Useful Grantseeker Resources

Writing Tools

Photo Credit: mywritingblog[dot]com

Whether you’re writing your first or your one thousandth grant, chances are you have a handy list of resources nearby to help with a multitude of issues: research on prospective donors, data analysis about your organization’s programs, organizational charts, and where the heck to find grants.

For me, the last point rings true almost always, especially when I’m writing a grant on behalf of a nonprofit organization I’ve never worked with in the past.

Over time, I’ve collected a list of helpful sites and resources that I’ve used in the past, and I want to share them with you. You’ve probably heard of several of them, but I think I’ve got some good ones up my sleeve that can help bring your grant-writing game to the next level.

Guidestar

Guidestar is a search engine for all IRS-registered (501 c 3) nonprofit organizations of all sizes, including foundations. It’s mission is “to revolutionize philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving.”

Essentially, it’s the Google of nonprofits – it allows you to search for the most up-to-date information offered in regards to an organization’s financials, programs, board of directors and staff, and other certifications and credentials. There is a free and a paid version, and as is expected, more details and in-depth information are offered with the paid subscription.

I’ve used Guidestar (the free version) countless times to find basic information like where the foundation located, what kind of projects and programs it focuses it’s efforts on, and financials. It’s one of the easiest ways to find a prospective funder’s Form 990, which I’ve found to be an invaluable tool when searching for past grant recipients (including amount and projects funded). It makes it very easy to eliminate the non-contenders, and at least begin a list of prospects to do further research on.

Foundation Directory

The Foundation Directory is one of the best resources any grantseeker can subscribe to, but it definitely comes at a cost.

It boasts itself as the largest foundation grant directory in the world, with access to more than 120,000 foundations and corporate donors, details about 3 million recent grants, and information about more than 500,000 key decision makers.

The paid version (a minimum of $20/month) allows any grantseeker to identify potential funders based on geographic location, fields of interest in grantmaking, recent grants (including totals and projects funded), ways to contact these organizations, and much, much more.

If you’re a nonprofit organization seeking a comprehensive directory and willing to spend a little money to get it, then this would be my number one recommendation for you. My successes in grants have been in large part thanks to the Foundation Directory and it’s ability to really narrow down the playing field, allowing me to focus my efforts on perfecting the art of grant writing instead of spending all of my time looking for these potential funders.

Google

Yes, you read that correctly. Google is, and will probably always be, my biggest go-to tool. Once you figure out how to sort through all of the… er… stuff, using Google is any grantseeker’s best friend. It’s much easier to open up your internet browser and just type in the name of the organization you’re researching than to open up any other kind of directory and go through the various steps to get to the same information. Don’t get me wrong, the directories and registers are beyond helpful when you’re doing a broad search for potential funders, but sometimes the best and most accurate information you’ll be able to find will be on an organization’s actual website.

Grants.gov

Are you interested in federal grants? They are often much larger financial awards than foundations can offer, but they are also much more competitive and tedious to apply for. Check out grants.gov for information on these grants.

Here, you can sift through federal grants offered by categories, agencies, and eligibilities. These grant opportunities tend to be very specific, though, and oftentimes only open to organizations by invite, Before a nonprofit delves into researching about these opportunities on a categoric scale, I’d recommend researching by eligibility first. This should hopefully take the guessing game out of this process.

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Which Social Media Outlet is Right for Your Nonprofit?

Photo credit: Expanded Ramblings

Photo credit: Expanded Ramblings

The short answer is, of course, it depends.

If I had to guess, I’d say your nonprofit has a presence on social media, whether that’s a Facebook page, LinkedIn account, Pinterest board, or Twitter handle (handle = username).  There’s also Instagram, FourSquare, YouTube….

The list goes on, but the important thing here is that your organization is utilizing SOME form of social media. It’s free marketing, no matter which way you look at it, and an awesome way to share your mission and the good work you do. In fact, according to Nonprofit Tech for Good, 56% of people who support nonprofits on social media outlets said compelling storytelling is a motivation factor to take action on behalf of nonprofits (i.e. donate, or share the mission, or volunteer, etc.)

Let’s go through the benefits of various networks:

Facebook
First and foremost, there are  1.3 billion active users on Facebook. Yes, you read that correctly. I’ll give you a minute to pick your jaw up off the ground.

Facebook is far and away the most popular and comprehensive social media network, making “Should I join?” a no-brainer question. It is a great network with which to post photos and stories, and the layout makes it easy to navigate on both the nonprofit and user ends.

Facebook offers a variety of business layouts, making it possible to for organizations of all kinds to really customize their pages. You can list items for sale, programs you offer, and as of recently, you can even include a “Donate Now” button on your posts! (There are pros and cons to this, as well, including that your donors have to input credit card information via Facebook.)

In short, if your organization chooses to join just one social media outlet, I think Facebook is number one.

