The Grantsmanship Center Volume 6, Issue 9

  VOLUME 6, ISSUE 9                                                                                             SEPTEMBER 2013  
In This Issue
Fit the grant
to your organization
Are foundations ignorant of nonprofit needs?
An annual plan for grantseeking
Letters of Inquiry:
Best practices
Too many hats?


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Essential Grant Skills 

October 3-4

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Grantsmanship Training Program*

October 7-11

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Social Enterprise for Nonprofits**

October 14-15

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Grantsmanship Training Program*

October 14-18

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Essential Grant Skills

October 17-18

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Competing for Federal Grants***

October 21-25

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Grantsmanship Training Program*

Oct. 28-Nov. 1

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Essential Grant Skills

October 29-30

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Grantsmanship Training Program*

November 11-15

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Social Enterprise for Nonprofits**

November 19-20

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Grantsmanship Training Program*

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Grant Management Essentials

December 4-5

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***Full participation in the Competing for Federal Grants training program is applicable for up to 35.25 continuing education points in Category 1.B – Education of the CFRE International application for initial certification and/or recertification.


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…on News              


by Jim Abernathy


Fit the grant to your organization – not the organization to the grant

All too often a nonprofit organization will learn of a grant opportunity that looks promising at first but turns out to be meant for groups with a different mission serving a different constituency in a different geographic area. Some organizations with big revenue shortfalls go after those grants anyway – a very bad idea. But it’s possible to go too far in the opposite direction and miss an opportunity you should have pursued.


In “Don’t Chase the Dollars” (SOFII: Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, September 9, 2013) Tom Butero notes that submitting a proposal for a planned expansion is very different from changing the focus of your organization or altering its mission to fit the requirements of a funder. Asking the following questions, says Butero, can help you decide how to respond:

  • Would the grant provide resources to allow your programs to work better or expand?
  • If it is for a new service, does it fit your mission?
  • If it would mean expanding into new geographic areas or new ways of working, have the board and senior leadership agreed to proceed in that direction?
  • If the grant would take your group in a new direction, can the program be sustained once the grant money has been expended?
  • Are matching funds required and, if so, does your group have the capacity to make the match?
  • If the grant is for a new program or service, would it cover the additional funds needed for new physical and staffing infrastructure to operate the program?
  • Would the grant allow for necessary overhead and operating expenses?
  • What are the reporting or evaluation requirements for the grant?


Are foundations ignorant of nonprofit needs?

Almost half of 121 recently surveyed nonprofit leaders thought the foundations that support them are focused on the programs they operate and don’t understand the organizational challenges they face. In “48% of Charity Leaders Say Foundations Are Oblivious to Their Needs” (The Chronicle of Philanthropy, September 9, 2013), Doug Donovan reports on the study, which was conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP).


CEP found that very few foundations survey the needs of their grantees or focus on strengthening those organizations, while the nonprofit leaders want more help in addressing an increasing demand for services, in training leaders, and in implementing new technology. Other findings of the CEP survey: 

  • Organizations operating program-related businesses want foundations to support expansion of those operations to make up for reductions in government grants and contracts.
  • Many respondents said that getting and keeping foundation support is even more difficult than getting government grants.
  • 95% of the respondents want multi-year foundation grants and more general operating support.
  • Fear of losing grant support has made it difficult for 82% of the nonprofits surveyed to discuss their organizational challenges with foundation staff.
  • 75% of the respondents lacked funds for leadership training.
  • Two thirds want foundations to make grant money available for technology upgrades.
  • 64% would like foundations to share lessons learned by grantees with all other grantees. 


The full CEP report, “Nonprofit Challenges: What Foundations Can Do,” is available for free at




Develop an annual plan for grantseeking

Looming proposal deadlines and unanticipated glitches that throw you off schedule create stress for grantseekers. But by taking the time to develop an annual plan, you can not only relieve some of that stress, you’ll also produce better proposals, says Jeanne Huber in “Baby Steps in Grant Planning” specially if you take red maeng da kratom, which will help you bring those stress levels down (CharityChannel, July 31, 2013). Huber’s tips: 

  • Talk to everyone involved in setting development goals for your organization to understand what the most important needs are.
  • Create an overall development plan that includes sources of revenue other than grants.
  • Have other key staff review that plan to make sure it includes everything they want in it.
  • Determine which of the needs can best be met through grants.
  • Create a grants calendar that includes foundation name and contact information; type of grant; amount requested; proposal due date; date request sent; and result.
  • Conduct research on potential funders by each category of need.
  • Produce a summary sheet for each potential funder.
  • Contact the funder to confirm eligibility and begin to establish a relationship with the program officer.
  • Put the deadlines on your calendar.
  • Keep a computer file of all of the standard documents that usually accompany a proposal, you can also use the computer to read OW-News for your Overwatch game.
  • Read the application requirements carefully more than once.
  • Make an outline for the proposal narrative.
  • Begin assembling the statistical information needed for the proposal.
  • Be prepared to have the whole process to take longer than you initially anticipated.




