Fund your Non-Profit or Community Project: Find and Apply for Grants

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Jan 07, 2014 @ 09:38 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

I’ve seen the grant process from both perspectives – as a project leader applying for grants, and currently as a member of a grant-giving council. I have found that grants are a great resource to help kick start a project, but receiving them can be a daunting and confusing process due to the paper work, applications, fine print, and competition. However, these obstacles can be overcome by thoroughly understanding the process.

Grants can help fund your community project or organization.

How to I get a grant?

A grant is free money, but that doesn’t mean it’s given to just anyone.  The process of receiving a grant usually involves writing a proposal describing your project.  You’ll be asked to explain how you plan to carry out your project, how you plan to use the funds, and a host of other questions allowing you to showcase your project at its best.  Grants may be awarded by a government department, corporation, non-profit foundation or trust, and these groups usually want to know the specifics of your project before they invest money in your organization.  This can be a confusing and difficult process, so keep reading to find out how you can ensure your project is funded.  

The Idea

Before you even begin the grant writing process, you have to have an idea.  Chances are, you have many ideas about how you could solve problems in your community, and grants are a great way to help you accomplish this.  When thinking of your project, make sure you are realistic; if you don’t believe it is achievable, neither will the people reading your grant proposal.  Narrow down your project by thinking about some of these questions:  What are the goals of your project?  How are you going to carry it out?  Who is going to work on this with you? What non-profits and organizations can you connect with to help you plan this?  What resources will you need, and how much will these cost?  Then, ask yourself again, is it achievable?  Great things start with great ideas, but receiving a grant is also receiving responsibility.  

Once you’ve completed this first step, it’s time to put your ambition into action by locating the resources you need to complete your community project.  

Finding Grants

The first step to receiving a grant is finding one.  This can be difficult because many grants have very specific eligibility requirements. An easy place to begin is by researching grants in the same niche as your community project.  Grants typically support projects with specific goals or ones that involve specific groups of people. For example, one grant may only support projects lead by young people.  Additionally, grants usually have a minimum and maximum amount of funding that can be requested of them.  In order to ensure you meet all of these requirements, it is important to decide on a project, plan and objectives before searching for a grant.

Begin your search for opportunities by contacting non-profits, large corporations, local foundations, and government departments.  Contact organizations that have the same goals as your project and find out what grants they may award or grants they may know about that could help your project.  Once you find a grant that you believe fits your project, study the process for applying for and receiving the grant and begin writing you proposal.  

Writing the Proposal

This is the most crucial part of the grant process.  In fact, there are people who make it their profession to write grants to help non-profits receive funding.  When writing your proposal, be as concise and specific as possible.  It’s important that the people reading your proposal are interested in what you are writing about so you convince them to support your project.  Remember, you will be competing against other organizations and projects for funding, so you want to be convincing in your proposal. 
When applying for a grant, it is important to edit carefully.

The grant application will likely ask many questions, but here are some things to think about when marketing your project:  What makes your project unique? Who is benefiting from the project and how? What inspired you to start this project?  What need or issue are you addressing in your community?  

Make sure you research the goals and objectives of the people you are requesting money from.  Why are they offering this grant opportunity and what do they hope to achieve in the community by providing this funding?  When writing, use language that will appeal to them by explaining how your project aligns with the purpose of the grant.  

Finally, proofread, proofread, proofread.  Make sure your proposal is free of errors and sounds as compelling as possible.  Have someone review your proposal and ask for feedback from people who have been through the grant process before.  

Receiving the grant

If you’re lucky enough to receive the grant, congratulations!  Don’t waste any time on this opportunity.  Begin putting your project into action and keep a record of your budget and spending if you have to report back the results.

Learning from Experience

If you don’t receive the grant, use this as a learning experience when applying to other grants in the future.  If possible, ask for feedback about how to improve your proposal or improve your project.  Don’t give up and continue researching other methods of fundraising your project.  

How can you use NobleHour to make writing grants easier?

Use the NobleHour network to connect with volunteers, organizations, schools and non-profits to see how others are taking advantage of grant opportunities or to find people to help with your community project. Use NobleHour reports to measure the impact of your organization and the volunteer hours you contribute the community. This is useful, especially to demonstrate interest in your project.

