Posts by: Steve

Year-end Appeals

Why are my year-end appeals so unsuccessful? Many books address how to write a compelling appeal that brings in money. I think the single largest mistake I see, and I see it often, is the “we” problem. The letter starts off by stating the great work your organization does. It might include in the letter somewhere that money is needed to stop a critical problem from becoming even more widespread. What often follows is a set of bullet points telling…

Exploring the Form 990

The ethics of foundations has been in the news a lot this political season. I recently saw a post from a friend on Facebook that a particular family foundation was behaving not only unethically but perhaps even illegally. Serving on a family foundation myself, such accusations cut to the core of the problems of some such foundations. In some cases, perhaps a wealthy benefactor set up a foundation to pay family members a generous salary for their “work.” Youi don’t…

We Are A Working Board!

I hear that often, and every time I hear it, my skin crawls. So you’re a working board? Good for you! Show me a board that isn’t a working board, and I will show you an organization that is stuck in place. Every single successful nonprofit I have been a part of, has had a working board. With the current emphasis on keeping overhead costs to a minimum, your organization likely relies heavily on volunteer hours, particularly from your board.…

You Must Ask for Money to Get Money

You’re given the name of a prospect, and you’re told she is likely to give to your cause, particularly because of a project you’re recently started. Many years ago, the advice was “always start with a letter of introduction” to set up a potential time to meet. Too often, that letter winds up in the circular file. And email can quickly and easily be ignored or deleted. You need to pick up the phone and setup an in-person meeting. My…

Follow Every Single Requirement of a Grantor

I know, I know, reading the requirements put forth in a Request for Proposal (RFP) for grant funding is mundane at best. I have used such materials myself to combat insomnia. As painful as it might be, you need to read every requirement and follow them all. You might discover it is not even worth your while to apply. Similarly, you are likely to find specific language that directs you as to what programs and activities for which you can…

Believe in your cause

Maybe that seems self-evident, you should believe in your cause. I have too often seen cases where folks join a board to pad their resume, or because they want to return something to the community in which they live. If those are the reasons you are serving, it is likely your organization is struggling. You MUST believe in your cause and the importance of the organization which you serve. What does that mean? Your organization is changing the world for…

Write stronger grant proposals

Accumulate quotes that show the strengths of your organization from the viewpoint of your funders and use them in your grant proposals.  What? You’ve never kept a quote or asked for one from a participant? Time to call on one of your biggest supporters. Set up an interview with her and tell her why. You can send her questions ahead of time to prepare her for the interview. Then take her answers and use them for your quotes. Any supporter…