PhilanTech is delighted to announce that we have partnered with TechSoup to offer PhilanTrack® online grants management software for nonprofits to TechSoup's members.
TechSoup is a nonprofit that connects other nonprofits with technology products and resources to make informed decisions about technology.
With PhilanTrack, TechSoup members can:
- Find funders: Search currently-available funding opportunities, research past grants awarded by potential funders, and research contacts in the funding organization.
- Write proposals efficiently: Easily reuse content from past proposals when writing new grant requests and avoid reinventing wheels in each new grant proposal.
- Manage funder relationships: Track contact information and interactions with funders and prospective funders to build relationships and institutional memory.
- Track deadlines and requirements: Track deadlines for proposals and progress reports and receive automated email reminders about them.
- Store grant-related documents: Store your organization's 501(c)(3) determination letter, audited financial statements, annual reports, and other documents requested by funders in PhilanTrack's document library.
- And more!
TechSoup members can apply for discounted access to PhilanTrack via the TechSoup website:
If your organization is not a TechSoup member, learn about TechSoup and other discounted and donated technology products available for qualified nonprofits.
TechSoup and the TechSoup logo are registered trademarks of TechSoup Global, used with permission.
PhilanTech and GrantStation are pleased to announce the release of the State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 Report.
The seventh semi-annual survey provides a snapshot of grantseeking activities and challenges in the US. A decrease in government funding at all levels has pervaded the grantseeking world, and nonprofits, still recovering from the economic downturn, are struggling with fewer resources. As such, lack of time/staff to pursue grants is a top grantseeking challenge for survey respondents.
Other findings from the survey included:
- Grants comprised at least 25% of the total annual budget for 42% of organizations. Organizations that received government grants were more reliant on grants as a larger part of their overall funding;
- Rural organizations are more reliant on grant funding, with 50% of rural organizations reporting that grant supplied at least 25% of their total annual budget;
- 75% of organizations reported receiving grants from private foundations, followed by 60% from community foundations and 57% from corporations;
- Federal grants decreased by 24% as the largest total grant funder compared to the fall 2012 survey.
The next State of Grantseeking survey will be conducted in early 2014.
Download the State of Grantseeking Fall 2013 Report here.
The government shutdown is hardly news at this point, and has directly impacted at least 800,000 government workers who have been furloughed. It has also impacted a lot of businesses frequented by those workers.
While the full economic impact of the shutdown is still unknown, some nonprofits are directly feeling the effects. Federal agencies, including NIH and NSF, have suspended their grantmaking programs for the duration of the shutdown. While some nonprofits had already received grant allocations for the year from those agencies before October 1, some hadn't, and it's unclear what the impact of delayed funding cycles will be going forward, even once the government has reopened for business.
So what can grantseekers learn from the government shutdown?
- Diversify your funding sources. As we've written about before, relying too heavily on a given funding source (whether a single funder, or a single type of funder) can be risky for nonprofits. If your organization has historically relied heavily on government grants, start building relationships with private foundations and corporate giving programs. Connect with the community foundation in your area. Think about adding individual donors and fees for service (if your organization provides services for which you can charge) to your sources of funding. Your organization may not be directly impacted by the shutdown (and I hope it isn't), but it's never a wrong time to think about diversifying your funding sources.
- Have a plan B. While your organization will hopefully never be in a position where a major funding source disappears overnight, it's always good to have a plan B. When crafting your grantseeking strategy for the year, chart out how much money your organization needs from grants (versus other funding sources) to support your programs, which past funders you expect to support your organization again, which new funders you plan to approach, and the expected grant amounts from each. Then think through what will happen if some of the grants you think are sure things don't come through. Sometimes foundation priorities change, economic conditions shift and diminish foundation assets, or something happens like a government shutdown. Knowing where you'll be able to make up any shortfall is critical. And raising more money than oyou need is also a good thing. You can always put additional money raised into a reserve fund (though be careful if any of the grants awarded are restricted) or offer more programs and services with the additional funds.
