Friday, August 29, 2008

#63: Sustainability -- Another Word for Long Term Survival

The Front of the SAMHSA building at 1 Choke Ch...Image via Wikipedia SAMHSA has just published a useful guide for grassroots nonprofits that as grant writers we should add to our resource file. A comprehensive RFP almost always has a question about sustainability and I often find that the team wants to answer "We'll look for another grant." -- Clearly, not what the funder is hoping to hear.

Although as grant writers we seldom carry responsibility for implementation, we should be prompting the team to think long and hard about implementation and sustainability. This toolkit addresses the full range of issues that impact survival including marketing, financial management and fundraising. It contains lots of links to on-line resources. And, of course, you can't beat the price. it's free!

Sustaining Grassroots Community-Based Programs: A Tool Kit for Community-and Faith-Based Service Providers
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Thursday, August 14, 2008


Here's another grant resource from They've collected links to all the grant pages for many of the government agent ...your tax dollars at work! I must say, it's pretty nice to have all these links in one place.

... a listing of the 26 Federal Agencies and their resources.
Simply find the agency you are interested in and click on the link to be directed to their resources."

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#61: Read the 990 before you write your grant

Here's a nifty guide for grant writers to help you understand the 990 form. I usually read the 990 for any potential client or funder. It gives me insight into the client. And, because it lists who a foundation has funded and how much they gave, it will help you choose the right places to apply and reasonable amounts to request.

How to Read the IRS Form 990 & Find Out What it Means: "The Form 990, entitled “Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax,” is a report that must be filed each year with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by organizations exempt from Federal income taxes under section 501 of the Internal Revenue Code, and whose annual receipts are 'normally' more than $25,000 a year. It is an information return and not an income tax return since the organizations that file it do not pay income taxes (except, as explained below, in certain cases an organization may have to pay an “unrelated business income tax”)."
The guide is from the NonProfit Coordinating Committee of NYC -- a great resource for non-profits.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

#60: Determining Your Fees for Grant Writing

Because my post yesterday was prompted by a July news article about a grant writer being investigated for fraud. I decided to see whether I could find an update. What I found was quite amazing.

Jean Cross was to collect a fee of $5.175M for writing that grant application!

Now, I like money as much as the next guy, and I certainly believe that my services are worth more than I can charge my non-profit clients. Cross' contract entitled her to 15% of the grant.

But, this is public money, earmarked for after school youth development programs.

Percentage payments from public monies has long been considered unethical. Fifteen percent to the grant writer? Come on!

Lawyer: 'No criminal activity' | | The Desert Sun: "Writer to get 15 percent

According to a Feb. 27, 2007, contract between Cross Resources and the task force, Cross would receive 15 percent of the grant - $5.175 million over five years - in return for her services in preparing the application and implementing the programs.

The driving force behind returning the grant, Reiss said, was concern over Cross' compensation. When Wilson and Davis became aware of Cross' 15 percent fee, the Desert Sands officials 'bullied' the task force into returning the grant with the intention of reapplying to the state without Cross' services, Reiss said."
So, my additional questions are:
  • What public or non-profit official authorized a contract with a grantwriter that included a fee of 15%?
  • What funding agency approved a grant application that included a budget item paying a grant writer 15% for writing the application? Or was that money included in the budget with some other (? fraudulent) description?
Even if she was slated to play a significant role in "implementing the program" Cross would have been wise to separate the fee for writing the grant from the implementation fees.

Whenever I can, I charge my clients a flat fee. When the amount of work is unclear or open-ended, I charge an hourly rate. If you work free-lance, how do you determine your fees?
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

#59: Who and How are Your Grant Applications Authorized?

City of San Luis ObispoSan Luis Obispo image via WikipediaGrant writer Jean Cross is being investigated for fraud. There's not enough information in this article to determine whether this grant writer's procedures were sloppy or actually fraudulent, but it does make one pause. Two questions come to mind. (See below.)

San Luis Obispo County’s website | 07/20/2008 | Local woman target of D. A. inquiry: "The Riverside County group Cross was working for included numerous Riverside County schools as well as the area YMCA. She wrote a federal grant application on their behalf that was for programs for school-age children overseen by the Indio Youth Task Force.

According to a story published July 13 in the Palm Springs Desert Sun, Cross allegedly used 33 forged signatures on the grant application. The Task Force decided to send back the grant money because of concerns about the content of the grant application after it was awarded.

Some Task Force members contend that Cross was not authorized to use their “wet signatures,” transferable signatures sometimes used for official documents, without their knowing the contents of the application. Cross’ attorney rejects that. “Forgery is a crime that involves fraudulent intent to do something,” Reiss said. “She had no fraudulent intent to do something. She had a positive intent to do something for a lot of kids.”

“There’s no criminal activity, and that’s an accurate statement,” Reiss said. “We have been totally transparent with the Riverside District Attorney’s Office and its chief investigating officer.”

My questions:
  • When you write a grant for a coalition, do you see all the signatures on the MOU or do you trust that the lead agency has them on-file?
  • Does the person authorizing submission of your application review it or delegate the review? If they delegate, has it ever backfired on you?
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Monday, August 11, 2008

#58: A Service Learning Resource for Grant Writers

To what extent do participants in joint activi...Image via WikipediaYouth Service America has just published a pdf handbook Effective Practices for Engaging At-risk Youth in Service While it's specifically addresses service-learning, I think the principles are on-target for any youth program. I'll keep them in mind when I write any youth development grant.
  • Principle 1: Design an outreach strategy that includes at-risk youth.
  • Principle 2: Create a “home base” with adults who themselves have once been identified as at-risk. Many of them have “been there and done that.”
  • Principle 3: Convey a philosophy of change and both short- and long-term goals for the youth participants and the community.
  • Principle 4: Identify issues that connect to these youths’ experiences and explore the causes of each of the risk factors
  • Principle 5: Create youth and adult teams since each can learn from and contribute to the growth of others.
  • Principle 6. Build youth and adult capacity since each can serve as leaders.
  • Principle 7: Continue to provide these youth with supports to manage daily life stressors, such as family dynamics, relationships and school.
  • Principle 8: Sustain access and influence by continuing to develop links to other community organizations that can expand opportunities for meaningful participation of all youth.
The handbook is a good compendium of information and a quick read. I recommend it.
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