 


image source:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/42931449@N07/6812484625, www.planetofsuccess.com/blog/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/nics_events/2349631689

Topics: highered, nonprofit, community engagement, scholarships, fundraising, community partners, grants, charity

How Buying Local Benefits your Community

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Dec 17, 2013 @ 08:38 AM

This is the time of the year when advertisements are being thrown at us from more angles than usual.  Most of these advertisements come from campaigns directed by big box chains, and it’s always nice to score some nice deals on gifts for your loved ones. However, let’s also not forget that hidden gem whose sparkle is increasingly neglected amongst the flashing billboard.  In the spirit of holiday giving, be sure to spend some time buying local as a way to give back to your community.  

Buying local helps support your local community.There are a lot of benefits to your community’s economy when you purchase locally.  Supporting small businesses keeps more money in your community and usually helps money circulate faster.  Buying local means that small businesses flourish and create jobs and opportunities for people in your neighborhood, rather than outsourcing jobs overseas.  Additionally, local businesses tend to rely on other local businesses for services such as banking, printing advertisements, supplies, and legal services.  When you spend money at a local vendor, the portion of your money spent that the business uses to pay its expenses stays in your community by circulating to other small businesses. (Source: Time Magazine “Buying Local: How it Boosts the Economy”)

David Boyle, a researcher for the New Economics Foundation, explains how money circulates differently when you spend locally, rather than at large chains.  He uses an interesting analogy: “Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going," but when spent at large, multinational businesses, “it flows out, like a wound."  The force pumping that money is you, the consumer.  

Buying local can also prove better for the environment. Local stores are less likely to import product, reducing the need for transportation. An infographic by the website eLocal emphasizes that airplanes account for more carbon dioxide emissions than any other form of transportation. This is startling, considering that shipping accounts for one billion metric tons of Co2 emissions a year. The hundreds of miles that a product travels to get to your local big box store is a hidden cost to the environment, your health, and your wallet.

Buying locally isn’t just about where your money goes.  It’s also about what you get in return.  If you try to explore local shops you’ll find unique merchandise that can’t be found in the big box stores.  There’s something quaint about visiting a small shop rather than a large department store. The “buy local” movement is about understanding your options as a shopper and informing yourself about the impact of your decisions.  

For example, if I want to buy a book I have a few options nearby.  I can check out my local used bookstore and get it for $3.  If I purchase it brand new at the large bookstore chain, it will most likely cost me double, or triple, the price at the least.  For me, a brand new book and a used book aren’t too different in value.  I could get it used on Amazon for pennies, but the shipping will set me back $4, and I’ll have to wait a week for it to come, which I’m not too keen on doing.  There are ebooks, but I’m sentimental and like to read with pen in hand to write in the margins.  In this case of buying locally, I’ve considered the options and found that buying locally is my best option.  In addition, the woman who owns the used bookstore is much friendlier than the bookstore chain. If I talk to Amazon, I don’t think the website will respond.

Now, granted, with the success of big box stores, local vendors can’t always compete with the prices of larger chains.  However, buying locally is does not mean sacrificing your wallet.  It means being aware of the benefits of buying locally versus shopping at large chains.  It entails understanding the value to what you’re buying rather than just the price.  Some things are more easily accessible at a large store because many small businesses have been run out of town by the bigger ones. In other cases, a local restaurant may offer better and more unique dining options than a chain restaurant or fast food option.  

When given the option, don’t forget to support local businesses. Paying it forward is not just about service.  It’s about the lifestyle choices you make each day that impact those around you.  It’s important to focus on where your money is spent, and make decisions about more than a price tag. As a consumer, your money is your vote.

 
Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vsmoothe/249921300

Topics: America, community engagement, community partners, Buy Local, Christmas gift ideas

How Student-Led Service Organizations Boost Community Engagement

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Thu, Dec 12, 2013 @ 08:38 AM

In 2010, Pew Research Center’s report Millennials: A Portrait of Generation Next found that young people are more likely than older age groups to volunteer.  Many young people are tapping into the resources at their schools to volunteer, serve and better their communities. 

At Iowa State University, students have formed the CyServe Council to promote volunteerism among students.  The need for such an organization was identified because “...community service is something that is often put on the back burner for students because of all the other exciting opportunities that exist in the college atmosphere,” according to the CyServe website. The organization seeks to “bring volunteerism to the forefront of student minds and promote the idea of continuous community service.”  CyServe provides comprehensive resources for students to engage in service, including six service days each year to celebrate the spirit of giving back.  Organizations like CyServe are important because they act as a liaison between students and the community in need. 

