Sunday, March 15, 2009

Valuing volunteer time in your grant application, an addendum

Resource #68 addresses valuing volunteer hours for your grant application. Blue Avacado has a nice article, Tracking Volunteer Time to Boost Your Bottom Line: A Complete Accounting Guide, by CPA Dennis Walsh that expands on that topic.

I recommend that all grant writers read and share it with your clients/organizations. Three of the five reasons Walsh gives for tracking volunteer time relate to grants and funders.
  1. "Our funders see volunteer inputs as a measure of effectiveness." Funders and donors want to know what resources your nonprofit already receives and from whom.
  2. Too often volunteer inputs are not factored in properly, giving a false sense of the true cost.
  3. Volunteer time can help you meet requirements for matching funds. Certain grants stipulate that the nonprofit must match a percentage of grant funds and that the value of volunteer time may qualify toward satisfaction of the match requirement.
The article gives specific advice, examples, and reference sites for collecting, valuing, and reporting volunteer time. It's a good reference for us all. [Article link]

By the way, I recommend you sign up for the free subscription to Blue Avacado, published by the Nonprofit Insurance Alliance of California, CompassPoint Nonprofit Services, and the Alliance of Nonprofits for Insurance, Risk Retention Group. It's informative and well written.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

#72: Six Grant Writing Tools That Keep Me Sane & Productive

Typewriter "Hermes"Image via Wikipedia

Here are the tools that keep me productive and sane as the clock ticks down the minutes till deadline.

Two monitors: I thought two monitors was overkill, but G. pushed me into it. Now, I can't imagine how I worked on anything complicated without them. When working on a grant I have my notes, background documents, and the RFP on one screen and my narrative on the other. Some days I have fantasies of adding a third.

If you aren't familiar with Evernote, watch a couple of the quick videos on their site. I use Evernote to organize my whole life. I use it for my funder database, research database, assignments, recipes, favorite quotes and images --- my whole life, including an idea journal.

You can save your notes, clip info from the web with its address with one click, tag each item innumerable ways, keep several different notebooks, some public and some private, and never lose anything. Whew!

It self-synchronizes the notes saved on my desktop machine, web account, and laptop so I have the same information everywhere. I could use it on my cell phone, too, but I live in the mountains -- cell coverage is too spotty to bother. (Free and premium versions available; I recently upgraded to the paid version, mostly because I felt they deserve my support.)

Basecamp: this is the project collaboration site I use. I've used it for years. All but my most technology-averse clients love it; and even the tech-haters are delighted that when they need a file or a copy of the grant, it's right there. Basecamp handles milestones, messages, to-do lists, and keeps track of every version and revision of files loaded. I love having everything in one place. No more opening and closing emails and files to find what I'm looking for. It's not free, but it's well worth the price.

WetpaintImage via Wikipedia

While I love Basecamp, I find the writeboards (on-line white boards) awkward. I started using a Google-groups wiki for the team to explore issues. Then, one day in the middle of preparing a grant, Google sent me an automatic message that I had exceeded my limits!?! What limits???

Scratch Google groups. I transferred the project to a Wetpaint wiki and haven't looked back. [There's a short video on their home page that explains a wiki.] No one seems to mind the ads, so I use the free version.

LiveScribe Pulse: When I first saw this pen I wanted it. I was afraid it would be another of those gadgets that sit unused, though, so I resisted. Months went by and I couldn't get it out of my mind, so finally, last August, I bought one. If you're unfamiliar with this pen, watch the videos on the site.
I am thrilled with it. I've thrown my other pens away. It's great to have my notes transfer from my notebook to the computer. It's also great that I can search my notes. But the very best is the ability to record the conversation that accompanies the notes. Now, when I wonder what 'that' meant, I touch 'that' with the pen and the conversation at that point plays back. Magic!

The sound is terrific. The search capability, terrific. And the service is terrific, too. I dropped mine and the camera broke. I called them, they sent a new one immediately with a pre-paid envelope to return the broken one. No hassle. (Registering at the LiveScribe site extends the warranty to a full year.)

Automatic backup and synchronization: I'm forever running out of the office at the last minute. I used to find myself at meetings with the file I needed back on my desktop machine instead of on my laptop. No more.

I'm fortunate to have G. take care of the geek side of my business. He knows he can't count on me to initiate any of the back-up, updates, maintenance, or synchronization that needs to occur. And, he knows I can't afford to be without the right file or to have computer problems when a deadline looms.

So, he's always improving on the way to make all that happen automatically. He's not free, and he's mine. If you're interested, I'll ask him to write a post about the pro's and con's of the different approaches he's tried to keep me in-line and on-line.

If you aren't a geek and don't have someone like G. already, find someone. There's nothing worse than worrying about the technical stuff, or wasting time trying to figure it out when you should be writing.

I realize now that I've told you what I use, I haven't said much about how I use them. I'll take them one at a time in future posts. And, I'm happy to answer questions.

I'm even happier to hear what tools you count on. Tell us. Please.
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