I attended a recent workshop on “Building a Business Case for Archives” at the TCART Spring Meeting at Hamline University. This workshop was presented by Robert Routhieaux, an Associate Professor of Management in Hamline’s Graduate School of Management and who also helps nonprofit organizations with organizational development and strategic planning. In the workshop he had us pretend that we were in charge of a special collection whose budget was to be cut. We had to discuss a creating a proposal that would address the following points:
1) Purpose, vision or “desired state” that you are hoping to achieve.
2) How your vision relates to the mission or vision of the organization to which you are submitting your proposal. How your goals align with the goals of the organization you are writing to.
3) The specific “outcomes” of the work you do: the number of people you serve, the value you add to existing programs or organizations, the services you provide to the community or organizations.
4) The budget you are working from and hope to achieve. The proposal should have specific needs identified that you are seeking funding or support for.
5) Your plan for ‘sustainability’ regarding the funding you are seeking. What collaborations or other activities will help sustain your efforts and prevent you from having to go back to the same sources every year. What is your timeline for implementation of any special projects you are proposing?
6) Additional information that will provide evidence of your ability to achieve the stated goals and sustainability: background information of key personnel, key relationships with other organizations, specific alternatives for support and continued funding of operations.
Important points that came up in the discussion are:
1) Nonprofit organizations need to remember the importance of educating people about the organization’s importance and value.
2) If your organization is thinking about trying to get a grant or other types of funding, be sure to look at the different types of funding organizations out there and the types of grants/funding they offer and the types of projects they fund. This will help you determine which funders are good matches for the work you’re doing. You should also look at some of the RFP’s (Requests for Proposals) to see whether you have readily available the type of information they request or if you need to take time to gather this so that you are able to completely fill out the proposal.
3) Be able to quantify outcomes: number of people, number of requests, number hits on the website, types of requests, background of people requesting, etc.
4) Funding should be sought for new projects and those that expand on existing work and/or create collaborations with other organizations. Very little funding exists for maintenance or basic operations.
5) If a special collection’s budget is in danger of being significantly cut, it may show that you haven’t done enough work in the past to demonstrate the value of the collection. Be sure to be visible, involved, and making connections. Be sure as well that you are part of groups involved with decision making or are at least known by those who are making decisions that could affect your collection.
6) Having some business skills and being able to create good business plans will allow nonprofit organizations to achieve their passions.
Mr. Routhieaux had two handouts on writing proposals:
“How to Write a Winning Proposal”
“12 Tips for Writing a Winning Proposal”
We also had a chance to visit the Hamline Archives, whose archivist is a member of TCART.