What Nonprofits Should Consider Prior To Writing A Grant
Grant writing is one of those activities that all nonprofits must undertake in order to secure revenue to develop or operate programs and services. Grant writing itself is not that difficult as most applications request the same types of information. However, there are some items (e.g., poor planning) that can prevent you from getting the funding you need. To increase your success to secure funds via your grant writing activities, it is important that you take time to carefully research funders who are interested in your mission, and follow their guidelines to ensure you are providing the exact information they need to consider and fund your proposal.
When you are looking for funding to start up or continue a program or service, find out who has an interest in your organization and its mission, and who would be willing to invest funds in your specific programs and services. Research individual philanthropists, foundations, and corporations. Talk to other individuals in the nonprofit community who have worked with philanthropists, and foundation and corporate representatives. Exchange information about who funds what types of programs and services, what facilitates or prevents a funder from considering and/or funding a proposal, and other pertinent information that may help you to secure funds from a specific entity.
Some resources to find foundations or other entities interested in your organization's mission may include:
CharityNet USA is a "One Stop", nonprofit resource center that offers fundraising solutions. It can also help with grant proposal writing and foundation research to help find donors for your charity or nonprofit organization.
Fundsnet Services Online provides grant writing and fundraising resource information and assistance to those in need of funding for their programs and initiatives. They have a Fundraising & Grants Directory that is free of charge. They also have a list of fundraising programs and grants by categories, fundraising articles, a fundraising directory, and a free fundraising kit.
The Council on Foundations is a nonprofit membership association of 2,100 grant-making foundations and corporations. As the voice for philanthropy, the Council brings people together in a philanthropic endeavor, including private, community, operating, and public foundations, corporate foundations and giving programs, and emerging giving and grant-making organizations.
GrantsUSA offers the most comprehensive, affordable grants resources available for Arizona grant-seekers. The "Guide to Grants Online" for each state offers in-depth profiles of private foundations and corporations that make grants to nonprofits and community organizations. The Arizona "Guide" contains over 1,800 funders.
Once you identify potential funders, contact their designated representative to introduce yourself, briefly describe your organization and its mission, verify that what they fund is relevant to your mission and programs and services, and request an application.
Although it takes time, be sure to carefully and thoroughly review the funder's guidelines. You'll want to make sure that you are clear about what they are requesting before you write the grant. As you peruse the application, write down any questions you may have. Once you have identified all of your questions, re-contact the funder's representative to seek clarification and get the answers you need. Make sure that all of your questions are answered before you begin to write the grant.
Before contacting funders, make sure that your branding is consistent on all of your marketing materials, that all of these documents have been updated, and that your Internet presence is current. Make sure that your website contains the organization's most recent vision statement, mission statement, and core values; that it contains an accurate description of your current programs and services; that it provides updated information regarding staff and board members; that it contains your latest Form 990; etc. Funders will review your website and any other information they can get their hands on prior to considering your proposal for funding. If your information is outdated, inconsistent, or they don't like what they see, they will not fund your proposal.
Prior to writing a grant, identify other organizations that share a similar mission or provide services to similar clients. Speak with them about collaborating and writing a grant that will benefit both of your clients. Funders are always interested in seeing organizations collaborate with each other in an attempt to pool resources and stretch their dollars as far as possible. Many funders give preference to grant proposals that demonstrate collaboration between two or more organizations.
Once you have researched and identified funders interested in your mission and programs and services, carefully reviewed the grant application and got all of your questions answered, updated all of your marketing materials for accuracy and consistency, and identified other organizations to collaborate with in writing a grant, it is time to turn your attention to planning. You should meet with all collaborative partners and other important stakeholders to discuss each component of the grant proposal prior to writing it. Everyone should be on the same page in terms of the proposal's overall intent; each section's content; who is responsible for completion of each section; who will solicit the letters of recommendation; and other items that need to be discussed and addressed prior to writing the grant.
All too often, organizations wait until the last minute to write a grant. This could result in sections of the grant being incomplete or inaccurate, a lack of flow throughout the proposal, or a sloppy proposal where it is evident that the grant was written at the last moment. If you have conducted your research, you will know the funding cycles of those foundations/corporations in which you are most interested. This will enable you to begin meeting with potential grant partners early on, providing sufficient time to plan and develop a thorough grant proposal that will increase your chances of receiving funding. Funders are not interested in incomplete or messy proposals. In addition, just as nonprofit professionals talk to one another about funders, funders talk to each other about nonprofit organizations. Because of this, it is important to have a good reputation with funders. That means following their guidelines and submitting thorough and well written grant applications.
Copyright 2010 © Sharon L. Mikrut, All rights reserved.