Students connect to promote service and community engagement.

The Duke Partnership for Service, or dPS, is a student-lead initiative that works to promote “service culture.” dPS is comprised of more than 70 student-lead service groups at Duke University.  dPS provides resources for its organizations to succeed in changing their community.  dPS works with each service organization to help it find funding and volunteers.  Furthermore, it makes sure that service efforts at Duke remain concise by ensuring the efforts of different organizations do not overlap.  dPS helps the organizations under its roof to work collaboratively and effectively.  Essentially, dPS is a network of student-lead service groups working to optimize the impact of service oriented students.

At UNC Chapel Hill, APPLES Service-Learning is a service organization that has been working to promote service and volunteerism in the classroom since 1990.  The program falls under UNC Chapel Hill’s Carolina Center for Public Service.  The focus of this student-led initiative is to provide comprehensive resources to students and faculty about service-learning.  The organization does this by forming strong partnerships within the university and with the community.  APPLES’ program includes service-learning internships, initiatives, and courses. APPLES hopes to encourage civic engagement, collaborative efforts, and meaningful partnerships with the community. According to the CCPS website, “As APPLES opportunities have expanded over the years, the primary purpose continues to be to enhance and deepen learning through meaningful collaborations with community organizations among the growing list of programs.” APPLES provides numerous resources and opportunities for students to become more engaged.  This program is unique in its dedication to both education and community building through service.

The goals of student-led service coalitions accurately embody the spirit of teamwork and community.  These organizations are fundamental in impressing service as a basic part of education and also in connecting community organizations and non-profits with the helping hands of empowered students.

To capitalize on their impact, student organizations can use NobleHour to streamline communication, the sharing of resources and opportunities, volunteer hour tracking and impact measurement. Service groups can easily see the cumulative number of hours served by members of their NobleHour Community.  Additionally, service groups and community partners can post opportunities and relevant content to keep their members in the loop about local initiatives.

 “If you give people tools, and they use their natural abilities and their curiosity, they will develop things in ways that will surprise you very much beyond what you might have expected.” ~Bill Gates

 

 Creative Commons Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sjuadmissions/7636918838

Topics: service learning, volunteering, highered, civic engagement, community engagement, opportunities, community service, service learning, community partners

10 Ways to Make an Impact on #GivingTuesday™

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, Dec 03, 2013 @ 11:05 AM

You're celebrating Thanksgiving with all of your relatives from near and far. Maybe you'll brave the crowds and lines for Black Friday sales. Then, you plan to squeeze in a few minutes to capture some Cyber Monday deals. But the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is the real day to make a difference. I’m not talking about a putting a dent in your gift list with more items on sale. I’m talking about making a real impact in the lives of people and organizations that truly need your help. It’s called #Giving Tuesday. Started by the non-profit community and cultural center, 92nd Street Y (92Y),  along with the United Nations Foundation and a core group of founding partners, #GivingTuesday is a national day of giving at the start of the holiday season.

The event builds on the American tradition of giving back by using technology to make a greater impact. The success #Giving Tuesday has prompted thousands of international and local non-profits, as well as civic minded corporations to join the movement. By harnessing the power of social media, the day is dedicated to helping everyone realize that they have the power to make a difference in someone’s life - to bring about real change in communities around the world.

More than 10,000 partners in all 50 states and around the world are taking part in the third annual event to refocus on giving thanks and giving back. Partners are large corporations and small businesses, faith-based organizations and secular nonprofits. If you don’t have a specific charity in mind, you can go to the #Giving Tuesday website and sort by the type of organization or look for charities by state. There’s every imaginable charity involved.

You can sort by your interests in arts, culture, animals, health, the environment, education, human services, or research and science. You can also choose to support local community groups, religious organizations, schools and universities, large or small companies, government agencies, and various projects sponsored by groups around the world.

With so many charities competing for your donation, you may want to research the organizations on Charity Navigator or the Better Business Bureau. Charity Navigator provides an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess over 6,000 of America's charities. The non-profit organization also provides a list of giving tips to help you when choosing a charity. 