Twitter
Twitter is a wonderful network to use when timeliness is a factor, usually for breaking news. Funny story – I found out about the death of Osama bin Laden through Twitter, despite watching the news at that very moment. This is the outlet people generally use to spread need-to-know-right-now information, so it would be great for nonprofits that have lots of useful tidbits to share with their constituents.

It is also a great network to share news about breaking research in its area of focus, or to Tweet out articles that pertain to the organization or its mission. You can’t customize your page the way you can with other networks, but you can add photos and links with ease.

Photo credit: M+R & NTEN

Photo credit: M+R & NTEN

The best part about Twitter is how easy it is to use and to follow other people and organizations. It’s very, VERY easy and quick for people to “Retweet” your photos, links, and posts, and this allows things to go viral (spread across the internet like wildfire, basically) with little to no effort on your part. You just have to ensure the content you’re posting is worthy of sharing.

Twitter has 255 million active user accounts.

LinkedIn
The best way I can describe LinkedIn is a professional Facebook. Both individuals and organizations have pages that include all relevant information pertaining to professional successes, and there is also a newsfeed that allows posting of statuses to be shared with your connections.

LinkedIn has 300 million active users.

Instagram
Instagram is the best social media network related to photo sharing, so this is an awesome one to use if your organization has tons of photos to share (one at a time) with great captions. You can put a link in your Instagram bio, but there are no links allowed in the caption. Therefore, this wouldn’t be the best network to use if your main goal is trying to get traffic back to your website.

There are 200 million Instagram accounts.

Foursquare
Foursquare began as a social check-in app (i.e. “I just checked in at Starbucks in the JFK Airport.”), but has since morphed into a discovery app, allowing users to find the most checked-in places and organizations in any given area. This is a great app for an organization that has a physical location for constituents to visit, but might not make sense for an organization with an employee-only office.

Foursquare has 50 million user accounts and 1.3 million business accounts.

Pinterest
Pinterest is an electronic pinboard, allowing users to post photos and links to a variety of themed boards. This is a wonderful social app to share blogs, products, and yes, definitely photos. As this seems to be a hard concept for many to grasp until you’ve actually got an account, check out this quick Pinterest demo to fully understand its capabilities.

There are 70 million active Pinterest users.

YouTube
YouTube is a video sharing social app, allowing individuals and businesses alike to post videos of any quality, length, or content. YouTube is perfect for organizations that are in or looking to enter the digital space. Hundreds of thousands of organizations post videos about the work they do, the people they help, and the events they host. It’s a great place to try and make viral your video PSA’s and reactions!

YouTube has 1 billion users, and 4 billion views PER DAY!

Whatever social media outlet you choose to embrace, whether it’s just one or all, make sure you play around and really get to know the network and what works best for you. Good luck!

Why Should Nonprofits Blog?

Credit: Gideon Burton

Credit: Gideon Burton

It seems only appropriate that my first-ever entry discusses the importance of blogging, and how nonprofit organizations can benefit from maintaining one.

Let’s face it – a nonprofit’s website is the most important communicative source your clientele can use to connect with your mission. It contains all of the details your constituents need to make an informed decision about your mission, your programs, your actions, etc. You’ve likely got a donate page, maybe a gallery of photos and videos from the last few events you’ve thrown, and possibly even a news tab. This is all critical information, but how timely is it?

Blogging allows you to keep your followers up-to-date on any and all news, important changes to your organization, cutting-edge research, and just trends they may not have otherwise been privy to. And you know what else? It’s a phenomenal way to tell stories. I’ve worked with nonprofits in the past that are wonderful story tellers, that take amazing pictures of the work being done, and then just sit on them. This is the opportunity to use them! Share these with the world via a well-written and entertaining blog. Your constituents want to know that the work you’re doing is making an impact, right? Here’s that chance to make it known.

Let’s be honest – that’s why I blog! I want you, my potential clients and other individuals who are interested in learning more about the values of online communication and fundraising, to be able to keep up with me and my whereabouts. I want you to see the latest numbers and trends about traffic to websites that also contain a blog. I want you to know that I’m always doing my research and not sitting on a wealth of data and information that could be several years old.

And, this is why you should blog, too. Consistent blogging is a great way for your organization to demonstrate its commitment to the cause. It’s also a great way to boost traffic to your website. Keywords that pop up in your blog will drive traffic to your website via search engines, and increases the number of times your organization’s name appears in web searches.

Earlier this year, Forbes addressed the issue of increasing traffic to your website. One point that really stuck out to me (credit to QuickSprout) was the idea that posting high-quality posts up to 6 times per week (vs 5 times) can increase blog traffic up to 18.6%! Finding a niche blog that fits well with your organization, and maintaining it, will really drive viewership numbers up.

Simply put, blogging drives traffic, and traffic to your website is the best way you’ll find new constituents, and more importantly, new donors.