By Dalya Massachi, Founder of Writing for Community Success

Does your nonprofit seek grants? If so, you’re like the vast majority of organizations in our sector. But how do you measure return on investment for grantwriting?

You may be tempted to think that it’s simply the amount of money you immediately bring in minus the time and money you spent to procure that grant. Right? Not so fast…

We need to look at grantwriting’s return on investment in both the short term and long term.

The number and size of grants directly resulting from any given proposal is often out of your control. Foundation board members consider many factors when funding different grants, and (I dare say) the quality of your proposal is only one of them. The organization’s reputation or history in the community, changing funder priorities or staff, unexpected limitations on funds, and a perceived mismatch with a proposal’s emphasis are just a few. So the short-term success of any proposal (i.e., getting funded) is not the only way we can measure the effectiveness of grantwriting work.

The good news is that the grantwriting process itself can be valuable to the organization in several ways. For example, thinking through the responses to a Request for Proposals can be a great strategic planning exercise. Creating a program budget may shine a light on expenses you have never tallied up before. While writing a general operations proposal, seeing the big picture of an organization (beyond its day-to-day parts) can be an eye-opening experience. I have seen many organizations benefit in these ways from the grantwriting process (whether or not they get a specific grant).

At the end of the process comes that final product. Once you invest the time to create solid, comprehensive templates, subsequent versions take a lot less time. You will have created a document that can be repurposed for many fundraising materials, and can be tweaked for future proposals. That text can be built upon for months, even years, to come.

And don’t forget that an initially rejected proposal can be a blessing in disguise. You may learn valuable lessons from the rejecting funder. Maybe your organization has some weaknesses that you couldn’t see but the funder could? Perhaps you are showing potential and the foundation is able to share non-monetary resources that are actually more beneficial to you right now? Sometimes funders can connect you to a collaborator that will make your proposal fundable next time. Maybe the funder is interested in funding you, but you just need a few more years under your belt? These are just examples of the many valuable lessons you may learn from funders.

So don’t discount the long-term, indirect return on that investment. The value is actually much more than simply a check in the mail for the next funding cycle.

(By the way, if you are looking for free information about grantseeking or grantwriting, check out You’ll find a free Sample Grant Proposal Checklist, a quick summary of what NOT TO DO, and even Q & A.)

SPECIAL FOR NPO CONNECT MEMBERS! Get $50 off registration for the upcoming Grantwriter’s FastTrack Coaching Program (Feb 2- March 12) to help you shorten your grantwriting learning curve and win grants faster. Space is limited to only 6 people! Learn more here:

Dalya Massachi inspires and equips social sector professionals to use their ‘writing to make a difference’ in their communities. Since 1997, Dalya has raised millions of grant dollars for nonprofits of all sizes on a wide range of social and environmental issues. She has also helped several thousand audience members across the U.S. improve their work with her friendly, practical presentations. Dalya is the award-winning author of Writing to Make a Difference: 25 Powerful Techniques to Boost Your Community Impact. She is also a co-author of the fundraising chapter in Do Good Well: Your Guide to Leadership, Action, and Social Innovation.

Check out Dalya’s free newsletter and blog at: Find her on Twitter (@dalyam), LinkedIn ( or Facebook (


What the Social Media Success of the ALS #IceBucketChallenge Can Teach Nonprofits, by Julia Campbell

Julia Campbell, August 8, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge

I am sure that you’ve seen it by now – a Facebook friend posting a video as they get doused by a bucket of ice water, all in the name of raising awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

From Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to  Scott Brown to Wally the Green Monster (Red Sox mascot), people around the state, and the nation, have been stepping up to the #IceBucketChallenge.

Started by 29-year-old Peter Frates and his friend Pat Quinn, both living with ALS , the awareness and fundraising campaign has gone viral and seems poised to take over the entire Facebook News Feed.

The challenge is simple. You get tagged by someone on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and challenged to dump a bucket of ice water over your head. If you accept the challenge, you are encouraged to donate $10 to the Peter Frates #3 Fund, and you can challenge others – by tagging them on social media. If you don’t complete it, you have to donate $100 to the Fund.  A video is required as proof that you completed the challenge and needs to be posted to social media within 24 hours.

Why a bucket of ice water? Frates explains that it is symbolic and meant to serve as a “wake-up call” – to jolt people awake and make them aware about the disease and the need for more funding and research.  Even if they have never heard of ALS before, they will see these videos all over social media and their curiousity will be piqued.

The goal is to get participants to donate, of course, but also to get more people to learn about  the disease, and hear the story of the man behind the challenge.

Fox News 25 interviewed Peter Frates and his wife here:

What does this campaign have that makes it so successful and so viral?

People I know that do not normally post photos of themselves, let alone an entire video where they get soaked, are eating it up and challenging each other left and right. Yes, it’s a great cause and Peter is an inspiring spokesman, but there are many great causes out there with inspiring people leading them.

