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If you've never utilized a case statement for grant writing it's time to start . This blog post will show you how useful case statements are and how to integrate them into your grant writing for the highest success.


First, a little introduction for anyone who may be new to using case statements from a grant writing perspective:


Case statements are documents wherein you make your case for supporting any programs, projects, or the organization and its mission. Most nonprofit professionals are aware of case statements (occasionally called a 'case for support’) in the perspective of conventional fundraising campaigns, but they definitely can, and should, be employed for grant writing too!


When it comes to grants, imagine a case statement as a living document – implying that it should grow and develop along with whatever program/project/organization it's intended to support.

Now that you have a bird's-eye view let's get into the nitty-gritty.

The case statement should include:

  • Answers to the most frequently asked questions found in grant RFPs (requests for proposals);

  • A logical storyline that's woven through the sections/answers;

  • Relevant data, research, and statistics integrated into logical places throughout, which establishes the need for your project/program/organization;

  • Relevant data, research, and statistics contained in logical areas throughout, which supports the approach your organization is taking to address the need, and

  • Information threaded through the narrative sections that emphasizes why funder support is vital to make the project/program come to fruition or to keep the organization running.

One last note on the data, research, and statistics you choose to include in your case statements-make certain the age of the sources is relevant to whatever point you're trying to make.

For example, suppose you are attempting to use local data to show how much a neighborhood has changed economically in the past few years. In that case, you don't want to use data that are out of date. Comparatively, you could use some data from a few years back to relate to more recent data to help you make your case. Or maybe you're citing findings that show how arts education benefits students in the long term. For that sort of purpose, you could use older historical studies. Still, it would be best to use more current sources from within the past 5-6 years to shore up your case and show that it's still accurate and backed in contemporary research. Use common sense when choosing your sources, and you'll be fine.

Now, let's get out of the data weeds and back to the main subject of case statements.

Designing a case statement, filling out the sections, and keeping it updated means you always have content you can pull to create powerful grant proposals. However, it does not suggest that you should copy and paste from your case statement and call it a day.

Keep in mind that each grant maker you approach will have varying priorities, criteria for evaluating proposals, and different needs and requirements in a nonprofit partner. Although case statements are excellent starting points for creating solid, highly fundable grant proposals, you should still make an effort to customize every submission to the specific funder and RFP.


Mainly, make sure that you modify your wording to answer the actual question. Funders will phrase questions differently; sometimes, the devil is in the details. Re-read the questions every single time and ensure that you understand the nuances of their phrasing and get to the essence of what that grant maker wants to know. At times this may also mean that further research will be necessary, or you may need to talk to others in your organization to collect the information required for a substantive answer appropriate to their issue.


Customizing your proposals, letters, and attachments from the case statement is absolutely necessary, so don't neglect it. This can frequently mean the difference between being approved or denied a grant award.


I use case statements with almost all my clients because they're excellent tools. They allow you to organize your thoughts and data into a thoughtful narrative and keep you from totally reinventing the wheel each time you start developing a proposal. Since they can save you so much time, you can respond more quickly to grant opportunities. With a comprehensive grant case statement, you may be able to submit a proposal with a short turnaround when you otherwise couldn't have pulled it off. They're also good for getting everyone in your organization, as well as any outside partners, on the same page and retaining all-important institutional knowledge about your organization's programs and operations, which can then be utilized for a range of purposes (e.g., marketing pieces, PR pieces, fundraising campaign letters, website copy, and more).


I'm a true believer in the power of a good case statement, and hopefully, you're on your way to being one too!


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Today, I will describe the purpose and general process of grant research. I hope this guide will be helpful for beginners and novice grant-seekers to find the right grant opportunities for their nonprofit.


When I first started in the grant and fundraising field, it was a bit overwhelming discovering quality grant opportunities for the organization I worked for. In the United States alone, there were 86,203 foundations in 2015 funding grants totaling $62.8 billion. In addition, there are over 900 grant programs offered by the 26 federal grant-making agencies and 2,981 corporate foundations in the United States. Not to mention, the hundreds if not thousands of state and local government grant programs distributing grant funding for a plethora of subjects, causes, and needs. During this layman’s guide, I will be breaking down this topic with an overview and helpful tools and tips for beginners and novice grant-seekers to find the right grant opportunities for their nonprofit.


