Over the past ten years the Latino Coalition For Community Leadership has been fortunate to receive over 22 million dollars in grants from the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Justice, and Health and Human Services – Administration for Children & Families. These Federal grant dollars have allowed us to serve in over 20 cities in eight states awarding over $15 million in grants to 42 community and faith-based organizations since 2004. Currently we are coming to the end of our 30 month 10 million dollar DOL grant. We continue to seek more funding to sustain our service to the great work nonprofits do in communities around the country.
I thought I would share with you some of the things we learned over the years in research, writing and applying for grants. I hope these few tips will be helpful to you-especially newer organizations needing that first grant to get you off the ground and running, or the next grant to sustain the services you provide.
Step 1: Re-visit your Mission
- Key Principle: “Know thyself to grow thyself.”
- Stay in your circle of influence, effectiveness and expertise.
- Write out and post your Mission for all to see and know.
- Don’t be afraid to re-write or update your mission statement to reflect who you are to the community you serve. Learn to speak your community’s language.
Why is this important?
- Your Mission Statement (MS) is the guiding force of your decisions.
- Your MS describes you clearly and briefly to funding sources – your application must match your mission.
- Your MS will keep you from “chasing money” that does not match your mission.
Components of a solid Mission Statement include short statements that describe:
- Who we are (organization focus)
- What we do (Describes program/project)
- Who we do it for (Defines target audience)
- Where we do it (Defines specific location)
- Why we do it (Describes motivation/compassion)
- General principle: keep it short enough that you and your members can recite it on demand.
Remember: You must be able to clearly describe your project to a variety of funding sources in a short but compelling manner
Step 2 – Prepare to receive
- The time frame for grant application development is limited (45-60 days – depends on the source) – Get your house in order and ready to receive!
- Create a file / notebook / box where you keep information “ready” about your ministry and programs.
- This information includes:
Media, articles, brochures, program description, testimonies, methodology used in programs, record keeping & management of volunteers, participants, employees, Board Members, 501 c/3 papers, and evaluation of impact of your program, etc.
If you do not have any of this “stuff”, start writing or collecting it now!
Step 3: Team Work
- A good proposal takes a good team of like-minded individuals.
- The role of the Executive Director/Leader is that of a “resource” of vision, information and approval.
- Identify people (inside or outside your organization) for the following key roles:
- Writing the proposal
- Accountant-Book Keeper to prepare the project budget
- Project Manager calling team meetings to check on time line progress, etc.
Step 4: Understand the importance of Community Partnership & Relationships
“If we want something we have never had, we have to do things we have never done”
- Key role for Leader/Board Members is building community partnerships
- Grant Funding always asks about community involvement
- Demonstrating working relationships enhances your credibility
- Grant applications often require a “sustainability plan”
New Partnership Development:
- Attend community workshops & trainings
- Visit other programs
- Join an advocacy group
- Chamber of Commerce – Business groups
- Open House – invite community leaders to a special event and honor them for their community service.
- Write letters of support
- Attend their meetings
- Volunteer or accept Board invitations when feasible
- Invite community friends to be on your Advisory Committee (i.e. “grant advisory committee”)
- Share your resources (Building, classrooms, parking)
- Start a community committee to address neighborhood needs
Step 5: Understanding The Three Core Elements of A Proposal:
1. Program = 80% of points – scoring
2. Marketing = “Resume” – why they should fund you, qualifications, distinction, track record, experience.
- Appendix (letters of support, staff & Board resumes)
3. Financial = Budget & Future funding
Step 6: Finding Grant Opportunities
- Know the Funding Agency-for example:
The Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships will focus on four key priorities, to be carried out by working closely with the President’s Cabinet Secretaries and each of the eleven agency offices for faith-based and neighborhood partnerships:
- The Office’s top priority will be making community groups an integral part of our economic recovery and poverty a burden fewer have to bear when recovery is complete.
- It will be one voice among several in the administration that will look at how we support women and children, address teenage pregnancy, and reduce the need for abortion.
- The Office will strive to support fathers who stand by their families, which involves working to get young men off the streets and into well-paying jobs, and encouraging responsible fatherhood.
- Finally, beyond American shores this Office will work with the National Security Council to foster interfaith dialogue with leaders and scholars around the world.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog – click on Faith and Neighborhood Partnerships
Funders include Federal, State, County, City, Corporate, Community, private and Family Foundations
- Know their Mission, priorities, giving pattern – do your homework.
- Study the application guidelines.
- Make contact with a program officer.
- Know the deadlines and any technical assistance workshops they may be offering.
- Know The Funding Terms
- Request for Proposal (RFP)
- Request for Application (RFA)
- Letter of Inquiry
- Know Where to Look
- Catalogue of Federal Domestic Assistance (www.cfda.gov )
- Federal Register (www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html )
- Grant opportunities (www.grants.gov)
- Foundation Center (www.fdncenter.org)
Departments that fund FBO work:
- U.S. Departments of:
- Justice (http://www.justice.gov/10grants/)
- Labor (http://www.doleta.gov/grants/)
- Health & Human Services (http://www.hhs.gov/grants/)
Rules for Use of Federal Funds by FBO’s:
- You may not use funds to support “inherently religious activities.”
- No religious worship, instruction, proselytizing
- You cannot require people to participate in religious activities.
- You can invite to participate, but services not dependent on participation.
- You cannot use funds to purchase religious materials—Bible, Torah, Koran, Talmud or other religious or scriptural materials You may hire employees based on faith orientation (although this provision is under a lot of fire in congress right now and might change).