- Store your grant information online. What would happen if you were unable to access your organization's office for several days - or several weeks? Would you miss a grant proposal deadline? Or a grant report deadline? How would that impact your grantseeking for the year? How would it impact your relationship with your funders? By storing all of your grant-related information online, in a system like PhilanTrack, you can access your grant information and write your proposals and reports anywhere, at any time, to ensure that you're able to keep your grantseeking going, even if there are unexpected events that prevent you from accessing physical files in your organization's office.
To learn about how the PhilanTrack online grants management system can help your organization's grantseeking efforts, request a demonstration, or register for a webinar.
Photo credit: adapted from http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcostin/3449288718/
This is a guest post from Kelli Romero, Membership Director at the Grant Professionals Association
“O’ Say Can You See”…Yourself at the 15th Annual Grant Professionals Association Conference!
In November, the 15th Annual Grant Professionals Association* National Conference will be in Baltimore, MD (November 13-16, 2013). This year, the Grant Professionals Association (GPA) has cooked up a host of new and exciting workshop sessions and special professional levels of expertise to suit every non-profit and grant professional.
This is a must-attend event for anyone involved with grant proposal preparation. An extensive workshop list offers expert advice from some of the professions most successful and accomplished grant writers. Workshop topics are wide ranging and are targeted to individuals with varying levels of experience of beginner, mid-level, and advanced.
Workshops will identify the skill track and SIG that aligns with the topic of the proposed presentation. Skill tracks include; Proposal Development – Planning, Grant Construction, Grant Management and Reporting, Communication Skills, Professional Ethics, Resource Knowledge/Grant Research, etc.
Workshops cover topics such as Program Assessment, Steps to Becoming a Grant Writing Consultant, Program Development, Tactics for Enhancing Donor Loyalty, Fund Raising Strategies, and Proposal Development. Several workshops focus on specific fields, such as education, human services, government and faith based organizations.
The conference will also feature some special experiences, which include the Sail Away with GPA Evening Outing/Dinner Cruise held on the Spirit of Baltimore. This premiere special event will feature a dinner buffet, cruise along the Baltimore Inner Harbor and waterfront, view breathtaking views of historic Baltimore, dance to live DJ tunes and network with your colleagues in the enclosed ship or out on the deck. You don’t want to miss this event! This is a limited seating event. Please make sure you secure your seat today by registering online at the GPA website. Ticket prices are $65.00 and includes dinner, dancing and the view. To purchase tickets, go to: Sail Away With GPA Evening Outing.
This year’s conference will highlight some keynote and featured speakers as well as some wonderful sponsors and exhibitors, such as PhilanTech!
Here are five STAR-STUDDED benefits to attend this year’s conference:
1) Opportunity to visit with sponsors and exhibitors that have DAZZLING products and services to help you in the BATTLEFIELD!
2) By attending some of the 70 Workshops provided, you will become a LEADER in the grants profession. Some workshops include: "Seducing your grant reviewer"; "Thriving Social: 10 Steps of Social Media for the Grant Pro"; "Crafting a Killer Needs Statement - Using Data Effectively"; "The Funder is Coming! 10 Tips for a Successful Site Visit"; "Clearing up the Confusion about Program Evaluation" and many more!
3) Don’t be left out! Attend the GENERAL and Pre-Conference Sessions.
4) Take advantage of a PLETHORA of Networking Opportunities with others in the grants profession.
5) Don’t MARCH to the beat of your own drum. Get connected with others in your Special Interest Groups (SIGs).
Who Should Attend:
- Grant Writers
- Grant Managers
- Grant Consultants
- Grants Officers
- Grant Coordinators
- Development Directors
- Executive Directors
- Government Relations Officers
- Financial Officers
- Any level of experience, beginner to expert.
