5 Crucial Steps to Start a Successful Nonprofit

I’ve worked in the nonprofit sector for nearly 20 years. I’ve run nonprofits, managed various programs and now I’m on a quest to start my own.

I’ve actually already officially formed it, and I’m in the process of applying for my tax-exempt status.

Despite my extensive background in the field, I was reluctant to start my own. I had to remind myself that I know what to do. I just had to put it into practice.

I have to tell you, I’m doing all the things I’ve been teaching. Running a successful nonprofit organization is not accidental. There is a method to the madness.

As they say, success leaves a trail. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel, I’m going to follow the formula.

So, since I know there are many of you who either have recently started a nonprofit organization or you want to start one, I want to share some insights with you.

Here are 5 things you need to do to ensure your nonprofit gets off to a winning start.

  1. Set your intention – what is it you want to accomplish through this organization. As Steven Covey said in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” – start with the end in mind. What unmet need are you addressing? How will your organization resolve the problem?
  2. Write a mission statement – your purpose needs to be clear so there is accountability. It’s also a guide to keep you on track. Make sure all of your actions align with this mission.
  3. Create a strategic plan – it needs to cover at least 3 years. This gives you the opportunity to think through your plan of action. Once it’s done, you have your marching orders.
  4. Create a budget  – you need to get clear about what it costs to operate your organization and implement programming.
  5. Recruit board members – Identify who needs to be at the table to help accomplish your goals and recruit them to serve on your board of directors.

There are a lot of steps involved in starting a nonprofit organization, but these are the fundamental things that must happen before you set out on your mission.

If you want further details on what it takes to start a nonprofit organization and how to recruit board members, I’ve created two new courses that show you how to do both.

“So, You Want to Start a Nonprofit?” is a self-paced online course you can enroll in and start now.

“How to Recruit and Retain an Effective Board of Directors” launches on August 1st, but registration is open now. If you register now, you’ll get a special bonus offering for early registration.  

I hope you take advantage of these courses. They  were created with YOU in mind.

Until next time…

Peace & Blessings!

 

It’s Time for Worship…

5 Ways to Get Immersed in Your Vision

As a Christian woman I understand the concept of worship when it comes to God. It’s a daily practice for me.

The actual definition of worship is the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity. I can relate to that because of the love I have for God.

A few months ago, I encountered a phrase that required me to think about worship from a different perspective.

While attending a workshop for women in business, I was asked to select one of dozens of cards placed on a table.  We were asked to choose one that resonated with us most. The card I chose stated: “Worship Your Vision.”

That was 7 months ago and I’m still trying to articulate what that really means. My initial understanding was that I need to be totally committed to my vision. Always focused on it.

When I worship God I immerse myself in Him. So, I believe any vision I have requires the same thing.

I’m in the process of starting a nonprofit organization. I’ve had the vision for it since 2016. I received more clarity about it a few months ago. I haven’t moved forward before now because it’s a major undertaking. I didn’t feel like I had all the resources or skills I need, nor did I feel like I have the time.

Honestly, those are things we sometimes say to disguise our fear. I have been scared to do it. Ironically, I’ve never had the perfect circumstances to launch any ideas or projects I’ve had in the past. Yet, they have all been successful.

The key was I was willing to start moving forward before I had all the answers. Whatever stage I was in, I committed to the process. I was relentless. Through the activity of moving forward, inevitably what I needed showed up at the exact time that I needed it.

So here are a five practical things you must do in order to worship your vision:

