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Posts tagged ‘grants’

Proposal winning strategies – 7 tips

DaphnesGrant

[Pictured at left is an actual grant application Daphne wrote and submitted, directing a small team of clinicians and support staff. Daunting, no?]

 

Background: Daphne Street is a multi-million dollar award-winning grant and proposal writer, with more than a decade of experience in winning proposals spanning myriad fields within the nonprofit and for profit industries. From the fine and performing arts to substance abuse and mental health services and from technology developers  to transportation services, Daphne has helped transform businesses through establishing new revenue streams and fostering profitable partnerships. Far too often, Daphne says, companies are content on submitting proposals without doing the work needed to truly be competitive and win the game. Here are 7 winning tips from Daphne:

7 Tips for Winning Proposals

  1. Do what you’re told. Read, follow directions and gather appropriate content. Never skim an application. Completing award applications and proposals are not the time to get creative, decide certain questions are superfluous or bluff your way through. You must be exacting in every minute detail: from composition and submission instructions, to addressing every detail in the scope of services and search every section to discover additional areas you need to address.
  2. Points matter. If an RFP assigns points to certain sections or questions, calculate those compared to the word count. The more points assigned to a question or section should get a higher percentage of your word count dedicated to it. It is formulaic and expected.
  3. Information gathering. Do not attempt to do this on your own unless you solely have ownership of the vault that holds all of your company’s data and are its universal content expert. More likely, you have accountants, program/department heads, specialists and industry experts on your team that can provide invaluable content to strengthen your proposal. Take the time to engage them and be specific about the type of information you need from them.
  4. Money. Your financials and budget are often the strongest and most highly weighted sections of your application. Your financials tell a complete story of your company’s financial health and whether your company is a good investment for funding. This includes tax returns, independent audits, etc. Your budget is usually what really sets you apart from the competition, and there is no shortcut for developing a winning budget: analyze ALL of your costs associated with a project and pitch a budget that is as tight as you can get it while still making a profit. In terms of for profit government proposals, you tend to make your money on volume over ticket price, so consider that when you calculate your estimated profits.
  5. Interpretation. Reading between the lines is critical in winning applications. This requires skill and experience to know exactly what questions mean and the data, details, interpretations and focus points to include within proposal responses along with the best ways to present that information, using graphics, logic models, flow charts and time tables, etc. to drive key messages.
  6. Value-added. This is where proposals are won. What additional, extraordinary benefits and features are you bringing to the table? What is unique about your offering that sets you above the competition? Skilled proposal writers know how to sniff out these details and highlight them in writing in compelling ways. From your narrative to your budget, value-added wins every time.
  7. Hire an expert. Especially when you are dealing with high stakes, it’s worth the investment to use the expertise of a pro. They often don’t come cheap, and it’s important to vet them properly, but they know the tricks of the trade that can augment your chances of winning exponentially. While there is never a guarantee that your application will win, the outstanding news is that your investment in an expert proposal writer never goes to waist unless you fully scrap your project. The application they pull together often can be repurposed to submit for various funding opportunities. It’s never a “one size fits all” job—there will be significant time spent rewriting sections and addressing varied specifications and scopes of services, but you will often find subsequent applications written to support the same project far less cumbersome.

Poynter seeking superhero VP to help with funding

It’s no surprise that the parent of the Tampa Bay Times, Poynter Institute for Media Studies, is facing the same financial terrors as print newspapers across the nation. The first blow is obvious, coming from a relentless national recession, while the second hit has to do with Poynter’s unique ownership model of the Tampa Bay Times.

Tampa Tribune’s Richard Mullins reports: “The nonprofit Poynter Institute is recruiting new philanthropy experts, launching a massive fund-raising drive and exploring land sales as financial support from the St. Petersburg-based newspaper is ‘no longer viable.’”

“‘These have been difficult times,’ said Poynter President Karen Dunlap. The institute’s posh campus with the bay view makes ‘a number of people think there’s a huge pot of gold in a closet somewhere in Poynter. That’s not true. I’ve looked.’”

The Times has not been immune to the same threat all print media is facing—the internet. In fact, despite holding strong as the best selling newspaper in Florida, the times has had a steady decline in revenue, based on IRS filings.

“Times revenue in 2009 stood at $274.7 million, which included the sale of its Washington-based Congressional Quarterly publication. Times officials declined to say for how much. Then in 2010, revenue fell to $159 million, a drop of 42 percent. At the same time, assets, including physical property, stood at $122.9 million in 2008, then $113.4 million in 2009 and $83 million in 2010,” based on Tampa Tribune research.

This directly correlates to Poynter’s hardship as the Tampa Bay Times had been a significant part of the organization’s revenue. “Newspapers simply can’t offer the kind of ‘generous dividends’ required for Poynter to remain vital as a national journalism training institute,’ as described in the job posting for a new vice president for Poynter, “and ‘strategic thinking’ over the past few years suggests the newspaper model won’t in the future,” reported Mullins.

