Many grantmaking organizations—especially small, private foundations—do not accept proposals for initial funding requests. Instead, they require grantseekers to submit a letter of introduction (LOI), also known as a letter of interest, letter of inquiry, letter of intent, or letter of request (LOR). Often, LOIs are requested by foundations as a tool to determine which projects they will be invited to submit a full proposal. While each grantmaking organization’s requirements for these letters may vary, most funders want LOIs of no more than one to three pages that describe the project for which you’re requesting funding and indicate the amount of funding for which you’re asking.
But is writing LOIs (as opposed to grant proposals) really worth doing? There are two main strategic approaches to consider: sending many LOIs – vs- fewer full proposals. To determine the best strategy for your organization, consider some of the general pros and cons of LOI writing when seeking grant funding.
-- LOIs are brief and quick to write.
Most full grant proposals require multiple pages of specific information regarding your funding request, including a project description, timeline, itemized budget, and measurable goals and outcomes. Therefore, planning your project and then writing a good proposal can take days, weeks, or even months. Because LOIs require much less verbiage and rely on more general information, an experienced writer can prepare a persuasive LOI quickly. If you have a collection of documents and text from other proposals and LOIs, the task can be even easier.
-- LOIs require less specific information than proposals, LOIs can be written and submitted early in the project-planning phase.
As noted above, the specific information most grant proposals require means your organization will need to have a thoroughly planned project before you can write persuasive proposals likely to receive funding. Since most LOIs require only a project description, a short statement of need, and the amount of money you’re requesting, you can submit LOIs and gain interest in your project during the brainstorming phase of project planning.
-- LOIs are more easily reusable.
Not only are LOIs a time-saver because they are brief and thus quick to write, but the more general nature of the content in LOIs means you can write a single LOI and send it to multiple funding organizations with only minor changes (such as the name of the grantmaking organization).
-- LOIs set brevity limits thereby limiting the ability to convey your story.
The brevity of LOIs can be both a blessing and a curse. Though a brief letter is quick to write, LOIs can also be very challenging to write because it can be hard to fit all the most persuasive aspects of your proposed project into such a short medium. Therefore, writers must be familiar with how to prioritize the most persuasive information.
--Receiving funding from writing an LOI is less likely than receiving funding from a proposal.
Many organizations that accept LOIs rather than proposals are small, private foundations. Such organizations often lack formalized grant request review procedures and have limited funding available. Conversely, many organizations that accept proposals have more formalized procedures so that you can be sure your proposal request will be reviewed. Larger organizations with formal proposal procedures also tend to have more funding to give.
One potential exception to this general trend is local foundations. Many times, if you apply to a small, private foundation in your immediate area, you stand a higher chance of getting funding than if you submit an LOI (or even a proposal) to a regional or national entity. In such instances, though, it is still important to network with the local foundation, if possible, to increase your chances of funding.
--Receiving meaningful feedback on an LOI is unlikely.
One potential Funding organizations use LOIs as a quick-sort mechanism. Since the goal is speed, the organizations are not inclined to provide any feedback about why your project fell outside their funding priorities.
As you determine what’s best for your organization, realize you won’t have a choice about the type of application a granting organization accepts. Rather, your choice in each instance is to determine if the LOI or complete grant is a good fit for the granting organization and, therefore, the best use of your time. Consider the Pros
presented here to help make that decision.
Still not sure whether to make LOI-writing part of your organization’s grantseeking strategy? The Grant Helpers can assist you with developing your grant strategy or help your organization write persuasive LOIs. Contact us
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Immediately after a disaster, governmental agencies, volunteers and non-profits respond en masse to the affected area. These entities provide essential health and human services. In turn, granting organizations support these first responders by offering grants for general expenses and specific special interests.
