What Not to Say in a Grant Application

By Diane H. Leonard, GPC

Sometimes, it is just as important to know what NOT to say, as it is to know what TO say. This isn’t only true in real life scenarios, but also in grant applications.
Instead of talking about what to say in your grant applications (that is what we focus on in Grant Writing 101), we thought what if instead we focus on what NOT to say in a grant application?

Grant Application
Here are the 3 things you should NOT say or use in grant applications:

1. “We are not sure how we will continue the program after your grant funding ends.”

The reality is, you are seeking grant funding, so clearly you don’t have all your resource needs met or a major donor with an unlimited checkbook to support your work. You truly might not be sure which of the pending proposals will piece together to support the program in the upcoming fiscal years, but you DO have a plan for who you are asking for support from and when, *right?* You should share that plan. Outline the other types of revenue you use to support your programs to highlight how your organization is not grant dependent. Outline the long-term funding relationships you have in place.

2. “We hope to be able to…”

It doesn’t matter how that sentence ends. As the Rockstar organization that you are, you can’t, in fact, you don’t just hope to do anything. In a grant funded world you will do something. You don’t hope to create impact, but rather you will create impact. You don’t hope to increase knowledge, but rather you will increase knowledge. You don’t hope to change behaviors, you will change behaviors. You DON’T simply hope. Your organization to is good at what you do to simply hope.

3. Buzz words, phrases, or industry jargon

Including buzz words or industry jargon in your proposal makes it more difficult for the reviewer to understand. Words like unique, collaborative and impactful are all overused words in narratives. Reviewers begin to discount what those words mean as they have become such overused buzz words. Select impactful language that the rest of your narrative supports.
Acronyms annoy and confuse the reviewers. A fellow grant reviewer sitting on a panel with me once said point blank that acronyms actually made them angry and they would stop reading as a result. Unless you are desperate for space in a character counted situation, look at your response and consider how to eliminate, or at least reduce, your use of acronyms for the sake of the reader.

What other things do you have that are “no-no” items for including in the text of your grant application or the story you are creating for a grant application? Share them with us in the comments section of the website or via social media.

About The Author

Diane H. Leonard, GPC, President of DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC is an experienced and highly respected grant professional who provides grant development counsel to nonprofit organizations of varying size and scope. Diane founded DH Leonard Consulting & Grant Writing Services, LLC in 2006 and has secured millions of dollars in competitive grant funds for clients from the federal, state and local governments, and private foundations.

5 Simple Steps to Build a Better Event

5 Simple Steps to Build a Better Event

By A.J. Steinberg

Sometimes bad events happen to good organizations. Yes, it’s true.  Even the best nonprofits sometimes miss the mark when it comes to creating successful fundraisers.

After an event flops, executive directors and board members scratch their heads trying to figure out how things got so off track. They wonder what steps could have been taken to better engage guests and raise those much-needed funds.

We can all empathize with these organizations. No one wants their event to have unsold tickets, lackluster stage programs or disappointed guests. We all want to raise money and build strong community bonds, especially after all the time and resources expended in the planning and execution of these events.

As a nonprofit event planner with 20 years of experience, I know the secret to successful events isn’t an overinflated budget, a ridiculously large silent auction or an overly-long stage program.

The secret to successful events is building it right!

By starting your event planning with these five simple steps, you will be laying a strong foundation that will grow into an event of which your organization can be proud.

5 Simple Steps to Building a Better Event

 1.  Define your event’s goals – This critical first step is often overlooked because organizations consider events simply a way to raise funds. Don’t sell your event short! There are five goals you should target for your event. They are:

  • To raise funds
  • To raise awareness
  • To promote a new program
  • A call to action
  • Community appreciation

Once you have identified your event’s goals, write them down! Let your entire team know what your objectives are for the event.

2.  Identify your target demographic – Who is going to come to your event? You need to figure out specific characteristics of your desired guests so that you can create an event that appeals directly to them. Here is what to consider:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Income
  • Personal Interests

3.  Choose a date and location that are convenient Unless your support base is scattered along a broad geographic swath, find a venue for your event that is convenient for your targeted guests. Also, choose a date for your event that doesn’t overlap with other community happenings that could compete for ticket sales. Check your online school, community and religious calendars to ensure you aren’t choosing a date that has obvious conflicts.

4.  Choose a realistic ticket price – Carefully consider what your supporters and target demographic can afford. Analyze what you are offering them – overcharging is a real turnoff for event goers.

