I recently finished Harvey Chess’s book, Functional and Funded. The pages are now fox-eared and marked with a highlighter to keep track of information I feel is vital to our year-old nonprofit. The information in the book emphasizes pertinent material in an easily accessible manner. From our mission statement, to funding proposals, to defining participant success, outcomes, and objectives, Harvey gives the groundwork for building a strong foundation for any nonprofit. He provides examples of poorly written grant proposals, and well-written ones, and gives the hows and whys of each.
I will be passing “Functional and Funded” to my fellow Board members in hopes that we can use points made as matters of discussion as we move forward. I highly recommend Harvey’s book to all beginning and established nonprofits.
Existing as a nonprofit in today's crowded and competitive landscape isn't easy. As much as you want to devote yourself to the programs your staff and volunteers carry out day in and day out, the specter of raising funds is always with you—a process that can leave you drained and dejected after pouring yourselves into proposals created to suit someone else's priorities. There is, however, a way out of such doldrums; and even if your situation is not dismal, there's a way up to distinction.
In his book Functional and Funded: The Inside-Out Strategy for Developing Your Nonprofit's Resources, Harvey Chess shows you how to not only create that winning proposal, but also how to build a stronger and better functioning organization through the process. You can transform this arduous chore into a litmus test for the overall effectiveness of your organization's work, shore up weak spots, and clarify your purpose—and in the end, come away with a proposal that stands out above its competitors.
By applying Chess's distinctive system that integrates resource and organizational development, you embark upon "business as unusual”, flipping typical proposal development on its head by documenting needed change rather than a needed program as the basis for your funding request. By departing from conventional wisdom, you can organize a proposal that serves you whenever your organization pursues resources – whether competing for grant funds, joining the throngs for crowdfunding, or making a direct, personal appeal when sitting down with an individual donor. Wherever it lands, your proposal will be a study in excellence, reflect well on your team and its work in the world.
But a knockout proposal is not the only thing you'll gain from this book. The soundness of a nonprofit seeking resources directly affects its success in securing them, so the Chess approach includes internal analysis and adjustments designed to improve your organizational effectiveness.
The book's helpful and varied resources include example proposals with annotated comments dissecting the hits and misses of each. A reference section of topical internet resources, a Tool Kit to guide and support you, and a step-by-step guide to keep the proposal development on track, all provide essential elements that will assist your pursuit of funds and your organization as a whole. The book invites quick and frequent referencing, and you'll find yourself using Functional and Funded time and again.
Functional And Funded provides a deep dive into the ways in which grants work, done right, can strengthen your organization while also bringing in resources to support progress towards its mission. I especially appreciate the discussion of integrating grant proposal development into an organization’s overall operations. The sound advice in this book is offered with candor and humor and challenges grantseekers to understand what they are trying to accomplish and why it’s important before dashing off in a chase of funding for program activities. Chess provides a philosophical grounding for grantseekers, step-by-step guidance for developing a grant proposal, and a critique of a proposal highlighting the dos and don’ts of the work. His deep experience shines throughout the book providing insight and guidance for both new and experienced grant professionals.
Read a fantastic interview with author Harvey B. Chess from the Feathered Quill.
There are many sectors where quality mentors are needed to teach the intricacies of an industry; a person who owns the knowledge it takes to help others find success. The realm of nonprofit and charitable organizations is one that can claim a highly respected mentor by the name of Harvey B. Chess. This author has been kind enough to put his knowledge on paper so that he can teach the reader how to create a funding proposal, and how a nonprofit/charity can achieve success by bringing in money and building a mission statement that works.
This book is a combination of great insight and practical applications. However, don't think this is just about how to fundraise. This book is focused on issues a nonprofit must take on in order to better approach a funding source as a potential partner, not simply as a person or organization that hands over money.
"What Mr. Chess does is show how a mission statement should not only be an announcement of what a charity will do, but also how it will be done."
The benefits to be learned begin from the very first page, when the author shows how nonprofits have a tendency to confuse mission statements. Think about that. The mission statement is the very core of why a nonprofit is put together in the first place. What Mr. Chess does is show how a mission statement should not only be an announcement of what a charity will do, but also how it will be done. Example: Whether your mission is to help, to build, to achieve, etc., it must also show how these things will be accomplished. In other words, a mission is “to help” or “to support” by “providing,” “delivering,” etc. If written that way, potential contributors know what the mission is, but also learn how their donations would be spent.
The book then heads further into the specifics of how to put together an effective funding proposal. Not only are there steps on what to cover while writing a proposal, but readers are also shown every nook and cranny there is out there for funding. You learn that 90% of the money available in this world for charitable purposes (in the non-government sector), comes from living individuals: through their investments and wishes while alive, and through their wills so that the giving can continue after their deaths. Under this umbrella are facts on how to deal with face-to-face transactions, as well as how to make personal relationships that last.
The author also covers the facts regarding the other 10% of money coming from the business/corporation sectors. He shows how writing your proposal should be only one aspect of your funding/marketing plan and not the entirety of how you gain success. The word is “diversify,” and this book shows how to build several paths over time to enable your nonprofit/charity to live on.
We are not talking about theories, here. We are talking about how to be proactive as a nonprofit, as well as when not to overthink—how to carefully craft your proposal and hit “send” on that computer of yours with conviction. Helpful charts and figures are included that cover everything from ‘a proposal framework’ showing the phases of development and finalization of your grant proposal; to one that easily explains each component of your nonprofit’s engine. There’s also a ‘tool kit’ section that covers proposal writing dos and don’ts, a simple guide to project planning, and more. The author writes: “Creating proposals has the potential to sharpen the focus of your organization.” I must add, learning from this mentor will also sharpen your focus.
Skillfully written and highly needed, I suspect this book will have dog-eared pages because of the amount of time you’ll read the information while putting it to great use.
Quill says: Clear a place on your desk for this treasure.