Don’t Stop: On-Going Data Collection for Nonprofit Grants Proposals
Nonprofit organizations must always be on the lookout for funding possibilities. Whether these are foundation grants, community awards, or gifts from various corporations, the charity has to be in a position to request sizable donations.
The reason is very simple: these types of awards are much larger than could be obtained from bake sales and walkathons. It is important to be ready to approach any funding source with a proposal. The proposal has to be backed up with hard facts.
Numbers talk and nobody walks: I can write a beautiful grant proposal with language that goes straight to the heart as far as passion and compassion. However, I’ve always discovered that proposals are more readily accepted if there is data behind them.
If you are the executive director of a young 501(c)(3), you have to understand that any appeal for money cannot rely simply on words. It is a cold world outside, and not everybody is going to be swayed by uplifting prose. This doesn’t mean that data collection has to be a difficult job. It is very easy if it is ongoing.
Focus of your data collection
The figures come from different places but the collection has to be narrowed down to serve informational needs. Here are several major areas from which data has to be collected particularly for fundraising grants writing purposes:
- The community need. Some of this information can be gathered from public agencies like the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The figures demonstrate that there is something missing in the community at large, or a problem that needs to be rectified (e.g. the number of homeless people in a metropolitan area). The targeted community can be surveyed to determine what they consider to be important needs to be fulfilled.
The survey data does not have to be complicated. It can be simply a few questions to assess the importance of certain projects or demonstrate demand for them. The compiled and analyzed data can provide the substance of any needs statement of a grant proposal, and also guide decision-makers on what projects ought to be funded or initiated;
- Routine cost and revenue figures. This is more of an accounting function than anything else. A nonprofit organization ought to have a bookkeeper who is keeping track of accounts receivable and accounts payable. Accounts payable is extremely important for cost estimations that will determine the size of a grant award requested. Incidentally, federal and state governments do require tax filings, so the cost and revenue information must be collected and properly compiled to complete any government forms;
- Volunteer hours. Funders love to see a commitment from the community in the form of volunteer participation. You should track not only the hours, but also assign a dollar figure to properly assess the value of the pro bono service provided. It can be as simple as determining an hourly value for volunteer work (e.g. $12 per hour).
When all the volunteer hours are added and multiplied by the determined hourly value, it produces a pro bono figure that can be substantial. I guarantee funders will be impressed;
- Mission achievement. The service data collection is an idea of how the nonprofit is working to meet its mission. It can be attendance records of job training classes, the amount of material and recycled in a given year, or the number of clients serviced. These can show a funder or any individual donor that the nonprofit is actively working for the common good.
This is non-quantitative information but it is extremely important as well. Stories are the human side of any nonprofit mission. It speaks to the reasons why work is being done, and how successful the efforts have been. Individuals can be asked to share their experience with the nonprofit, and how its efforts have a positive influence.
It is important to get permission from the individual to use their story, and that may include asking them to sign a statement waiving any rights to it. These can be used not only in the text of a grant, but can also be placed on the website.
You may think data collection is boring, but once it becomes routine it really is easy to do. The facts can backup donor appeals and grant proposals. Both are primary reasons for gathering information. At the same time, information also can be used for any marketing. Many times being able to tell the story to the public will initiate volunteer interest and also donations. However the data is used it is going to be beneficial for the nonprofit. The collection is worth the effort.
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