The Grant Helpers appreciates the efforts of the first responders. To say Thank You, we'd like to offer you a half-price Opportunity Search in January to replenish your budget. The cost for an Opportunity Search is usually $250 but for organizations assisting our neighbors affected by Hurricane Florence, Hurricane Michael or the wildfires in the Western US we are offering it for $125. The Opportunity Search will identify potential funders to whom you can apply for grant funds. It is our job to sift through many possible funding sources as listed in the databases to which we subscribe. After reviewing thousands of possible funding sources, we will provide you information on 3 who would be an excellent fit for your organization. We know you’re busy now serving the public so contact us in early January to receive this special price.
The following are some of the organizations offering grants to support those who help:
Support for Non-Profits
The Astellas USA Foundation will provide immediate response when needed.
Both Walgreen’s Charitable Donations Program and Wells Fargo Charitable Contributions Program will support disaster relief programs across the nation.
Both Banfield and PetSmart Charities will support programs designed to aid animals during natural disasters.
Schools and Libraries
Dollar General’s Beyond Words Program and the Laura Bush Foundation for America’s Libraries provide funds to help school and public libraries rebuild and restock after a disaster.
School Football Programs
USA Football, in conjunction with the NFL Foundation, provides equipment donations to youth and high school football organizations that have been affected by floods, earthquakes, fire, other natural disasters, and theft.
Farm Aid supports family farmers in crisis. Contact them through their hotline at 1-800-Farm-Aid or visit their website.
Craft artists in areas affected by natural disasters can benefit from grants, zero-interest loans and other services from the Craft Emergency Relief Fund.
The Grant Helpers assists schools, non-profit and local governments develop strategies for identifying and applying for grant funds to achieve their goals. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn how we can help.
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Every day we hear news of natural disasters. Across the country and around the world we hear reports of hurricanes, widespread fires, earthquakes, typhoons, volcanoes, and tsunamis. One of our readers, Bradley D., suggested we share some useful articles and advice to prepare for and react to a natural disaster.
Before there’s even a whisper of a disaster, take inventory of your belongings. This can be as simple as walking through your home taking photos to upload to the cloud. This will make filing claims easier.
Also, develop a plan of action if there is a disaster. Disasters that happen with little or no warning such as fires, tornadoes and earthquakes require a different plan than predicted disasters such as hurricanes. Know where to take cover. Planning in advance can mitigate loss. Consider maintaining extra supplies such as food, water, canned goods, and medicine. If you have warning, prepare an evacuation bag for each member of the household – including your pets.
In the event of a disaster, document your losses and expenses. Take pictures of the damage and meet with the insurance adjuster in person if possible. If possible, don’t dispose of anything until you have a chance to meet with the insurance adjuster. Then, keep a list of what you’ve had to throw away including spoiled food.
Keep all receipts related to being displaced including housing, food, etc. Kiplinger offers this article sharing 8 steps to getting your insurance claim paid quickly.
Angie’s List offers several articles regarding rebuilding and choosing the best contractors.
State, local and federal governmental agencies work with non-profits and utilities to offer a variety of necessary services during a disaster. Information on services can be found at DisasterAssistance.gov and on FEMA’s website. FEMA lists disaster recovery centers and establishes a specific page for significant disasters like Hurricane Michael. These pages offer information about services available to help those affected.
We hope you stay safe. Thank you Bradley for offering these practical resources to share with our readers. Our next blog post will identify grant opportunities to assist in rebuilding.
The Grant Helpers assists school, non-profit and local governments develop strategies for identifying and applying for grant funds to achieve their goals. Contact us today for a free consultation to learn how we can help.
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Construction and renovation projects often result in unexpected expenses. When those projects involve energy improvements, schools, local governments and non-profits can employ a variety of funding sources to stretch project budgets. In addition to grants, it is useful to include utility incentives and performance contracting.
Utilities often offer a variety of incentives for the installation of energy efficient equipment and lighting. These incentives often apply to renovation and new construction projects. Contact your local utility to determine what incentives are available.
Performance contracting is considered a budget neutral solution. Energy Service Companies (ESCOs) first conduct energy audits to determine projected energy and maintenance savings resulting from the elements of the project. They then offer a guaranteed projection of savings. Project costs are not paid up front but, rather, are treated as installment contracts or leases. The client pays in installments using energy and maintenance savings. If the guaranteed savings are not achieved in any given period, the client doesn’t pay for that period.
