Funding Your Program
Developing a Plan for Financial Sustainability
A successfully implemented plan for program sustainability ensures that you get to do more of what you believe in—providing mentoring and career exploration activities for young women in emerging technologies. Before you create your plan, it’s important for all stakeholders to help determine the absolute minimum operating cost. Consider hosting a series of brainstorming sessions in which mentors, students, parents, employers, faculty members, community leaders and program staff are invited to discuss what they deem the essential activities offered by your mentoring program. The idea is to try to reach consensus on those activities that must continue in order for your group to fulfill its mission.
Next, determine the cost for each of the essential program activities identified in the brainstorming session. You will also need to re-examine your general operating costs. Your organizational budget is a good tool for helping you accomplish this. Look at your most recent annual budget and decide which expense categories will apply again in the next fiscal year. Will any be eliminated or added? Projecting the expenditures in your budget categories gives you a good idea of how much money you need to seek to sustain your program’s mentoring activities.
- How will you fund the program initially? (e.g., as part of a currently-funded program; Perkins; employer-funded; in-kind contributions, etc.)
- How will you maintain the program’s financial records? Does your organization have accounting staff who can help you and/or do you have experience with this task?
- Will your current funding sources still be available to you next year?
- List potential internal (institutional) funding sources, if any.
- List potential external funding sources (i.e., foundations, government agencies,
individual donors, local employers, professional societies).
- List non-monetary resources that might be available (e.g., volunteer time, donations of equipment or materials, catering of recognition event, videotaping of activities, website editing, etc.)
Tips for Successful Grant-writing
Mentoring programs often operate on “soft” money—funding that comes from a government agency or foundation grants—rather than on “hard” money—funding that comes from the institution’s budget. This means that it will be to your benefit to hone your grant-seeking and grant-writing skills. While your college or school system may have its own resource development office, you still need to be prepared to do the preliminary research and networking with potential project partners that are required for successful proposals.
Identifying Granting Organizations
- Research granting organizations and determine their funding priorities and their application dates.
- Determine whether your program is eligible to apply for a grant from them.
- Determine whether the granting organization’s goals and objectives match your mentoring program’s purposes.
- Target your proposal to granting organizations appropriate to your project. If possible, apply for funding from several sources.
- Before you write your proposal, make sure you clearly understand the granting organization’s proposal guidelines.
Crafting Your Proposal
- Prove that you have a significant need or problem in your proposal.
- Deliver an answer to the need, or solution to the problem, based on experience, ability, logic, and imagination throughout your proposal. Make sure your proposal describes a program/project for change.
- Reflect planning, research and vision throughout your proposal.
- State your organization’s needs and objectives clearly and concisely. Write well. Do not waste words. Use active rather than passive verbs. Use proper grammar and correct spelling. Be clear, factual, supportable, and professional. A well-written proposal is a key factor in the granting organization’s decision-making process.
- Answer these questions: Who are you? How do you qualify? What do you want? What problem will you address and how? Who will benefit and how? What specific objectives will you accomplish and how? How will you measure your results? How does your funding request comply with the granting organization’s purpose, goals and objectives?
- Always follow the exact specifications of the grant makers in their applications, Requests for Proposals (RFPs) and guidelines. Include all required attachments including budgets and letters of support.
- After your proposal is submitted, follow-up with the grant maker about the status, evaluation, and outcome of your proposal. Request feedback about your proposal’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Keep electronic copies of all of your submitted proposals. Even if your request for funding is denied by one organization the text may be suitable for recycling in another proposal. 1
Tips for Developing a Fundraising Plan
Remember That Fundraising Begins at Home
- Remember that fundraising is not only the job of the program director—get your advisory board and volunteers involved as well.
- Network, network, network! “Friend raising” is as important as fundraising.
Assess Your Current and Future Fundraising Potential
- Develop a clear picture of your current sources of funding.
- Determine your future needs, both short term and long term.
- Determine what funding sources you can target—public funding, foundations, individuals, corporations, government agencies, etc.
- Develop a three- to five-year plan; it often takes this long to cultivate and engage a new funder.
- Monitor the plan regularly.
Develop a Fundraising Plan
- Clearly articulate how your program is currently funded.
- Assess your program’s baseline needs.
- Assess your current fundraising plan and determine how well it meets your current needs.
- Set reasonable goals.
- Plan your strategy—make sure it’s well diversified.
- Develop a one-year calendar.
- Note when each funding period ends so that you can cultivate new sources continually.
- Enlist the help of your advisory group, staff and volunteers in implementing your fundraising plan.
- Reassess and revise the plan regularly.
Include the Following Means of Solicitation
- Networking with individuals who are interested in your mission
- Grant writing (federal grants, foundations, corporate foundations, state and local agencies)
- Special events (e.g., an annual dinner with auction, a sports tournament)
- Sponsorship opportunities
- A single funding source could dry up easily.
- Building a stable, diversified base will give your program greater security.
- Prospective donors and funders will be impressed that your program is financially stable.
Solicit Corporate Contributions
- Research the corporation to determine its giving priorities, grant guidelines, and when its fiscal year begins.
- On the basis of the subject matter, geographic focus, type of support, and grant range, decide if your needs can be met by the corporation’s grant making program.
- If your program fits corporate giving priorities, call six months before the fiscal year begins and ask to meet with the person who oversees this function.
- Send supplementary information about your program (i.e., articles, newsletters) to familiarize the decision makers with your organization.
- Cultivate employees by making efforts to integrate them into your volunteer base as mentors.
- Submit proposals during the first two quarters of the corporation’s fiscal year (funding can run out in the second half of the fiscal year).
- Invite the contributions manager or appropriate designee to sit in on a session of your mentoring program.
- Ask for an appointment to present your request in person (e.g., to their Community Relations office).
Don’t Lose Hope!
- If your proposal is rejected, call to find out how it could have been improved.
- Ask about a potential date to resubmit the proposal.
- Continue to touch base with the funder, informing it of your organization’s milestones.2
1.Adapted from “Grant writing Tools for Non-Profit Organizations,” Non-Profit Guides, http://www.npguides.org/index.html
2.Adapted from “Tips for Developing Relationships with Funders” by Susan Weinberger, Mentoring Consulting Group. Published in How to Build a Successfully Mentoring Program. MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership, 2005. and Chapter 25, Section 5, The Community Toolbox, KU Workgroup for Community Health and Development, 2007.