Poynter’s solution is that they hire it. So the organization has a new position open: President, The Poynter Foundation/Vice President, Institutional Advancement.

Based on the job description, the position’s expectation will be to double outside grants within two years, launch an endowment drive and lead a new foundation staff. While the new-hire will be responsible for “doubling outside grants,” Poynter admits that historically it has mostly left government grant untouched for ethical reasons.

“Poynter could seek donations from government-affiliated groups, such as national endowments for the arts or humanities,” reported Mullins, “but has ‘steered clear’ of those groups in the past, Dunlap said, partly out of a concern about a potential conflict of interest because journalism plays a role of government watchdog.”

If this new Vice President of Institutional Advancement is expected to double outside grants without applying for government grants, I
wonder if the applicant must also have a superhero cape in her wardrobe?

Link to full TBO.com in-depth article by Richard Mullins HERE: http://www2.tbo.com/news/business/2012/jun/02/6/tampa-bay-times-parent-facing-financial-squeeze-ar-410873/

Daphne’s List of 7: How 2 Hire a Freelancer

From both angles–as a freelancer and someone who needs a freelancer–it’s critical that the working relationship is a good match for both parties. Too often employers have professional needs that fall out of scope of a particular freelancer’s offerings, but they tray to talk them into fulfilling these needs just the same. Likewise, too often freelancers agree to take on projects that fall out of scope of their niche business making for an uncomfortable mix. This is a recipe for disaster. Decide up-front as an employer, what your expectations are from a freelancer. As a freelancer, decide up-front what your menu of professional offerings are so that it’s easy for you to say no when asked to go out-of-bounds of your niche. 

Other potential pitfalls include making sure personalities, work ethic, communication styles and dedication to common goals match. These don’t need to match in a way that mirror the other but in a way that compliments the other. To this end, here are seven tips to help both employers and freelancers decide if there’s a mutually beneficial match before signing that binding contract, committing you together.

  1. Discuss specific needs and expectations. As an employer, have a list of the types of services you would like the freelancer to undertake and what types of outcomes you expect. Be clear about these expectations. Also, be open to negotiate on certain services and tasks that the freelancer may not be willing or able to undertake. Understand that you may find a great match from a freelancer who can fulfill a percentage of the needs you’ve outlined and you may either contract elsewhere or agree for the freelancer to subcontract for the additional services required. As a freelancer, be clear, firm and consistent about the menu of services you can provide. Be realistic about your skills, experience and time available, and consider having a network of other specialists you can refer or subcontract with to potentially fulfill other needs a client may have that you don’t offer.
  2. Date before marriage. Try a single project or a small batch of multiple projects prior to committing to a long-term working contract. Think of it like dating before marriage. Employers and freelancers need an opportunity to work together on projects to see if their styles and offering match well. When you begin working on projects, examine aspects of the partnership that will impact future projects if you both decide to move forward in a working relationship. In particular, observe matching or complimentary values such as punctuality and adhering to deadlines, frequency and styles of communication, creativity, problem-solving, innovation, leadership and project management systems, etc. While most people value all of these, many will value some more than others. For instance, perhaps an employer values a freelancer’s leadership and innovation and can deal with flexed internal deadlines once in a while as another employer demands strict adherence to deadlines but is less concerned with creativity. Likewise a freelancer may require a specific communication style and frequency and is less concerned with an employer’s project management system. A trial project will help the employer and freelancer examine if this professional relationship is a good fit and makes parting ways on good terms if things don’t work out well much easier.
  3. The contract. Write it, discuss it in detail, sign it and stick to it. Determine what money is needed upfront with projects to seal the deal. Often freelancers will require up to 50% down, especially at the beginning of a professional relationship. This is important for the freelancer to cover some operating costs while working on projects and to help ensure that the employer/freelancer commitment is firm on a project. It is less likely that an employer will pull the plug on a project if there’s already money invested in it. Also, freelancers tend to be more responsive to employers who have already invested financially in their work. This is especially true at the beginning of the employer/freelancer relationship. Include in the contract items such as ownership of intellectual property and copyrights, confidentiality expectations, deadlines both internal and external, specific pieces of the project that need to be completed to make the whole, what fatal flaws can break the contract from the perspective of the employer and the freelancer. If anything has been promised free of cost or is required free of cost, include it here.
  4. Experience and Inexperience. Check references, portfolios, ask pointed questions to determine experience and knowledge–from both the freelancer and the employer. Employers need to know the credibility and experience of the freelancers they hire, and freelancers need to know the same from employers. It’s perfectly great to work with start-up employers and freelancers who are cutting their teeth. Just know that this is what you’re doing, and do so with the intention of supporting that start-up. Anticipate that some minor mistakes may be made at the start, but know that you can help one another grow together. If you’re working with a start-up from either end of the spectrum, expect that the services will cost a little less. Discounts should be involved to compensate for inevitable missed internal deadlines and struggles with communication, etc. If the mistakes are too frequent or troublesome to overlook, from either the employer or the freelancer, the aforementioned trial project is a good way to check this out and perhaps decide to part ways easily afterwards. If after the trial period the employer who has enjoyed the benefits of discounted quality work wishes to move forward with the start-up freelancer, that employer should expect the rates to raise up to industry standards–if not immediately then in the very near future.
  5. Payment. Both parties need to be specific about terms of payment. Timeframes. Whether this will be based on a retainer, fee for projects, hourly rate, etc., this needs to be pre-determined and honored. Discuss payment for meetings and consultations, phone calls and other forms of communication on project(s) and travel/mileage and other potential expenses such as copying, printing, etc. If terms need to change due to unforseen circumstances, this needs to be communicated immediately, preferably with options that will be beneficial to the party that is NOT changing the terms.
  6. Conflicts of Interest. Discuss and have in the contract anything that would be considered a conflict of interest for both parties. As an employer, you will want to ensure that your freelancer will not utilize any proprietary information you provide to them with your potential competitors. This may include having the freelancer agree to not work with your competitors while under contract with you. As a freelancer, you may need to make it clear to your employer(s) what types of projects you will not be able to undertake due to potential conflicts of interest. This may include developing marketing plans for similar businesses in similar markets simultaneously. Open, honest communication and signed conflict of interest clauses are very helpful to avoid this common pitfall
  7. Parting Ways. Do everything possible to part ways on positive terms. This does not mean avoiding direct communication when things go wrong or communicating any dissatisfaction. What it does mean is to ensure that one is not slandering the other publicly and that communication never turns abusive, harmful or threatening. Do not threaten lawsuits or demand refunds unless the infraction is so significant that these circumstances are unavoidable. Understand that most things go bad due to miscommunication and misunderstandings or even uncontrollable events. This knowledge should bring at least a small sense of compassion that might lend to at least civil and polite communication and the amiacable dissolution of a professional relationship. At all times, remember, your reputation is always on the line each time to speak ill of another.

