Tag Archives: nonprofits

How to Make the Most of Your Donor Prospect Research
How to Make the Most of Your Donor Prospect Research

Donor prospect research is no easy task, and takes a lot of time and effort. Selecting the right donor(s) are important, as their contributions are a direct reflection of your organization’s mission and goals. Prospect research is a great opportunity to learn more about potential or existing donors’ personal backgrounds, history of giving, indicators of wealth, their philanthropic motivations, and so on. You’re able to get a better gauge on a donor’s ability to give, and if they align with your nonprofits objectives and values. 

What is the best way to find prospects?

There are three main ways you can conduct your prospect research:

  • DIY. If you feel like you can find the right prospects using your own search methods, then go for it! This method won’t cost you any money, although it is a long and tedious process. Especially if you’re a one man show or doing research with a small team, there’s only so much information you can sift through between all the social networks and government and private databases. 
  • Use a consultant (hint hint, us)! Consultants have the knowledge and resources to find you the best prospects. They can also help train your staff on prospect research, develop research strategies, and build relationships in prospect relations.
  • Hire a prospecting company. If you’re looking to be almost completely hands off, then hiring a prospecting company is the way to go. They’ll be able to handle everything from start to finish, so you have more time to focus on other tasks. 

How do you know which prospects to screen? 

Each prospect will be unique in its appeal to you. But the first factor to consider is how large their past donations have been, as it’s a good indicator for what they could donate in the future. If the donation amounts don’t seem to align with your organization, give it a pass. Also, look to see if there are any personal or business contacts at the organization you can reach out to. A little networking never hurts anyone, and it’s a great way to start building a relationship with your prospects. You’ll also want to look out for consistency. How often is the organization donating? Is the amount they give consistent based on the nonprofits size? 

How do you utilize the research? 

Once you have the research, there are a few steps you want to take in ensuring you’re utilizing it properly. 

  1. Create an organized, centralized place for your research. Whether it’s Google Docs, spreadsheets, a project management app, etc, make sure you’re conducting research in a way that is organized and easy to reference. 
  2. Dissect the research. What factors are most important for your nonprofit when considering donors? Maybe it’s the amount they’re willing to donate, or their organization’s mission statement and values. 
  3. Make a plan to reach out. Once you have a prospects data, how do you plan to reach out? What does your timeline look like, and what methods of communication might work best for each donor?

Does your nonprofit need help with donor prospect research? RBW Strategy has you covered! Using a proven approach for success, we can help by performing detailed research to determine potential foundation, government and/or corporate funding prospects. Visit our services page to learn more!

donors
Donors are an essential part of your operations, and they deserve meaningful thank yous. While all nonprofits know the importance of saying thank you, we often neglect adding personalization. And unfortunately, our thank you’s tend to be a one and done deal. Relationship building is crucial in the nonprofit world, and it’s time we start doing more than the bare minimum! There are so many fun and creative ways to show donors your appreciation. If you’re running out of ideas, here are a few options to explore. 

donors

  1. Send food from a local bakery or restaurant

    Think about some of the best gifts you’ve ever received. Chances are, they were the ones where a lot of thought was put into it. Do some research to see if you can find a local bakery or restaurant near the donor’s headquarters — one only the locals would know about. Or alternatively, send them some goodies from a local restaurant or bakery near your nonprofit headquarters. One thing to be weary of with this tactic is allergies, so make sure you take note of any dietary restrictions before ordering.

  2. Record a video message

    Nonprofit teams are typically crunched for time, which means it’s all too easy to resort to a simple thank you email. If you really want to stand out, go for a video message! There are tons of formats you can experiment with. Maybe you can showcase a way their donation is being used, or do a compilation video of everyone at the company saying thank you. They’ll also be able to use it in their marketing efforts — a big bonus! 

  3. Send greeting cards (but go the extra mile)

    If you’re going to send a thank you card, don’t leave it generic! Make sure it’s handwritten, addresses specific people, and discusses how the donation has improved your funding efforts. Instead of sending a one off card, we recommend celebrating continuous milestones. So for example, make a note on the calendar of the day you received the donation, and send them a greeting card on an annual basis. You could also keep tabs on personal milestones and send thank you cards for those — like if the donor was recently married or had a child. 