In general, the concept of grant research is relatively simple. It’s the process organizations go through to identify grants they qualify for before starting the application process. Grant prospect research requires utilizing comprehensive approaches to thoughtfully identify the best grant opportunities that best match your organization’s needs based on several (often complex) elements. A simple breakdown of the grant prospect research process entails two common parts: The first part is researching various foundations, corporate and government grant cycles, and giving histories. Secondly, managing your organization’s applications for each grant-making institution. The former is an exercise online research by identifying a list of grant-making institutions that might give to your organization and identifying the types of organizations they’ve funded in the past and with what size grants. The latter is about tracking and managing data. Prospect research is the first required step toward identifying the funders that fit your organization’s needs.


For example, let’s say you have a project or program that needs funding for natural habitat restoration–you would do a Google search for “foundations that give grants for environmental programs”-- where you’ll see a lengthy list of grant opportunities. Having an extensive list is fine, but ideally, you want to narrow it down by refining your search terms. Such as “environmental grant programs in Michigan” or “organizations that fund brownfield clean up.”


Now that you understand the basics of grant research, let's get more in-depth on the tools and resources to successfully secure your grant!


Data and Information Collection


The first step in securing grants is to identify the needs of your program(s) and the organization.


“To know thyself is the beginning of all wisdom” - Aristotle


But most importantly, in my opinion, you need to know and understand the needs of the population and the community you serve. One of the primary goals of successful prospect research is to find prospects whose priorities are well-matched to your current needs. Grant prospecting requires you utilizing comprehensive approaches to thoughtfully identify the best grant opportunities that match your organization’s needs based on several (complex) elements.


With that being said, here are some other important things to consider in this step of the research process that will save you time and frustration and uncover the best prospects for your needs:


  • Create your needs list

  • Identify the cost associated with each need

  • When do you need the money in hand?

  • What is the program/project geographic focus?

  • What is the organization’s total operating budget?

  • Who has supported the organization in the past?

  • Who has declined a proposal in the past?


Start Your Research

At this point, you’re ready to begin your research with your list of needs and lots of other information that will expand your search. You will understand what you’re looking for in order to build out your list of search criteria. Having your information and data at hand will help you to narrow down prospects significantly.


Grant research tools and resources

Since thousands of businesses and nonprofits apply for grants each year, some tools of the trade are quickly accessible and can make your life a lot easier. Don’t forget to do your due diligence, but these tools can help ease some of your concerns about finding grants.

  1. Grants.gov

  2. Online directories

  3. Small Business Development Centers

  4. Nonprofit and corporate foundations

  5. Your local library

  6. Tax records such as IRS 990 forms, are an essential source of information on past grantees, the overall budget, granting capacity, and the value of past grants. Several helpful sites can show you how to find the relevant data in a 990 form


Tools for Managing the Grants Cycle

As you begin to assemble information about prospective funders, you’ll need a place to house it. Smaller organizations with limited budgets and nonprofits just starting their grant research may find spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel or Google Drive terrific low-budget options for managing foundation prospect lists. Most donor management databases let you manage your list of foundations just like any other giving prospect. Many can track the RFP and proposal dates, the status of your proposals, and your proposal workflows.


Why Go Through All this?

As you can see, grant research can make or break your fundraising efforts. Organizations that take the time to do their grant research and planning typically win more grants because they can choose the proper grants at the right time. Successful grant writing starts with successful grant research to find the prospects whose priorities are well-matched to your current needs.


Organizations that have done their grant research and planning have the following qualities:


  • They have identified grants and funding opportunities that align with their mission and programs/services. There isn't an expansion of their mission or created/modified programs and services just to fit grant requirements or funder priorities.

  • They have developed a strategic approach to selecting the grants they’ve applied for.

  • They have developed a grant calendar or schedule to stay on track with upcoming deadlines and tasks associated with grant applications and reports.

  • They have a clear understanding of how much money they need to raise from grants when it’s needed and what each grant will be used for.

  • They are open to stop working on a grant proposal when they realize they aren’t ready, not as great of a fit as they initially thought, or can’t prepare a quality grant proposal by the deadline.


Here are some bonus tips on what to watch out for to keep your prospect research on track:

5 Common Oversights of Grant Prospect Research

  1. Not being as thorough as you should

  2. Not correctly understanding the funders’ interests

  3. Misinterpreting the funder’s eligibility criteria or requirements

  4. Not paying attention to the type of application to be submitted

  5. Requesting the wrong amount


Conclusion


Effective grant research is a task that takes time to become proficient at. In this beginner’s guide, you learned much of what you need to get started. Having the right strategy, plan, and tools will make your activities easier to manage.


Before you start your first research, leave a quick comment to let me know your favorite tip from “The Beginner’s Guide To Grant Research” or share tell me your favorite tip or trick to finding the right funder match. If you need more in-depth, individualized help with your prospect research, you can book a consultation with me here at TeQuionBrookins.com.