Daphne Taylor Street’s Resume (2 page visual version)

Who is Daphne Street?

Daphne Street

About who I am:

Daphne Taylor Street is a freelance writer, blogger, grant/proposal writer, nonprofit development consultant, communications consultant, public speaker and internet radio personality in the Tampa Bay area. She has been a professional in the nonprofit industry for more than 18 years, spanning everything from fine and performing arts to substance abuse and mental health services. In the summer of 2011, Daphne left her full-time job as a grant writer to pursue her freelance writing and communications consulting business in full-force, and added her former employer as a client.

 

WHAT DOES DAPHNE DO? Daphne’s focus is on strengthening her local community and beyond through dynamic business strategies, creating value for businesses while helping to develop diverse revenue streams.

 

To further this goal, Daphne works hand in hand with small businesses, nonprofits and artists; armed with a background in communications, marketing, private sector funding procurement and nonprofit development; to help them amplify their branding and communications to increase overall business sustainability and growth.

 

RESULTS: Daphne’s grant and proposal writing services have resulted in millions of dollars of local, state, federal and foundation awards and private sector funding, spanning 14 years of experience.

 

Countless new business offerings, programs, products and services have come to life through Daphne’s visionary approach to matching a company’s mission and strengths with opportunities for growth, enhancement and expansion.

 

Daphne is regularly published as an author through a variety of media and has ghost-written, co-authored and written published articles on behalf of many clients, further positioning them as experts in their field. Daphne currently has two books under development, co-authored with a client.

 

Daphne’s copywriting and graphic design skills are engaging and action-oriented, amplifying brands from diverse industries.

 

Combined, these strategies have generated revenue; lead to procuring private investments, grants and contracts; and helped businesses survive and grow.

You can visit Daphne on her blog: www.daphnestreet.wordpress.com; check her out on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/daphnestreet; or contact her directly via email: dts.streetmedia@gmail.com.
A link to some published articles:
Services:
  • Freelance Writing: articles, blogging, grants, proposals, books, business writing, press releases, business plans, strategic plans, communications plans, marketing plans, white papers, copywriting, research, editing
  • Communications Consulting: strategy, implementation, collaborations/community partnerships, media relations, new media/social networking, crisis management
  • Training/Public Speaking: writing for dollars, winning proposals, winning presentations, media literacy, freelance writing, grants/nonprofit development, communications/marketing, community development, personal branding, internet safety, social marketing
  • Design: photo journalism & graphic design: logos, multi-media presentations/PowerPoint, posters, brochures, web design

Please feel free to contact me directly at dts.streetmedia@gmail.com

Dare to be great!  –Daphne

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