In today’s extremely competitive world for grant awards, the organization that invests in the professional development of its grant professional increases its odds of receiving grant funding tremendously. The opportunity to meet and learn from this caliber of presenters will not be matched at any other venue.
Registration for this conference is a small investment for the return of knowledge and increased competency that will be realized after attendance at this premier event. To find our more information about the conference or register go to: 15th Annual GPA Conference.
*The Grant Professionals Association (GPA), 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. Founded in 1997, GPA has grown to close to 2,000 active members representing all 50 states and internationally. More than 50 chapters have formed in the past four years.
Perhaps you’ve heard these things before:
- "We don’t need software for that."
- "Our current process works just fine."
- "We have a donor management system. Can’t we just use that to manage our grants, too?"
There are many versions of those statements, but they all amount to the same thing: your board or senior management indicating that investing in grant-specific software isn't high on their priority list.
But you know that grants management software will make your job easier, and will also help your organization raise more money and direct more resources to your mission. So how can you make the case with your board or senior management?
While every organization is different, there is one common thread: nonprofits exist to pursue a mission and make the world better in one way or another. Your job in convincing your board to invest in a grants management system is to help them see that the system will help your organization better pursue its mission.
Here are a few things to try:
- Quantify how much time you (and your colleagues, if other people in your organization are involved in finding, applying for, and management grants) are spending on all of your grant-related activities. Include things like:
- Researching new funding opportunities
- Communicating with prospective funders
- Communicating with current funders
- Tracking down documents submitted to funders in the past
- Managing documents that funders request (e.g., 501(c)(3) determination letter, audited financial statements, etc.)
- Keeping track of deadlines for proposals and progress reports
- Writing grant proposals
- Writing progress reports
- If you – and any other staff members who work with you to pursue grants – were spending less time on one or more of those activities, what could you spend that time doing? Would those activities be putting staff time to better use? Would they help your organization raise more money?
- Articulate your current challenges with grantseeking and how they would be solved with an online grants management system?
- Talk with your board or senior management about your organization's fundraising goals. Are you consistently meeting your fundraising goals? Are you striving to raise more money in general? More grant funds in particular? Does your organization want to diversify its funding sources so that it isn’t overly reliant on one source of funding? How does getting more grants, with more efficient use of staff time, fit into those goals?
- More broadly, talk with your board or senior management about your organization’s mission, and what resources are required to pursue your mission as best you can. Can more resources be obtained and put to use if your organization raises more grant funds?
- In some cases, boards and senior management may be hesitant to spend money on software that could be spent on activities that directly pursue mission objectives. In that case, you can try to remind your board or senior management that an investment in software is not a direct tradeoff – it will position you to raise more funds that can then be dedicated to pursuing your mission.
- On a related note, the Overhead Myth is trying to help tackle this problem. Investing in things that help your organization grow will help your organization better meet its mission.
Share your tips for making the case with your board and senior management in the comments below, or request a demo to learn how PhilanTrack can help streamline your grantseeking.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/the_warfield/4992455554/
In a huge, positive step for the nonprofit sector, the leaders of GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance published a letter this week calling for an end to donors' obsession with "overhead" as the dominant measure of nonprofits' worthiness and effectiveness.
I suspect most people who read this blog are aware of the overhead ratio and how it has become a yardstick for donors. Charity watchdogs, including Charity Navigator (which has signed onto the letter released this week) have popularized the notion that "good" nonprofits spend less than 30% of their budgets on overhead, and that "bad" nonprofits spend more than 30% of their budgets on overhead.
Rather than ranting about just how wrong this is (and how unfortunate it has been that various media outlets picked up on the notion enough that it became a commonplace misconception about the sector), allow me to quote from the letter:
"[M]any charities should spend more on overhead. Overhead costs include important investments charities make to improve their work: investments in training, planning, evaluation, and internal systems— as well as their efforts to raise money so they can operate their programs. These expenses allow a charity to sustain itself (the way a family has to pay the electric bill) or to improve itself (the way a family might invest in college tuition)."