  4. Incorporate the donor into your marketing efforts

    Make sure you’re showcasing the donor on social media, email newsletters, annual reports, etc. This also helps build up your nonprofits marketing efforts, and facilitates continuous conversations online. We’ve seen a lot of nonprofits do donor spotlight blogs, webinars, and other interactive content as well. 

  5. Send some swag

    Everybody likes free stuff right? Consider sending the donor some customized company items that you have on hand, like a tshirt, coffee mug, or bottle opener. Encourage them to share pictures utilizing the swag and tag on social media. 

  6. Visit them in person, or offer them a tour at your headquarters

    Unfortunately, the pandemic makes this one a bit tricky right now. When operations resume in the future, consider inviting the donors to take a tour of your headquarters, or make a point to visit them in person if you’re near their headquarters. Even a special Zoom call could make someone’s day.

 

What ideas do you have for thanking and engaging your donors? We’d love to hear from you! And if you’re looking for funding help, we’ve got you covered. RBW Strategy specializes in services like prospect research, grant writing, grant review, and more. Contact us to learn more today.

diversity and inclusion
diversity and inclusion

In response to the prevalent racial injustice matters going on worldwide, many organizations have taken proactive measures to update their diversity and inclusion policies. In an effort to provide relevance and credibility, many organizations have released these initiatives quickly — but are not considering some key issues. 

Topics of diversity and inclusion are complicated and shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s easy for leaders at an organization to make assumptions about the root cause of their employees’ problems, rather than putting in the effort to conduct proper research. The last thing you want to do is make false promises or provide surface level statements that cannot be backed up with specific actions. 

The success of diversity and inclusion programs will come to do the work of upper management (and we don’t just mean HR). Successful programs like these should be backed by measurable goals and targets, and consistently re-evaluated and adjusted by the leadership team. 

We’ve taken some time to evaluate diversity and inclusion policies of nonprofit organizations and found a few common areas that can be improved. 

  1. A lack of data collection.

    As we stated above, it’s easy for leaders to make assumptions on the root causes of employee dissatisfaction, rather than taking actionable steps to gather employee feedback. We highly recommend sending out employee satisfaction surveys on at least a 6-month basis. In fact, A UK report shows that evidence-based hiring practices are the most effective approaches to better results in diversity and inclusion initiatives. Having anonymous surveys will allow employees to open up more and admit their concerns more candidly. As the saying goes: numbers don’t lie! Employee satisfaction surveys are the most fair and credible ways of gathering employee feedback.

  2. Bias in the hiring process.

    In some cases, there seems to be a disconnect in the “quick fixes” an organization releases and their hiring process. For example, an organization may send out a list of diversity and inclusion resource groups, training courses, etc to their employees, but avoid those practices in the hiring process. It has to come from the top down! The best way to leave personal bias out of the hiring process is to ensure that hiring personnel don’t get to irrelevant personal details, like age, gender, ethnicity, and so on. 

  1. Using the “cop out” method when hiring leadership.

    It seems logical to hire a person of color into a leadership position to help address diversity and inclusion issues. But despite the beliefs of some organizations, that’s not enough. The leadership team as a whole should be diverse, not just one person. True diversity comes from having a unique set of backgrounds, and that can’t fall onto one person. It’s important that diversity is a part of the talent pipeline throughout the company, not a one time deal. And that process will require careful and thorough change in the talent acquisition system.

  2. Diversity and inclusion are important — but don’t oversell it.

    The last thing you want to do is set overly ambitious targets without a real plan in place. Internal targets your organization creates should involve managers, executives, employees, and other stakeholders so that the initiatives are owned, not thrown upon them. 

What steps has your organization taken to ensure diversity and inclusion policies are implemented properly? Leave us a comment below! 

If you’re a nonprofit applying for grants and need help conveying your organizations diversity and inclusion policies, we can help! Visit our services page for more information. 

crisis management
As fundraising consultants at RBW, we can safely say there’s never been anything like COVID-19. We’ve helped our clients with crisis management over the years, but nothing can compare you for a situation as drastic as a pandemic.crisis managementSince the outbreak began, we’ve been working with clients to help them transition into this new reality, while simultaneously trying to maintain fundraising momentum. Some organizations are going through a survival crisis, while others are working to raise additional funds needed to match the increase in demand for their services.

