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Grant Proposals – What to do when they don’t deliver

Grant Proposals – What to do when they don’t deliver

signature on a letter of thanks for the donation
Writing grant proposals can get frustrating, especially if they’re being turned down again and again.  Here you’ll find expert tips for fine tuning your grant proposals for success.

Author and non-profit consultant, Pamela Grow, guest authors an article for Fund$Raiser Cyberzine about what to do when your grant proposals aren’t bringing in the dough.

Here are just a few of the things you’ll get from Pamela’s article:

• Questions to ask yourself.
• How to effectively review and critique your own proposals.
• Why and how you should persevere, even with foundations who’ve turned you down before.

Read Pamela Grow’s full article here >>


Want more grant proposal tips?
Check out this article on grant writing >> 

Impress Your Donors

Impress Your Donors

writing a letter vs writing an email to fundraise
Forming good relationships and impressing your donors is something that will make your non profit standout over others.


Jim Berigan from Top School Fundraisers brought up additional ways to communicate with your donors other than asking for money. Although his article refers to schools, we can use many of these ideas for all non profit organizations. Here are a few of my favorite ones from Jim:

Birthday Wishes

Everyone likes to receive a birthday card! Would you  not be impressed if you received one from a non profit? I would be! So much so that they would be one of the first on my list to whom I would choose to give a donation to. It’s these little details that make a big difference.
Lunch Invitation

Wow! Another great personal touch. Which donor would not be floored that you called them to invite them for lunch? Of course for budget reasons you can’t do this with all your donors. But if you can make a point of doing this once a week with your most important donors that will really help build a great relationship. On these lunches, take the time to listen to your donors. See what their concerns are in their personal or professional life. Perhaps you can also give them a hand. Relationships in general work best when there is a give and take on both sides.

Want to read all 10 Reasons To Contact Your Donors from Jim Berigan, and see how you can apply them to your organization?

It’s definitely worth the read 🙂


A Very Special Thank You for Supporters

A Very Special Thank You for Supporters

My cousin Laura is participating in the Cancer Society’s Relay for Life charity walk this summer, and had a fantastic idea for getting supporters more involved.

Our family has been touched by cancer in many ways, so when Laura started sending out her emails, asking for support, of course I was willing to donate.

This is the second year Laura has participated, and the second year I have supported her.  What was different this year was that, after donating, I got another email from Laura with a second request.

A Second Request

Laura’s second request was for the name of someone I would like to be remembered.  She was asking everyone who supported her to send a name, which she would then print on the t-shirt she wears the night of the walk.

I thought this was such a wonderful idea that I just had to share it with you.  A request like this is so special because:

• It gets supporters involved in your cause, and really makes them feel like they’re a part of what you’re doing too.

• I wasn’t told beforehand that she would be doing this, so being offered this incredible gift after donating made it that much more special.

• It’s a great way to thank your supporters, and show them how much their support means to you.

As the summer months get closer, I know many of you are gearing up for charity fundraising events yourselves.  You may even be participating in a Relay for Life event in your community.  A special gesture like Laura’s doesn’t cost you anything, so all the money you raise will go straight to the cause, and it really goes a long way towards making your supporters feel involved.

As for Laura, thank you for such a wonderful gift!  It means a lot, and I’m very proud of you.

Charity Auctions – 3 Methods

Charity Auctions – 3 Methods

Charity auctions are a great way to raise funds, raise awareness, and have a lot of fun. In this article, we examine three methods of hosting a successful charity auction.

Method 1 – The DIY Auction

The DIY (do it yourself) charity auction is the preferred method for smaller organizations and groups on a budget.

A DIY auction takes a lot of time and effort to organize, but can be very rewarding. It’s a good idea to have a strong base of volunteers to help out. The tasks you’ll need to address include:

– Finding a location for the event
– Getting items donated for auction
– Promoting your auction and/or sending invitations
– Printing and selling tickets
– Event decorations
– Arranging seating for everyone
– Snacks and refreshments, if you plan to serve them (Quick tip: Selling snacks is a great way to raise extra funds!)

Benefits of the DIY Charity Auction

– Lower cost
– Personal or community feel

Downsides of the DIY Charity Auction

– Lots of time and effort required

Method 2 – The Professional Auction

A second option is to hire a professional auction company. Obviously, there is a cost involved. If this is something you are considering, shop around for prices and compare what you find to your fundraising goal. Can you reasonably raise enough money to make a profit and justify the cost of hiring a professional auction company?

