Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

HarriettAuthor: Harriett Carter

So what’s the best way to create a catchy, cool collection of communications, conducive to convincing contributions committees to support your cause?

Pull up a chair. Grab some coffee, carrot sticks or cake and let’s explore the Seven C’s of Key Messages.

(Phew, that’s enough alliteration for one day.)

A Key Messages document positions your organisation. It contains simple, easily digestible statements about who your organisation is and what you do. When it comes to grant applications, this document really comes into its own.

Ideally, any member of staff should be able to grab content directly from your Key Messages, plug it into an application and feel safe in the knowledge that they’re using up-to-date and accurate statements. This brings us to the Seven C’s – seven rules of thumb to follow when compiling your Key Messages information.

  • Clear - “Clutter” is not a good C word! Well written key messages deliver clear meaning rather than wordy motherhood statements.
  • Compelling - The reader should want to find out more – give concrete information, statistics and examples that underline your organisation’s point of difference.
  • Concise - Try to keep your descriptions tight. Consider having longer and shorter versions of your key information e.g. your organisational description. This will be so useful for those pesky word limits!
  • Consistent - Consistency is at the heart of this exercise. A Key Messages document will ensure that all staff are giving out the same information about your organisation.
  • Correct - It may seem like Communications 101, but do ensure all your information is accurate!
  • Certified - Make sure your Key Messages have managerial tick-off!
  • Current - Every few months, revisit your Key Messages and make sure all information is up-to-date, particularly those “obvious” details that sometimes get overlooked, like contact details and changes in Board members.

JoAuthor: Jo Garner

Today, our lovely full-time Research and Communications Manager, Jane, heads off overseas on five weeks of well-deserved annual leave.  Initially, when she booked the leave some time ago, I had to fight the palpitations, but as we worked through handover yesterday, I was impressed with how well our low-cost IT infrastructure and internal systems and processes have prepared us to cope when one or more of our small team is away for any length of time. 

While of course nothing can replace quality team members, it is the sole reliance on these people and the often unwritten knowledge they hold of different aspects of your organisation which creates risk and threatens long-term viability.

On a daily basis, when meeting people throughout the sector, we hear horror stories of inability to extract relevant records and data due to inappropriate systems, or lack of knowledge in how to use these systems, which leaves organisations with a knowledge deficit.

How can we, for example, conduct a meaningful conversation with one of our major donors when we don’t have an accurate history of our organisation’s relationship with that donor? And a surprising number of organisations cannot provide a succinct and accurate list of their grants history and copies of previous applications to funders!

It does not have to cost a lot of money to set up a cloud-based file-sharing system. While a good CRM will cost, be sure that you do your research and find the most appropriate solution for your organisation. Invest in training and ensure that you have strict processes in place so that your team adheres to efficient data entry and recording. Doing so will mean that your organisation can carry on effectively, even when there are changes to your team.

Solid infrastructure is paramount to helping ensure the long-term effectiveness and sustainability of your organisation. Of course, great people help too and are always missed when they leave!

Bon voyage, Jane.