My rule of thumb is that ticket sales should pay for the event’s hard costs such as food and beverage, venue fees, and rentals. If your target demographic can’t afford $250 per head, then consider a lower priced venue and event.

5.  Use an event committee Your event committee is a crucial component to ensure your event’s success. The committee not only helps you with the work associated with the planning, but they bring invaluable contacts and resources for your event. Each committee member has an army of friends, relatives and colleagues – all keen to be supportive in any way they can. Committee members round up auction donations, help solicit sponsorships and are key to boosting your ticket sales.

When you start your event out right by following these five steps, the ensuing planning process will be easier and have greater success. As I like to say, “If you build it, they will come. But, if you build it right, they will bring their friends!”

Learn more from A.J., register for her upcoming live webinar How to Plan a Super Successful Special Event – A Step by Step Guide

About the Author

A.J. Steinberg, founder of Queen Bee Fundraising, has been creating outstanding special events since 1999.

In 2015 A.J. created Queen Bee Fundraising which focuses on the art of nonprofit special event management.  Along with producing nonprofit events, A.J. teaches volunteers and professionals the strategies for producing successful fundraising events, along with guidance on how to successfully lead volunteer committees to achieve their goals.

A.J. works with a broad spectrum of nonprofit clients including The Jane Goodall Institute, Cystic Fibrosis, BreatheLA and Union Rescue Mission, A.J. is a leader in the field of committee-based fundraising.

7 Tips to Get Your Organization to Embrace Asking

By Brian Saber

We all know that asking doesn’t just happen out of nowhere. Your organization and staff have to embrace fundraising clear across the board in order for you to develop a strong culture of asking.

Think of what it would mean if you did have a culture of asking. First and foremost, fundraising would stop being a dirty word! We all know that as soon as we mention the word fundraising most people cringe. Well, that isn’t going to get us anywhere, is it? So how do we shape a culture of asking and a strong fundraising future at our organization?

1) View capital campaigns as the standard

During a capital campaign we invest a tremendous amount of time, energy, and money to put asking front and center. Capital campaigns use strategic approaches to fundraising that engage people, create a clear focus on larger gifts and an energy that drives success.

It’s no surprise that these campaigns are often successful. We can’t always operate at this level, but we can apply some standards from these campaigns to our organization.

2) Asking can’t only be about money

We’re never going to have a culture of asking if the only clear reason for asking is the “need” for money. We first have to make sure we have shared values and can articulate them. That comes about when our board and staff experience programs and report back at meetings.

3) Get the leaders involved

Our leaders must set the example by asking. Are your executive director and board chair asking? If the leaders aren’t asking, why would anyone else? Even if you have full-time development staff, it’s important for the executive director to be out front fundraising.

Oftentimes board members don’t even realize what fundraising is. For most, when we say fundraising they assume it means asking everyone they know for money. We need our board to fundraise by opening doors and cultivating people who can make major gifts.

4) Train everyone to ask

Most people have little or no fundraising training and that’s a recipe for disaster. Any task can only be done well if one is taught how to do it and then given the opportunity to practice what they learned. Asking people to do something they don’t think they can do well will cause them to resist helping.

5) Create an asking plan

Develop an annual fundraising plan that quantifies how many cultivation and solicitation meetings you plan to conduct. Board and staff need to work together to create the plan if everyone is going to commit to it.

Outline clear goals and objectives for the plan, and then assign people the roles they agree to take. Have a set completion date for the plan. This way everyone has a date to stick to and tasks will get done one time. Be sure to review the plan regularly and report on progress.

6) Don’t twist any arms

Everyone has to willingly accept their assignments – going out there under duress will not be helpful. And don’t assign more than 4 prospects at a time to board members – this will be overwhelming and cause less work to get done.

7) Be realistic

And perhaps most importantly, be realistic; we can’t go from 0-60 overnight. It’s much better to celebrate many small successes than it is to set the bar too high. Never forget to celebrate every one’s large and small asking successes; they deserve it. And since the New Year is here, it’s the perfect time to evaluate what’s realistic and what you can do more of this year.

So the next time you get frustrated about the lack of asking at your organization, take a good hard look at whether you’re creating a culture that supports it.

Learn more from Brian in his upcoming webinars.

About The Author

Brian Saber is President of Asking Matters – a online learning platform that trains people how to ask for money and motivates them to do it! Combining the best low-expense and high quality resources in the field, he promises that Asking Matters will help countless organizations continue to do incredible work for their causes.

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