A good company will walk you through the planning process, provide tips, and also provide a professional auctioneer to really get the crowd going!

A company like Sayre & Jones Auctioneers, for example, will help you plan and promote your auction, effectively price your items, and run the auction itself. Check out a few of their reference letters from past clients.

Benefits of the Professional Charity Auction

– If you’ve never run an auction before, or have attempted one with little success, the professional guidance can help make it a huge success.

Downsides of the Professional Charity Auction

– You pay for the service, so you need to have money to start with, and raise enough to cover the cost while still raising the funds you need.

Method 3 – The Cyber Auction

Online auction sites are becoming more and more popular. Most likely, you are familiar with the online auction site, eBay. Online charity auctions work the same way, with the proceeds from sales going back to your cause. There are several online auction sites, including:

BiddingForGood (the most popular online auction fundraising company, due to their special expertise and great support) •
• Mission Fish (which powers the eBay charity program, eBay Giving Works)

Organizing an online charity auction doesn’t require much computer or internet knowledge, but you do still have to collect items to auction off, take photos, price the items and put them up on your auction site.

Good promotion is key when working online. Get the word out at regular meetings, via email, by telephone, through fundraiser flyers, letters and newsletters, and any other way you can think of.

Benefits of the Cyber Auction

– It’s often free, or very low cost
– You can usually run an online auction for as long as you like

Downsides of the Cyber Auction

– You don’t get that personal, face-to-face connection that you get at actual events.
– You don’t have an auctioneer to encourage bidding.


Cómo Solicitar una Donación – Donation Request Letter in Spanish

Cómo Solicitar una Donación – Donation Request Letter in Spanish

Wooden envelope icon on green striped background
Our recent article Showing Appreciation for Your Hispanic Supporters generated so much interest that we decided to create an extra tool for you: a Spanish Donation Request Letter.

You will find below a Spanish translation from our How to Write Donation Letters article.


[Dirección del beneficiario]

Estimado [Nombre del destinatario],

Cada año [nombre de la organización] trabaja para [su causa]. Esta lucha ha sido posible por el generoso apoyo de personas como usted.

En este último año, [nombre de la organización] ha [describir un objetivo logrado, compartir una anecdota de su organización, o la historia de una persona o institucion que se ha beneficiado de la labor de su organización]. Este año, esperamos que [presentar una meta o objetivo para el proximo año. ]

Hoy le pedimos que realice un gesto concreto a favor / en contra de [su causa],  haciendo una simple donación de [$ cantidad]. Sus [$ cantidad] [ qué va a cubrir esta cantidad? Alimentar a un niño? Contribuir a la lucha contra la deforestación? Comprar materiales deportivos o escolares?]. Para enviar su generosa donación, por favor [Especificar métodos de pago, dirección postal, etc].

[Organización] le da las gracias por su tiempo y generosidad.


[Su firma]

[Su nombre, impreso]
[Su título]

Sample Fundraising Letters – Asking for support

Sample Fundraising Letters – Asking for support

Fundraising request sample letters
We’ve had many requests from our readers for sample fundraising letters, so we’ve decided to start a series of fundraising letter examples that focuses on the different types of letters you may need to write.

This article focuses on letters asking for support.  These can be donation request letters, volunteer request letters, or participation request letters.  We will provide a sample of each type with some pointers for you to create your own.

Before we begin, here’s a good way to organize your fundraising letters:

First paragraph: Introduce yourself, your group and your purpose for writing.

Middle paragraph(s): Provide more details about the work your group does, past achievements, goals for the future and how important donor/volunteer/participant support is (this can be divided into two paragraphs if need be).

Last paragraph: Explain exactly what it is you want your letter recipient to do, and how they can do it.

Donation Request Letter

Michael Allen
West Street Children’s Center
777 West Street
Cityville, NY 55555

November 12th, 2007

Sarah Johnson
987 Maple Avenue
Cityville, NY 55555

Dear Sarah,

Since 1982, West Street Children’s Center has provided thousands of children in our community with free access to counseling, after school tutoring, mentoring and recreational programs.  This access is made possible through the generous donations of community leaders like you.

