UNLOCKING NON-PROFIT POTENTIAL
Creative Edge Consulting specializes in the support of start-up and young non-profit organizations, as well as more established agencies undergoing expansion or major transitions. Our services involve everything from strategic planning/capacity building and full program/organizational development to providing assistance with all non-profit funding streams. In this, CEC is truly a one-stop solution for many (if not most) of your critical planning and change management needs.
Regardless of budget size, history, track record, and years in existence — CEC helps organizations build or strengthen infrastructure while introducing targeted strategies to take operations to the next level of impact, visibility, and sustainability. Is your non-profit functioning at its optimal best? If not, CEC can help you get to where you want… and ought… to be!
Let’s explore the POSSIBILITIES.
Here is an overview of CEC services, plus answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Links to dedicated website pages for our most popular Services can be found in the information below, as well as through the site’s main navigation menu.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Here’s a partial list! If you are looking for something that isn’t listed… please ask.
- 501(c)(3) Applications
- Board of Directors Retreat Facilitation
- Board of Directors Training & Support
- Budget Development (including multi-year & multi-program projections)
- By-Laws (*procedural items only; CEC cannot provide legal advice)
- Conflict Resolution & Consensus Building
- Corporate Sponsorship Packages
- Creative & Technical Writing
- Crowdfunding/Peer to Peer Fundraising
- Executive Coaching (Non-profit only—Executive Directors & Board)
- Fiscal Development Plans (to include all funding streams)
- Funding Prospect & Other Research (e.g., best practices, studies/stats, etc.)
- Fundraising Advice (special events, raffles, Major Gifts, etc.)
- Fundraising Plea Letters/Donation Requests
- General Editing/Re-Write Services
- Giving Tuesday Campaigns
- Grant Proposals (governmental, foundation, corporate)
- Letters of Inquiry/Introduction
- Marketing/Communications (brochures, fact sheets, press releases, etc.)
- Mission Statements & Effective Messaging
- Newsletters & Annual Reports
- Organizational & Program/Project Development
- Organizational Systems Creation
- Organizational/Program Assessment
- Partnership Cultivation & Joint Project Agreements
- Policies & Procedures (organizational, program, personnel)
- Program Evaluation Tools/Protocols
- Quality Assurance Programs/Protocols
- Speeches & Talking Points
- Staff Training Workshop Facilitation
- Staff Training/Employee Manuals
- Strategic Planning/Capacity Building
- Transitional Leadership/Interim Management
- Web Copy
"Core materials" are all of the documents and answers used for most funding requests and other needs. Once we create this set of documents, we can tailor the information to the purpose of whatever it is we are preparing. For instance, a grant application will require information about the organization that will stay largely the same, except for adding in accomplishments and so forth from a current/recent year. If you are pursuing program or project support, we will have documents specific to that as well.
Even something like a Board list may require variations, from a document that just lists names and professional affiliations to one that lists terms and individual Board donations to the organization over the last 1-2 years. In other words, where some people may call this a "template," it is more an issue of puzzle pieces that are moved around to be responsive to what a funder or other supporter wants from you. As one example, in grant applications, a funder may provide firm guidelines about what information they want from you, and in the order in which they want it. There will also be plenty of situations, especially with online portals these days, where you will have to cut back your normal response to only 250 characters or words (or other length restriction). This means that "core materials" are our stock answers (for things where we have determined a stock answer) that are then used as content and agreed-upon organizational messaging for a host of fundraising and communications needs.
No grant writer, fundraiser, or non-profit consultant can guarantee grant or other funding success. They can help improve your chances of funding, but there are many variables outside the control of this professional.
If anyone guarantees your funding success, you should proceed carefully.
No. Paying a grant writer by commission or percentage deal is considered unethical. Yet, the myth that this is an industry norm has been widespread for decades.
Here is some additional information on this topic.
It would be unusual for one grantmaker to be your only funder. One exception to this is an organization that operates pretty much exclusively off of a large governmental grant contract. Such organizations do exist, but most of the folks who come to CEC for grant writing support would not fall under this category. That said, most (foundation and corporate) funders will only offer a grant as a percentage of your overall operating or program budget. Generally, we are talking 5-25% of your overall budgets here.
When determining how much you should ask for when submitting a grant proposal, consider that 5-25% number. (But look to see if THEY specify a percentage number!) Take out your calculator and run some numbers against your operating and program budgets. We can talk with you about realistic early "asks" if you have never received grant funding before. If you are new to this type of funding, you need to anticipate a minimum of 1-2 building years. First goal is to get grant funding. It may not be at the levels you are hoping for, but success begets success.
