Seeking Experienced Proposal Writer

We are looking to hire a freelance Proposal Writer to help us prepare a variety of government contract, private foundation, and corporate grant proposals, as well as letters of interest, reports, and other development materials for our client roster of non- profit organizations. This position will report to the Fund Development Manager and work with the LSC Team. The ideal candidate is creative, proactive, detail-oriented and an excellent communicator, with a demonstrated interest in urban communities, youth and family services, community development, environmental stewardship, community organizing, and more. A background in community-based non-profit organizations serving marginalized urban communities would be beneficial.

The key capacity necessary to be successful in this position is the ability to synthesize information and language from a variety of sources to write compelling, persuasive proposals that are focused to match the priorities of specific funders and funding opportunities. The ideal candidate will work remotely and have the time, interest, and flexibility to engage with the work and sometimes accommodate quick turnarounds.

Background Requirements:
       ● 3+ years nonprofit development experience, or other relevant experience (including academic research and writing, or other)
       ● Experience researching funders and funding opportunities for specific organizations and/or programs (ie prospect research) is a plus
       ● Experience putting together project and organizational budgets is a plus
       ● Excellent interpersonal and project management skills
       ● Strong communication skills, including writing and editing

Please send your resume and at least two writing samples to: Lydia Sierra at info@lydiasierraconsulting.com

What is Grant Management?

Grant management is the process of ensuring that the deliverables of all your grants are met, and that all your contract requirements are satisfied. The work of grants doesn’t end when the proposal is submitted. There is so much more that goes into the process of administering grant-funded projects — it’s not always as easy as submitting proposals and watching the money roll in. Oftentimes, more complicated grants can require regular attention from you and your team from the moment the award letter is received to the submission of the final report.

Every funder is a little bit different. Some want quarterly narrative reports, expect constant updates on grant progress and financials, and require you to submit heaps of evidence to demonstrate that you are, in actuality, completing the work you proposed to do. Alternatively, some funders will provide minimal oversight, paying out the full value of the grant upfront and only asking for periodic updates.

You might be thinking: seems like an easy solution, I’ll just take money from grantors who don’t provide a huge amount of oversight. But here’s the catch: big money comes with big responsibilities. If you want to win major government and private sector grants — the kind that can bring your impact to the next level — you’re going to have to develop impactful systems. Big-time funders aren’t going to just give away their money without checking in to make sure their contribution is making the impact they expect. That’s where grant management comes in.

If your grant-funded project goes off without a hitch — no late submissions, missing grant reports, or failed deliverables — you’re much more likely to receive a renewal from your funder, allowing you to build a reliable stream of income year after year. Additionally, the more streamlined your grants management process, the less time you have to spend stressing over reports and deliverables, and the more time you can spend submitting new proposals for funding.

Sure, it can seem daunting to submit eight or more reports a year and provide regular updates to your program officer, especially when you have dozens of other grants to manage, but with a sophisticated system for grants management, it’s a cinch.

And the less time you have to spend on those tedious administrative tasks, the more time you have for things that matter, like delivering high-impact transformative programming to your community.

How Can LSC Help?

The key to a successful grant management system is organization. Keeping all of your grant-related materials and deadlines in one easily accessible repository allows for a seamless reporting and invoicing process. 

At LSC, we’ll take a look at your existing systems and conduct a comprehensive assessment of your current organizational capacity to manage grantors. If you don’t have a system in place, or would like to upgrade your system, we will provide you with a brand new Salesforce database customized for grant management.

A customized Salesforce database can act as a central hub for all your grant-related materials, from proposals to award letters to scanned checks. Having all of these materials in one place is valuable for a variety of reasons:

  • Auditing Process: As a nonprofit, you’re required to go through an annual audit to ensure compliance with federal and state regulations for 501(c)(3) organizations. Having easy access to all your grant-related files can make the auditing process a breeze, allowing you to quickly access any and all materials your auditors might need to review.

  • Staff Turnover: Systems can get disrupted when staff move onto new opportunities, making it difficult for new hires to get up to speed and locate the files they need to work effectively. With a customized Salesforce database, the whole of your organization’s grantmaking history is in one place, making the transition to new staff as seamless as possible.

  • Data Analytics: Salesforce comes equipped with some pretty amazing data analysis capabilities. Using Salesforce, you can conduct advanced reporting to analyze your grant-making performance year over year and figure out which strategies are working and which are slowing you down.

