Is hiring a grant writer worth the investment?

9 Oct

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

So you have a project planned. A project that could reach and help a lot of people. But where is the money coming from to execute said project? A grant, of course. There’s not always a budget for that “great idea.” But if you’ve never written a grant, the process can seem daunting, not to mention time consuming. You have to decide if you can commit to the process or if it might be more to your benefit to hire out. There are a lot of questions to ask, but one that always comes up is:

Is it worth the investment?

My answer is yes. I know what you’re thinking: of course your answer is yes. You’re a grant writer and that helps the bottom line. Well, ok sure. But I’m also in business because I love nonprofits. (Check out my “About” page for evidence.)

Grants can be an amazing way for nonprofits to get funding. If fundraising isn’t meeting all your needs, maybe it’s time to try changing strategies. The cost of hiring a grant writer is only a very small percentage of the funding you could earn for your VIP — very important project.

Maybe I can help you. Here’s how I do it:

1. We’ll set up a meeting with all relevant stakeholders (i.e. Board of Directors, department staff, etc.) to come up with the ultimate goal. It will need to be specific in order to determine the right grant opportunities for your project. We’ll discuss budget, strategy and all other details.

2. After establishing your goal, I’ll conduct research into available funding opportunities. I’ll compile a list of those matching your needs and contact each association individually to discuss the exact details of their offering. I’ll introduce your organization so that you’re top of mind.

3. Next comes the actual proposal writing. Based on my interview with the organization and the funding requirements, I will craft a proposal that meets these requirements for the best chance of being awarded.

4. Once I’ve written the proposal and put all the pieces together, I will schedule a meeting with all relevant staff to get final approval. Once received, I will submit the proposal. I will be available for questions and grant-fulfillment coaching during the waiting time.

5. And once you’ve been awarded your grant, I will be there to walk you through the fulfillment, follow up and subsequent publicity.

Contact me for more details and financial commitment. I make your VIP my VIP. Your project is the only one that I take on at a time to ensure that you get the best chance at getting awarded.

I look forward to talking with you.

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Attention All Fundraisers: Read This!

5 Sep

Wednesday, September 5,2012

Katya Andresen received this letter that every non-profit leader, employee and volunteer should read….and do all that they can not to replicate the events.

Katya,

You often stress the importance of timely thank you’s, and as a donor, I can say that I really do notice how quickly I get an acknowledgement for a donation. If it doesn’t come quickly, I get annoyed. On two occasions, with two different organizations, I’ve actually followed up to find out why I hadn’t received anything in the mail to acknowledge my gift. 

On the first occasion, after giving a reasonably large donation to an annual fund and not hearing back for about three weeks, I spoke with the development director to make sure he’d actually received and processed my donation. He seemed quite surprised, as he remembered writing me an immediate and enthusiastic thank you letter. He called me back the next day to tell me that he’d looked into it, and discovered that someone in the mailroom had been holding all his letters until there were enough to do a bulk mailing! 

On the second occasion, just this week, I followed up with an organization to which I had committed a capital campaign gift in a phone conversation several weeks prior. I mentioned that I hadn’t received anything in the mail, such as a pledge form or letter of intent to make my commitment binding (let alone a thank you). It turned out that development officer had also written me a letter immediately to be sent with a pledge form, but again, the person who was actually responsible for getting things into the mail was holding the letter until some other materials that were going to be sent to me were ready—so I still haven’t received it, five weeks later. 

In both instances, the development person did the right thing—immediate and enthusiastic thanks. In both instances, someone on their staff made the decision to save a stamp. A good process derailed, and goodwill and hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in future donations potentially jeopardized—all for the price of a first-class stamp.

-Anonymous reader

I almost can’t believe that this still happens. But my guess is that we’ve let ourselves get lazy. We’ve gotten lost in the social media-sphere and don’t know how to make simple interactions. The thank you letter/call as well as physical mailings are all but obsolete for some organizations. Katya is constantly reminding those of us who work with and for non-profits that the follow up — the ‘thank you’ in particular — is one of the most important practices for any development director. 

I can’t fathom why anyone would treat a donor the way this author was treated. My suggestion: if you are in development, don’t! Don’t let another donor feel this way. Don’t let future opportunities be squandered because one person felt un- or under-appreciated. 

Your turn: How do you thank donors? Have you ever had an experience like this one? What steps did you take to correct it?

Thanks! Until next time, be well!
Regards,

-Laura

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Week in Review August 20-24

24 Aug

Friday, August 24, 2012

The best of the week from DM&C.

{Twitter:}

- “All nonprofits have customers. Lucky nonprofits have fans. But the best nonprofits have audiences. http://awe.sm/f3IlT @smartnonprofit

- Buddy Media’s recent study has discovered that best times to post on Facebook: 4am, 7am and 11pm. http://awe.sm/e3RPk

{Marketing Musings blog:}

- Recessions affect everyone in some way. But I think, because of their nature, nonprofits can really struggle. How they navigate and overcome the waters following layoffs. 

