9 Things Funders Want From Fundraisers in Grant Applications
“As we all know, there are fewer funds to give out because of the economy, and there are greater needs,” said Karen Kennelly, president and owner of K-Squared Consulting. “That makes it that much more challenging to write a grant, ask for funds and be able to get those funds. So what is it that the funders want?”
During her presentation, "Financial Management: Preparing for Grant Proposals", at Blackbaud’s 2010 Conference for Nonprofits held Oct. 20-22 in Washington, D.C., Kennelly shared things funders are looking for from fundraisers in grant proposal applications.
“A lot of what funders want hasn’t changed over the years, but there are a few things that have changed,” she said. “There are a lot of corporate funders, corporate foundations that are becoming much more strategically aligned with the organization than they have been in the past. Whereas they may have had some broader goals in giving in their foundation areas, several have gone back to partnering more with the corporation and looking at what the organization’s objectives and goals are.”
Kennelly also noted that many corporations want to make a greater impact and get more involved. Here are some of the key things funders have told Kennelly they’re looking for from fundraisers:
Research. “As you’re thinking about doing a grant application,” Kennelly said, “research, research, research. Know who your funder is.”
Build a relationship with the funder. “You’re much better off if you go into a grant application having known somebody there, having at least contacted them than if you went in with a cold proposal,” she said. “Most funders have so many applications that they’re looking at, it’s better if they know who you are and you’ve already built a relationship.
“A lot of the large funders I know, you can get into them with a small grant and build your way into a large grant.”
Know the guidelines. “Make sure you know what their guidelines are. This goes with research,” Kennelly said. “Look at what they’re funding. What kind of things are they interested in? Do you fall within that?
“It takes time to do a grant application,” she added. “Make sure you know what your funder is going to fund so you’re not spending that additional time that’s not necessary.”
Think beyond the money. “There are fewer funds out there, so what are other ways that you can connect?” Kennelly asked. “That’s another thing that’s big with corporate foundations these days. They want to get employees involved more; they want to provide something more meaningful to them from their employees’ perspective but something less expensive from a financial perspective."
There are other ways to get funders involved, such as allowing their employees to volunteer or donate supplies, etc. “Getting volunteers can then build additional funders and contributors,” Kennelly said.
Don’t rely on one funder. “As you write a grant application, be careful not to give the impression that whoever is the key person in this proposal that this particular program depends on this individual. That’s dangerous,” Kennelly cautioned. “That’s a red flag because what if that one individual goes away? Make sure you demonstrate that the organizations has the capacity to fulfill the mission.”
Know how you’ll fund the program when the grant runs out. “Another big one that funders ask is how are you going to fund this once the money runs out. There are lots of stories about organizations that have been given money, and two years later the organization’s no longer there or the project no longer exists,” Kennelly said.
Make sure your math is accurate. “Your budget needs to be reflective of what the proposal is,” Kennelly said. “It shouldn’t be padded. It shouldn’t be skimpy. Don’t just put the bare bones in there.”
Find creative ways to cover operating costs. “Very few funders just fund operations,” she said. “But you can't do the projects without the general operating costs. So you need to find creative ways to incorporate them in the budget.”
Generally don’t request more than 30 percent of the project budget. “A lot of funders don’t want to be the only one funding it. They want to feel like they’re part of a group of people; they want to be participating with others interested in that program,” Kennelly said.
Kennelly also added that for “every one of these things there is an exception” — i.e., an organization she participates in, Impact 100, wants to fund about 75 percent of its initiatives, and there are a few grantmakers that fund operating costs.