Dan Pallotta's great TED talk addressed elements of this problem (and is worth watching, even if you don't entirely agree with either the message or the messenger). If we want nonprofits to be successful in tackling the social and environmental issues they're working on, we (as donors and supporters) need to help them succeed. They need to be able to effectively raise money, to invest in good technology to help them better serve their constituents, to develop their professional staff to better meet their missions. All of those things - and more - would be considered overhead costs, but without being able to make those investments, many nonprofits are stunted. They are not able to accomplish all that we want them to accomplish, because we are implicitly telling them that we do not value -- and therefore do not allow them to make -- investments in many of the things that will help them succeed.
We at PhilanTech have felt strongly that overhead was a poor measure of nonprofit performance for a long time, so much so that we developed a financial analysis tool in PhilanTrack for Foundations (our grantmaking software) that helps grantmakers not only evaluate the impact of their grants, but also produces a series of nonprofit financial analyses that goes much deeper into understanding how organizations are performing financials.
It's going to take a while to change public perception about overhead ratios and re-train donors to think not only about administrative costs (which are a valid thing to evaluate, just not the only thing) but also about impact, transparency, governance. And we in the nonprofit sector owe it to ourselves to help change that perception by educating our donors, our supporters, our families, our friends.
I applaud GuideStar and the Overhead Myth for taking a lead in moving this conversation in the right direction. I signed the Pledge to End the Overhead Myth. I encourage you to sign it, too.
Foundations - we'd be happy to show you how PhilanTrack's financial analysis tool can help you get beyond overhead ratios in understanding your grantees' financial health and performance. Let us know if you'd like a demo.
It's been five years since Project Streamline launched to identify areas for improvement in grantmaking processes and develop principles and tools to support improved practices. Taking a page from its own book, the initiative is taking stock of its own activities, successes, and areas for improvement.
Earlier this year, Project Streamline conducted a survey of grantmakers and grantseekers to learn how the streamlining principles are being translated into practice, and just released a report detailing the outcomes.
Those who are regular readers of the somewhat irregular posts on this blog will likely know that we at PhilanTech are fans of what Project Streamline is pursuing and promoting. So we were happy to read about some of the successes of the past five years, and unfortunately not surprised to read about some areas still in need of improvement.
A few key findings:
- While the majority of the 460 grantmakers who responded to the survey indicated that they were aware of streamlining principles and had put some into practice, the majority of the 300 grantseekers who responded had not seen noticeable improvements with their funders;
- For each streamlining principle, there is a disconnect between the grantmaker perspective and the grantseeker perspective. For example, over half of the grantmakers surveyed indicated that they had right-sized either their applications or reports to align the amount of required information with the size of the grant. But 72% of of grantseekers indicated that applications for small grants were rarely right-sized.
- Strategic philanthropy and streamlining can be at odds. Some funders’ approach to more strategic giving has resulted in narrow funding areas and very specific outcome reporting requirements. Those specific reporting requirements can create additional burdens for grantees.
- There is an increasing interest in streamlining. A majority of grantmakers reported that streamlining is more important today than it was five years ago. And there is little question that grantseekers feel the same way.
- The benefits of streamlining are significant to both parties – when done correctly. Grantmakers say staff time can be spent on what matters, grantseekers spend less time on application processes, grantmakers get better data, and both sides benefit from a better relationship.
My main takeaways are threefold:
- There has been some progress since Project Streamline launched.
- There needs to be more. I support Project Steamline’s efforts and look forward the progress it will continue to make as more grantmakers streamline their grantmaking – and involve their grantees in the process.
- What we’re doing at PhilanTech is important to this effort – we provide tools that help both grantmakers and grantseekers streamline the process so that more grant dollars can be dedicated to program and service delivery, rather than to grant administration.
Request a demo to learn how PhilanTrack can help streamline your grantmaking or grantseeking.
