Easy Money for Nonprofits
That’s how many nonprofits view the topic of grants. One of your board members sees that XYZ Charity, doing work in the same area as your organization, just landed a three-year $100,000 grant from the ABC Foundation, so shouldn’t you drop everything and apply?
Um, yes and no.
Foundation-grant seeking is a strategic process, not a one-time grant submission. When it comes to winning foundation grants, many otherwise intelligent people believe that there are “secret” writing tactics to writing funded grant proposals, when, in reality, the truth about winning foundation support for your mission is simple.
Yes, grant writing requires thought, persuasive writing skills and attention to detail. It also requires commitment and persistence.
So, how does the nonprofit organization that is brand new to grant seeking begin laying the groundwork for successful foundation-grant funding?
Begin by following these basics to guide you in establishing your foundation-grants system:
- Study the giving history, preferably for the past three years, of the foundation you’re researching. Note the range of grants—and tailor your request accordingly. Is this your first request? Come in on the low end.
- Study the foundation’s last three 990s you can find. Note whether the foundation’s assets have grown or declined.
- Target local foundations. Send as many regularly targeted proposals as possible. (Note: I did say targeted—do your research!)
- Mine any connections you might have. Send periodic email blasts to your board members to cross reference who knows who.
- Clean up your website. Why? In addition to your proposal itself, your website is one of the first things a foundation will see during the review process. Red flags? No online giving, a site that was last updated in 2012, outdated contacts, etc.
- Study the guidelines. If the foundation says “no” to videos, do not include your organization’s latest DVD. If the guidelines say to include three copies of everything, include them. Pay attention.
- It’s good to have two to three sets of extra eyes to proofread your work—and one writer.
- Make regular foundation research a priority.
- Maintain your foundation stewardship. Before you reapply to the XYZ Foundation that funded you last year, send the organization a gracious letter giving it an update if it didn't require a reporting. You didn’t miss that reporting deadline, did you?
So, what is the No. 1 secret to winning foundation grants you ask?
The No. 1 secret to winning foundation grants is by establishing systems for your success. When it comes to foundation funding, it’s an unfortunate but often true reality that oftentimes, the third time is the charm. Many organizations give up on grants following a few declinations. Don’t make this mistake in your organization. Seth Godin said it best: “Obsessing about the last inch of follow-through ensures that the important parts of what you do get just as much (if not more) commitment.”
Learn how to follow through and build genuine relationships with foundation funders. It takes time but the rewards are worth it!
Pamela Grow is the publisher of The Grow Report, the author of Simple Development Systems and the founder of Simple Development Systems: The Membership Program and Basics & More fundraising fundamentals e-courses. She has been helping small nonprofits raise dramatically more money for over 15 years, and was named one of the 50 Most Influential Fundraisers by Civil Society magazine, and one of the 40 Most Effective Fundraising Consultants by The Michael Chatman Giving Show.