At RBW, we’re using a combination of past crisis management experience and creativity to help organizations navigate through these troubling times. Below are some important lessons we’ve learned during COVID-19.

  1. Communicate regularly. This is the perfect time to create effective donor communication strategies and reach out to donors who have given to you this year. Say thanks for their support,and inform them about what your organization is doing during this time. Make sure you’re utilizing a variety of channels, including email, letters, virtual webcam meetings, etc. You also want to make sure your direct donors know how to get to your online giving emergency fund, and your supporters should be aware of the COVID-19 stimulus package if they aren’t already. And when it comes to your staff, consider creating employee rallies, checking in with them regularly, and holding regular board meetings to keep them informed and engaged in fundraising efforts.
  2. Follow the plan. You can’t plan for everything, and saying things are uncertain right now is a bit of an understatement. But having scenarios identified and creating actionable steps in the event of a crisis can help a ton. Even though the world is changing rapidly, don’t feel like you need to update your crisis plan every 5 seconds. As long as you have a general outline for how to handle crises, you’ll be ok! At the end of the day, those who plan ahead will be ahead of the curve when this crisis is over.
  3. Good leadership is critical. Troubling times like these require top-down direction from leadership. It’s important that leaders are able to act quickly and decisively, and have a good handle on short term and long-term plans. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of hard choices to make right now, and leaders need to be confident in their decisions. During this time, leaders should be evaluating revenue streams, bottom lines, minimizing cost, and maximizing effort where needed. Leaders should also be speaking transparently, opening up the floor for employees and donors to express their questions, concerns, and challenges.
  4. Don’t forget your mission. Particularly in times of stress, it’s important to re-establish your mission statement and values. After all, this guides your decision-making and communication processes! It’s hard to excuse your values during troubling times, but it’s not impossible. This will show donors your organization is strong enough to weather the storm.

It’s important we keep these crisis management lessons top of mind as we move forward in this unprecedented business landscape. That way when the pandemic dissipates, nonprofits are able to help people recover and sustain our communities.

If you need tips, advice, or additional resources, don’t hesitate to contact us or visit our services page for more info. You can also check out the blog for other related topics.

grants lifecycle
grants lifecycle

The grants lifecycle refers to the entire process of a grant—from planning, to opportunity, to implementation, to closeout. The lifecycle of a grant has three major stages: pre-award, award, and post-award. The recipient and grantor both have unique tasks within each stage. 

Phase 1: The Pre-Award Phase 

The pre-award phase includes the grantor announcing the funding opportunity all the way through the application submission and review of grant applications. 

Here are the steps included in the pre-award phase:  

  1. The grant-making agency plans and develops a funding program based on its mission, the Administration, and congressional initiatives.
  2. The grant-making agency announces the funding opportunity and advertises it to applicant communities. They will also publish details of the funding opportunity on Grants.gov.
  3. Potential applicants will utilize Grants.gov to find funding opportunities by using the search tool. 
  4. Once an opportunity is identified, potential applicants will register with Grants.gov. and check for any additional registration requirements. 
  5. The applicant will spend a few weeks filling out the application. Note: it will take a lot of time, but you can download the PDF form and save the fields as you go. Once the application is complete, you submit it through Grants.gov.
  6. The application is then screened for compliance by the grant-making agency. If it passes, it then goes to the appropriate agency program for consideration. The applicant is notified via email if this happens.
  7. Applicants can then track the status of their application by communicating with the grant-making agency.
  8. The grant-making agency will continue to review the application. 

Phase 2: The Award Phase

The award phase is the shortest of the three phases, and starts taking place when the federal agency sends the Notice of Award (NOA) to the successful applicant and the grant becomes legally binding.

Here are the steps included in the award phase: 

  1. Once the application is reviewed, the funding agency notifies the applicants whether or not they have been awarded a grant. The agency also starts working with the award recipient to go over the legalities of the funding agreement. The funds are then dispersed. 
  2. Now the applicant will begin their project. The award recipient is responsible for meeting the administrative, financial, and programmatic reporting requirements of the award.