Last year, your generous donation helped purchase new books for our growing library, fund a visit from a motivational speaker who spoke to the children about the importance of education, and helped us start a scholarship fund to help deserving children pay for college.  We also celebrated the high school graduation of 11 of our children; 7 of whom started post secondary studies this fall.  Without your generosity and support, none of this would have been possible.

This year, our goal is to raise $10 000 to purchase new sports equipment, and have the outdoor playing field cleaned up and landscaped for recreational use.  Studies have shown that children who participate in sports are more likely to succeed as adults.  We hope to give our children this advantage in life.

We hope you will join us once again in reaching our fundraising goal.  A simple donation can be made online at, or you can also send a check payable to West Street Children’s Center to:

West Street Children’s Center
777 West Street
Cityville, NY 55555

For more information, please contact me directly at m.allen@, or 555-123-4567.  We sincerely thank you for your time and continued support.


Michael Allen

Director, West Street Children’s Center

Tips to create your own:
– Don’t be afraid to state your purpose for writing in the opening paragraph.  You donors will appreciate your openness.
– Clearly state how donations can be made, and provide full contact details.  This is a good way to use your last paragraph.
– Share your organization’s successes and achievements over the past year.  Remember, your donors helped make them possible!

Volunteer Request Letter

St. Mary’s Church
123 Avenue Street
Cityville, NY 55555

November 12th, 2007

John Wilson
678 Roadway
Cityville, NY 55555

Hi John,

It’s that time of year again!  St. Mary’s Church is preparing for its annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser.  If you remember last year, our volunteer team had a great time serving up hearty spaghetti, yummy salads and delicious deserts.  We hope you’ll be joining us again this year!

Every year, this fundraiser raises much needed funds to help maintain the church building, continue our outreach programs and fund our growing youth group.  Last year, the proceeds allowed us to put new flooring in the gathering hall, as decades of church family gatherings made it necessary to retire the old flooring.  It was the help and support of volunteers like you who made that possible.  Without you, we are certain we would not have reached our goal.  This year, our goal is to raise $1000 for two stained glass windows to replace the old windows in the front of the church building.

To reach our goal this year, we need volunteers to prepare the meal in the kitchen, set up tables and chairs, serve food in the gathering hall, bring baked goods for desert and stay afterwards for cleanup.  If you are available to join our volunteer team this year, please contact Helen Smith at 555-345-6789, or add your name to the volunteer sheet on the church bulletin board.


Helen Smith

Volunteer Coordinator, St. Mary’s Church

Tips to create your own:
– Emphasize the concept of a team and teamwork to remind your volunteers of how great it is to be part of a collaborative effort.
– Be sure to specify what tasks you are asking volunteers to sign up for.
– Remind volunteers of how important their support it, and all the great things that have been accomplished as a result of their generous service.

Participation Request Letter

Tigers Softball
44 Community Way
Cityville, NY 55555

November 12th, 2007

The Baker Family
7878 19th Avenue
Cityville, NY 55555

Dear Baker Family,

Tigers Softball is gearing up for another homerun fundraiser and we need you!  This year, we’re selling Hebert $1 chocolate bars to raise funds, and we have a special treat for you if our goal is reached!

Hebert $1 chocolate bars come are certified peanut-free and are easy to sell because they’re so delicious and only $1 each.  We encourage you to sell to friends, family, neighbors and coworkers.  The funds raised will be used to purchase new uniforms for the Tigers.

As a special treat this year, Coach Bob has agreed to coach our home opener dressed in a clown suit if our goal of $800 is reached!

Please see Coach Bob at next Saturday’s practice to pick up your case(s) of Hebert chocolate.  We request a $20 deposit per case, which will be refunded upon return of funds raised.  You will have 2 weeks from the pick up date to sell your chocolate.


Jen Richmond

Assistant Coach, Tigers Softball

Tips to create your own:
– Including an incentive is a great way to encourage participation.
– Be clear about the details of the fundraiser, and provide tips your participants can use to make selling or participating easier.

Interested in more fundraising letter tips?

Get the complete guide to fundraising letters or find more tips and sample letters in  our Fundraising Letters section.

Did you hear?  We just released our first ever eBook – Nine Strategies to Increase Fundraising Confidence.