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Maintaining Momentum After Layoffs

21 Aug

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Layoffs have the same effect on a non-profit as knocking the wind out of someone by running at them full speed. At least that’s how it felt when a dear organization I was involved with had succumbed to the depths of the economic struggle. One day 9 amazing people – who regularly devoted hours and days beyond the 37.5 hour work week – worked in a tight-knit office. The next day 2 remained. All were devastated.

Layoffs – one or many – can totally zap all momentum if left to fester. How do those that remain pick up again and move on, likely doing their job plus another? Well, the answer isn’t an easy one and honestly, will be different for every organization because each one has a different dynamic. But here are my 4 keys to getting back on the proverbial horse and moving on.

1. Mourn. It’s ok to take some time – “some” is defined differently for everyone – to mourn the loss of employees/friends so do it. But then it’s time to pull it together and get serious about the future.

2. Refocus. Ok, so now back to business.

  • Schedule a meeting with the Board of Directors to hear what their expectations are.
  • Complete a SWOT analysis. What went wrong? What did we do well.
  • Define new goals. Start small and work up to major issues.
  • Be flexible. Allow room for modifications to the plan.

3. Restructure if necessary. Define new positions; retitle where applicable. Who will be doing what? Explicitly outline expectations.

4. Use Volunteers. Increase volunteer involvement in projects and campaigns. Focus on the use of volunteer committees. If necessary, complete a volunteer recruitment campaign.

Bottom Line: Layoffs are difficult, but you can overcome. 

Do you have any words of wisdom to contribute to this article? Be part of the discussion by sharing your views in the “Comments” section below.

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Week in Review August 6-10

10 Aug

Friday, August 10, 2012

The best of the week for DM&C.

Twitter:

The 10 most influential non-profit bloggers revealed. I’ve referenced a few of them on several occasions.

An annual report is another extension of your brand; another opportunity to show your constituents what you value. What does your annual report say about your organization? Do you take the time to thank the people that made your successful year possible. One shelter did and got rave reviews and more support.

Infographic: America’s Nonprofit Sector

Facebook:

“When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.” -Betty Bender

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Lessons on Marketing from our Forefathers

2 Jul

Monday, July 2, 2012

In light of celebrating our nation’s independence, I thought it would be pertinent to look back at what our forefathers had to say. I think we can still learn a lot from their timeless quotes. Here are a few of my favorites. 

“A spoonful of sugar will catch more flies than a gallon of vinegar.” -Benjamin Franklin    Customer service is one of the hallmarks of marketing. If you have terrible customer service, you’re going to lose sales. There is an appropriate way to respond to criticism and complaints and it doesn’t involve name-calling and going in the defensive. Instead, own up to the mistake — if applicable — and put a positive spin on it. You’ll end up catching – and keeping – more “flies” that way.  

“Have you something to do to-morrow; do it to-day.” -Benjamin Franklin     Plan ahead! For example: Write your editorial calendar and content months in advance so that you’re not stuck scrambling when it’s time to put it in motion. Arrange your activities and materials for the next day before leaving the night before. 

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” -Abraham Lincoln       All departments within a company must work together towards the same goal. That means that they should maintain regular communication. For example: Sales should share with marketing their new leads to analyze demographics. Marketing should make sales aware of current initiatives and goals for an accurate picture of the audience.

“Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” -Benjamin Franklin    Science proves that people are most productive in the morning after a good night’s sleep. In addition, decisions are best made in the morning. “…[O]ur ability to make any type of difficult decisions is adversely affected by fatigue.” So get up early and start spreading your message.

“Disciple is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.” -George Washington    A brand is only as strong as its weakest attribute. The soul of a brand is its ability to be disciplined, consistent throughout…from internal operations to customer perceptions. Without them, a brand will surely fail. 

“Genius is sorrow’s child.” -John Adams    Out of a need, creativity is born. Embrace the challenge to come up with a spectacular campaign. Be open to conflict because often that’s where the best ideas come from. 

Happy Independence Day!

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Relationship Building in the Digital Age

18 Jun

Monday, June 18, 2012

To follow up with the series “It’s All About Relationships”, I wanted to offer some tips on forming relationships in the digital age. As you know, networking is vastly different than it was even 5 years ago. With the explosion in popularity and efficiency of social media, most networking is done via these platforms. You have the opportunity to build relationships every day on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Are you taking advantage of these interactions? What follows are a few tips for each of the popular social media platforms to making connections and building relationships that last. 

LinkedIn
LinkedIn is one of the most powerful networking tools online. It has a more professional environment than Facebook and Twitter.

