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Four Keys to a Successful Strategic Planning Experience

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As the old saying goes, "If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there."  The same is true for companies and organizations. Without a clear destination, it is impossible to set a course and measure progress. Without a strong strategy, a nonprofit organization is likely to flounder, wasting valuable time and money on activities that do not further its mission.

A well-crafted strategy can also help a nonprofit organization secure funding from foundations and other donors. Donors want to see that their money will be used effectively, and a detailed strategy can demonstrate this commitment.

What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning is the process of setting goals and determining how best to achieve them.  It involves creating a road map for success, which can be used as a guide for decision-making. It is an important tool for nonprofit organizations, as it allows them to focus their limited resources on their most important objectives.

What goes into a successful strategic planning experience?

Below are four key factors to keep in mind:

1: Define your mission.

One of the first things you need to do when embarking on a strategic planning experience is to define your mission. This will provide you with a north star to guide your decision-making and ensure that everyone on your team is moving in the same direction. Moreover, it can help you attract like-minded individuals who are passionate about your cause and want to help you achieve your goals.

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The Importance of Relationship Building

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The importance of relationship-building in grant fundraising

You know the saying when it comes to real estate. The three most important factors are location, location, location.

When it comes to seeking a grant for your organization, the formula is similar. It all boils down to relationship, relationship, relationship.

As you consider your organization’s goals, priorities, and needs and begin to identify potential grant-makers who could partner with you to bring those to fruition, the next step is to forge strong connections with the people at those foundations or corporate offices.  

Much like getting a job, securing a grant with a shot in the dark is possible. But it is far more likely, far more worth your time and effort, and far more rewarding for everyone involved to approach grant application in the context of an ongoing relationship with the real person involved at the other end of the equation.

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3 Types of Grant Makers Your Nonprofit Should Consider

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By now, you have likely heard of the so-called “paradox of choice.” This is the idea that too many options can result in heightened stress and impaired decision-making.

If you are not familiar with this concept, picture yourself in a grocery store, trying to choose from half-dozen types of orange juice. Do you want lots of pulp, less pulp, or none at all? Do you want straight orange juice or a mixed blend? How do you know which to buy?

Researching and deciding which grants to apply to can bring on a similar feeling. The process of applying for grants is time-consuming and exhausting, so how can you be sure you are allocating your time and energy most effectively?

Connecting with corporations

One option for your nonprofit that you should explore is corporate backing. If there is a footprint for a Fortune 1000 company near you, whether it is a retail location, manufacturing facility, or corporate site; many companies show a high propensity for supporting nonprofit endeavors in areas where their employees live and work.

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Getting into a Grant Maker’s Mind

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Did you know that some of the world’s most famous archeological discoveries were found by accident?

In 1974, for example, Chinese farmers stumbled upon pieces of a clay figure, which led to the discovery of thousands of terracotta statues, marking one of the most famous finds of the twentieth century.

Thirty years earlier, a shepherd boy looking for a stray goat found the Dead Sea Scrolls—over 900 Jewish and Hebrew Scripture manuscripts dating back to at least 68 BC and possibly hundreds of years earlier.

Two hundred years prior, a group of French soldiers were rebuilding a fort in Egypt when they came across the Rosetta Stone, which has since served as a crucial interpretive tool for ancient texts and languages.

These stories tell themselves. But one reason they are so intriguing is how uncommon they are in the broader world of archeology. Most notable discoveries result from archeologists spending several years—even decades—following a series of tiny clues until finally achieving the payoff they must have felt would never come.

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3 Questions to Ask Before You Start Searching for Grants

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When a nonprofit needs funds for a program or building often there is a question that comes to mind. 

Is there a grant to fund our organization?

No matter how long you’ve been playing a key role at your nonprofit, it’s pretty likely you’ve asked yourself some version of that question. And, with close to 2 million charitable organizations throughout the U.S. chasing a finite number of grant funding sources, it isn’t too complicated to see why there’s a built-in urgency to answer it. 

You have a passion for serving your community with excellence, whether it’s serving vulnerable men, women, and children with food or housing, coming alongside those struggling to overcome substance abuse addiction or making sure women and families have everything they need within their first year of parenthood. Details aside, it will take some strategic thinking and planning to make sure you can accomplish these worthy goals. And that means seeing to it that your organization has enough financial resources to do more than turn the lights on. 

After all, your financial goal isn’t simply to survive; it is to do your part to help others thrive.

So, where do we start when it comes to researching grant opportunities? Before you even start looking for funding, you should ask yourself three questions to effectively start your search. 

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4 Times Foundations are Interested in Funding Your Nonprofit:

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You have spent hours daydreaming about the critical work your nonprofit could do. You have big hopes, but it can feel like there is just one big barrier in the way: MONEY! Have you ever wondered why some organizations get a lot of grants, but yours doesn’t? One of the keys to being funded by foundations is understanding the types of activity foundations are most interested in funding. If you are in one of these times in your organization, growing your grant proposal writing might be right on time!

 

Four times foundations are more interested in funding your nonprofit:

 

#1 When you are starting a new program- When you start a new program, there are many new expenses, but it can also be a great time to pursue new funding partners. When you have built the stability of operating funds for the organization, the program money needed is more attractive to donors. There are clear paths for the foundation between the financial investment and the tremendous impact of your program. Be sure to take the time to plan the program out well. The program will have expenses such as staff, equipment, marketing, training, or facilities. You can build costs into new grant proposals. The neat thing is, a new program doesn’t have to mean creating a whole new infrastructure. It could be as simple as adding a service to a time your clients are already with you.  

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Knowledge, Experience, Vision. That’s The Nonprofit Advantage.


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  • The Nonprofit Advantage was a huge assistance to us. Our goals and dreams seemed pretty daunting and we honestly had no idea what to do. As they helped us and worked through the paperwork with us it helped us gain confidence, accomplish our goals, and our us in a place to succeed going forward.

    Alex Kennedy, Executive Director Save the Nations Ministries

  • Jamie Stanley from the NonProfit Advantage recently taught a session on “Grant Writing All-Stars” for our United Way partnering agencies in Ellis County.  Her insight & content was extremely beneficial to all involved and participants were able improve on their tactical skills with writing grants.  I highly recommend Jamie for any coaching & training exercises.

    Kasey Cheshier, Executive Director, United Way of West Ellis County

  • Working with Jamie was an absolute blessing to have someone who is not only extremely knowledgeable and skilled at everything she does, but also incredibly passionate and full of heart for helping entrepreneurs move their dreams from ideas to reality. She brings new ideas, possibilities, and vision to your project to aid your own agenda without taking it over or straying from your original plan- a rare skill in consulting. Without her expertise and belief in me I may have never moved forward in certain areas. She truly makes dreams a reality, and I highly recommend her to anyone, especially those who have passion and emotion but need someone with business know-how and objectivity!

    Madeline Smith, Owner, Transformed Heart Co.

  • The Nonprofit Advantage has really helped bring our organization to the next level. Jamie has helped organize our program priorities, our outcomes, and outputs and maximize our funding opportunities. Without this help, we wouldn't be able to impact those we serve in our community as much as we do now.

    Anna Hammonds, Board Member, Manna House

Knowledge, Experience, Vision. That’s The Nonprofit Advantage.

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