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If you’ve been in the fundraising business as long as I have, you’ve spent considerable time finding creative ways to prove your organization is a perfect match for prospective funders. Often I’ve been tempted to write “please just give us the money” in a grant application. Sweet and to the point, right? Obviously, you know that won’t get the results you’re seeking for your organization. Even when you've done an outstanding job of researching which funders you should approach for grants, it's difficult to be certain that your organization and a funder are a good fit.


There is an effective tool that you can use to get your foot in the door with a funder that won’t take nearly as many hours as writing a full-blown grant proposal.


It’s called the letter of inquiry (LOI) or letter of intent. These mini-proposals are a lot like trying out for a role in a play or movie. It's a quick way of finding out if you’re a good fit with a funder without investing a ton of time submitting their rigorous grant applications.


When grantmakers or foundations request an LOI, typically, they’re looking for a concise explanation of your organization or project that will make them eager to give you a grant. Some prospective funders may send your org an invitation to submit a full grant proposal after reviewing your well crafted LOI, while others might even find enough info from your pitch to render a funding decision. This means a great LOI might win you funding for your project more quickly than you expected.


Here are 6 great reasons you should master the skill of writing an LOI:

  1. Many times a funder will request a letter of interest or letter of intent before a full proposal will be accepted from an applicant

  2. They are commonly the first opportunity for you to make a great first impression and build relationships with grantmaking staff

  3. An LOI gives a funder the chance to quickly review a project idea and determine alignment with their funding priorities, saving you both time if it’s not a fit

  4. It gives key industry players a glimpse of your exciting new initiatives, increasing brand awareness

  5. The LOI development process forces you and your organization to think ahead and realistically assess the organization's capabilities and plans

  6. Submitting your LOI often puts you on the funders’ mailing list, ensuring you will receive any future addenda, changes, and modifications for that particular grant, including deadline changes

If you’ve read this far, chances are you’re starting to believe in the power of the LOI. Ready to start crafting your next great LOI? Keep reading to learn the building blocks you’ll want to incorporate.


Typical Elements of an LOI


Introduction

The introduction acts as the executive summary. It usually includes the name of your organization, the requested amount, and a description of the project. You can also include the qualifications of project staff, a brief description of the evaluative methodology, and a timeline showing key milestones.


Organization Description

The organization description should be brief and emphasize the ability of your organization to address the stated need or problem. You should provide a short history and description of your current programs. Show a clear, direct connection between what you already do and what you want to do with the requested funding. You can expand on this in more detail if you are invited to submit a full proposal.


Needs Statement

The needs statement has to convince the reader that there is an important, unmet need or problem that can be solved by your project. The needs statement should include a description of the target population and geographical area, meaningful statistical data (abbreviated), and several specific examples. Case studies are often used here.


Methodology

The methodology should be appropriate to your needs statement and show a clear, logical, and attainable solution to the stated need. Briefly describe major activities, names and titles of key project staff, and your desired objectives. Logic models, though waning in popularity, could be useful in demonstrating your methodology. Similar to the organization description, this section will be presented in much greater detail when you go on to submit a full grant proposal.


Other Funding Sources

Other funding sources being approached for support of this project should be listed in a brief sentence or paragraph. You’ll want to tailor your list to prioritize any “peer funders” who may have geographic or programmatic similarities with the targeted funder.


Summary

The final summary repeats the intent of the project, offers to answer additional questions, and thanks the potential funder for their consideration.


Other Writing Tips

  • ALWAYS review a funder’s guidelines and priorities BEFORE you start writing

  • Typically LOIs should be no more than two pages

  • Do your research to make sure your project and the funder’s priorities match by looking at their most recent grantees

  • Organize your ideas by starting your writing with an outline

  • Be brief, yet compelling by using power words, storytelling, and leveraging data

  • Include attachments only if the funder asks for them, and be sure to follow all guidelines for attachments.



Believe me, if you can get really proficient at summarizing the great work your organization does you’ll find more doors opening than you thought possible.


Contact me at TB.com and tell your stories or ask your questions about LOIs. You can even book me to help you craft your next great LOI.





Want to learn more about developing award winning proposals and get insider secrets to how funders make decisions? Register for our upcoming webinar.



 


Sources

https://www.grantwriterteam.com/blog/grant-writing/how-to-write-a-winning-loi-letter-of-intent/

http://www.grantspace.org/Tools/Knowledge-Base/Funding-Research/Proposal-Writing/letters-of-inquiry

http://www.tgci.com/how-use-concept-papers

https://ovpr.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/2557/2018/09/How-to-Write-a-Concept-Paper.pdf

http://nonprofit.about.com/od/fundraising/a/LOI.htm

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