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Planning for 2021: Recommendations from Angelina Osornio Torres, Jelly NPC Founder and CEO

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

Jelly Nonprofit Consulting Founder and CEO in her office sitting at her desk
Angelina Osornio Torres, Jelly Nonprofit Consulting Founder and CEO

Can you believe we are a little more than halfway through 2020?!

For many of us, this has been the most challenging year of our careers and for some, our lives. Aside from the challenges that organizations may be facing in fundraising and programmatic shifts, leadership teams are likely already considering their end-of-year campaigns.

Planning for such a campaign is going to be especially challenging this year due to the great uncertainty in public health and economics caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. To help your organization prepare for its end-of-year campaign and 2021, our founder and CEO, Angelina Osornio Torres, identifies some significant fundraising challenges facing nonprofits throughout the remainder of 2020, and offers advice on action steps to take now to prepare for the future.

Q. What should nonprofits do now to apply for funding in 2021?

Organizations should be strategic and analytical when determining their top priority projects because grantmakers are more selective when deciding on projects to awards. Take some time to research their recently awarded grants; this information may be on their website or found in online media outlets. Consider your grant request size and ask yourself if your request size aligns with their typical award sizes?

You can gain insight into how your project may fare by reviewing their most recent IRS Form 990 to see which organizations received grants, their grant amount, and the purpose described for the use of the awarded funds. Most tax-exempt organizations must annually file IRS Form 990, an informational tax form. The form gives the IRS an overview of the organization's activities, governance, and detailed financial information.

The best place to find all of this information and more is the Foundation Directory Online (FDO) - It is an excellent resource but gaining more detailed information requires a subscription. Before investing in the subscription, check if your local library provides access to FDO for free. Or contact us and we will do the research for you!

Q. What are the primary challenges nonprofits face in the rest of 2020?

In 2020, we are seeing firsthand that grant awards are falling below the amount requested. This may be due to grantmakers expanding their scope to include COVID-19-related financial assistance to nonprofits. It’s helpful to directly contact the prospective grantmaker and learn if their grant cycles and giving focus have been adjusted as a result of the health crisis. Based on our direct outreach on behalf of our clients, we know some grant application cycles have been skipped or delayed due to the pandemic.

Q. What are some recommendations for any organization planning for big projects or capital campaigns in 2021?

Start conversations with your key staff, board members, donors, and volunteers to learn if raising the amount is feasible during these times. Hopefully, through these conversations, you will learn if they are experiencing decreased revenues and/or unemployment that may impact their ability to give or solicit support. Consider the possibility that some of your donors may also invest in the stock market and have experienced financial losses. Their insight can begin to inform you as to whether your organization should push forward or delay the project.

If the preliminary conversations point favorably to your organization’s ability to raise funds, I recommend conducting a feasibility study next. A feasibility study is designed to gauge the public’s perception of your organization’s reputation, identify potential capital campaign committee members, and identify prospective major donors. Collectively, this information will inform on whether or not the funds are out there to be raised and if your organization can raise them.

The best practice is to hire a firm with no ties to your organization to conduct this critical task in order to collect candid information. If the interviewer and study participant know each other, or if a study participant knows they are speaking with an employee of the organization, they may hesitate to share feedback that could be perceived as negative. You need to know what the community thinks of your organization – the good, bad, and ugly. Depending on the results of the study, you will know if you should proceed with a capital campaign or not. If you learn your organization should not proceed, you should gain insight into issues that need to be addressed to position you for a capital campaign in the future.

Q. Are there any steps you think that nonprofits should be taking during the pandemic to improve their funding chances?

As always, study up on grantmaker prospects. Learn where they fund, their areas of focus, what they fund (projects, programs, capital, operations, etc.), their typical award size, and their history of granting awards in your city, county, and/or region. Once again, I recommend using FDO or hire us to conduct research on your behalf.

After completing the research, our team will develop and provide a customized report of our findings for your organization. The report will include the prospects we have identified to best meet your needs, our suggestion for the grant request amount, their deadlines, and submission requirements. The report will also include the Grantmaker’s contact and list of board members. Having this information will help your team determine if they have any personal or professional connections to their board or staff. Having a personal connection may make you more comfortable in engaging with the foundation. This can allow you to find out more about what the foundation is looking for in future applications and projects.

Even if you have no connections to the grantmaker, go ahead and make a direct connection by calling or emailing their listed contact and ask those questions.

Best advice?

Don’t get discouraged.

Reach out to us for your grant writing needs.

Email us today for your free consultation.

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