  • Join groups that are applicable to your industry and/or interests.
  • Within those groups, post relevant and original content.
  • See who is connected to your the people in your network and ask for an introduction if you think it would benefit both of you.
  • Comment regularly on articles with intelligent responses or arguments.

Facebook
Though you can be more relaxed on Facebook than on LinkedIn, it’s still an opportunity to impress. 

  • Post regularly. That means something different to every company or individual so research the best days and times to do so.
  • Photos and videos draw people in more than words.
  • Dare to have a little fun by offering anecdotes, polls, trivia, etc.
  • Don’t oversell. Use it as a platform for a message.

Twitter

  • If you’re not using @ in your tweets, you’re probably missing opportunities to connect. Even just a ‘thank you for following, @…’ can go a long way.
  • Consistency is the key. Create a queue with tools like Tweue or Timely to make your program more efficient.

Pinterest

  • Post pictures that stir an emotional response.
  • Categorize pictures so they’re easier to look through and repin.

Blogging

  • Consider asking a guest blogger to write an article or series. You’ll automatically have a wider network.
  • A good headline to a post will get 5 times more readership than the article itself!
  • Comment regularly — and strategically — on other blog’s posts. (Follow the link for some really great tips.)

The Bottom Line:[Relationships are]… a collaborative bond, fostered via meaningful and well-timed communications and recognition.” 

Your turn: How do you network online? Which platform do you find most effective?

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It’s All About Relationships Part 4 – Marriage

4 Jun

Monday, June 4, 2012

You’ve met Mr. right. You’ve dated. You’ve proposed. Now, how do you sustain the relationship through til the ‘Golden Years’? In the same way a marriage takes a lot of work, so does a business relationship. It requires patience, understanding and compassion. (For this, I can claim extensive experience! Though I’ve only been married 6 years, I’ve learned a lot.)

Numerous external influences (i.e. children, in-laws, friends, etc. = competitors) will be at work throughout the lifetime of the relationship. So how do you ensure that you’lk keep your constituency? It comes down to maintaining customer loyalty.

Maintaining Customer Loyalty Through Customer Experience Management
One of my favorite college professors used to talk incessantly about what is now called Customer Experience Management or CEM. He totally believed in the power that relationships provide to the success of any enterprise. The more time I spend in public relations, I absolutely agree.

Non-profits especially carry a large burden because of their very nature. They survive on the generosity of individuals, charitable businesses and philanthropic organizations. Ensuring that their experiences at every touch point are positive — and rewarding — should be THE top priority.

Today’s business experiences happen not only in the office or storefront, but in the virtual world. According to Bain & Company’s report ‘Putting social media to work’, “customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20 percent to 40 percent more money with those companies than other customers.”


What does that mean for a non-profit organization? It means that to meet and interact with potential donors you have to have a presence in the social media-sphere. Not just a presence, but a personality, a purpose and a plan. According to the research, your donor are going to meet you online. So…

  • Create fangelists
  • Make social media platforms places where people feel comfortable coming and sharing
  • Run exciting campaigns to attract to constituents – contests, initiatives for donations, fundraising competitions
Customer Experience Management Also Means Customer Service
Also included in Customer Experience Management is customer service. It is 5 times more expensive to attract new clients than it is to retain the ones you already have. I know that in the non-profit world things don’t work the same as for-profit business, but the same principles apply. Every person who walks through your door or comes to an event or visits your website should receive the utmost customer service. If they feel unimpressed in the least, that’s it – you’ve probably lost them forever. People may approach you with an interest in the organization and not necessarily want to give yet. Have patience and offer them the same service you would a business sponsor or major gifts donor. I talk about customer service all the time with my clients because I realize its benefits on a regular basis.
 
***How do you know if you’re being successful? By completing regular SWOT analyses of touch points to see where you’ve excelled and what aspects you might have to re-evaluate. Always make sure what you’re doing is measurable so you can look back at trends and missed opportunities.***
Tracking Customer Experience Through Customer Relationships Management
It’s not only important to be on social media recruiting, but you have to track customer touch points through a Customer Relationship Management system. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a method of tracking customers and interactions with them for future reference. CRM systems for marketing purposes are used for things like:
  • Identify potential donors or influential fundraisers
  • Segmenting mailing lists by demographics, giving history, etc.
  • Recording all interactions whether phone calls, face-to-face meetings, social media, etc.
  • Analyzing customer data like giving history, fundraising dollars, participation, etc.
CRM platforms can be anything from Excel spreadsheets, databases, existing CRM platforms and any proprietary systems. By tracking the data, you sill be able to see and analyze trends.

Your turn: Do you use a CRM system to track interactions? If so, what do you use? What successful campaigns have you run on social media?

