We hear it all the time: “There must be bigger funders out there for my organization.” “Shouldn’t we be getting national funding?” “When it comes to grants, I feel like we’re missing out.”
Do you know the feeling? It’s an anxiety we call “grants FOMO”: fear of missing out on grants. So often, chief development worry over the grant funding they feel sure they’re missing. Fortunately, there’s a cure.
Following is our prescription to achieve the peace of mind that your grants program is on track and you’re taking full advantage of grant opportunities for your nonprofit.
First, weigh the opportunity cost.
There will likely always be more grant opportunities than you have the time and resources to pursue.
The very best grant seekers accept that not every grant is meant to be. They forego a grant opportunity when they determine the costs to complete an application are greater than the potential gain, or that the alignment between their organization’s mission and that funder’s priorities is tenuous at best.
Every grant application costs your organization money to pursue, whether you employ a grant writer, share grant writing duties among several staff members, or hire an outside grant writing consultant. Sometimes not applying is the right answer. Swallow a hard dose of reality pie and move on to better opportunities.
Next, evaluate and prioritize.
How can you be confident you’re spending time and resources on the right grant opportunities? You must understand all your possibilities in context.
We advise organizations to complete a comprehensive and exhaustive search for grant opportunities once every few years, rather than do research in bits and pieces. Only by seeing a complete picture of all the qualified grant opportunities you could pursue can you identify which stand out as the closest match with the highest chances of funding.
Though there may be many grant funders, the universe is not infinite—it is possible to look at all the potential funders for your organization, eliminate the ones that aren’t a good match, and hone in on those that are. Then you can compare them, rank them, and prioritize the very best prospects for your team’s focus. Does doing a comprehensive scan of funders seem overwhelming? We can help.
Focus on quality over quantity.
In the grants game, quality trumps quantity every time. What factors makes for a quality prospect—and what are signs you should pass on a prospect and move on?
These are signs of a good potential grant funding prospect:
- Relationship: A positive history between your organization and the funder (remember, the best prospective funder is one that’s funded your organization before).
- Mission match: A clear alignment between your organization’s mission and the funder’s mission and priorities.
- Geographic focus: Evidence that this funder is invested in programs, people, or progress in your nonprofit’s geographic area of focus.
- Similar funding: A track record of grant making to organizations and projects similar to yours.
Alternatively, these are clues that you should consider disqualifying a funding opportunity:
- Lack of connection: Your organization has no human connection to the funder and you haven’t had any personal interaction before the application deadline.
- Mismatch: This funder has never made a grant for a project or to an organization similar to yours and you’ve received no indication from the funder that their preferences have changed.
- Closed door: This funder “doesn’t accept unsolicited proposals” and you have not received a personal invitation to apply. It is possible to get a grant from a funder with this restriction, but that almost always requires first establishing a relationship.
Be prepared to pivot.
In grant seeking, even the best laid plans are bound to change. Let’s say you’ve done your comprehensive research, ranked each grant opportunity, and devised a grants plan for the year. Suddenly a grant opportunity is released that seems meant to be for your organization. The problem? The lengthy application is due in just 30 days and pursuing this grant will require all your team’s time.
Here’s how you pivot without throwing off your grants game:
- Make certain: Before putting all your resources towards this unexpected grant opportunity, confirm that it merits your urgent attention. Contact the program officer to ask if there will be any other future deadlines—perhaps you can wait to apply then. Try to get a sense of how competitive the process will be and how enthusiastic the program officer is about your project.
- Change gears: If you confirm that you are going for it, see what other work can shift. Check your grants plan for applications without a hard deadline. You may be able to delay work on applications with a rolling deadline to next month.
- Call in other support: Does your organization have a go-to resource to help at times your team is overstretched? Using a contract grant writer or firm on a periodic basis can be more cost-efficient than missing deadlines.
Grants FOMO is common. But if you follow this advice, you’ll replace fear with confidence that you are spending your organization’s valuable grant seeking resources where they can have the greatest impact. Best of all, you won’t feel the FOMO because you have done all you can to position your grant seeking program for maximum success.