Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Federal Apprenticeship grant FOA announcement

The following FOA opened on December 11, 2014, and closes on April 30, 2015.

American Apprenticeship Initiative
Department of Labor
Employment and Training Administration

Note:  The lead organization, i.e. the award designee, MUST be a nonprofit, although for-profits are encouraged to participate in the training protocol and delivery phases.

The entire announcement is available through grants.gov and is, as noted, offered through the Department of Labor. The synopsis is available at: http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/search-grants.html. Click on the DOL link, and then on the FOA number. From there you can download the full announcement and supporting documents.

This is a large-scale program, with a minimum award amount of $2.5 million and a maximum individual award of $5 million, with a funding program cap of $100 million. There are more than 1100 potentially eligible occupations and persons as young as 16 may be eligible to take advantage of the program.

There are significant minimum results required, with the lowest funding level requiring 300 apprentices to be served, so this is probably best suited to nonprofits already working in the general job training or skills development fields that have existing partnerships at the business, state and local government level.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What impact statements say about your nonprofit

What do the people you help think of your nonprofit?  How about your partners?

That's a question I ask when I am working on impact reports. You'd be astounded at how many people can't provide the answer.

Impact statements are an important part of getting grants at any level. 

If you operate a nonprofit, you obviously get something concrete out of it. Whether it's emotional satisfaction or a feeling of being part of a larger cause, there has to be something in it besides a monetary return.

The problem is, no grant maker wants to know what good you derive from your organization.

To some extent most impact statements are about statistics, but numbers don't tell the whole story.

Take the case of a nutrition-focused nonprofit. Their mission was to provide not just more food, but better food to the low-income population in their area. To that end, they held what you might call healthy eating food drives, gave cooking classes and were looking for support to purchase more healthy foods like raw vegetables and fruit.

They had all the numerical data documenting how many meals they had provided, nutrition tables and comparisons of calorie substitutes. They were very proud that they "introduced people to foods they might not have considered previously." They were also trying to start urban gardens.

What I noticed was that they didn't seem to be serving near as many people as the statistics would indicate that they should. Some months, they actually threw away food that had aged past it's safe shelf life.

When I asked the opening questions above they had no answers, because they had never asked them of their clients.

After a lot of prodding, they agreed to collect some data, and the results shocked them.

People didn't like their approach. It was described variously as preachy, stuck up, and out of touch with the community members they wanted to help.

For instance, one respondent shared that she couldn't keep a lot of fresh food on hand, because her refrigerator was 40 years old and had a very tiny freezer. She used a lot of boxed and canned foods, because that's what she could store.

Another said that her "stove" was a hot plate, so she couldn't fix anything that needed an oven.

Still another lady wrote back and said "My kids aren't going to eat brussel sprouts or alfalfa shoots, so why should I waste the gas to go get them?"

And one that typified why their mission wasn't working in the community…"I work two jobs now. When would I have time to do all that canning, and why would I when I can buy the same thing in a can at the store?"

No matter how noble your cause, or how great it makes you feel, if you can't prove to grantors that it benefits others, they aren't going to support you.

Ask for honest feedback. Your impact statement will benefit, and so will your clients or beneficiaries.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy New (giving) Year!

If you waited too long to maximize the holiday giving season, your appeal just isn't  generating enough funding, or grants are a significant part of your revenue planning, it's time to start your planning for next year.

If you're reading this you might be saying "Aaagh!!  I'm not up for another big campaign right now!"

You and your staff may still be in the middle of all the seasonal charity events, Twitter and Facebook campaigns, and endless envelope stuffing. Sleep might be the only thing on your wish list.

That's known as the post-Christmas burn-out effect. Since the holiday season is often the highest point in most organization's revenue cycle, it's natural to go all out at the end of the year.

That doesn't really matter to grantors. Grants  are awarded at set intervals, and they can take a very long time to produce funds.

A webpage on the site of the  W.M. Keck Foundation perfectly illustrates why you need to be transitioning into next year's grant planning NOW.

Notice that next December's awards are in the planning stages right now. Applications to be awarded June 2016 open up in July 2015. In other words, the grantor is planning a full year ahead. That means you should be too.

To compete effectively for grants you need to have a forward-looking plan, meaning that you should be defining your needs well in advance of needing the funds.

You can't wait until two weeks before an application is due to start planning for it. A perfect example of that can be found on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) webpage: 

If you clicked on the link, you might notice that the suggested lead time to preparing to submit the application for funding is two months, and the award review could take "…days, weeks, or months."

That assumes that you have all your data ducks in a row. Your budget is complete, your procedures are in order, and your actual or projected results are verified, or will be by the time you actually begin the application.

Only then should you start researching possible donor matches.

If you don't have good data at your fingertips, now would definitely be the time to compile and organize it.