Grant writing has taken on more importance than ever during the pandemic. Most non-profits have found their revenue sources shrinking – in particular from events. A million years ago last summer, people were beginning to get antsy about timelines and vaccines. Maybe events would get back on track, we thought, by the end of the year (including me!).
It didn’t happen and likely won’t for quite a while
Fortunately, private foundations, family foundations and other grantors have continued to fill the gap.
Getting on track with grants
I have found that many organizations are not experienced with grants – or even if they are, they do not have the internal professional resources to handle grant work effectively. Often someone on the program staff is assigned to deal with grants whenever they get around to it. Opportunities are missed and funding is left on the table.
But getting grants going is not necessarily difficult, and with guidance, a regular focus can be easily achieved.
Variables that may affect success:
Here are a few tips to assess your preparedness
and increase your chance of success.
Do you have a Case Statement for your organization?
Grantors are often professionals, and/or look at requests with an eye for data and overall credibility. Your case has to tie together what you have done in the past, what you have been accomplishing in recent times, and most importantly – what are you are going to do now if you get a grant. The case is your initial grant template. Without a case for support, you can’t make your case.
Have you created a simple budget that supports your grant request, and shows both a track record plus a clear need? The budget presents the numbers behind the words. It doesn’t have to be complex, but it does need to show how an investment in your organization will be wisely used. The clarity of the budget itself is a test – it must display credibility and show precisely how your grant request fits in. You must find a simple way to match measurable outcomes to the funding which is being requested. If the grantor has to dig to figure this out, then you’ve started out wrong.
Is your program proposal easy to understand and credible, given your past work and track record?
Are you asking for current operations or a new program that – for example – is responding to Covid? Grants to keep current programs going are perfectly valid, especially during these times. If your request is clear and credible, your chance of success increases dramatically. Test your proposal on someone outside your agency and ask them questions afterward. If they can’t understand it or find your plan hard to believe, or aren’t impressed by the goal, re-write and re-write until it’s impactful. If you don’t have the internal expertise to get this done, invest in a grant professional who can do it. Don’t be penny-wise, pound foolish.
Have you done preliminary research to identify grantors, or do you need to start from scratch?
There are endless ways to properly research potential grantors and of course an experienced grant professional knows how. Shooting out grant requests blindly from a list may undermine your credibility for the future and is largely a waste of time. It’s like sending resumes out blindly and hoping to be hired. Instead, identify who are you approaching and why, analyze the grantor’s focus and how your proposal matches, and determine their application timelines and processes.
What are you going to measure, and report on?
It’s tough to claim success when you haven’t identified what defines it! Even gathering simple demographics helps so that at the least, the grantor knows whom you are impacting. What about creating a simple survey that your own constituency can fill out? An analysis is often simpler than you may think. And it should work well for creating required reports, once you obtain a grant.
Make Grants Happen!
Grant writing often exposes gaps in organizational readiness or program design that have to be improved to successfully compete. Past grants are buried in random folders, historical records are inaccurate, deadlines have been missed, and targets are seemingly randomly selected.
As a result, funders that exist primarily to give money away to good causes never even get an honest chance to consider you for funding.
All of this can be easily fixed, it just needs the determination to succeed supported by a systematic and professional approach.