  • Grant Reporting: Having all your data in one place can make the grant reporting process a breeze. Rather than having to reach out to program staff to get updates on deliverables, all of your grant-related information can be accessed in one central place, allowing your development staff to quickly and seamlessly create reports for funders.

If you think a customized Salesforce database is a good fit for you, please reach out to me and my team. We’ve helped dozens of nonprofits gain access to the tools they need to get organized and crush their development goals.

Client Success Stories

When Accompany Capital was looking to expand their capacity to deliver high-impact investment and hands-on support to business-owning immigrants in New York City, we set them up with a brand new customized Salesforce database to help them get more ambitious in their fundraising. Equipped with this new software, they’ve been able to access and manage an expanded grant-making portfolio, allowing them to scale their impact and positively engage more businesses in the NYC area.

As Justice for Families began to strategize on a new, transformative approach to end the youth incarceration epidemic, they realized they would need a more comprehensive database in order to keep track of complicated deliverables and reporting requirements for their various grants. Through my Salesforce customization program, they’ve gained access to the industry standard for grant management and are breezing through their grant requirements, giving them more time to focus on their services to the community.

Next Steps

The less time and resources you have to spend on grant management, the more you can focus on what really matters: transforming lives in your community. With all your data stored in one organized repository, the most tedious tasks suddenly become manageable. And let’s be honest, we didn’t enter the nonprofit world to spend all our time submitting reports and answering funders. We did it to make a difference in our communities.

So if you feel like you’re caught in an endless loop of wrangling reports, audits, and documents, reach out to me and my experienced team of grant managers today. Together, we’ll take a look at your current systems for grant management, and create a customized Salesforce database that is perfectly suited to your needs. Let’s get back to what matters. Sign up for my grant management services today.

Foundation Research

Prospect research is the process through which non-profit organizations identify foundations, corporate groups, government agencies, and individuals who might be interested in funding their work. By looking at a funder’s previous giving, funding priorities, and giving capacity, you can determine whether or not they might be a good fit for your organization.

Prospect research is one of the most powerful tools you can employ to scale the impact of your non-profit. At some of the most successful non-profit institutions, whole departments are devoted solely to this task, helping the organization locate new donors and funding sources and continue to grow.

For the purpose of this article, we are going to dive into foundation research.

What does foundation research look like?

In many cases, foundation research can be as simple as a quick Google search. The past giving and funding priorities of foundations, corporate groups, and government agencies is publicly available through their 990s, press releases, and public online resources. With a little digging, a surprising amount of information can be found.

However, the true potential of foundation research is realized through specialized search engines which compile all the relevant information for you. Using a keyword search, you can quickly locate all the funders operating in your specific niche, making it much more efficient than organic research.

Additionally, foundation research search engines allow you to get as specific or general as you desire. Looking for funders who’ve funded projects right in your neighborhood? Foundation research search engines can do that for you. Alternatively, if you’re just starting out and looking to cast a wide net, you can execute a more general search and get a big picture view of the funding landscape in your general program area.

What are the major foundation research search engines?

There are a number of foundation search engines out there, but this blog will focus on the two major search engines that we use here at LSC: Foundation Directory Online (FDO) and Foundation Search (FS).

Foundation Search is North America’s leading source of funding information for non-profits and charities. It provides funding information, fundraising education, and consulting services to over 5,000 clients. Their database includes 120,000 foundations, representing billions of dollars in annual granting. It usefully includes tools to locate grants by type, value, year, recipient, donor and historical giving trends, and much more. 

Foundation Directory Online has over 235,000 funder profiles and information on over 1,100,000 key decision makers and leaders in the philanthropic sector. Much like Foundation Search, it includes a handful of useful tools that filter this expansive database of funder information in order to locate the best funding sources for your organization.

How does LSC approach foundation research?

The good news is that we at LSC are experts in foundation research. Not only does our team include 2 PhD researchers, but LSC is also a member of both Foundation Directory Online and Foundation Search. We have the expertise to get the most out of these search engines, using advanced search functions to identify the best matches for our clients, and ensuring that they have access to a diverse cache of potential funders.