Image from http://www.projstreamline.org/
PhilanTech is honored to have been named "Best for the World" for creating the most overall social and environmental impact.
67 companies worldwide were recognized by the nonprofit B Lab, with the release of the second annual 'Best for the World' list. The B Corp Best for the World List honors businesses that earned an overall score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations on the B Impact Assessment, a comprehensive assessment a company's impact on its workers, community, and the environment. Read the full press release, or articles about the Best for the World companies in BusinessWeek or FastCompany.
So why does this matter to you? Our values align with yours. We want to help you be successful in pursuing your own social mission. And we have the right tools to help.
Does your organization give grants? Learn more about how PhilanTrack can help you achieve your grantmaking goals.
Does your organization seek grants? Learn more about how PhilanTrack can help you achieve your grantseeking goals.
The upcoming Easter holiday has gotten me thinking about eggs and baskets, and how combining the two – specifically putting all eggs in one basket – can be dangerous, for both grantseekers and grantmakers.
I suppose I should be writing about Passover symbols, but unleavened bread only makes me think about predictions that grantmaking will be pretty flat this year. But I digress.
For nonprofits, putting all grantwriting eggs in one basket – and more broadly, putting all fundraising eggs in one basket – can be a serious problem. A future post will be about grantmakers, and why they should not put all of their eggs in one basket, either.
The notion of eggs and baskets brings to mind an image of an investment portfolio. Those of us who have been taught about investing (either formally or informally) have been taught to diversify our portfolios, or not to put all of our investment eggs in one basket. A diversified portfolio mitigates risk by combining different asset classes with different levels of risk and reward.
Simply put, imagine you put all of your money into one stock, the ABC Corporation. If that stock price goes through the roof overnight, you could become a millionaire. But if that stock completely tanks, you could lose all of your money instantly. While a diversified portfolio (combining stocks and other assets like bonds, all with different levels of stability and predictability, and with different potential returns) means you are quite unlikely to become a millionaire overnight, it also means that you’re less likely to go broke overnight. So a diversified portfolio is a cautious, smart investment strategy for long term stability and returns.
The same is true for fundraising. Let’s say your organization needs to raise $200,000 from outside sources to support its programs for the year. You have limited resources, so you need to decide where to invest your fundraising efforts and fundraising dollars. While many nonprofits don’t think about fundraising this way, any staff time dedicated to fundraising has a cost – both the actual cost of salaries for the amount of time spent fundraising, and an opportunity cost in terms of other activities that cannot be pursued by fundraising staff. Say there is an online fundraising contest with a top prize of $200,000. All you need to do is have the most votes at the end of the contest. If you win, your fundraising for the year is complete, and you’ll be able to deliver all of your programs and services. All you need to do is win the contest.
If you invest all of your organization’s fundraising resources in that contest and win, that’s great! It’s like becoming a millionaire overnight. But how likely are you to win that contest? And what if you don’t win? It’s like putting all of your money on that stock that tanks.
Grantwriting is similar. Some foundations and governments award large grants. If you write one winning grant proposal for a $200,000 grant, then your organization is set for the year. But what if you invest a lot of time and resources, and don’t get the grant? What if, to have enough time to dedicate to writing the perfect proposal for a $200,000 grant, you let opportunities to apply for other, smaller grants pass you by?
Just as the economy impacts individual investing, and decisions investors make, it also impacts the nonprofit sector, and the funds available for nonprofits seeking support. As many nonprofits are painfully aware, government funding has decreased over the past several years while demand for services has remained steady and has increased in many cases. For organizations that were overly reliant on government funding, cuts in government support have been disproportionately painful – many organizations have had to cut programs or staff, and some have even been shuttered.
A wise approach to fundraising suggests a diversified portfolio:
- Overall, grants should comprise one component of your organization’s fundraising, but not at the expense of individual fundraising, fees for service, events, or other fundraising activities that are appropriate for your specific organization and issue area.
