Tips for a Successful Grant Project

This guide is designed to help you successfully complete your Wow Grant Project; with particular attention given to projects that require volunteers or community action and events. Before you reach out to people who might help you with your project, you should have a fairly firm idea of what you want them to do to help fulfill your goals. Remember: A key element to an effective project is planning.

Define your project goal and what you hope to achieve. Try to avoid assumptions, like “This is a great idea, so I know people will jump on board!” People usually need convincing before they commit their time and energy to something. You can strengthen your planning by brainstorming ways to overcome people’s skepticism of your project.
Consider these questions:
What is the focus of your project?
How will your project have an immediate visible impact in Blaine County?
How will you measure progress?
What will this person add to your project?

A word of advice about recruiting volunteers: Try to recruit at least 10% more people than you think you’ll need to account for no shows and dropouts…

Identify the type and the number of volunteers you will need. For example, for a river cleanup, you’ll want people who are passionate about the outdoors. For a public benefits assistance effort, you’ll want people who are patient, detail-oriented and work well with others.
Begin your recruiting with friends and family, and ask them for honest feedback on your “sales pitch” so you can sharpen it.

Consider a co-leader for the project. You probably want someone who complements your skills. For example, if your strength is creativity, think about getting a co-leader who is highly organized.

Personally asking people to join your effort can go a long way, so start by contacting people you already know. Then you can expand the recruiting effort to the broader community. Always include a brief description of your project and desired outcomes so that potential volunteers are clear on your needs.Consider your own peer group, your family friends (maybe your mom’s best friend was an English teacher for years, and your project has to do with reading and the library– put her on the list to contact), and reach out to Wow for additional contact ideas.

Use technology to spread your message– think Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…

Depending on the size, scope and goals of your project, you might want to seek a collaboration or sponsorship — you will already be paired with a local nonprofit, so think about any business, individuals, or programs in town that might also be interested in partnering with you.
Don’t be shy about asking potential sponsors or collaborators for help.

Before you approach potential sponsors or collaborators, have a very clear idea of precisely how you’d want them to help. For example, you might ask a local company to encourage staff to participate in your project or let you use the company’s building on project day. If you’re organizing a cleanup, you could ask the mayor’s office to provide trucks and manpower to haul the trash away. If you’re planting a community garden, a local landscaping company might agree to help design, build and plant.

Remember that many organizations and companies want to be associated with local improvement efforts. Simply including their logo on your flyers and letting them mention their involvement in a press release is often sufficient.

Occasional meetings can also help keep your team motivated. Remember, few people besides you will be thinking about your project every day, and some may lose interest if they feel their involvement isn’t appreciated. Sending updates every week — even when you have little news to report — and inviting your team to meetings can help keep people energized.

Very few projects go exactly as planned, so be flexible. The best thing you can do is to remain upbeat and calm, regardless of what goes wrong.
Have a solid game plan for your main project day. Here are some items to include in your plan:
Arrange for snacks and drinks for your volunteers.
Have a foul weather plan if your event is outdoors.
Get a home or cell number for managers of any facilities you might use (like a community center) in case the building is locked or the air conditioning is out, etc.
Have a checklist of all the supplies you need and the full day’s schedule, and keep it handy so that you’re not forgetting important details or overlooking items needed.

Congratulations! You did it. Take time to celebrate your success and thank your volunteers, partners, vendors and any VIPs who attended. Remember, a thoughtful, handwritten thank you note goes a long way in terms of showing your appreciation. Emphasize to everyone the positive impact they made on the community. Ask them to share any particularly inspiring stories from the day.

Adapted from: “Do It Yourself Projects: The Nuts and Bolts for Project Organizers.” Create The Good; AARP, 2017. 18 September, 2017.