LSC provides strategic fundraising planning sessions where we discuss the mission and the long- and short-term goals of your organization. We look at your environment, your partnerships, your comparison organizations and who their funders are, as well as second-degree connections to request introductions to foundation staff. We scour the search engines for you, sifting through the thousands of options to find the foundations with the highest chance of success for your unique organization. Next, we create a Fund Development Calendar, a spreadsheet in which we list the foundations whose missions align with yours, organized by deadline. This list is researched and gathered by our professional researchers who understand non-profit organizational development. We then review the list with you to find connections and discuss the best approach for reaching out. Our goal is to speak directly to someone at the foundation and introduce your organization and programs rather than submit a cold Letter of Inquiry (LOI) or proposal. 

There are millions of funders out there, and LSC will help you find the funder that is right for you.

LSC Success Stories

LSC has helped dozens of organizations achieve their maximum potential through comprehensive foundation research, helping them identify possible funders and scale their impacts. 

When COVID-19 struck the Bronx, We Stay/Nos Quedamos quickly pivoted to meet the most drastic issues facing their community. Together with LSC, they used Foundation Center Online to locate emergency relief funding in their borough and fund transformative community projects at a critical time.

For the past three years, Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice (YMPJ) have worked with LSC on fund development projects. During that time, YMPJ has located and developed relationships with a variety of new funders and strengthened their financial stability. With a cache of new resources accessible to them, YMPJ is now able to pursue some of their most aspirational goals and achieve impacts they never thought possible for their community.

LSC Can Help

Foundation research, when done properly, can be one of the most effective fundraising strategies in your toolkit. Often, there are perfect matches right in your neighborhood looking to fund projects exactly like yours the only problem is that you aren’t aware of each other.

Relying on Google searches, organic networking, and word of mouth can leave gaps in your organization’s funding resources. Without comprehensive research, money can be left on the table and new relationships can go undiscovered.

Unfortunately, in our industry, bandwidth is always limited, and it can be hard to devote adequate time to this sometimes tedious task. That’s where LSC can help. Our team of experienced development professionals, dedicated solely to making the most of the resources and funding that may be available to you, can be an invaluable resource for your organization. We can implement a comprehensive fund development plan; diversify your revenue base; offer strategic support for you to approach, develop, and strengthen donor relationships; and give you access to the best foundation directory databases in the business, freeing you up to focus on strengthening your organization and unlocking the potential of your mission.

Don’t leave money on the table and reach out to learn more about our Fund Development program, and maximize the impact of your organization.

Happy New Year

End of Year Reflections

2020 revealed many of our capacity issues i.e. emotional, physical, technological, and financial, to name a few. I’ve had to do a lot of capacity work this year to manage and prepare for growth. This meant that I had to take inventory of my strengths and weaknesses. I had to take a deep hard look at my mental, physical and emotional capacity to take on more responsibility, to be present for my family, my clients, and my team. I had to look at my lifestyle, my eating, sleeping, recreational and productivity habits, and I had to invest in myself.

Many of us are striving to do more and we seek mentors who can help us with strategy, but take it from me, someone who has mentors in different areas of my life, it’s not so much about strategy as it is about capacity. We must do the deep work to build our capacity to handle the trials and the opportunities that will come our way.

I remember when I was in my late twenties and received my first executive job and salary package. I was elated. But in one year I learned that I did not have the emotional capacity to do my job effectively. Those of us who live by faith know that we will receive the increase, but we must ask ourselves, will we be able to manage it?

2020 has revealed so much about what is truly important. Here is a short list of what has stood out to me this year: family, sound mind, health, the environment, building personal and professional capacity to ensure our success, and the power of teamwork.

Let's take the wonderful lessons we've learned into 2021 and continue to advocate and serve those who need our gifts to ensure they live a just and dignified quality of life. "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few" Matthew 9:37. Let us not grow weary in doing good.


Thank You for Your Support

Heartfelt thanks to the special people who I've had the privilege of calling my team this year - Megan Rozzero who has been with me for 5 years, Jamie Anderson, who has been with me for 2 years, and Michael Denney, who has been with us for a little over 1 year. We accomplished so much together!

To the many colleagues that I've been able to depend on, such as: Sister Islah who has successfully helped my clients obtain their 501c3s; Michael Roach, for his marketing savvy; Sachin Prasad for his Salesforce skills; and Greg Cohen for his expertise in board development and the quality referrals he made to my business this year. I am most grateful for his introducing me to Judy Levine, who then introduced me to Laurence Pagnoni, two experts in the field of business development, nonprofit management, and fundraising, who have so graciously provided me with next level mentoring this year. To coaches, Jeff St. Laurent, who provided me with business coaching, and Janelle Andersson, who provided me with emotional mastery coaching, whew, this has been hard work!