  1. Sacrifice your time – life will throw everything at you to keep you from pursuing the things you feel matter most. You will never have enough time, but you can manage your time more effectively. If you sacrifice watching TV or hanging out with friends you can free up quite a bit of time. You can also sleep less. Sometimes you will need to get up earlier or stay up later.
  2. Ignore your feelings – they are fickle. They will change on you at the drop of a dime. You cannot trust your feelings. They will tell you that you’re afraid or you’re not competent enough, you’re not smart enough  or you’re too tired. Don’t believe it. Speak the opposite to yourself and do it anyway.
  3. Choose progress over perfection – If you wait until everything is perfectly aligned before you decide to move forward, nothing will get done. I’m not saying produce substandard or mediocre work. I’m saying do everything with a spirit of excellence, and then when it’s time to press play, you know you’ve done your best. Yes, if you had more money, more time, and more help things could be better. But you have to ask yourself, “Have I done the best job I could do with the resources, skills, and abilities that I currently have? If the answer is yes, then let it go and move forward.
  4. Adjust your mindset – the hardest part about entering into worship with God is clearing my mind of all the things that want to compete for my attention. One of the best ways to combat thoughts is through words. In traditional worship this is accomplished by reciting words of praise and adoration towards God. So, in this sense, you need to identify some positive affirmations related to your vision and your ability to accomplish it, and state them out loud several times a day every day. This will weed out the negative chatter in your mind and clear a path for success.
  5. Surrender – once you’re clear of your vision and what needs to be done to bring it to pass, you must let it go. You have to surrender that vision and trust that everything will unfold as it is suppose to and when it’s suppose to. You can’t expend precious energy trying to figure out where the money and the people are going to come from. Just begin to do all that you know to do and the rest will fall into place.

I’m happy to say that the process of worshiping my vision has begun. I filed my articles of incorporation and applied for my employee identification number. The next step is to apply for my tax exempt status.

So, what are you going to do to move forward with worshiping your vision?

NEW Grant Writing Course for Beginners!

If you want to learn the secret to being a successful grant writer, then you’re in luck. I’m spilling the beans.

The focus of my upcoming grant writing workshop will focus on the most crucial component of writing winning grant proposals.

The course starts Monday, April 30th. After watching this video, click on the link on the right side of the home page to find out all the details.

Hope to see you in class!

Practice Makes Perfect!

The Key to Becoming a Great Grant Writer

In the book Outliers, author Malcolm Gladwell says it takes roughly 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field.

Based on studies in elite performance, Gladwell contended that it’s “an extraordinarily consistent answer in an incredible number of fields … you need to have practiced, to have apprenticed, for 10,000 hours before you get good.”

This theory has been debated and often refuted. Gladwell admits there are some fields that this theory doesn’t apply to, sports, for example. In a response to the misinterpretation of his rule, Gladwell said the point is simply that natural ability requires a huge investment of time in order to be made manifest.

To become good at something you must practice. For the average person, it doesn’t just automatically happen.

If that’s the case, then why do many people assume you can become a good grant writer by taking one class?

That’s an unrealistic expectation.

I frequently tell students in my grant writing courses that the only way to learn to write grants is to actually write them.

You get better over time. Even in the failures you learn something. Actually, when it comes to writing grants, you learn more from your failures.

So, don’t put unrealistic expectations on yourself after taking a course. Accept that you won’t know everything all at once.

The worst thing you can do is take a course and do nothing. Instead, here are some concrete things you can do. 

  1. Volunteer your services. There’s a nonprofit organization that would appreciate anything you can offer to assist them in raising funds. Even if you can’t command a fee for your skills, you will be rewarded with experience, which ultimately builds your confidence and your resume.
  2. Connect with professional organizations in the nonprofit and grant writing industry. The more people you can network with, the more you can learn about what’s happening in your community. This will also give you the opportunity to let people know that you’re a new grant writer and you’re looking to get involved in a project.
  3. Invest in an online subscription to stay abreast of grant opportunities and relevant industry news and events. A few examples include, Foundation Center, Grant Professionals Association, and Grant Station.
  4. Enroll in more courses. Select courses that build on the skills you’ve already gained, not just rehash the same things you’ve already learned.

If you’re looking for a new grant writing course, I have one that begins Monday, April 30th. It’s called Strategic Storytelling: The Secret to Being a Successful Grant Writer.  It will provide you with the practice you need to get better. Registration is open now.

 

How to Brag for Financial Benefit

Whenever I’m working as a grant reviewer, I can always tell when an applicant is trying to hide the fact that they are unqualified for a particular grant. They tend to tell you everything THEY want you to know, but nothing of what was asked for. In particular, they boast about all the great work they’re doing, whether it’s relevant to the proposal or not.

For those applicants their favorite section is the organizational history. And it should be yours too.

This is the section that allows you to go all in by tooting your own horn. This is where you get to brag about your organization, your programs, and your staff.

Every grant will ask about your organization’s background because they want to determine your credibility and capacity to implement the type of program in which you are applying. This section is typically referred to as the organizational history, organizational background, or organizational capacity.

