Getting your nonprofit grant-ready: Part twoBy Nicole Morado
The drive to do good is essential in establishing and running a successful nonprofit, but it’s not enough. For your nonprofit to fulfill its mission, you have to be able to show funders and grantmakers that you have the skills to both plan and execute successfully.
In part one, I covered the first three steps of becoming grant-ready, which can be briefly summarized:
Step 1: Develop (and demonstrate) competent leadership.
Executive directors must be strategic, not simply reactive.
Step 2: Establish a full strategic plan.
Don’t make a plan just to satisfy a grantor’s requirements (they spot these in a minute): create one that balances ambitious goals and actionable, achievable initiatives.
Step 3: Surround yourself with people who can truly help.
Venture beyond the people you know, and aim for quality—not for numbers and titles—letting your strategic plan guide your selections.
Now, I’ll detail steps four and five, which will help you land those grants set you down the path for mission success.
Step 4: Execute the plan authentically.
This is the area most overlooked by nonprofits new to planning. Creating the plan is one thing, but executing it is quite another: Now that you have a board, staff, and strategy, how do you get things done day-to-day? Start by making sure the processes you enact are aligned with the strategic plan, and that you have the infrastructure in place to follow through with them.
Authentic execution involves thinking about what each staff member, or department, will do to make sure their work is not only contributing to your mission, but is doing so in a way that advances the plan. How will your officers in finance, development, human resources, marketing and communications, facilities, and programs help turn your plan into action?
To make it easier on yourself and your staff, create worksheets for implementing your plan that codify the steps you’ll take. Each worksheet should flesh out one strategy, spelling out the overall goal (i.e., “decrease hunger among our target population”), your measurable objective (“increase the number of people fed by 15 percent over last year”), and the metric you are tracking (“460 people fed”). Also identify the initiatives you’re proposing to meet that goal, who will take part, the end date, and how much it will cost.
|Strategic goal||Decrease hunger among our target population|
|Objective||Increase the number of people fed by 15 percent over 2016 total (400 people)|
|Metric||460 people fed|
|Initiatives||Secure referrals from existing clients; partner with one new food donor; recruit 6 new volunteers; evaluate outcomes/results|
|Staff responsible||John in programs; Dana in development; Hugo in volunteer management|
|Volunteers responsible||Senior volunteers Joel and Xiomara|
|End date||Dec. 31, 2017|
$200-$500/staff costs + supplies and marketing
Before they’ll contribute funding, foundations want to know that you can make your plan a reality. Have these worksheets ready, and they’ll have confidence that you can accomplish what you’ve set out to do.
Step 5: Establish partnerships in the larger community.
When you’re engaged in the business of helping others, people often come to you with needs that are related to your mission, but not at the core of what you do. It may be tempting to be all things to those people, but it’s important to keep your focus if you want to accomplish your goals—especially when you’re a young organization. A much better strategy is to establish partnerships with other organizations that can meet the additional needs of your constituents.
Say your nonprofit tutors immigrant children: You might notice that their parents could use help learning English or finding a job. Because these areas aren’t central to your mission, you can form a partnership with an organization that can help them. That way, you deepen your service to your constituents without taking on responsibility for areas in which your expertise is limited. This is a concept we call “engagement exponentialism,” whereby engaging in the broader community allows you to exponentially increase your impact.
It’s important, however, to protect yourself and your clients by partnering only with organizations that are healthy, financially and otherwise. An unhealthy partner can easily drag the healthy one down.
If you want foundations, companies, government sources, and high-wealth donors to invest in your nonprofit, show them you can accomplish what you set out to do with a thoughtful and actionable plan. Following these steps will put you well on your way to mission success—and gaining the confidence of all stakeholders, both inside and outside the organization.
Nicole Morado is a consultant at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits.