In 2012, my life as a grant proposal writer improved as I used the following 12 tools. Now, at the start of 2013, I'm sharing them with you!
Let me know what you think.... Which have you used with good results? Which don't work so well for you? What are some of your own "top 12" resources?
As the company describes it, "Evernote makes it easy to remember things big and small from your everyday life using your computer, phone, tablet and the web." The basic version of Evernote is free and there are paid upgrades.
I find that the way Evernote visually organizes data is far more helpful than anything you could create in your email organizing system or in folders on your hard drive.
Evernote can be the repository for all of the scraps of information informing your grant proposals. You can easily drop in text from emails, copied webpages, whole files, images and pretty much anything else in digital form. Six months after the grant is made, when your nonprofit's finance director wants to understand some arcane detail about the budget, you can go back into Evernote to quickly answer the question.
2) PRIVATE FACEBOOK GROUPS
LinkedIn groups for grantwriters are great, but the information shared can be overwhelming and with so many people involved, it can be hard to truly connect with peers. Also, the information you post to LinkedIn groups is more or less public, so you may be reluctant to share the details of a tricky situation that you're dealing with.
As an alternative, private Facebook groups offer a free, easy-to-use way to connect informally and frequently with a select group of people. Facebook groups can really help to catalyze a network, building trust and even friendships as people share their best insights in a confidential forum.
I don't have any specific Facebook groups to recommend, but I would urge you to say "yes" to opportunities in 2013 that come your way to join a private Facebook group geared towards your professional interests or personal goals! You can also start your own private Facebook group and recruit people to join it.
3) THE GRANTSMANSHIP CENTER
The Grantsmanship Center runs training programs across the country and publishes great guidebooks as well. For an introduction to their offerings, subscribe to the monthly enewsletter (“Centered”), which I think is one of the best free resources out there for grantseekers. To subscribe, find the “join our mailing list” box on left side of the Grantsmanship Center’s homepage.
4) GOOGLE DOCS
It seems that Google Docs are getting better all the time. If you are a Gmail user, you can access Google Docs via the "Drive" tab on your email. You can set up your own private Google docs, which more or less mimic Microsoft Office applications such as Word, Excel and Powerpoint. Even better, your work collaborators can easily share documents with each other.
Google Docs offer a great, free way to collaborate with a colleague or client who is working on on a grant proposal at the same time you are. You can both make edits to a document at the same time, and see each other's edits appear instantly. Google Docs now includes a chat function on the side of the screen -- very helpful!
5) MEET THE FUNDERS
A "meet the funders" session is an event open to the public (usually with a fee) at which foundation program officers explain how their foundations work and what their funding interests are, and attending nonprofits get to ask questions. The sessions typically are regional (e.g., for Washington, DC area funders and nonprofits); include three to five speakers from foundations; are moderated by a knowledgeable and objective person; and close with a meet-and-greet where you can briefly talk with each program officer. I love these events and I've written about them before!
To find out if these sessions occur where you are, get in touch with the nonprofit support organization serving your region or state. If they don't exist in your region, consider creating one. You will need a host institution (such as a local college or community center); a moderator who understands fundraising and nonprofits; and a few foundation program officers who are willing to speak on a panel. For many program officers, it's within their job descriptions to do public outreach so they might welcome the opportunity to participate.
If you're in the Philadelphia area, you're in luck! The next meet the funders event (organized by Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University) is Jan. 25, 2013 and you can sign up here.
6) GRASSROOTS INSTITUTE FOR FUNDRAISING TRAINING
If you are raising money for social-change causes, this organization can help you! Their advice covers grants as well as working with individual donors. Subscribe to their free enewsletter here.
7) ONLINE YOGA CLASSES
You need a break from all the hunched-over-the-computer stuff you do as a grant professional! The best options are those that involve getting out of your office and moving around -- going outside for a walk, going to that spin class you love or simply meeting a friend for tea. But if you can't escape the office, yoga videos on the internet offer a lovely mini-retreat.
If your office has a door, obviously, this is going to be easier to manage than if you're in a cubicle. Assuming your setup allows it, keeping a yoga mat and and yoga clothes for a quick change will further enhance in-office yoga!
You can find many free yoga classes on YouTube (try searching for "desk yoga"; "chair yoga"; and "office yoga"). Get started with this good one from Rodney Yee.
If you want to increase your access to classes, you can pay for a subscription to a yoga website such as YogaGlo or YogaDownload. (I had a membership to YogaGlo for a few months last year but didn't use it enough to be worth the money. However, it's a great value if you use it... just like a gym membership!)
8) NEW BOOKS ON GRANTWRITING
Two of the best books for grant professionals that came out in 2012 are Martin Teitel's The Ultimate Insider's Guide to Winning Foundation Grants: A Foundation CEO Reveals the Secrets You Need to Know and Jana Jane Hexter's Grantwriting Revealed: 25 Experts Share Their Art, Science and Secrets.
Teitel's book is an update and expansion of an older book, Thank You for Submitting Your Proposal. His contribution to the field is priceless -- nowhere else are you going to find this level of candor and direct experience inside the foundation world. It's an especially useful book for people who are seeking grants from small and medium-sized family foundation, but the advice is broadly applicable.
Hexter's book is available as a free download on her website and as a hard copy on Amazon. It is a compilation of interviews with 25 of the nation's top grantwriting professionals. I loved it, and blogged about it here!
9) GRANT PROFESSIONALS ASSOCIATION
Grant Professionals Association (GPA) is a national nonprofit that advances grantsmanship as a profession and supports its practitioners. Join GPA’s email list (for free weekly email updates) at the bottom left-hand corner of the GPA homepage.
Explore the GPA website for information about the chapter serving your region, and consider attending their meetings or regional conferences. (I really like the mid-Atlantic chapter's spring conferences.)
If a national conference is on your wish-list for this year, keep in mind that GPA's national conference will be held in Oct 2013 in Baltimore. That's only three hours from where I live so I'll definitely be planning to go. Charm city, hon!
10) BLUE AVOCADO
The online magazine of the organization American Nonprofits, Blue Avocado is made up of “practical, provocative and fun food-for-thought for nonprofits.” Topics include grantseeking, but go much broader.
To give you a taste of what Blue Avocado covers, the site’s recent “editors and readers picks” included these posts: Our Executive Director is Embezzling; Regrets of a Former Arts Funder; and Telecommuting and Flexible Work Arrangements: Do Them Right.
11) FOUNDATION CENTER COOPERATING COLLECTION
There's an ongoing discussion among grant professionals about the merits of Foundation Directory Online vs. Foundation Search. Let's settle it once and for all by stating that if you have a subscription to either one of these services, you're in good shape for foundation prospect research.
However, if you're not so lucky, and your nonprofit can't afford or won't prioritize a subscription, you should know that the Foundation Center's "Cooperating Collections" offer free access to Foundation Directory Online.
You can use this database of foundation and corporate funders for free if you’re able to travel to the nearest collection in your state or region. Information about Cooperating Collections is posted here. A list of Cooperating Collections by state is here.
(Also note that members of the Grant Professionals Association can receive discounted subscriptions to prospect research services including Foundation Directory Online. Something to consider!)
12) GOOGLE ALERTS
Google alerts will send you an email every time a topic, organization or person of interest is mentioned on the internet (on web pages, newspaper articles, or blogs). As a grantseeker, you can use Google alerts to stay on top of news about foundations, grant programs, board members, partner organizations, trainings and other key topics. Read these additional tips for creating Google alerts.