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How to Win Grants: Five Steps for Successful Grant Seeking for Nonprofits

Grant funding is a critical lifeline for nonprofit organizations- on average, accounting for roughly 20 percent of their total revenue. According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics there are over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the United States, many of whom are competing for a finite amount of grant funding, often with scarce grant seeking resources. How can nonprofits strategically position themselves to thrive in today’s fast-paced funding landscape?  

You can significantly increase your chances of success with a strategic approach. When preparing your grant seeking strategy, focus on the intersection between your nonprofit’s mission and relationships, and your potential funder’s giving behaviors and priorities.  

There are five critical steps for grant seeking success.  

Identify giving patterns  

Analyze potential funders’ giving patterns to determine what funding they have provided to projects and organizations that generally align with your mission. By examining past grants, you can gain insights into what they are most likely to fund in the future.  

Consider barriers to entry  

Assess whether the funder provides clear information about their giving process and priorities, as well as how accessible they are to grantees for questions and conversations. Evaluate the onerousness and accessibility of the application process to determine the likelihood of success.  

Leverage your network  

Identify the funder’s board of trustees, decision makers, and influencers. Explore existing relationships and leverage six degrees points of entry to improve your organization’s positioning and brand awareness. Generate a feedback loop as you forge connections and initiate conversations. Use the funder’s direct feedback and insights to enhance your value proposition and tailor your approach.  

Utilize market intelligence  

Combine your knowledge about foundations, key stakeholders, and past experiences with targeted market research – such as economic conditions, funding priorities, competitive landscape, government policies or political landscape, and social and cultural influences – to generate customized predictions.  

Conduct an internal capability audit  

Assess your organization’s ability to effectively and efficiently execute your grant seeking strategy, including the aforementioned steps. If you don’t have the resources to accomplish all critical components in-house, consider seeking outside professional guidance.  

“After four years of working with Grants Plus, we have bolstered relationships, making it possible for us to generate sufficient revenues to cover operations, and are receiving grants from many of the funders in town. Now we are ready to work together to aim even higher, and compete for major grants from regional and national funders.”

~ Executive Director of a community development nonprofit organization

The partnership between Grants Plus and this nonprofit organization has resulted in nearly $4 million in grant awards, including $800,000 for neighborhood revitalization from a community foundation and $288,000 in federal funds from the USDA for an urban agriculture project-the latter one of just 23 awards made out of 578 applicants across the country. 

With these five steps, you can optimize grant seeking efforts, improve your chances of success, and secure vital funding to fulfill your mission. By understanding the intersection between your organization and funders’ priorities, and adapting your approach accordingly, your organization can achieve sustained success in a competitive funding landscape and secure your ability to create lasting positive change in your community. 

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