Collecting a list of constituents’ email addresses will prove very valuable over time.  Ask for email addresses on the form and on the home page.  Potential donors may not want to give today, but they may want to hear more about your organization, and the projects that you are doing. 

8. Share the News
A newsletter is a great way to communicate.  Newsletters allow you to share your story, increase engagement, and get people involved in what you are doing.  Be sure to use the newsletter to push people back to your website where they can learn more and make a donation.
9. Search engine optimization
When you are writing the short and sweet content for your site, be sure to include key words or phrases people looking for your organization might type into the search bar.  For example, if you are a food pantry include food pantry, food donation, feeding the hungry, etc… as people looking to donate or seeking your service are likely to type those types of things into the search bar.

10. Stay on your page
Don’t make donors leave your site to donate.   Having to login to another site to donate to an organization is a strong barrier to donating.

11. Show the progress
Donors want to see that their contribution helped.  Add a progress bar to your donation page to show potential donors the goal and how they can contribute to it.

12. Color matters
The colors that you use on your site do matter.   For example, blue is calming, red is for an alert or emergency.  Make sure that the colors you are using communicate the intended emotion.

13. Not everything is front page news
The homepage should not list every program you have at your organization.   Everyone wants their project on the home page, but he homepage should be reserved for the organization as a whole.   Share the organizations mission on it and the projects that support that mission on ancillary pages.

14. Share the wealth
On your home page share how your organization is making a difference.  Share how their donation will help, and share what will happen if they don’t help.

Take-away: If you have other great tips, please share them here.  We all gain when we all share!

Reprinted from my blog post on www.sagewords.net