And, finally, to all of my clients:

A Blend of Services, Inc.

Accompany Capital (formerly Business Center for New Americans)

Battle Tested Kids, Inc.

Capital District Management Association, Inc. (dba 161st Street BID)

Cumpanis Community Cooking School

Gospel Temple Church / In Time of Need, Inc.

Justice for Families, Inc.

Living Redemption Community Development Corporation

Mi Casa Su Casa, Inc.

Mid Bronx Senior Citizens Council, Inc. / Andrew Freedman Home

Music on the Inside, Inc.

Paving Great Futures, Inc.

Ponce, NHS

Quisqueya Community Care Center, Inc.

Riseboro Community Partnership, Inc.

We Stay / Nos Quedamos, Inc.

Young, Fresh & Conscious, Inc.

Young Urban Christians & Artists, Inc.

Youth Empowerment, Inc.

Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice, Inc.


Thank you for trusting me with your vision and for choosing to grow with me. Thank you for sharing your pain points and inspiring me to build a business that meets your needs. I look forward to our continued success and collaboration.

To a healthy and prosperous new year!

Lydia xo

Has Your End-of-Year Fundraising Campaign Gotten Lost in the Shuffle?

It’s pretty late to start planning a fundraising campaign. Ideally, your year-end appeal would have gone out before Thanksgiving, but I’ve been in this field long enough to know that I’ll continue to hear from organizations I love and support, even as the date inches closer to the holidays.

I understand: You didn’t have the time or the capacity to plan a campaign, but you don’t want the year to end without making at least a small effort to raise funds. I’m here to tell you that all is not lost! There are still steps you can take to maximize the effectiveness of your last-minute appeal.

Here are some best practices and tips for launching a 4-Week Fundraising Campaign:

#1 Activate leadership and staff at all levels

To get things rolling, set up a meeting (or, if you can, a few meetings!) – with your Board, your staff, and maybe even your most active volunteers and constituents. The goal is to engage all of your most important stakeholders in the fundraising effort. Here’s an example of what the agenda might look like:

  • Introduce the fundraising campaign
  • Ask everyone if they will participate, and how much they might realistically raise from their personal networks. Ask them to create lists of prospective donors.
  • Tally up the donation projections and make fundraising goals for each team, i.e. Board, staff, volunteers
  • Create a fundraising campaign theme that will inform all forms of solicitation
  • Make sure that your website has a payment platform (i.e. Paypal, Stripe, etc.), or use FaceBook’s fundraising platform.
  • Schedule a second meeting to create the pitch, and ask that everyone come prepared to share their personal reason for supporting your organization
  • Set up a calendar with dates for calling personal networks. Remember, an email or a social media post is not enough to achieve real donor cultivation. Everyone must make their calls.

#2 Don’t expect to warm up a cold list at the end of the year

I see so many organizations that are not regularly active online or via email newsletter, but launch their fundraising campaigns with a social media or email ask. Imagine your response if you heard from a beloved friend only two times a year, and the second time they asked for money! You can see that it’s not the ideal strategy… I’m not saying you shouldn’t send an end-of-year email in conjunction with your campaign, but unless you are regularly engaged with your community in this way throughout the year, that email should focus more on sharing the impact of your work, than on asking for donations.

Let’s be real: At this point, your biggest opportunity for success is through direct solicitations: You, your Board members, and your staff and volunteers should start calling your closest colleagues and friends to cultivate those relationships. Though it’s still essential to plan and implement an appropriate online strategy, the focus of a late year-end appeal should be on personal networks – those people you already have close relationships with, and who are engaged and committed to your mission in some way.

Simultaneously, you should create weekly emails, blog posts, or video blogs, and four weeks worth of social media posts that educate and inform all followers of your organization’s mission, who you serve, and your impact in the field. Provide everyone who has agreed to participate in the fundraising campaign with the links to your social media and website, videos, marketing pieces, and other material they can send to their networks and post online.

#3 Check-In

Schedule a meeting and ask everyone to share their experiences with the phone calls and making their pitch. This will strengthen everyone’s confidence, give them fresh language and ideas, and inspire them to keep making calls. If any donations have come in, this is the perfect time to share what has been raised, and instigate some momentum!

