All Laced Up: Making A List

Feedback checklist

by Lynn Calder
This past weekend, I was thinking about how we advise clients to prepare for the grants writing process, and it brought back memories of my annual two-week trips I would make to the overseas campus of my former employer (a university). The process before departing would entail gathering my necessary work files (these were the days before Dropbox!), clothing, pleasure books and magazines for the flight, gifts for colleagues and toiletries.

I created and kept a word doc of my packing checklist.  As I prepared for each trip, I would gather everything up and not miss a thing—making the whole process of leaving the country quite easy.

This process is similar to what we advise for our nonprofit clients preparing grant applications.

Although each foundation has different requirements, there are some documents that are usually always needed, such as your organization’s IRS determination letter.

Shoestring Solutions has developed a checklist that helps nonprofits gather up needed materials for a grant application.  It is a helpful exercise to compile certain documents and organize them in a folder, let’s call it “Grant Documents,” on your hard drive or in Dropbox.

Check to make sure your Board of Directors list is current—if it is not, update it.  Do you have your most recent project budget and organizational budget?  Find a copy of your latest audit or 990 and place it in there. Do you have any brochures, clippings or publications that can help your case for support?  If so, put them in the Grants Documents folder.

Having these documents at the ready will make the process of submitting a grant application much easier. You will save time and headaches without having to scramble around at the last minute.

So make your grants list (Shoestring Solutions can help you) and then be assured that your application can be sent off with ease!

Shoestring Solutions for Nonprofits is passionate about helping small nonprofits meet their mission.  All Laced Up is just a taste of how we can help you gain traction with your constituents, raise funds, and make the most impact with limited resources.  Questions?  Contact us: info@shoestringde.com
Image credit: AJ Cann, Flickr

 

 

All Laced Up: 5 Simple Tips

imagesFinding Your Institutional Voice
by Lynn Calder

While watching The Muppet Show with my daughter last night, I was reminded how daunting crafting an institutional message can be. A rebranding expert comes in and tries to make Up Late with Miss Piggy more relevant—the gang choses to craft their own plan and hilarity ensues.

For many nonprofits, figuring out how to best craft your institutional message to your constituents is indeed a challenge.  How do you tell your clients about your services?  Are you making the best use of social media and your website for your constituents? Is your message clear in your publications and e-blasts?

With so many forms of communications, it is key to find your institutional voice and message.  How do you do that?  This week, Shoestring Solutions for Nonprofits is sharing 5 Simple Tips to get you started:

  1. Start with your Mission
    First, take a look at your mission statement. Is it relevant to the work you are doing now? Make sure your work as an organization is constantly meeting the goals of the mission statement.
  1. Who are We Talking to Here?
    Reflect on whom you wish to reach with your institutional message.  Is it current members, donors, alumni, parents or the general public? Write down the top three groups. 
  1. The Write Stuff
    Next, consider your current goals as an organization. Think about what you want people to understand about your organization or an issue. What do you want them to say when asked about your organization?  What do you want your target audience to know about your institution?

    Determine the top three core messages of your organization—and write them down. Be concise and clear in your messaging.  Consider how these messages will help drive fundraising, admissions or delivery of your organization’s services.  Let these three core messages be the road map that will drive all your institutional communications.

  1. Create a Tagline
    From your three messaging points, develop a tagline that quickly and concisely communications your institutional goals. Keep it to 8 words or less.  Make sure it is memorable—and repeatable!
  2.  Stay on Topic
    So now you have your messaging in place.  What’s next? Let the core messages guide your content for publications, help position your e-blasts or newsletters and be present on your website.  Keep to your core messages on social media, where it is easy to get off-target with posts or tweets. Make sure you are always on mark with keeping relevant to the message and being useful to your followers.

    With your organization’s core messaging now set, it will be much easier to communicate all the good work you are doing—and better reach your constituents.

Shoestring Solutions for Nonprofits is passionate about helping small nonprofits meet their mission.  These 5 Simple Tips are just a taste of how we can help you gain traction with your constituents, raise funds, and make the most impact with limited resources.  Questions?  Contact us: info@shoestringde.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

All Laced Up – Unexpected Windfall Crisis!

by Ellisha Caplan

Money Everywhere

Hypothetical: You’ve started a capital campaign to raise funds for a large building project.  You are reaching out to individual prospects, but have also sent out several large requests to foundations.  Out of the blue, a donor contacts you and says she’d like to donate the rest of the money needed for the project, on the very same day that you receive a sizeable check from one of the foundations.