Here are some components that should be included in this section:

  1. Mission Statement – describes the purpose of your organization. It’s the core activity your organization was formed to do.
  2. Vision Statement – describes the ultimate objective of your organization. What is the “pie in the sky” goal you want to accomplish?
  3. Staff Credentials – list the credentials and educational background of your key personnel. You only need to identify the personnel relevant to the project you’re proposing (i.e. Executive Director, Program Director, Evaluator, etc.)
  4. Organization’s Experience – indicate the organization’s experience serving the target population and experience running your type of program. This demonstrates credibility and it’s especially important if you’re working with a very specific population (i.e. at risk youth, mentally and physically disabled individuals, substance abusers, non-English speaking individuals, etc.)
  5. Accreditations and Certifications – describe any special accreditations or certifications that your organization holds that are relevant to the project.
  6. Years in Operation – include how long your organization has been in operation. An extensive history speaks to your experience and credibility. If you are newly formed, discuss the relevant experience of the founder prior to forming the organization.
  7. Community Partners – describe any community partnerships with established organizations. This demonstrates the community buy-in and assures the funder of sustainability after the grant award expires. You can also lean on the experience of your community partners if your organization is newly formed.
  8. Fiscal Capacity – include a statement about the financial capacity of the organization. Indicate your financial history and experience managing budgets equivalent to the funding you’re requesting, especially if it’s a request for major funding. You also want to indicate if your organization has regular independent audits and follows standard accounting principles.

These are the basic elements that need to be included in your organization’s background.

If you’re submitting a major proposal, then you should have at least one full page describing your organization. If you’re submitting to a foundation, or writing a simple letter of intent or case statement, then two to three paragraphs should suffice.

Finally, once you write a great organizational statement you can cut and paste it into any proposal, as appropriate. The bulk of this information will always remain the same.

If you’d like to learn more about writing grants, my NEW course – Strategic Storytelling: The Secret to Being a Successful Grant Writer –  is open for registration.

Until next time…

Peace & Blessings!

 

 

 

Lessons Learned from Grant Writing 101

What the Students Taught ME!

I just wrapped up my online grant writing course – “Grant Writing 101: The ART of the Skill.” No matter how many times I teach my basic grant writing course I enjoy it. Most of all, I always learn something new.

The greatest revelation I’ve had recently is you have to teach true “beginners” from a different perspective. It’s one thing to know how to do something. It’s quite another thing to try to relay that knowledge as a new concept to someone who has no exposure to it.

The past few weeks I’ve been exposed to people who not only don’t have any grant writing or writing experience, but they haven’t even worked in the nonprofit field.

There are so many things I’ve taken for granted because I’ve worked in this field for so long. New students remind me of that.

Now, I must think differently about how I approach my lessons. This is another reason I’ve found the writing assignments to be so crucial. It shows me where people are in their writing, so I can build from that.

The best thing it shows me is how I need to modify my teaching style and adjust my format. That allows me to meet them where they are and help elevate them to where I need them to be.

Upon completion of every course I teach, I take the lessons I’ve learned and incorporate them into my next course. So, my next course is ALWAYS my best course. I keep improving every step of the way.

I’m constantly inspired to elevate my teaching game. Best of all you get the benefit of those lessons learned.

Here are a few things I’m changing for my next course:

1. I’m adding an additional week so I can leave room to build a foundation with an exercise that primes the students for writing. 

2. I’m dropping the recorded modules and making the course ALL live. The students in this last course really benefited from the live coaching. It was their favorite part. It helped them more than anything else.

3. I’m assigning a real grant instead of a mock grant. The mock grant omits too many crucial elements. It makes it harder for the students to engage in the full writing experience. By giving them an actual Request for Proposals (RFP) to guide them, it makes it easier for them to produce valuable content.

4. I will keep the class size small. If I enroll more than 10 students, it negates from the personal attention I desire to give. It’s difficult to effectively coach a large group.

These are just a few things I’m changing. I won’t give away everything. You’ll have to sign up to learn more.

My next course will begin on Monday, April 30, 2018.

Let me forewarn you – this course is NOT for someone who is not committed and who doesn’t want to write. Participating in the writing assignments is mandatory. The only way to learn to write grants is to actually practice writing them.

Click here to register!