During the Coronavirus quarantine, I’ve lost track of how many Skype calls and Zoom webinars I’ve participated in, but let’s just say it’s a lot. Some have been client calls. Some have been calls with colleagues.
And some have been webinars from grantmakers and other grant pros. The latter calls have actually been the most helpful as I’ve gotten the chance to digest how grant professionals all over the country are handling their responsibilities and response to COVID-19. I’ve been able to benefit from their collective wisdom and adapt my approach along the way to make sure I’m truly offering best practices to my clients and subscribers in this uncertain time.
So today I thought I would share some of that collective wisdom with you. In no particular order, here are some of the most helpful and insightful things I’ve gleaned from my fellow grant pros since this whole crazy Coronavirus thing started (plus some of my own thoughts, too):
1. This is a good time to enlist board members to help call donors and funders and help with anything that staff is struggling to complete.
2. Now is the time to double down on creating deep relationships with funders. You should be calling and talking to them. This is the piece that could save your org.
3. There are lots of grant opportunities out there right now for relief funding, but that doesn’t mean you should be going after all of them. If a funder puts out an RFP to help hungry kids, should a community arts center really be pursuing that? Do what’s ethical. Look for opportunities that line up with what you do.
4. Stay in your lane BUT look at how you can alter what you do to better serve people and what THEY need during this time. This might include different services, added services, virtual services, and partnerships that now make sense that maybe didn’t before.
5. Funders are starting to relax some of their funding restrictions and even allow orgs to convert funding from program $ to operating $. However, don’t ASSUME that’s ok. You still need to call and confirm before you make any spending decisions. Also, be ready with a budget and some ideas for alternative ways to use that award. Also be prepared to give back the money if they ask.
6. Some organizations are starting to prepare case statements detailing how they’ve dealt with the pandemic and their programs and facilities closing as well as how the staff is handling their work during this time. These can be sent to funders to keep them updated or repurposed for other fundraising and marketing efforts. It also gives a good outline for what kinds of data you can gather NOW to demonstrate impact and need.
7. START TRACKING DATA NOW. Data on how you are working, your altered services, partnerships, etc. Collect that data now so you can give measurable impact of your work to funders.
8. If you think you might go after any federal grants, make sure you are set up to do that. You’ll need a DUNS #, you’ll need to register with SAM (System for Award Management), and you’ll need to register an account on grant.gov. Find out more about positioning your organization to apply for federal grants here. If your org has pursued federal grants in the past, this is a great time to make sure that all of your registration and login info is up-to-date.
9. Find people and organizations that you can connect with that have the skills you need right now. PARTNER. This is true for nonprofits, artists, and consultants.
10. Look at what you need and want during this time. These are the same things lots of your constituents want, too. How can you help deliver them? Also, many funders are changing their priorities and they may not readily see how what you’re doing relates to what they want to fund. SHOW THEM. Help them think outside that box.
11. Organizations (and their consultants) need to work hard to position that org to write and submit grants with fast turnaround deadlines. This means creating case statements, gathering attachment documents, compiling budgets, and making sure you have data on hand to make your case.
12. Subscribe to all of your current and prospective funders’ email lists. Follow them on social. Make note of their emails and phone numbers and reach out systematically.
13. Plan, plan, plan. Plan how you are going to react to this crisis and then make sure you are getting that info out to your funding partners, including it in proposals, and looking for opportunities to partner and increase your impact.
14. Have a strategy for “if this, then that” showing how you will handle things going forward. Communicate it. Document it. Have Plan B’s and C’s. Start planning now for how you’re going to handle things in the late summer, Fall, and even into the winter.
15. Talk to your state and regional representatives! Tell them what you’re doing, what you need, tell them to please think about what’s happening in the nonprofit sector. If possible, provide them with the data you’re collecting right now. Tell them what you’re seeing on the front lines.
16. If you’re trying to figure out how to handle live events (even the ones that are still 6 months away) – you need to figure out an alternative way to hold them. Even if the distancing restrictions are lifted by then people may not yet be willing to come together in large #s. Give them virtual options. Plan for this NOW.
17. Foundations are swamped right now, too, as they adjust to this crisis. Ask them what you can do to help them or what they want to see NPOs do in the community right now. Be a good partner. It’s a 2-way street.
18. This is not necessarily a time for all of us to go find money. This IS a time for all of us to think about and plan for what’s next.
19. This will eventually end and when it does, there will be a new normal that is very different than it used to be. What you need to do now is keep moving forward, keep planning, and keep changing and evolving your plans as you can.
20. We need to internalize that no one is going to be as productive as normal right now. This isn’t just working at home. This is working at home during a crisis. We need to remember that and be patient with ourselves and others.