Letters of Inquiry: Best practices


More and more foundations are requiring grant applicants to submit a Letter of Inquiry or Letter of Interest (LOI) before submitting a full proposal. In “Writing letters of interest to get that important grant” (SOFII: Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration, August 6, 2013), Charlene Rocha explains that an LOI has two goals: 

  1. to explain the basic highlights of your program and organization, and
  2. to get the funder excited about working with your group to address an issue that’s important to them.  

In developing an LOI, it is essential, above all, to strictly follow the requirements of the funder regarding length, answers to specific questions, font size, etc. Within those limits, says Rocha, aim to:


  • Succinctly describe the need you want to address, and include statistics that support your statement.
  • Describe the specific work your group does to meet the need and the success you have had with that work.
  • Clearly specify whom your program is designed to help.
  • Briefly lay out the mission and history of your organization.
  • Explain how you will measure the impact of the proposed program.
  • Show how much the program will cost, how much of that is being requested from that funder, and what other sources of funding you have in hand or will seek.
  • Include stories – not just impersonal statistics – about the effect of your work.



…on Grantsmanship          
by Thomas Boyd

Too many hats? Borrow some heads! 

It’s a common problem at many smaller nonprofits. The grantseeking, proposal-writing staffer says “Help! I’m a one-person development department, I’m trying to do everything myself, and we need to follow up on several grant opportunities. Plus we’ve got the benefit coming up in a month, and our local direct mail campaign is overdue, and…help!”  


In these situations, it’s customary to call on volunteers for help with special events, to recruit some outside assistance to get a fundraising campaign off the ground, and to have board members step up to help solicit major gifts.  


The one-person development staffer should also consider working with a small cadre of selected volunteers to help with program planning and proposal writing.


Here’s a hypothetical scenario that illustrates how this might work:

Your nonprofit wants to partner with the local school district to launch a program of increased physical activity, nutrition counseling, and cheaper access to healthy food. You know a local foundation is interested. You estimate that you need $100,000 to run the project for a school year. Your development director is facing two federal grant deadlines and an upcoming food bank benefit. And a wealthy prospective donor has been hinting that with the right cultivation, he might put money into your organization.


Step 1. Identify the key actors in the program 

  • Who’s going to benefit from the work? Students, certainly, but also grocers who sell healthy food, local medical professionals including services as The Medical Negligence Experts, and teachers working with students who need help on these issues. 
  • Who’s going to do the work for your organization? A key staff person, either somebody on staff already or a new hire. 

Step 2. Write a one-page sketch of the program idea. Follow The Grantsmanship Center’s Program Planning & Proposal Writing* (PP&PW) format to create a simple statement of the need, the program outcomes, the methods. and the way you’ll evaluate results.


Step 3. Convene a meeting of a few representatives from each of the key groups – a student or two; a local grocer; a doctor, nurse, or other health practitioner; a teacher; a sports coach; your staff person. Open the discussion with the one-page summary. Capture all ideas. Resist reflexive judgments. Probe for data. Adjust your expectations. On a whiteboard, make a chart: a timeline across the horizontal and the budget on the vertical. A picture will emerge of what’s to be done, by whom, and how much each step will cost.


Step 4. Draft the proposal.

  • If your development person is a quick and skillful writer, use that whiteboard as the raw material and write a draft. There will be holes and gaps. The goal is a 10-day completion of a first draft. 
  • If your development person is a good editor, ask members of the work group to write sections of the draft and send them back to you in 10 days. With this method, which includes asking the volunteers to do some homework about their ideas, check their assumptions, review their data, etc., there will be fewer holes and gaps. 

Step 5. Two weeks later, convene a second meeting of the work group. Present them with copies of the draft proposal. Ask them to assume the role of a foundation review panel. Tell them they have to vote yes or no on the grant. Challenge them to find all the reasons to reject the proposal. Ask them to be critical, skeptical, analytical. They will find flaws in each other’s work, and in their own, and in your synthesis. Good. 


Step 6. Finish the proposal. Fix the holes and gaps, make sure the final document conforms to the foundation’s expectations, and submit it.


This process uses the PP&PW method at two important stages: in the initial program design and in the rigorous review of how the program is presented. The development person must be the “writer of record” – committees don’t write well, as a rule. But there’s every reason to invite participation from people who are going to be directly and significantly involved in the project. Instead of asking the development person to do all the legwork, gather all the data, and spin a program out of the air, this approach grounds the project in practical, collaborative information and involvement. 


And it creates stakeholders in the ultimate success of the project!


Thomas Boyd is a Contributing Editor for The Grantsmanship Center. His 40-year career in nonprofit management and development includes roles as a nonprofit executive, a corporate giving officer, and a consultant trainer for The Grantsmanship Center.


*The Grantsmanship Center’s proposal-writing guide, Program Planning & Proposal Writing, by Norton J. Kiritz, is the most widely read publication in nonprofit history. There are more than a million copies of in print, and scores of government, foundation, and corporate grantmakers have adopted it as their preferred application format.


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Source: {Centered} – September 2013 – Volume 6, Issue 9 
© 2013 The Grantsmanship Center. All rights reserved. 






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