- Your grantseeking portfolio should be diversified as well:
- Pursue a combination of smaller and larger grants, ensuring that the total possible value of the grants far exceeds your needs. If you write $200,000 worth of proposals, and only half of the proposals are funded, you won’t meet your fundraising needs
- Pursue a combination of government and foundation grants. If a government grant disappears, diversified nonprofits will still have support from foundations. It’s not a panacea, but it is better to have some funding (and money in the bank) than none
- Pursue a combination of levels of government grants, from small local agencies, to state and Federal grants. Not all levels of government grants will be right for all organizations, so be sure to craft a diversified plan that is right for your organization
- Pursue a combination of foundation types. Different types of foundations have different mandates, and their giving patterns can differ when economic conditions or giving priorities change. Get to know the community foundation in your area, as well as the family foundations and corporate foundations and giving programs that support organizations in your geographic area and issue areas.
A diversified grantwriting portfolio is a wise fundraising strategy.
What are your tips for creating a diversified fundraising or grantwriting portfolio? Share them in the comments below.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobydimitrov/3461353547/
This is a guest post by David Krumlauf
People who work for nonprofit organizations know only too well that they need good technology to be successful. Unfortunately, many foundations don’t quite get it yet. The foundation staff members who review and recommend grants are often confused by what organizations are asking for and why they’d need such a thing.
I’ve been doing IT support and funding for the “Core Grantees” of The Pierce Family Charitable Foundation for over 5 years and have seen how they struggle with their IT needs. I’ve seen the whole range of needs from full network upgrades to just a few minor server tweaks.
If you’re in that group that needs a technology upgrade but are struggling to get those needs funded, here are a few tips to help you be more successful:
- Create a workable technology plan – You may not have an IT person on staff, but it’s worth finding someone (either a staff member or consultant) to do a network, hardware and software inventory, needs assessment and timeline. The more you know about what you have and what you need, the easier time you’ll have conveying your needs to potential funders. Technology upgrades aren’t always huge requests. Often it’s a matter of training, or minor software and hardware updates. I’ve seen increasing workstation memory, adding a spam filter and reconfiguring existing servers do wonders. Check out Steve Heye’s blog for some great technology planning resources.
- Build good relationships with foundations – Get to know the locally-focused family foundations in your area. Be bold! Contact their development staff and ask them to come for a site visit. Once you have them onsite, you can describe your technology challenges and how much better you could fulfill your mission if those were solved.
- Keep it simple - It’s easy to use tech terms that might be unfamiliar to foundation staff when applying for grants. Use simple, straightforward language that won’t confuse the reader. You won’t get funding if the foundation staff can’t understand what you’re asking for.
- Be comfortable with the grant reporting requirements - Too often grants come with complex reporting requirements. To build a long-lasting relationship with a foundation, be sure you give them what they’re looking for when they want it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get clarification.
- Bundle technology requests into program grants - If your program requires staff to be out in the field gathering data, adding a few mobile devices makes a lot of sense. Funders usually understand the need for the proper tools to do the job at hand.
- Keep grant requests reasonable - Start small, meet the reporting requirements and build up to larger, more complex requests. Use your technology plan to determine what easy, not too costly solution works best for you.
- Build trust - Once a foundation knows you, your work and sees your progress, larger tech grants will be a lot easier to obtain. Funders love working with grantees that they know will put their grant money to good use and be better prepared to fulfill their mission.
- Give yourself time - Don’t feel like you have to fix everything all at once. This often creates more problems than good. Give staff the training and time they need to adapt to the changes you implement. “Baby Steps” is a good way to go.
So now you’re primed and ready to go. Don’t be shy about asking for what you need! Funders are always looking for good causes to help and more and more are getting the idea that nonprofits need good tools just like they do.
David Krumlauf is an old biology teacher, ISP owner and now Chief Technologist of a private Chicago-based foundation. He lives in a greenbuilt home in NW lower Michigan.