Phase 3: The Post Award Phase 

The final phase is the longest phase (despite fewer steps), as it includes the implementation of the grant program, along with all the reporting, audits, and closeout processes.

Here are the steps included in the post award phase:

  1. After an award has been granted, a grants management officer at the funding agency oversees the reporting compliance. This process involves reviewing reports submitted by the awardees. Representatives from the grantor agency might perform on-site visits with the project director and implementation staff. Oversight can vary based on the type of auditing done. 
  2. Award recipients submit two types of reporting to the funding agency: financial reporting and programmatic reporting. These reports are submitted regularly, and are helpful to the agency as they provide information about the overall financial status and program performance of the grant project. 

The grants lifecycle is complicated, and given the competition for funding, the process is often daunting to many nonprofits and government agencies. That’s where we come in!

RBW Strategy can help by telling you where to start with the grant seeking and writing process, how to best obtain funding, and how you can ensure you have the capacity to manage grants. Learn more about our services, or contact us via the contact form at the bottom of our website. 

For additional information on the grants lifecycle, please visit the Grants.gov page.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Nonprofit Village of Montgomery County’s “Making a Difference Awards Breakfast” and am continually inspired by the great work that is being done by small nonprofits in the community. As many of you already know, Montgomery County, Maryland is home to thousands of nonprofit organizations. A majority of these nonprofits are small, and many are run by volunteers. The fact that people are willing to spend countless hours working towards a cause for no compensation speaks to the strength and capacity of the residents in our community to help others in need.

This year’s award recipient for the small nonprofit award was the Pain Connection, an organization that seeks to provide help to those suffering from chronic pain. Given that millions of people suffer from disabling pain each day, this group provides an important service. So, while large nonprofits may have the name recognition and branding, small nonprofits have learned to do more with less, and because of that, have become resourceful, able to express passion about the mission, and engage others through powerful storytelling. Which small nonprofit will you support today?

Indirect Costs for Nonprofits

In the summer of 2014, almost everyone either participated in or knew someone who participated in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It was a win/win situation – The ALS Association gained exposure through various social media outlets, and experienced a near 1,000 percent increase in donations from the previous year at that time. However, people started to look a little deeper and wonder, Where is my money going? Is it really supporting research? They are shocked to discover that some of the donation funds actually go toward administrative costs and overhead. While those unfamiliar with a nonprofit budget might find this disenchanting, this is actually common and accepted practice, and must be understood in more detail to clarify some misconceptions.

What exactly is an indirect cost and what are some examples?

  • A cost or expense that is not directly traceable to a department, product, activity, customer, etc.
  • Salary and fringe benefits for an administrative or programmatic staff person used by multiple programs
  • Rent and mortgage payments for a facility space
  • Utility payments

The Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) provided some findings about the stress that indirect costs have on nonprofit organizations, particularly as they seek grant funding. The NFF found that when nonprofits do receive funding from government organizations, the indirect cost rate rarely covers the full cost of the program or project. Nonprofit organizations then become greatly concerned about maintaining their programs and services, in addition to growing to serve the needs of additional individuals within their target population.

The following table, taken from the State of the Nonprofit Sector 2014 Survey, shows the average indirect cost reimbursement rates across the nonprofit sector:

Indirect_Cost_Rates_Avg_20141
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report in May 2010 about the inconsistencies in how the indirect cost rate is used. These variations can lead to some organizations receiving greater reimbursements than others, and is not always equitable across the board. Another important note is that some nonprofits have Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreements (NICRAs) with a cognizant federal agency. These rates vary tremendously between organizations based on how the rates are calculated, and the accepted practice within the agency.

However, many nonprofits do not have such agreements and try to determine a way to calculate indirect costs. In order to ensure a more equitable and transparent process, the Office of Management and Budget has stated that those nonprofits without a NICRA are allowed to use a 10 percent indirect cost rate on all government applications. This should be an improved step toward reimbursement on those costs, and allow nonprofits to gain back some additional funds that may otherwise be lost.

There is still additional work to be done to clarify indirect costs, and for nonprofits to educate the public on the importance of indirect costs for the functioning of nonprofits. OMB is taking the initiative to ensure the value of nonprofit work continues and they become less consumed by administrative and financial burdens.

This post originally appeared on the eCivis Blog: All Things Grants-Related