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CU Strategic Planning puts hold on new clients after CDFI NOFA
TACOMA, Wash. (12/26/12)--CU Strategic Planning, a community development financial institution (CDFI) grant writing firm, placed a temporary stay on accepting any new credit union clients after the release Friday of the U.S. Department of Treasury's CDFI Fund Notice of Funding Availability.

The Tacoma, Wash.-based firm said it has had a waiting list of credit unions for grant writing projects since August. However, it will take project requests from credit unions for the 2013-2014 grant writing round.

The firm said it helped half of all the winning credit union applications in 2012. "To continue our high level performance," CU Strategic Planning President/CEO Chuck Cockburn said, "it is imperative that we serve our existing clients to our utmost capabilities--and then open the door to new clients once the current projects are complete."

Due to the current demand of skilled CDFI grant writers, Cockburn said, choosing a grant writing team far in advance of the NOFA is vital for a winning application--ultimately ensuring the success of a credit union's community development.

"Quality CDFI grant writers are booked up to a year in advance," Cockburn explains. "The grant writing round is open right now, but all the best writers are already booked. So we encourage credit union CEOs to plan ahead, working nine months or more in advance to establish a quality application is better positioned to win for them."

CU Strategic Planning offered 10 tips for successful grants:

  1. Be compelling: Use facts and research to tell an engaging story. Having a need when no one else is fulfilling that need is compelling.
  1. Benefit consumers/members, not the credit union: Frame the story about why the program helps consumers and contributes to the credit union's sustainability so that it can continue to help consumers.
  1. Prove feasibility: Financials, research, and management experience--does it make the reader believe you will succeed?
  1. Make financial projections: Prove the program will continue beyond CDFI funding and prove the program is a good investment of taxpayer dollars. (Quantify positive impact to consumers.)
  1. Create demand: Use increasing loan demand in the category to show demand.
  1. Leverage distress: Make a claim and then support it with data.
  1. Develop partnerships: Strategic partners open up new avenues for program innovations, which allow access to new funding.
  1. Have precise editing: Good editing ensures the narrative's progressive and natural flow that does not distract the reader, allowing the scorer to focus on scoring.
  1. Grow relationships: When communicating with the CDFI, build a relationship with one or two particular staff members.
  1. Early submission: Submit the application ahead of time to ensure CDFI staff support if you have technological problems.


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