Why did this particular campaign catch on so quickly? Here are 4 reasons.

1)     Old-fashioned peer pressure.

Nothing like peer pressure! When a friend dumps a bucket of water over her head in a public forum, takes a video and then calls YOU out in front of everyone, you are going to feel pretty crappy if you don’t participate. (And people won’t let you forget that you were challenged – trust me!)

There is also something to be said about being a part of something like this – something that is bigger than you and spreading like wildfire. You want to be able to say “I remember when I did the Ice Bucket Challenge” and tell your kids (or have them dump the bucket over your head).

2)     It’s very shareable.

The #IceBucketChallenge has all the hallmarks of a piece of very shareable content.

First, it requires a video. Videos and other visuals are more likely to spread like wildfire through social channels.

Second, there isn’t a stranger asking you to participate. It is someone you know doing something unexpected, and calling out other people you know to follow suit.

Third, and let’s be honest – it makes you look good. In a public forum. By completing the Ice Bucket Challenge, and posting it online, you are showing that you are a team player and that you want to do good things for causes that matter.

Content that proves your worth and makes you feel good in such a way is eminently more shareable than content that makes you feel terrible.

3)     It’s easy to do.

It really does not require much – no training, no athletic ability, no financing, no real preparation other than a bucket of water and some ice, and someone to film.

Give people a challenge that is very easy to complete in 24 hours and they have few excuses to not participate.

The other aspect I really like about the Ice Bucket Challenge is that people of all ages can do it. It’s not dangerous, like a Polar Plunge might be to kids and the elderly. Pretty much any child can do this and have a blast!

4)     It specifically requires word of mouth.

You don’t just complete the challenge and then go about your business. You have to pick one or more people to challenge yourself – and hold them accountable for completing the challenge, and nominating others, and so on. It’s self-policing at it’s best!

No begging people to share, to tweet or to post – the word of mouth aspect is built directly into the challenge. When someone is tagged, an even wider network discovers the challenge and learns about the cause. Brilliant!

Have you been tagged in the #IceBucketChallenge?

That’s what happened to me, and even though it took me longer than the requisite 24 hours (oops), I couldn’t pass up a chance to support a cause using social media.

10 Tips for Becoming a Superstar Nonprofit Marketer, by Deborah Spector

  Look inside the heads of great marketers like Seth Godin & Steve Jobs and you’ll be surprised by the number of skills these guys and gals have that might not necessarily be tied to marketing. You’ll see things like interview skills, giving good feedback, and even kissing butt. Sujan Patel, Single Grain 

Wow, I thought. Maybe this is why I see myself as driven!

The DNA in a marketer includes a relentless desire to get better and better at what she does. She is always trying to improve and to help her team members improve also.

So, I’ve developed a short list of what I feel it takes to be a superstar nonprofit marketer.

1. A hunger for knowledge about great marketing and lessons from great marketers:

2. Be open to learn from great marketing campaigns:



 3. Great writer in multi-mediums – annual reports, web, online newsletters, press releases, SM, etc:


4. Prolific content generator across mediums – written, video, audio, & photo:


 5. Marketing generalists – new & traditional media:


6. Proactive communicator & connector – A marketer understands that the more people you know the more opportunities, ideas and help you will have. So you need to spend a good chunk of your time connecting with people, be it on social media, at conferences, networking meets and even lunches.

7. A committed leader – As a nonprofit marketer most likely you will work with a team to accomplish your goals. A great marketer is a great leader, always recruiting and encouraging her team to accomplish goals from start to finish.

8. Driven by metrics:


9. Donor-Centric Focused – The truly great nonprofit marketer obsesses about her donors & other stakeholders: her needs, wants, desires, dreams and problems. Every marketing conversation begins with the “customer”—and how she will benefit.

10. Be a Decision Maker – You have access to a ton of information. But, you’ll never have enough. Or, as I do sometimes, you may get paralyzed by information overload. Analyze the data, make a decision and then learn from your mistakes. A true decision maker doesn’t let fear stop her from moving forward.

Most importantly you must love what you do and celebrate that you are making a difference in the world!

Any suggestions to add to the list? We’d love to hear from you!

Deborah Spector is president of Creative Solutions & Innovations, an independent consulting firm that specializes in empowering nonprofits, with a heavy emphasis on marketing readiness, communication planning and event management.

How cool is this?


I am so thrilled to initiate this new blog featuring contributions from nationally recognized experts in all things nonprofit – from fundraising to governance, from financial management to people management, and from strategic planning to program planning.

My goal is for this to serve not simply as expert advice – though that in itself has value – but for these pieces to generate response and ideas from nonprofit professionals and volunteers who themselves will offer up their experiences and expertise in a forum for peer learning.

Speaking of which, if you have ideas for how to make this blog a huge value-add for you, your organization or the nonprofit sector as a whole – let me know!

Thanks and Happy Connecting!

Kenny Weill, Founder

NPO Connect