In addition to the benefits of paying with savings, performance contracting also offers the following benefits:
- Single Contract – Accredited ESCOs manage the construction process
- Fixed Price – The contracts specifically state there will be no change orders
- Guarantees – If energy savings aren’t as predicted, the client doesn’t pay for that time period
- Energy Savings Continue After Contract Ends
- Clients Benefit From a Relationship With a Trusted Energy Advisor
Some ESCOs also provide customer service after the sale including grant writing services.
When planning a construction project, contact The Grant Helpers to assist you in developing your funding portfolio. Contact us today for a free consultation to get started.
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Grants for Art and Music Education
“Where words fail, music speaks.”
–Hans Christian Andersen
“A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind.”
It is well established that art and music education help students develop and excel in many important physical, mental, and social learning aspects.
Yet these education programs are often the first on the chopping block when federal, state, and school organizations struggle with dwindling education budgets. For those schools and teachers struggling to maintain crucial art and music programs due to financial constraints, grants are one of many great resources for support.
The National Endowment for the Arts
The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funds new and existing projects that promote the arts. NEA grants are available to non-profit organizations, state or local government agencies, school districts, and federally-recognized tribal communities or tribes; all applicant entities must have at least a three-year prior history of arts programming.
Two of the NEA’s four annual grants are currently open for the 2018 cycle:
- Art Works Grant: This grant funds projects that explore how art relates to and enriches various cultures and their beliefs and values. Award amounts are typically between $10,000 and $100,000, and grant awardees must cost share/match the award amount. This grant typically has two deadlines annually: one in late February and one in late July.
- Challenge America Grant: This grant supports projects that make the arts more available to underprivileged individuals and areas. Award amounts are for up to $10,000, and grant awardees must cost share / match the award amount. The deadline for this grant usually in late April.
The Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation
In the spirit of its namesake 1995 movie about the inspiring effects of high school music education programs, The Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation offers instrument grants to low-income or otherwise underprivileged schools. Grants are typically provided either to minimize or eliminate instrument sharing or to replace aging, ineffective instruments. Applications are by invitation only. Please review the Foundation’s website for more information on school eligibility requirements and to contact the Foundation for further information about becoming an invited grant applicant.
Lily Sarah Grace
This organization’s Stepping Stone Grant provides funding to K-5 educators who want to integrate the arts into their existing classroom curricula. All program proposals must follow Lily Sarah Grace’s distinctive “Arts-infused, inquiry-based learning” model (AIIBL), which focuses on five critical aspects or outcomes of art-integration in the classroom: community, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and communication. All K-5, Title I schools / educators are eligible to apply for these small grants of up to $450. The application deadline is typically at the end of April each year. For more information on the Stepping Stone Grant’s unique requirements, including the grant proposal rubric, please visit the website link above.
The Crewe Foundation
The Crew Foundation provides monetary support for initiatives that help underprivileged children identify and develop their artistic and musical talents. Only non-profit organizations in the state of Maine that have existing, devoted fine arts or music programs may apply. Applications are due December 31st of each year, decisions are made by April 30th of the following year, and funds are subsequently dispersed between June 30th and September 30th.
Need money, supplies, or other resources to help keep the arts and music alive in your school? The Grant Helpers can assist you in your grant search and application process. Contact us
today for a free consultation to get started.
Photo Credit: Pawel Loj
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Grants to Help the Homeless
While many people experience America as a “land of plenty,” with opportunities and creature comforts abounding, sadly nearly 554,000 people in our country do not have a home (U.S. News, 2017). Many different factors can lead to homelessness, including economic factors, mental health, and situational issues. Therefore, organizations that seek to combat homelessness must use a variety of techniques and offer diverse services to tackle this multifaceted problem. Whether your non-profit agency seeks funding for programs to support immediate basic needs for those who are homeless or to create long-term housing and solutions, a number of different grants are available to help finance this important work to assist some of our nation’s most vulnerable residents.
