Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Grant opportunity.

The Intermountain Funder Network (IMWFN) has announced the launch of a small grants program for locally based nonprofits in the eight-state region of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico, and the eastern regions of Washington, Oregon, and California.

The primary focus of the program is to identify and fund examples of innovations that can help expand thinking about how a community or region can engage its constituents to create innovative solutions to a variety of topical issues, including sustainable land use, water, public lands, etc. IMWFN intends for these grants to support authentic community engagement that leads to environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, and economically prosperous regions and communities. Grant mounts will range from $2,500 to $15,000. 

More information about IMWFN may be found at the website:

If this sounds like a good fit for your organization, Cloudlancer Writing Services would be happy to assist you in determining whether you qualify, and in writing the proposal.

Monday, August 20, 2012


I get a couple of dozen inquiries a year that start out something like this:  “I love helping XXXXX and want to start a nonprofit so that I can apply for grants to help more XXXXX” Their interests are as varied as the people themselves. Animals, children, veterans, the homeless, the arts, plants, the environment, their local city park, all of them have worthy targets for their help.
Helping anything or anyone is an admirable goal.  However, there is a little bit more to becoming a nonprofit than most people realize.
It takes more money, more time, and especially more effort than most people imagine. Not counting professional fees, such as the on-going services of attorneys, accountants and yes, consultants, my general rule-of-thumb is a minimum of $2,000, just to file incorporation papers, draw up a set of by-laws that are legally compliant in your state, pay the Internal Revenue Service the fee to file the 1023 application, and set up a rudimentary website. All of that except the website has to be done before you can even apply for grants. I include the website, because the 1023 does ask if you have one, and because it is the first place most people will go to learn more about your organization.
Surprisingly, it isn’t the money that generally causes the would-be philanthropist to abandon the goal of becoming a non-profit. It’s the amount of organization and business-type effort required.

Assembling a board of directors, drafting by-laws and a code of ethics, writing cogent mission, vision and values statements, preparing a strategic plan with rudimentary budgets for operations and programs, and setting up an effective website all take time and energy. As one lady said, “If I get bogged down in all that stuff, I can’t help anybody”.

I have nothing but admiration for groups of people that form nonprofits. However, if all that “organizational stuff” doesn’t appeal to you, there is certainly nothing wrong with volunteering with an organization that aligns with your interests. Volunteers are the lifeblood of any nonprofit, so if you want to help, by all means, volunteer!

If you do want to form a nonprofit, start with good basics, and you will be well on the way to helping far more XXXXX than you are at the present time.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Financial Data Collection for RFP’s

Grant writers are seldom afforded the luxury of being able to compile a grant request or complete a final grant report with raw data. Generally, they are given data compiled internally by the organization. Budgets, program fund utilization, populations served, total widgets or services provided, all that data comes from reports such as income (profit and loss) statements, balance sheets, audited financials, annual reports or internal program reports.
If the figures provided are not verifiable or if they are incomplete, the grant application may contain skewed data. For instance, if the program director keeps statistics on say, number of people served (or animals rescued or whatever), that should bear some correlation to the final financial statement.
Say that your organization reports that it cost $100.00 per recipient to deliver a certain service. That should ideally include both direct and indirect costs. Let’s say that you are reporting on funds used for expenses related to adopting a pet.
The program director says the cost of shots, other vet bills, and food for an average animal is $75.00. These are direct costs specifically attributable to each animal. The accountant or bookkeeper says the true cost is $100.00. Why the difference?  Obviously there are general costs, such as rent, transportation, insurance, advertising, utilities, and staff salaries that are attributable to the organization as a whole. These are indirect costs. The financial department is going to take the total cost for these items, add it to the direct cost and divide it by the number of animals adopted, and that figure will be different from those of the program director. Technically, both are correct. So, which one does the grant writer use?
In most cases, they will use the larger cost figure, because the direct expenditures can’t occur unless there is sufficient funding available to pay the indirect costs. If the proposal requests a breakdown, they will show which expenses are general indirect (also called administrative) costs and which ones directly impact the cost of making the animal ready for adoption.  
It can be very important to the success of the grant request to portray the data accurately. Be sure that you at least note the sources of the data for the grant writer. In addition, data that you may make available on your website should match what you are reporting on the grant application, or in the final report. If you applied for funds stating that your cost was $100.00 per animal, and your website says it is $75.00 per animal, that could be a problem unless the discrepancy was explained at the outset.
Grant writers, even full-time employees of the organization, are expected to perform due diligence to verify any statements of fact in a grant application. The better your cost and service statistics are, the easier it is for the grant writer to attest that the facts are true to the best of their belief. Incomplete or conflicting information or “fuzzy math” can result in a grant writer refusing to submit the application, or the donor refusing the application entirely.