Nonprofit Development: Grant Writing 101

Joe Orozco June 1, 2020 - 1:00am

In the coming years our affiliate will implement a diverse fundraising strategy to make it possible for us to have more services like Project RISE. One of those funding strategies will likely be grant writing, and while grant writing will make the most sense at the affiliate level, where we can project the greatest impacts, that does not mean chapters and divisions cannot pursue their own grant writing strategies to help fund activities they would like to sponsor. Here's a starting point to thinking about grant writing.

Do you want to know the top three reasons grant seekers fail to land an award? First, the applicant's work does not match the funder's priorities. Second, the applicant does not follow directions about when and how to submit a proposal, and third, the applicant fails to communicate with the funder before and after the application process.

The reasons for these mistakes are as diverse as the organizations that make them. Based on my professional experience, here are a few guesses why the mistakes persist:

  • Why pay a professional when we can just use community volunteers?
  • We just got a sizable grant from a well-known foundation that will surely give us credibility.
  • If we apply to 100 opportunities, someone is bound to give us money!
  • We can't meet all the application guidelines but meet enough of them that we may as well try.
  • We're doing such great work that funders would be stupid, heartless and insensitive not to pick us.
  • We've got the grant, so why should we keep communicating with the funder?

Grant writing is not exact science. Only scammers can promise you a near 100% success rate, but that doesn't mean you can't increase your likelihood of attracting lucrative grant awards.

Before you apply for a grant, consider these basic questions:

  • Does the funder sponsor work in your city and state?
  • Does your mission statement neatly fit into one of the funder's program areas?
  • Will the grant fund an existing program, or will you need to create a new one?
  • Does the deadline give you enough time to gather all your materials and prepare the proposal?
  • If you were sitting on the other side of the table, would you be eager to select your own application?

Cultivating a healthy grant portfolio is difficult but not impossible. If you want to tackle it yourself, you'll be far ahead of the curve if you avoid the common pitfalls that put so many grant seekers in the recycle bin.


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