Bank of America Economic Mobility Grants
For 2018, Bank of America is offering two different economic mobility-focused grant programs to organizations that assist vulnerable populations, including the homeless:
The first grant program supports non-profit agencies that assist homeless individuals and families. This grant funds a variety of initiatives that directly help the homeless, such as programs that provide the basic needs of food, clothing, and shelter or job-training programs. Applications for the Economic Mobility Grant are typically due in February of each year.
The second grant program focuses on broader community and social programs, including larger-scale programs whose trickle-down effect will ultimately help reduce homelessness rates. For instance, organizations that seek to build transitional or long-term housing specifically for vulnerable populations, including the homeless, are eligible for this grant opportunity. The application period for this second grant type is usually in the month of June each year.
The Mary Kay Foundation Shelter Grant
Each year, the Mary Kay Foundation offers grants to support operating expenses for non-profit, emergency shelters that provide housing for women and children who become homeless as a result of leaving domestic violence situations. The foundation usually awards grants across all 50 states and to approximately 150 shelters annually. Grant award amounts are typically $20,000. The deadline for this grant is typically at the end of April each year.
Department of Health and Human Services
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers a wealth of grant programs geared toward reducing homelessness and the health and wellness issues that plague those who are or have been homeless. Our September 2017 blog post on Homeless Shelter Grants highlighted the Grants for the Benefit of Homeless Individuals and the Services in Supportive Housing grant offered through HHS. Additionally, there are many grant programs designed to help reduce homelessness among specific populations, such as youth, seniors, and those who are homeless primarily due to struggles with substance abuse. For instance, the Street Outreach Program, administered through the HHS’s Family and Youth Services Bureau, offers support to organizations that help reduce adolescent homelessness and thereby protect young people from the various forms of abuse common for homeless youths.
Open Your Heart - Hunger and Homeless Grant
This grant is available to non-profit organizations in Minnesota that provide temporary housing for homeless people, including those who are homeless due to domestic violence situations and homeless students. This grant primarily funds facility upgrades and expansions to improve the spaces that direct serve and support the homeless but does not support direct operational costs. See the grant website for specific examples of previously funded projects and a complete list of what the grant will typically not fund. Award amounts are typically around $7,000 on average. Annual due dates for this grant are on the first of March, May, July, September, and November.
Need funding to expand your efforts to help the homeless? The Grant Helpers can assist you in your grant search and application process. Contact us today for a free consultation to get started.
U.S. News: https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2017-12-06/us-homeless-count-rises-pushed-by-crisis-on-the-west-coast
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Let’s be realistic. Your grant request will likely be one of many received by your prospective funder. After reading many grant applications before yours, reviewers are likely to become distracted or tired. Make your application stand out and be easier to read by using visual cues. Here are five suggestions.
Extra! Extra! Read All About It
Just as in a magazine, creative and descriptive headlines and subheadlines will help readers focus their attention by organizing content into sections. Their purpose is to capture the essence of the content and prompt further reading. The best headlines and subheadlines are useful, unique, specific and/or urgent. They should be short and in bold to easily catch the reader’s attention.
Weak Example: Background
Stronger Example: Millions Go Hungry Every Day
Lists Are Lovely
Bulleted lists are easy to scan, thus increasing the likelihood of the content being read. Be sure to include the most important information in the lists. The more compelling the information, the more likely the reader will be to read the accompanying paragraphs.
A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words
Include photographs to show how your program benefits others. Bring your images to life by describing the story behind the photo.
Without knowing whether the reviewer is predominantly swayed by data or stories, combine the two. For example, if you’ve included a photograph of students reading to shelter dogs, include data in the caption mentioning the increased likelihood of those dogs being adopted. An example follows
After Katy’s third visit reading to Bailey, he went from cowering in the back of his cage to eagerly laying at the front of his cage, tail wagging. Bailey was adopted after just 3 weeks while the average stay before adoption was 6 weeks.
