I would like to comment on another source of funding called an “Endowment” which is not the usual competitive grant submission. Proposals requesting endowment funds are far different from the typical proposal requesting funding. Endowments are usually closely related to and reflect the interests and values of the giver.
Endowment refers to grant funds or gifts awarded to an organization that then invests the funds with the target of drawing down a percentage of these funds annually to support its budget. Endowment funds are commonly used for expenses in the upcoming year and are intended to benefit the organization indefinitely. Setting up an endowment is very difficult and perhaps the most complicated type of sustainability plan to secure and implement.
I think it’s a good idea to be familiar with endowment gifts and how to research and apply for endowment support. Even though few of these awards are made each year, when these awards are made they are usually significant in size.
Endowment funds can be unrestricted or restricted. If this endowment money is restricted, there will be a policy in place that requires spending in a given year, according to the agreement stated in the grant awarded. Unrestricted funds can be spent as the organization’s leadership sees fit. It is assumed that endowment funds are the organization’s key to long-term success. The Chronicle of Philanthropy publishes the market value of nonprofit endowments and this is a good resource for you to review.
A grant is the award of money for a program or service to the winner of the award-winning proposal. Grants are most often awarded to support special programs or activities of an organization for a specific amount of money and for an exact time. It’s defined simply as an exchange of services for money. If I’m fortunate enough to receive a grant award for my organization then I do not have to pay it back; unless my organization does not complete the project or fails to meet the grant requirements as stated in my proposal.
The organization that I founded two decades ago operates 100% of the time under competitive grant funding and I write all of my own proposals with my team. Once I have identified that my organization has a need for outside grant funding then my work commences. The rationale for researching and creating my proposal is to address specific needs of my agency for outside funding.
The first question I ask myself is whether or not my organization is eligible to submit a proposal. It’s very easy to determine this by reviewing the “Eligibile Applicants” section found in all grant applications.
My next step is to thoroughly search for and review “Requests for Proposals”, referred to as RFPs. This is the request sent out by the grant maker to those seeking funds. The grant maker is the entity that will award the grant funds to the winning agency. A very important point to remember as I search for funds is that if there is no “Request for Proposals” found, then there is no need to write a grant.
Over two decades I have taught, coached and mentored hundreds of hopeful entrepreneurs. Initially, I suggest that they sit down in a quiet place and envision how the can reach the American Dream of starting and succeeding in their own business. This exercise becomes the creation of the future vision of how they will see their business in five years. I developed this specific approach from researching the life of Ray Kroc who was a visionary that successfully created his McDonald’s empire of over 35,000 stores worldwide.
My aspiring students all start by envisioning their business after five years of operation. Their goal is to imagine what it looks like.
"I have an abundance of customers coming and going, numerous cars in the huge parking lot, my twenty employees are happy and busy, expansions are underway, my business loan is paid off. I have no outstanding debt and my business operation can effectively operate while I’m establishing my second new site."
I think and act big and tell myself that there is energy and excitement everywhere I go in my business venture. This lets me anticipate and live the part of the owner of the greatest business of all times and my success is bound to follow.
As Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motors once stated: “There isn’t a person anywhere who isn’t capable of doing more than they think they can”. I have discovered how true this is!
Productive grant-writing takes specific skills that are absolutely necessary to succeed in this field. I recommend that if you really want to write awarding-winning grants you start by assessing whether or not you have the specific skills to do this. You need to be able to research and analyze the reams of data that is mandatory in the research process for each and every grant. Everything related to a specific grant has to be thoroughly explored and it takes focus and time.
While writing your proposal you need to display leadership skills to let those around you know that you are the one who will carry this proposal to a successful award. Demonstrating your decision-making skills is what you must do best to become a precise and capable planner.
When I visit one of my grant writing friends and see their work area cluttered with reams and reams of paper, I know that they are poorly prepared to write a award-winning proposal. To support my findings, they usually call me later and say that they did not win the grant. One of the most vital skills that grant writers need is the ability to deal with change because at no other time in your career will you ever encounter so many changes. This is the nature of grant writing.
Many grant writers ignore the fact that communications is only effective if you achieve what you want. Effective communications is the only way you will ever get your grant-writing team to think and act according to your way of thinking.
There is one skill that cuts across every challenge and that is your ability to quickly solve problems. Problems are everywhere, nothing is concrete and new challenges, concerns or irritations will confront you every single day while you are working on the proposal. I consider every problem a challenge and when it’s solved, I feel “on top of the world.”
Two other essential skills that you need to cultivate are time and stress management
Don’t despair if your expertise in these areas is limited at this time. When I first began my writing career I lacked several of these skills so I partnered with other grant writers until I was ready to go out on my own. You could consider this same approach if you need to acquire some new habits.
Starting your own business will change your thinking and your life forever! Whether you plan on opening a gift shop, pizzeria, cleaning service or a high tech shop, you should take specific actions before you start selling your products or promoting your services.
I have discovered in my entrepreneur training sessions that successful entrepreneurs are not ordinary people, but extraordinary individuals who use unique qualities and skills to create a profitable business venture. Winning entrepreneurs follow the basics rules for developing their Business Plan that becomes their “road map” to success.
You may be thinking, why should I take the time to create my Business Plan? When others read your plan it gives them a profile of your anticipated business and lends credibility on whether or not your venture will be successful. The Business Plan you create becomes your business profile and gives you an official document to give to anyone who may need to know more about your operation.
The Business Plan is your communication tool when you go to the financial institution for start-up or expansion funds because the loan officer expects to see a fully developed plan. It must show that you are a strong and focused business leader and manager. While developing your plan, it gives you practice in thinking about competitive conditions, opportunities, threats, your ongoing cash flow status and situations that can make you a “Giant” in the business world of tomorrow.
There are resources online, in libraries, business workshops and seminars that can get you started with your business planning, but you can also follow my article posts and read my books to discover ideas and hints for starting your own business.