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Capability Company

A Message from our President

March 2014

Dear Colleague,

It's March, and...surprise! Winter has returned. Or, more accurately, after a tease or two of warm weather, winter is still with us. I'm guessing most of the folks on the east coast are done with it, and so is everyone in the Midwest. Maybe California, too? Honestly? I didn't want to hear about their sunshine, so I didn't ask.

But, really, what is it about seasons NOT changing that irritates us so much? Why are we ready to move onto the next season as soon as the current one has been around for a few weeks? Human nature likes the predictable and understandable, but we also get bored quickly and seek shiny new things.

The same could be said for grant applications (go with me on this). We like to hear about programs that we know, that are doing good work consistently well, and that follow the rules. Then we read about a new idea, an innovative technique, or a creative approach and we are drawn to it. As Susan Perri explains in her article, grant applications should have both of these elements; they should be grounded in history and evidence, as well as presenting new ways to accomplish goals that help readers believe that a real solution to the problem is possible. Bringing unexpected but well-respected programs together to reach a common objective is a good example of broader thinking that can result in great success.

Enjoy the article, share your news and ideas with me, and check out what is happening in your area. And, I promise, I won't complain about the heat and humidity in 6 months.

Happy Spring!

Sherry Heuser
President, Capability Company

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Article of the Month

Word count: 499
Approximate Reading Time: 4 Minutes

How to Win Grants and Influence Funders

by Susan Perri

Link to full article here.

Because social problems are rarely solved within the course of a grant cycle, collective impact is at the heart of effective grantseeking practice. Cross sector alignment with government, nonprofit, philanthropic, and corporate partners is a collaborative approach to improve our communities via shared agendas and measurements, common goals, and emerging evidence of best practices.

Funders want to work with great organizations doing great works, verified by evidence that documents impact. According to a recent study of more than 15,000 funders to a variety of causes, funders seek to invest in organizations that have a solid history of achieving results.

Garnering funder support, and long-term partnership, requires showing the return on social investment. Assessing and documenting collective impact also allows funders and nonprofits to learn from each other and establish meaningful measurements while working towards common objectives. The two key questions for grantseekers are: (1) how do you know what you are doing is working (what is your level of evidence); and (2) how is it innovative (how are you doing it differently with better results)? From these questions emerge the talking points for sharing a story with funders and others. This story captures the organizational or cause identity, and is essential to help others get to know that organization or cause - especially potential funders.

Consider the following questions and tips in framing grant requests:

  1. Is the project truly innovative? Beyond a mere buzzword, prospective grantees must demonstrate innovation, meaning that a proposed project or service goes beyond conventional practice in its field and has the potential to yield greater results. What is the need the innovation will fill? Show metrics that clearly demonstrate the community need for the proposed project.
  2. Is project just a great idea? Untested concepts are high risk for the majority of funders. Grantseekers will have the burden of showing promising results through piloting, testing, or another means of demonstration. Grantseekers will need to speak to their measures of success, and how are these validated. These steps also show funders that grantseekers have taken the time and invested the resources necessary to meaningfully assess and inform their practice.
  3. Is there impact beyond a single organization or isolated group of organizations? Grantseekers should consider how, if successful, their project could be further brought to scale to serve more people, communities, or organizations. How will the project be sustained after funding ends? Effective grantseekers will have a comprehensive plan that outlines goals, performance indicators, and action steps to achieve project scale and sustainability.
  4. Does the grantseeking organization have the experience, knowledge, and skills needed to successfully implement the project? Contributing partners and their specific level of support should be clearly identified.

Bottom Line: In an increasingly competitive grants landscape, funders seek partnership to serve specific populations and scale successful programming to serve additional communities. To win that partnership, grantseekers will need to effectively share their existing impact, how their approach will continue to be successful, and how it is aligned with the funder’s priorities for impact.

Susan Perri, MPA, is a national consultant helping organizations tell inspired, compelling stories to win the support they need to make a difference. More information about Susan and her organization, Social Goody, can be found at

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In This Issue

Current Searches
Article of the Month
The Bottom Line
Event Calendar


A Client's Perspective

"Thanks for the great information - as usual!”

Melissa Radcliff
Our Children's Place


Heard Around Town

"It always seems impossible until it's done."

~ Nelson Mandela

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