And you can get it FREE! Find out how to get your free eBook>>

How to Create a Different Kind of Fundraising Letter

How to Create a Different Kind of Fundraising Letter

Wooden envelope icon on green striped background
A good fundraising letter could mean big profits for your fundraising campaign, and a good fundraising letter is one that gets attention.  Here are a few simple tricks of the trade to help you succeed.

In today’s world of cell phones, Blackberries, iPods, digital TV and SPAM, people only read letters that are different and stand out.  Letters must be personal, relevant and centered around what’s in it for the reader.  That goes for fundraising letters too.

So how do you get your reader’s attention?  First of all, perhaps you can create a different looking fundraising letter.  Instead of your standard 8 ½” x 11” white paper, perhaps you can make it a bit bigger or smaller?  Perhaps you can pick a paper with some color and a different texture?  A bit more expensive you might say?  Nonsense.  You can purchase this kind of paper at very cheap prices at the dollar store or Wal-Mart.  Just by doing this, you are immediately sending out a “different” kind of fundraising letter.

Now, as to the content of your letter, it is important that you address the reader as your friend.  As with anything else, you need to draw the reader into your cause by writing things such as, “If you are like me, you care deeply about..”, or “Doesn’t it bother you when you see…”  If the reader has donated in the past, you need to address what they have done already.  For instance, “Your donation of $100 last year meant a lot to us.  People like you are the backbone of our organization.”

Describe what you want to do next.  This is the “meat” of your fundraising letter.  You need to identify a critical need and how your organization is addressing that need.  Tell your reader your goal: what you are going to do, as well as why and how you are going to do it.

The next step is to solicit the contribution.  Be specific and straightforward.  “Send your gift of $25, $50 or $100.  Every penny helps.”  Or offer a monthly credit card option charge, “Only $5 a month, comes to a very much needed $60 a year…”  Adding a tangible or intangible incentive provides a reason for the reader to act.  Here’s an example of a tangible benefit:  “We have a donor who will give $1 for every dollar we are able to raise.”  And an example of an intangible incentive:  “Imagine the feeling you will get knowing you will be able to help provide food to a hungry child.”

Adding an insert or a photo also helps bring attention to your cause.  For instance, if you are raising funds to buy new equipment for a school, show a picture of the current deteriorated equipment.  As you know, a picture is worth 1000 words, so it could help people open up their hearts…and their pockets.

Thank the reader for taking the time to consider your cause and leave a positive feeling in his/her mind.  Don’t forget to sign the letter!  You want to make the letter as personal as possible.  You can also use a “P.S.” to add an additional incentive to act immediately.  For example, “P.S. In order to quickly help as many children as possible, please be as generous as you can, and use the enclosed envelope to send your donation today.  Thank you so much for your help, it is extremely appreciated.”

Believe it or not, the percentage of response one can get from a direct mail appeal is 1 to 2%.  By creating a “different” kind of fundraising letter, you will be able to gain donors and help build a good reputation for your organization.  And you never know; the reader might not be able to donate this year, but might next year.  Or perhaps they know of someone else that will be able to donate, and will pass your “different” fundraising letter along.

5 Simple Grant Writing Tips for Proposals that Get Funded

5 Simple Grant Writing Tips for Proposals that Get Funded

Man Writing on Paper with Pen on Table
A lot of us get writer’s block when it’s time to submit a grant application. But by following some simple rules to stay on track, grant writing can be simple and rewarding for both you and your organization.

When I’m writing a proposal, I always keep these 5 things in mind.  While most of these tips are pretty universal, they are especially important to keep in mind when you’re writing a grant proposal, since you could be up against many other contenders.

1. Get to the point

The best way to get funded is to make sure your writing is straightforward and easy to understand. If your proposal is full of big words and long, convoluted text, it’s more likely to go into the recycle bin than make it to the short-list. In order to make your point, you have to keep it simple.

When I write a grant proposal, I sometimes imagine myself explaining the organization and the project to a 10 year old, my grandmother, a lawyer and a politician, in the same room, at the same time.

2. Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS)

KISS is a great rule to remember in order to make your point. But you should also apply the KISS rule to your presentation.

Print your proposal on plain white paper without graphic decorations or other distracting features. Use standard margins and fonts. Separate sections with short, bold titles. Pictures and illustrations should only be used when they are called for (e.g. as samples in an artistic proposal). Keep it easy to read!