Most funders do not want to be your first or only funder. That's why you need to keep at this till you break through.
There is no set price for a grant application. If you have never applied for grants before, you should expect anywhere from 30-60 hours and up to prepare your first submission. This is back to the whole "core materials" thing. Once you have developed/assembled these materials, subsequent applications MAY go faster. But it all depends on how similar the guideline requirements and purposes are from one funder to the next. A second application can be done in 2-10 hours if it closely resembles another that was recently completed. Conversely, you may be asked for things you never prepared before. That means it takes more time to prepare those applications since it is more than cutting-and-pasting and tailoring ready-made answers to that submission.
It can take just as much time to prepare an application for a $10,000 grant as one with a $100,000 payoff. Governmental applications are another matter. If you are going after local, state, and federal government funding, those applications will probably take 60 hours and up to prepare. Also, for many funders, there is a two-step process; a letter of inquiry/interest followed by an invitation to submit a full proposal if the funder finds your program interesting.
First, let's make a distinction between grants and corporate/business giving. Corporations MAY have a grants program. They might also do sponsorships. Likewise, they might offer outright cash (or product) donations and like to get their employees involved in volunteerism. There are other things to consider, too, like cause marketing campaigns. Local businesses may offer some of these things as well, but most people who ask this question are really hoping for donations rather than a grant when they ask about "a letter."
Grants are not letters, and even letters of inquiry can look like a mini grant proposal. There is also a really good chance you won't get any traction off of a generic letter you send to businesses in your community. Yes, you should reach out to local businesses and maybe even national or multinational corporations. But we never "shotgun" anything to anyone.
Generally, no. In fact, there have only been two instances since February of 2005 that necessitated our travel to another state for an in-person activity. Once for a Board retreat in New Jersey, and another time we traveled to Miami to defend a charter school application in front of a technical panel from the school district.
COVID taught us a lot about how much we can accomplish together through Zoom calls and other digital means. With that said, if you have a need that truly does require the "in-person thing," we'll talk about it.
We are successful whenever we have supported an organization to the best of our abilities. If we have helped you become more competitive in funding applications and helped you function better than before, we have succeeded.
Some clients are better positioned for grant and other funding success than others. It comes down to track record and host of other issues. We have had organizations that reached 50-100% return rates on applications while others will always struggle to get money. Some will never get grant funding. (And we are upfront with clients who face an uphill battle on this.) Still, our services and supports are the same. As for how successful our clients are, they are all across the spectrum from stuck to rocking it.
We have several rates:
- $150/hour for governmental and quasi-governmental agencies
- $150/hour for individuals and for-profit entities (including hybrid social enterprises)
- $125/hour for non-profit organizations with (or pursuing) 501(c)(3) status*
*An additional discount is offered to 501(c)(3) organizations that sign on for contracts of 4, 6, 9, or 12 months. Requires consecutive month work of no less than 40 hours per month. This rate is $100/hour.
Here is a copy of our standard consultant contract, so you can see how this works.
COMMONLY REQUESTED SERVICES
Interventions and supports needed by a particular Board of Directors can be as different as one individual is from another. Some Boards are overly-involved in the day-to-day, and manage rather than govern. Others have a hard time getting members to participate in any activities, let alone attend regularly scheduled meetings. So, Board Development is not just an issue of structures and processes for a NEW Board. It is also related to re-energizing and re-engaging an existing Board, and maximizing its effectiveness. Training and Coaching go hand-in-hand with bringing about productive change.
Creative Edge Consulting helps organizations create corporate sponsorship packages for special events, one-time-only projects, and annual program support. As a stand-alone activity or as part of a comprehensive fiscal development plan, we’ll help you determine the marketing benefits you could offer to a potential sponsor at multiple tiers of participation, as well as help identify prospective sponsors at both the local and national level. Of course, we will put together your package for you in addition to getting these out in the mail or submitted through online portals. You need to reach out in a different way, such as by phone? We'll help prepare you for those calls or pitch meetings.
Unlike other consulting services where the professional “does for” the agency, the Executive Coach supports and empowers an organizational leader to independently institute progress and change. A goal-driven process, Executive Coaching demands some level of accountability from the client—knowing that a phone session is approaching and certain client-designated tasks are supposed to be completed by then. For folks who need a little “push” to stay on track, Executive Coaching is ideal. For those who desperately need elevated support as they navigate the often difficult non-profit environment—Executive Coaching is essential.
You get to decide what this means for you. Want to talk once a month? Fine. Need a weekly check-in? Got you covered there, too.