Bailey relaxes while his new owner reads to him.
Make Data Visual
Anytime you can present data in a chart, table or infographic you are more likely to get the attention of the readers. Incorporate a pleasing palette of colors that matches your message. If you are applying for funds for an elementary education program, consider primary colors. If you are requesting funding for an environmental program, use colors from nature. If there is a particular number or data point you want to highlight, be sure it stands out.
Pull It Out
Just as with the number or data point you want to highlight, there may be powerful statements that are essential to your message. These can be placed in a text box, written in bold, or written in color. Don’t over do these, but rather, choose one or two statements.
The Grant Helpers can help you develop an effective proposal with strong visual elements. Contact us today—you can even start with a free consultation.
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With persistence, women have made great strides toward achieving equal opportunity, equal pay, and more, but there is still great need for improvement. Did you know 62 million girls worldwide are denied an education? Or that women with full-time jobs earn 77 cents for every dollar of their male counterpart’s earnings? Less than 30 percent of researchers are women, and by 2020 men will outnumber women in the field of computer science by 4:1 (statistics from makers.com).
Is your organization doing something to change these discouraging numbers? If so, the following grant opportunities might be right for you.
For Women-Led Projects: Mary’s Pence
Mary’s Pence funds projects in the United States and Canada that are led by women and that improve the lives of women and their communities. Projects should:
- embrace social justice values including human dignity, the common good, and nonviolence
- emphasize collaboration, diversity, and/or leadership development.
To be eligible, organizations must have a budget under $200,000. Here are some details about applying:
- The application is available online and can be submitted via email, fax or hard copy.
- Applicants can request a maximum of $5,000.
- Applicants can receive a grant up to three times.
- There are two application deadlines each year, February 1 and August 1.
- If you are interested in applying and want to learn more about the process, Mary’s Pence hosts two information sessions via teleconference each year.
Visit the Mary’s Pence website for more details and updates.
For Projects Promoting Gender, Racial or Economic Justice: Open Meadows Foundation
Open Meadows Foundation, like Mary’s Pence, wants to fund projects that are led by and that benefit women and girls. One-time grants are available up to $2,000 for projects that promote community development. Priority is given to small and start-up organizations; organization budget should not exceed $75,000 for any applicants.
To apply, complete the online application and submit via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications are reviewed in two cycles:
- Spring cycle: review proposals received January 1-February 15
- Fall Cycle: review proposals received July 1-August 15
More information is available on the Open Meadows Foundation website. Also, be sure to check out their three special funds for projects concerning indigenous women, activists under the age of 19, and lesbians age 60 and older.
For Projects Promoting Education for Women and Girls: AAUW Community Action Grants
The American Association of University Women (AAUW) offers grants for non-profit organizations focused on the education of women and girls. Special consideration is given to projects focused on grades K-12, community colleges, and STEM (science, technology, engineering or math) topics, as well as projects that include community partners.
- One-year grants are available for community-based projects.
- Two-year grants provide startup funds for new projects.
According to the AAUW website, eligible projects will “have direct public impact, be nonpartisan, and take place in the United States or its territories.”
The online application is available August 1-January 15. Learn more here.
Proposals for each of these grant opportunities for funding women’s services should do more than simply state a need; applicants must paint a clear picture of how their project will improve the lives of women and/or girls in the community.
The Grant Helpers can help you develop a strong proposal and address any special considerations within your community or with relevant partners. Contact us today—you can even start with a free consultation.
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You’re a math teacher, and you’re busy—we get it. There are lessons to plan, tests to correct, and your school’s mathlete team is competing next weekend. You’ve probably heard about some excellent grant opportunities out there for math education, and you may be wondering, “Is it worth my time to apply? How could grant money really benefit a math classroom?” The fact is that grants could add up to some educational advantages for you and your students.