3. But What Is The Point? Using the 5 W’s (and an H)

The person reading your proposal needs to understand:

Who:  What your organization is all about, and why you are qualified to run the project, as well as any partners who will be involved
What:  The problem, need, or opportunity being addressed
When:  How long the project will run and when any milestones will take place
Where: What facilities/space will be used
Why: The goals and objectives of the project, and of course,
How: What you will do in the actual project, what you will need in order to do it, and how you will determine its success (this will form the bulk of your proposal).

4.  Be Professional

The funding body has to consider their reputation as well as the impact on the community when they are deciding which organizations to fund. If you are competing with other organizations and you happen to have a beef with any of them, don’t let that shine through!

Focus on your organization’s positive qualities rather than what you see as your competitor’s negative attributes, and let your dignified manner show your organization is respectul and responsible.

5. Show That You Can Measure Results

You will need to be able to show how you will measure the success of the project at the end, or if the project is ongoing, at consistent times throughout the year (e.g. annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, or even daily). The funding body will be more likely to fund projects that have specific measures in place for both quantitative (based on numbers) and qualitative (based on people) feedback.

If I were planning a family games day in the park, a quantitative measure would be the number of people that showed up and the number of people that participated in various games, while a qualitative measure could be based on a short survey handed out to participants.

Many funding bodies will have a form in place for you to fill out in order to submit your grant application. If you have to work it out from scratch, here is a simple, straightforward template you can use for nearly any grant proposal.

Now that you have brushed up on your grant writing basics, head on over to Step by Step Fundraising to find out what else you can do to secure your funding.

If you are looking for grants to apply to, check out this great resource for education grants or this extensive grants database that has been collecting info on funding bodies since 1996.

The New Fundraising Letters Guide

The New Fundraising Letters Guide

Old Metal Mailbox on Weathered Wood
One of the most common requests we receive is to provide more sample fundraising letters. Now you can get the complete guide, The 7 Essential Steps to Raising Money by Mail.

Two of the most widely-read sites in fundraising today, Step by Step Fundraising and Get Fully Funded, have come together to create a guide that has dozens of fundraising letter samples, and is also a complete guide to planning a fundraising mail campaign, called The 7 Essential Steps to Raising Money by Mail.

This packed guide gives you specific tools that have proven to be successful for hundreds of non-profits, including:

  • Planning your fundraising mailing strategy, from schedules to revenue projections to choosing your audience.
  • Fundraising sample letters you can use as templates to create your own
  • Sample words and phrases that have been proven effective in fundraising letters
  • Tips and tools to help you understand fundraising mailings and optimize your campaign

Sample Letters

The 7 Essential Steps guide has over 60 pages of real fundraising letters that you can use as templates for your letter, along with explanations of why they were effective.  Includes sample letters for nearly any situation, including:

  • Asking for Financial Donations
  • Asking for Help for Individuals
  • Recruiting New Members
  • Signing Supporters Up for Monthly Donations
  • Asking for Funds for Special Projects
  • Saying Thank You

There are sample letters from nearly every type of cause and organization, from school projects to fundraising walks, from environmental agencies to food banks.

Sample Words and Phrases

Once you have your template in place, add your own touch by consulting over 13 pages of effective words and phrases for your letter, such as:

  • Sample Opening Sentences
  • Sentence Starters and Templates
  • Ask Statements
  • Sample Closings

The 7 Essential Steps to Raising Money by Mail breaks down the daunting challenge of a fundraising mail campaign into easy steps that are easy to understand and to act on. This book is the perfect guide for beginners who need step-by-step instructions, or for seasoned pros looking for a little new inspiration.

This guide is available now in ebook and print form.

Get more details on the 7 Essential Steps to Raising Money by Mail >>

Fundraising Letters – Does Fold Matter?

Fundraising Letters – Does Fold Matter?

Could something as simple as the way you fold paper have an impact on the success of your fundraising letter?

Fundraising Coach, Marc Pitman thinks so!  He recently posted a unique tip for fundraising letters – use a z-fold!

What’s a Z-Fold?

A z-fold is a simple way of folding a letter so that the recipient sees his or her own name first.  Marc says it’s a great way to grab a person’s attention right from the start.

Find out how the z-fold works!  Read the full article >>