#4 Remember to Say Thank-You

Not only to the donors, but to the Board members, staff, and volunteers who stepped up. Starting a campaign this late in the game requires dedicated people who are passionate about your organization and willing to extend themselves on your behalf. They deserve to be recognized as ambassadors of your organization.

Count your successes and examine the lessons you’ve learned. Consider this a test-run of your current fundraising capacity. No one should be made to feel bad because they weren’t able to give their all to this campaign under last-minute pressure. But those who were ready to open their networks and “make the ask” will learn from the process and be better prepared next year, when you will plan in advance to provide training and support for an even more successful campaign.

Let 2020 be the year when you immerse your organization in fundraising and develop a fundraising culture from the Board to the volunteers.

Let me know if you have any questions or if you found this article helpful.

All the best,

Lydia

Spring Is Here… Time for Pruning Programs and Services!

For most of us, spring is a time for spring cleaning. Many of us have been watching Marie Kondo on Netflix and saying thank you and good-bye to those things that don’t bring us joy anymore. For some of us, now is the time to detox our bodies, start a fast, cleanse our systems, and re-charge. And for those of us who are leading and managing our own businesses, churches, and nonprofit organizations, now is the ideal time to stop and assess what is working and what isn’t.

Why? Because the new season requires renewed energy and resources.

For some nonprofit leaders, this assessment may lead to the elimination of programs that do not receive designated funding. If a program is not generating revenue and there is no plan in place to establish dedicated support within the next quarter, the best choice for the long-term health and stability of your organization may be to close the leaks in your expense budget right away and shut down some programs.  This can be a very difficult and emotional decision when you believe those programs are truly benefitting a small group of people in need, but it’s important to keep in mind that your organization is only one part of a larger tapestry of support in your community. This is one of the reasons I am a huge advocate for collaboration and partnerships. No one organization can meet all the needs of individuals and families in need, and an integrated network of organizations that serve aligned constituencies or interests can leverage their power for the greatest possible impact.

My years of experience have taught me to recognize the signs that pruning must be done. To “prune” is to “cut away dead or overgrown branches or stems, especially to increase fruitfulness and growth.” Pruning what is no longer fruitful to your organization and/or community is necessary to ensure a nurturing and fertile organizational structure that supports continual growth.

What do YOU have to prune?

Start by asking…

What are my priorities?

What must be done within the next quarter, six months, or year?

What resources are needed?

How much are those resources going to cost?

Where is the revenue going to come from?

If you’re feeling overwhelmed in your role as a leader, this process of spring cleaning can be especially restorative. I see many organizations start programs without securing the necessary human or financial resources to support it, adding to their own workload and risking staff burn-out. This impulse comes, of course, from the passionate desire to meet the critical needs of the community, but is not sustainable. Like a mother caring for her baby, we must make sure we, as individuals and organizations, are robust and stable so we have the strength and capacity to nurture essential programs and services.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “My board, my staff, even my community will not understand or support my decision to cut programs and services.” My response to this is, “The numbers don’t lie.” Start gathering the data to show that you are making an informed and critical decision, and then plan your next board and/or staff meetings. Once you remove programs that are draining your resources, you will see your other programs flourish. Staff and client morale will increase and you will find work much more manageable, and even better, you may begin to find renewed joy in your work!

Many of the leaders I work with feel alone in these challenges. It can be hard to find peers and confidants whom you trust with confidential information, as it seems everyone knows each other in your circle. This is what makes Executive Coaching so appealing.

I hired an Executive Coach over a year ago and the truth is that my coaching calls have helped me to focus on my priorities, manage and develop my business, and they have increased my bottom line. I’m hooked on coaching and I most likely will never go without it again. I’m actually thinking now of adding different coaches to my network to help me in other areas of my life. I trust the framework. I respect the framework. And I humbly admit I need the support. I have also seen how regular coaching calls with my clients helps them find clarity, gain confidence, move forward, and achieve their goals.

Enjoy your spring cleaning and if don’t hesitate to ask for support!

In Love & Solidarity,

Lydia

P.S. Like my Facebook page and help me build a community that thrives on collaboration and sharing challenges and best practices!

Welcome To My Blog!

Hey there!

This is Lydia and I’m so glad you are here!

To make sure you don’t miss my latest blogs, please subscribe to my email list where my goal is to inspire you to stay on top of your organizational goals. I promise to share resources and useful tools and to offer coaching and technical support that will help you to confidently develop your organizational systems for greater impact in your community.

I look forward to getting to know you and your organization!

xo

Lydia