Still not sure where to begin? Think about how you want to make an impact. Believe it or not, you can make a difference in a family’s life with $20 or less. Many of the organizations participating have catalogs with gifts ranging in price from $10 to thousands of dollars. Many work to end hunger, supply clean water, provide shelter, or assist people with starting their own business. Some provide disaster relief. Others help protect wildlife.

Here are just ten of the thousands of organizations participating in #Giving Tuesday.

 

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and theirHero-GiftCatalog-Christmas14 communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Their catalog offers choices that make a difference starting at just $16. Gifts include clothing and jewelry that fund small business loans for entrepreneurs; goats that can nourish a hungry family, as well as provide income from surplus milk; and food kits to feed families in need.

Feeding America helps provide fresh, healthy food for people facing hunger every day. Your gift of nutritious food like apples, peanut butter, rice, cheese, broccoli, oatmeal, bananas, and chicken can help families in communities across the country struggling with hunger.

Millennium Promise works to  eradicate extreme poverty, hunger, and preventable disease by empowering communities to help themselves. Your donation can provide nutritious meals to children at school, skilled attendants to help mothers giving birth, clean water supplies, and it can help farmers grow more food to eat and sell.

The American Red Cross provides disaster relief around the world. Their catalog includes items like hot meals, blankets, emergency shelter, vaccinations, and first aid workers for those affected by disaster.

Mercy Corps helps people survive crises in some of the world’s toughest places. They help those affected confront and turn their situations into opportunities to thrive. Gifts in the Mercy Corps catalog range in price from under $50 to over $200 and help men and women in villages around the world earn an income. For as little as $18, you can buy a mosquito net or buy seeds for a family. You can give a sewing machine, outfit a classroom, fund a mobile health unit, or help start a fish hatchery. You can even buy a Yak, which can carry loads in mountainous areas, and produce valuable milk, as well as wool for blankets and clothing. 

donate to schoolsSave the Children gives children in the U.S. and around the world a healthy start, the opportunity to learn, and protection from harm. Give joy and lasting change to a child when you choose from over 60 gifts in seven different categories, ranging from health and emergency relief, to animals, sports and education, and water and agriculture.

World Wildlife Fund is an international organization that works in collaboration with existing conservation groups to bring substantial financial support to the conservation movement on a worldwide scale. Their catalog includes t-shirts, calendars, greeting cards, ornaments, etc. For $55, you can symbolically adopt a species. Your gift supports WWF's global efforts to protect wild animals and their habitats.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 190 countries and territories to save and improve children's lives. You can help by giving blankets, vaccinations, purifying water tablets and gifts that support causes like emergencies, food, school transportation, and winter survival packs. Items as low as $15.00 include The Eat & Run bundle that combines Micronutrient Powder and a Soccer Ball to keep a vulnerable child healthy and happy. Gifts under $25 include vaccine carriers that can keep dozens of vaccine vials at the right temperature for 38 hours, even in scorching hot weather. 

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is on the ground in more than 40 countries, including the U.S., providing emergency relief, relocating refugees, and rebuilding lives in the wake of disaster. Their rescue gifts include providing a year of education for a young girl for only $58, clean water for $110, a honeybee harvest kit for $72 and for only $45 you can comfort children caught in crisis by sending them teddy bears.

If you want to volunteer in addition to donating funds, but not sure where to start, visit NobleHour, a small company with a big mission to provide an online platform that enables and facilitates community engagement. Companies can create free profiles for their organization and get the word out about themselves, as well as find help by posting volunteer opportunities for free. NobleHour helps school districts, colleges, universities, non-profits, and businesses throughout the US and Canada track and measure service-learning, volunteering, and community service initiatives. 

The company was started in 2007 by a student looking for a way to find service opportunities in his area. It grew from a simple online database of service opportunities to over 180,000 members, over 6,000 organizations, and over 4,000 opportunity listings. Since their relaunch in 2012, users have tracked over 4.5 million service hours, with an economic impact of over $95,000,000.

So whether you just want to donate in your name, you’re looking for the perfect gift for someone who has everything, or you want to volunteer, #Giving Tuesday is the perfect opportunity to be generous with others and embrace the true meaning of the holidays. What are you going to give today? Share your gift list with us!

Topics: Food Banks, Food Pantries, community engagement, outreach, engagement, community, civic engagement, technology, global, opportunities, connecting communities, involvement, nonprofit, fundraising, community partners, social media, active

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