What do you do?

A client asked a similar question of us this week, and after the initial shock of the question – how amazing would it be to have a “one and done” resolution to a major capital campaign?! – I thought, “Call the foundation!”

Lynn and I agreed that any foundation that wanted to fund the project would likely want the organization to keep the money, but that they would surely want to know what was going on.  They have taken the time to consider the request and have disbursed the funds, so they are surely invested in the organization.  The rest is just details that need to be discussed.

Communicating with funding organizations is easily as important as communicating with your individual donors.  This applies not only to incredible windfall donations that turn a grant into surplus, but also to significant changes for foundation-funded programs.

For some reason, foundations carry a certain mystique that leaves people questioning moves that would be simple in any other situation.  Perhaps it is because they are intimidated by the high stakes and sometimes complex application process?  Whatever the reason for the lack of clarity, the answer to the problem of what to do when the unexpected happens is simple – Call the foundation!

Shoestring Solutions for Nonprofits is passionate about helping small nonprofits meet their mission.  All Laced Up is just a taste of how we can help you gain traction with your constituents, raise funds, and make the most impact with limited resources.  Questions?  Contact us: info@shoestringde.com

 

All Laced Up

DSCF4006All Laced Up is Shoestring Solutions for Nonprofits’ semi-monthly blog, covering topics that concern small nonprofits, their leadership, and volunteers.  All Laced Up will offer you ideas and advice on how to get from where you are as an organization to where you want to be.

All Laced Up – 5 Simple Tips

 Make Your Email Newsletter More Effective
& Save Time While You Do It
by Ellisha Caplan

DSCF3961If you run a small nonprofit, you may struggle keeping your donors and contacts up to date on what you’re doing – after all, you are so involved in the actual work of your organization that you may feel like you don’t have the time to keep your supporters informed about all the great things that you’re doing.  Don’t miss the forest for the trees – keeping those who care about your organization informed and engaged is crucial to any organization’s long-term success.

These 5 Simple Tips from Shoestring Solutions for Nonprofits will provide you with a few tools to make the most of a monthly or weekly email newsletter, and ensure your email contacts open it up, too!

  1. Less is more – you don’t need to write pages and pages or even paragraph after paragraph about what you are doing – try a bulleted list of the five things you did this week that fulfilled your organization’s mission. If you struggle with staying concise, turn your update into a blog post and put it on your website, asking the reader to click-through to read it in full.  Your regular message can also serve as your regular website update. (See, making life easier for you already!)
  2. Use images. A picture is worth a thousand words.  If you have a great image from your work in the past week or month, use it! (just watch the size and the quantity – images that take too long to download are a no-no)
  3. Always include a Call to Action. This email is your shining opportunity to ask for volunteers for an upcoming program, to request a donation, even to ask folks to invite other people to join your email list! Make the most of it.  That doesn’t mean a laundry list of requests, but a prioritized Call to Action.  I like to include a Donate button on every message.  Depending on your organization’s mission, that may or may not make sense.
  4. Keep it Simple. There are all sorts of fancy templates available to you through Constant Contact or MailChimp, or whatever mass emailing system you have chosen, but you would be well-advised to choose the simplest, one column template you can find! With somewhere between 45 – 70% of all emails viewed on a mobile device or tablet rather than a computer screen, you’re far more likely to get opens when the format is clean enough to be read easily on a smaller screen.
  5. Be Consistent – Writing a weekly or monthly email newsletter will become a habit for you, and reading it will become a habit for your followers, as long as you stick to a schedule. Make sure that, whatever you choose to do, you send at the same time, on the same day of the week.

Shoestring Solutions for Nonprofits is passionate about helping small nonprofits meet their mission.  These 5 Simple Tips are just a taste of how we can help you gain traction with your constituents, raise funds, and make the most impact with limited resources.  Questions?  Contact us: info@shoestringde.com

All Laced Up is Shoestring Solutions for Nonprofits’ semi-monthly blog, covering topics that concern small nonprofits, their leadership, and volunteers.  All LacedUp will offer you ideas and advice on how to get from where you are as an organization to where you want to be.