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In my last post, I questioned the validity of using ‘percent of income spent on mission’ as a valuable measurement of an organization’s effectiveness. This is an easily manipulated number. If the organization is based in dishonesty (we all know they exist), they’ll have no hesitation with shifting numbers around to come in at a threshold to avoid scrutiny. 
 

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You may have read that Oregon passed a law in June (House Bill 2060) imposing restrictions on nonprofits spending less than 30% of their annual gross income on their charitable mission. This law would remove the tax exemption on disqualified donations and would eliminate any property tax exemptions the organization receives in Oregon, in addition to eliminating other subsidies. Doesn’t that sound great? Let’s punish those darn low percentage performers!



Not so fast…things are not always as they seem.

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I’ve always thought of writing like painting a picture, whether writing a fun creative story, an article for the local newspaper, or a grant application. These seven basic tips are core ideas that I’ve relied on for years, no matter what I’m working on. They help me start painting and cleaning up my written picture. Hopefully they’ll help you too!

 

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…or How We Went From Tears to a Completed Project in 30 Minutes

 

My eight year old son has reached the point in school where he’s expected to do some writing beyond simple question and answer sentences. Yesterday, he was supposed to write his own 4-8 line rhythmic and rhyming chant – think “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear turn around, Teddy Bear Teddy Bear touch the ground”. I checked in with him to make sure he understood rhythm and rhyme. He did, so I left him on his own to work on his project. He focuses too much on seeking my approval when I’m sitting next to him, so I have to go about my business and encourage him from afar.

 

 

What does this have to do with grant writing anyway? Keep reading!

 

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I was talking with a retired friend the other day and he mentioned that he reached out to a local organization that he had donated to in the past. He hadn’t heard from them for a couple years, so he contacted them to see if they needed anything. They told him they would let him know and that was the end of the conversation.

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We’ve written before about the importance of promptly thanking your funders when you receive a grant or sponsorship. A truly exceptional nonprofit also recognizes that there are more ways to recognize their investment in your organization. This extra effort helps build and strengthen an ongoing relationship and it doesn’t take much time - we know you’re busy!

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I know a lot of organizations we work with run thrift stores to supplement their programs.  And more than a few have been overwhelmed with donations of old clothes and 'stuff', some to the point of having to rent storage containers for the overflow while they sort through it all.

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Bullies aren’t just in our schools and workplaces. I’m in the process of exiting board service from a theater arts organization with an artistic director who is a bully. I was asked to be on the board, was met with open arms, and I had high hopes for contributing to the development of a promising and popular organization. My enthusiasm was short-lived.

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I hate to tell you this but my best tip has almost nothing to do with actually writing a grant proposal.

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As a volunteer, consultant, employee or board member of a nonprofit, have you ever wondered if your time, donations or labor are really ‘worth it’?  If you said “No, I’ve never wondered. I KNOW it’s worth it”, then congratulations!  You’re in a good spot and you can stop reading right here.  For the rest of you left wondering, there are five signs it’s time to consider saving your sanity and bail out.  If you recognize one or more of these, start thinking about your future....

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I am so excited to be attending the 4th Annual CLASSY Awards next month! Here’s my chance to applaud, hoot, holler and fawn all over some deserving, hard-working champions.

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Or….Are You a Good Communicator?
 

I read an awful lot of grant proposals in the course of my volunteer service. While I love reading them, one thought keeps bubbling up during the review process.

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The end of 2012 is very significant for many small non-profit organizations. Why? Because once December 31st rolls around, their chance to get their non-profit status back at a reduced price will be gone.

 

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I cringe when I read news stories or Facebook posts from local nonprofits about the success of their 50/50 raffle (tickets are sold, the organization keeps 50% of the money and the winner gets 50% of the money). You might ask why that bothers me.  After all, aren’t 50/50 raffles a great fundraiser? 

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Would you ever utter that phrase? I never thought I would hear it from anyone. And then, today, there it was. Spoken out in the open, hanging in the air, a big fat sigh of relief associated with this rejection.

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Most nonprofit organizations rely on volunteer power to some extent. I have been very privileged to work with a lot of motivated, skilled volunteers. But sometimes those volunteers come in with great intentions; they show up, do what they’re asked to do, and then something goes wrong.   And sometimes, those ‘wrong turns’ add up and can really hurt the organization.

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Last week, we discussed the points required for a turbo charged project description. This week, we’ll go over an example. Let’s stick with the business plan workshop program concept.
 
 

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In order to apply for grants, you must develop a complete and convincing project description. We recommend that you develop this description even before finding any potential funders.

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I wrote recently about "How to Make the Most Out Of Bad Press".  The point was to help smaller organizations overcome a little bad press that may have come about through some misunderstandings or overzealous 'journalism'.


And then the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation / Planned Parenthood debacle happened.

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Social media is a powerful tool. News zips around the globe faster on Twitter than TV stations can put together a breaking story. It allows us to keep in touch with friends and relatives and share family photos quicker, cheaper and easier than sending pictures through the mail. You can raise awareness for your programs, post success stories, and remind people about your upcoming fundraiser without the expense of printing a newsletter.

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