Math Meets Music
Elementary students love learning that involves music and rhythm. Take advantage of their natural predilection by applying for a Using Music to Teach Mathematics Grant through the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. You can apply for a maximum of $3,000 for your Pre-K through 2nd grade class to help your young students learn math through music. The application deadline is November 2, 2018—learn more details on applying here.
||Expert Advice: Many math-centric grant opportunities are available through the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics—view a full list.
If students are going to excel in today’s digital age, they need access to the right technology in the classroom. In a 2011 study by PBS, nearly 63 percent of teachers reported that budget constraints were the biggest barrier to accessing technology in the classroom; in low-income communities, that number rose to 70 percent. Math teachers don’t need to rely solely on a fickle budget, though. Grants such as Digital Wish and Student Achievement Grants from the NEA Foundation can help you obtain the funding you need to put enriching technology into the hands of your students.
Multiply Learning Outside of the Classroom
Take a geometry-themed tour of an architectural wonder. Visit a botanical garden to see how numbers work in nature. Calculate batting averages while cheering on a local baseball team. Math is everywhere, and showing your students some real-life applications of their classroom learning is bound to stir up their enthusiasm. We’re talking math-themed field trips here, with multiple derivative benefits. Field trip grants can help you bring learning to life for your math students—learn about some opportunities here.
Ready to apply? You should factor in plenty of time to prepare your application, assemble supporting materials, and write a strong proposal. The Grant Helpers can make the task exponentially easier, no matter what stage you’re at in the grant-writing process. Contact us today.
Photo credit: Chris Liverani
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As most Americans know, substance abuse—especially of alcohol, tobacco, stimulants, hallucinogens, and opioids—is a prevalent problem in the United States (SAMHSA, 2015). According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), substance abuse leads to many negative consequences, such as physical and mental health problems and inability to function normally in daily life (2015). Not only does substance abuse affect users and their families in negative ways, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) notes that “abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs is costly to our nation, exacting more than $740 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity, and healthcare” (NIDA, 2010-2013).
To help combat substance abuse and reduce the extreme negative impacts on users, their families, and society at large, many organizations offer generous grants to healthcare entities, non-profits, and schools willing to work toward substance abuse prevention and treatment.
Through the SABG program, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers funding to state mental health authorities and single-state agencies for initiatives to prevent and treat substance abuse. The SABG program gives funding priority to programs that assist pregnant women and mothers, intravenous drug users, and those substance abusers who have contracted tuberculosis or HIV/AIDS. All applying states must have a devoted executive branch to administer and track any awarded SABG funding, as well as an apparatus for allocating funding to local government and community entities within one’s state. Additionally, all awardees must spend at least 20 percent of their funding on substance abuse “primary prevention strategies,” defined in detail at the link above. The 2018-2019 application cycle opened on July 3 – please see more information here
. SAMHSA also announced additional grant opportunities for which organizations might apply, such as the Community-Based Coalition Enhancement Grants to Address Local Drug Crises. View a full list of SAMHSA grants for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
The Tower Foundation supports non-profit and school programs that raise awareness about drug overuse and its effects, prevent and/or treat substance abuse, and create environments in which young people can make wise, informed decisions regarding drug use. This Foundation primarily provides funding to non-profits and public, diocesan, private, and charter schools in specified counties in Massachusetts and New York state, but non-profits and schools elsewhere in the U.S. are also permitted to apply. For 2018, the Foundation plans to award $150,000 total for substance abuse grant proposals. The Tower Foundation offers three grant application cycles per year, with the final remaining 2018 due date on August 22.
Each year, NIDA offers a variety of grant programs for independent and school-based research and clinical trials regarding substance abuse causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment. Each grant has varied budget limits and requirements for funding amounts requested, but all grant requests for over $500,000 in a given year require prior approval from a Program Official. Likewise, the due dates for each grant vary greatly, with applications due February – December of this year. To see the full schedule and research priorities and topics for the 2018 Requests for Applications (RFAs), visit the link above.
The Grant Helpers can assist you in your grant search and application process. Contact us today for a free consultation to get started.
Photo Credit: Brandon Giesbrecht
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