Grants. You’ve most likely heard the term thrown around the nonprofit field, but do you (and your nonprofit organization) know what they are? And if you do, do you understand the grant process and the benefits of acquiring a grant?
Grants can come from foundations, corporations and government agencies. Sure, you hear the word “grant,” and you may be thinking, “free, easy money.” You can think of it that way, but getting approved for a grant is no easy feat; it takes plenty of research, preparation, understanding, effort, and time. And while receiving grants can be a tremendous asset to your nonprofit’s revenue stream, it should be supplementary to your nonprofit’s current fundraising plan, not its main source of revenue.
The starting point of any grant is finding where you can apply for grants, and that includes doing extensive research on what foundations or corporations are offering grants and writing an outstanding grant proposal to get your organization on the funder’s radar. Nonprofits should apply for grants only if they check off all the funder’s qualifications, and remember, there is a likely chance that first-time applicants will get denied — but don’t let that discourage you from trying.
Do Extensive Research
Find out which foundations or corporations are offering grants, and definitely look into whether or not there are any government grants that your organization can apply for. Once you figure out which grant you want to apply for, make sure you do a thorough job in researching the funding organization—know its background, its history, its philanthropic nature and what they’re looking for in a grantee. With those things in mind, you will get a better sense of what speaks to the funding organization because what’s important is not what your organization needs, but the ideas that are important to the funding organization.
It’s important to find someone who is either experienced in grant writing or a staff member who can be trained on how to write grants. Qualified grant writers can make the process run a lot more smoothly with their knowledge and expertise on “sealing the deal.”
Be Concise and Thorough
There are a number of components in a grant proposal, which can range from 10 to 20 pages long but it maybe even longer, depending on the project. A typical proposal will include:
- Mission Statement
- Needs Statement
- Goals and Objectives
- Impact Reporting
- Project Budget/Additional Funding
So, as you sit down with your team and discuss what should be included in your grant proposal, remember to not skimp out on the details. Explicitly elaborate on your nonprofit mission statement—this will help your nonprofit stand out in the crowd. A good question to ask yourself is not why your nonprofit needs the grant, but why does your nonprofit deserve the grant (and what will your nonprofit do with the grant once received)?
Here’s something not to overlook: a strategic fundraising plan. While this not may be shocking news, what is shocking is the majority of nonprofits do not have an in-depth, strategic fundraising plan, as reported in the “2018 Nonprofit Leadership Impact Study.” At the end of each year, sit down with your team and look at the past year’s numbers; did your nonprofit hit its goals for the year? What adjustments can you make to your current plan that will bring those numbers to the next level? Make sure that you make challenging (but achievable) goals—we recommend having quarterly goals—and then outline a plan on getting to those goals.
Prove Your Nonprofit’s Sustainability
A thriving nonprofit, a nonprofit that will spread ultimate change in the world, is a nonprofit that is sustainable—a nonprofit that will flourish for years to come. A grant is ultimately an investment, and funders will not just give them out to just any organization.
Although you can cast the best writers and construct an emotion-driving, heart-string-pulling, ugly-face-crying kind of mission statement that will catch the funder’s attention, they need to be shown that this investment that they’re making will pay off in the end. Dive into your nonprofit’s data and pull out some statistics—maybe even share some personal stories of individuals who have been positively impacted by your organization.
If you’d like to learn more about data and trends around what funders are looking for, check out the Nonprofit Funding Kit. To learn more about upcoming grant opportunities, check out our June Funding Round Up.
Nhu Te is editor-in-chief and content director for NonProfit PRO. She is also the editor of DMAW Marketing AdVents. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.