More from this series:

It’s All About Relationships – Meeting Mr./Miss Right
It’s All About Relationships – Courtship
It’s All About Relationships – The Proposal

Other related posts:

Customer Service and Its Place in the Public Relations Mix
Good Customer Service = Customer Loyalty

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It’s All About Relationships Part 3 – The Proposal

22 May

Monday, May 21, 2012

In the same way that most people wouldn’t accept marriage proposal on the first date, most people will be turned off if you propose a request for a sponsorship or donation without first getting to know your potential donor. We’ve already talked about aligning yourself with the right type of donor and from there nurturing the relationship. Now it’s time to propose. “The ask”, I would venture to say, takes the most tact of all. Not only does it have to be well-timed, but it needs to be carefully crafted and impeccably precise.

Before the Proposal
There’s still a little more prep work to be done before you can ask. Now that you understand that people get involved with organizations because of some emotional need and since you’ve identified this purpose, you need to write your pitch. Why not pitch with a great story? Mark Rovner, of Sea Change Strategies, says that

“[t]here is no more sure fire way to engage someone emotionally than through dramatic stories.”

Want to write a really great story? Here are 4 steps from Katya Andresen – an awesome non-profit bloogger/expert and author of Robin Hood Marketing – to ensure you do just that:

    1. Include a relatable character, someone that your potential donor can identify with. “What unites us all are the trials and tribulations of being human.”
    2. Don’t be afraid to use conflict; in fact, it’s encouraged and will express the humanity
    3. Who/what is your villain? There is always an antagonist in every great story. Maybe it’s poverty or lack of funding for arthritis research. Whatever it is, bring it out into thd open.
    4. Tap into emotional responses by using detail words that conjure a response from one of the sense.
“…the best stories are the ones in which we see ourselves: ‘It is our ability to imagine ourselves in story’s circumstances that makes stories work.'”

The Proposal
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting and rehearsing for. The ask is all about connecting on a real, human level. While planning on how you’re going to propose, always consider the emotional impact of their donation whether it be money, time or in-kind. You’ll also need to determine when the best time is to propose. The setting will determine when to ask. If you’re hosting a fundraising event, consider doing your program with the ask before the meal. If it’s a one-on-one meeting, wait for cues in the conversation or from the person. But whatever the setting, be strategic about when you are going to pop the question.

A few more things to keep in mind:

  • Keep it short and to the point, but don’t sacrifice impact. (30 seconds is all you really need.)
  • Remember your audience and their higher purpose and speak to that end.
  • Rehearse your story so it sounds real and uncontrived.
  • Always speak from the heart to convey your passion.
  • A genuine ‘thank you’ goes a long way. 
Your turn: What do you feel is the best time to make “the ask” during a fundraising dinner? How do you propose to a potential business sponsor? Please share some of your experiences in the “Comments” section below. Thanks!

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[For more on amazing storytelling, check out Katya's blog.] 

It’s All About Relationships Part 2: Courtship

10 May

Thursday, May 10, 2012   

Business connections, as in all relationships, require a great deal of effort. Once you’ve found Mr. Right, it’s time to follow up and nurture the budding relationship. A relationship that is not tended to will definitely become a missed opportunity. 

The First Date

Now it’s time to go on your first date with your ideal mate (read: donor/constituent/customer). This can be done over the phone, but ideally it will be in person for a more intimate approach. It’s all about the donor; the only information you should give about your organization is in response to their questions. You will use your “first date” as a get-to-know-you session:

  • What are their likes and interests?
  • What about them makes them a perfect fit for your organization?  
  • Where are they in the involvement funnel (i.e. What is their availability? In what ways are they interested in participating?)
  • What are their needs are expectations from this involvement? 
  • How does your organization’s mission fulfill a need that they have?

Courtship

If all goes well, your first date will blossom into a beautiful courtship. But first you have to follow up after the first date. It doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking experience. Instead use it as an opportunity to demonstrate another dimension of your organization’s brand. (Every orgnization has a brand promise to fulfill. This goes for non-profits as well.) The first follow up should simply be a personal phone call or note expressing gratitude and appreciation for their time and interest. 

Continue to nurture the relationship with regular communication. Get them on your mailing list(s) and/or send a personalized e-mail here and there to check in. [Caveat: Always, always ask permission before including someone new on your mailing list.]  There’s no need to be pushy. At this point, you’re still getting to know the person and introducing your organization. Consider the following ideas:

  • E-newsletters
  • Social media engagement
  • Blog follows and responses
  • Invitations to signature events

Things to remember about this stage: a) maintain regular communication and b) do not ask…yet!!
Up next week is “The Proposal” and there will be lots of good stuff about “the ask” so stay tuned. 

Your turn: How do you court potential donors/constituents? Do you find that when you follow up, you get a better rate of participation/response? I’d love to hear your comments.

Please let me know what you thought of this article. Thanks!

 

Related Posts:
It’s All About Relationships Part 1 – Meeting Mr./Miss Right

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