“There must be more grant funding out there for my organization!” It’s a frequent feeling among nonprofit leaders: the gnawing anxiety that they are missing out on grants. Fortunately, there’s a cure.
Following is our prescription to ensure your grants program is on track and that you’re taking full advantage of grant opportunities for your nonprofit.
First, explore your universe of grant funding possibilities.
How can you be confident you’re focusing on the right grant opportunities? By seeing all your grant funding prospects in context.
It’s only by seeing a complete picture of all the qualified grant opportunities you could pursue that you can identify those you should pursue as your highest priority.
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. This way, you can examine all the potential funders for your organization, eliminate the ones that aren’t a strong match, and hone in on those that are. Does a comprehensive scan sound overwhelming? We can help.
Focus on funding opportunities you stand the best chance to win.
In the grants game, quality trumps quantity. What factors make for a quality prospect—and what are signs you should pass on a prospect and move on?
Signs of a strong 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.
Signs 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 proactive signal from the funder that says they are interested in your project or organization.
- 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.
Next, weigh the opportunity cost.
Every grant opportunity comes with a cost of time and resources to prepare the application and fulfill a funder’s reporting expectations later on. This is true whether you employ a grant writer, share grant writing duties among several staff members, or hire an outside grant writing consultant.
For this reason, it’s important to carefully weigh the risks and rewards of each particular grant opportunity. This checklist can help. If the costs exceed the potential gain, the right answer may be to not apply.
Finally, 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: Confirm that the grant opportunity 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 decide to go for it, see what other work can shift. Check your grants plan for applications without a hard deadline and consider delaying work on these to a future month.
- Call in other support: Using an outsourced solution like Grants Plus can be more cost-efficient than missing deadlines. Thinking about outsourcing to a consultant? Here are factors to consider.