While we do talk about "fiscal" development plans, our full-blown development plans include both financial and operational/programmatic pieces -- as these go hand-in-hand. We recommend that organizations chart ahead at least 3-5 years, and ideally 10 years down the road. The dedicated webpage for fiscal development plans shows how much detail could be included in your plan. Whether you go all-out on this or need to start with a pared-back strategy, every non-profit needs an actionable, measurable plan. Including you.
For customers that do not require assistance with content development and more effective messaging, CEC does offer basic writing and editing services. Generally speaking, editing is not intended to be anything more than improving flow, clarity, and sentence structure. Of course, it also includes correction of typographical and grammatical errors, along with strengthening the document as a whole.
Oh, who are we kidding? We end up as a ghostwriter for most of the Executive Directors we work with and quickly learn to speak in their "voice." We craft everything from delicate correspondence with disgruntled stakeholders to reaching out via email to high-profile persons who agreed to create GivingTuesday "buzz." No one knows CEC exists in this way, but we are the writers and strategy behind the social media posts and email blasts, letters from Board Presidents' in Annual Reports, and all that good stuff. We choose words VERY, very carefully. Because words are powerful.
CEC helps non-profit organizations prepare governmental, foundation, and corporate grant applications. However, our services extend well beyond basic “grant writing.” If there are weaknesses in current operations, such as lack of evaluation systems, or any other “red flag” items that could compromise positive outcomes, we help you resolve these (when possible) prior to submission.
Prospect research is one of the few areas where we can give you a flat fee rate. That is because we stop the work once we reach the amount of time we mutually agreed to. We typically recommend 20 hours of research to begin. If you are located in a rural area with no foundation or corporate presence, or if your services are in a field that does not get any or a lot of grantmaker attention... we may need to extend that timeframe and widen our research net.
CEC can help you with all forms of individual giving... from Annual Fund and Giving Tuesday campaigns to Major Gifts. We can help with any and all techniques connected to donor cultivation, engagement, and retention.
Sometimes it makes sense to bring on a consultant in a more internal organizational capacity. Even if temporary, you often need specialized non-profit administrative skills that you and your team do not readily possess. This is most common during start-up, expansions, or when in the midst of a major expected or unexpected transition. And, this is where a consultant can cross-over into direct, intensive Transitional Management Services, which is often referred to as Interim Executive Leadership or an Interim Executive Director.
CEC offers remote Interim services. Most contracts are less than 20 hours per week, and span 4-6 months. But intensity and length of our engagement will be based on and tailored to your needs.
Effective communications are key to a host of fundraising and other successes, including sponsorship cultivation, grants, attendance at events, and public donations. Consistent messaging is important, as is the professional presentation of any print or digital documents seen by those external to the organization.
We'll help you determine who you should be talking to, when, and how. Ideally, we are including this in your comprehensive fiscal development plan. You know, things like a communications calendar and behavior-responsive digital systems. Plus, branding. Branding matters.
A more intensive organizational assessment involves evaluation of all written materials, both internal and those seen by the public. The process may even include satisfaction surveys among all stakeholders, and group and/or individual interviews to determine issues of concern. We focus on processes, structures, and systems, and identify those that require modification or improvement, plus those that are needed but do not currently exist. This is important when we are poised to begin strategic planning and when working with Boards—who are often unaware of inefficiencies and other precise trouble spots within the organization.
Grant and other fundraising readiness assessments do not have to be quite as in-depth, but if we notice something that may be concerning to a prospective funder... we are your first line of defense on this. We can resolve (many) issues before a funder even knows who you are. If there are blemishes in your history that we can't fix, we can at least proactively address these items through some form of capacity building or a formalized improvement plan. Did something happen years ago that a funder will see online (such as revocation of 501(c)(3) non-profit status due to failure to submit tax returns)? There are actually times where it is best to bring the elephant into the room yourself. We can help with that. Often the best course is to take responsibility for what occurred, indicate what you have learned, and assure a funder that effective organizational processes are now in place to ensure that past problems are... in fact... past. (Of course, that needs to be true.)
CEC’s Organizational and Program Development services span the entire life cycle of a non-profit, from start-up and expansion to reinvention. We can help develop (or improve) select components of an organization or new program, or aid in full design. In all honesty, we generally do more than "aid" in design. We lead it completely and offer you identifiable options as we create... and settle on... something amazing. Most of our clients love what we come up with, and ask for very few changes to our proposed plans or language choices. In fact, we used to wonder if our customers even read what we provided to them since they adopted it outright. Turns out, we tend to hit the mark the first time.