Grant Writing Tips
This quarter, we hosted 3 Grant Writing Workshops for Outreach Pastors and Non-Profit leaders. We learned so much throughout these sessions and were so honored to meet so many committed and passionate leaders. Below are some of the key takeaways.
1.) Determine if You're Ready
Grant writing makes you think. If you’re struggling through the grant writing process, and you just don’t have enough to put down on that paper or know how to answer many of the questions posed, it may not be time for a grant quite yet. That’s Ok! This will just serve as a starting point for you to make some changes to grow into an organization worth funding!
2.) There's Money Out There
Over $50 billion are awarded every year through foundations and corporate grants. We all hear about the free grants that are available to us, but very few of us believe that they actually exist or know where to get them. Be encouraged that there is money out there and is available for your organization.
3.) Collaboration vs. Competition
More than ever there is competition. However, more and more, organizations are starting to see that collaboration is key. Collaborative cohorts and system thinkers are sought after by investors. When you partner with others in the same space, you open yourself up to a whole new slew of donors. It’s common practice to share staff and resources with likeminded organizations. Collaboration provides the biggest opportunity to take limited resources and magnify through community-minded resourcefulness.
4.) Structure, Structure, Structure
When you first start a non-profit, you start out with an amazing mission and purpose. However, it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia: GuideStar reporting, board configuration, 501c-3 filing and exemptions, etc.
Consider structuring your organization in a unique way. Ask yourself questions like, "Where is my current funding coming from?", "What does our leadership look like?", "Are we able to handle accounting?", "What are my short and long term goals?". Research some of the below options to see if they're right for you:
For profit with Social overlay
Fiscally sponsored subsidiary
Having a fiscal agent really takes a lot of that hard part out of it. There are a number of foundations that are interested in being fiscal agents for likeminded outreaches. Some do it for free, some don’t (standard fee is 10%).
Partnership (General, Limited, Limited Liability)
Limited Liability Company
Corporation (Chartered, Subchartered)
5.) Board Configuration is Key
Form your leadership around your organization in a holistic way. You want boards that are diverse in age, ethnicity, background, and gender. Our boards should represent our intent, our focus, and the people that we’re trying to reach.
6.) Know Your Grant
There are various types of grants:
Organizational grants (capital funding grants, etc)
Know what type of grant you're applying for and know WHO you're writing for.
7.) Write a Case Statement
So many of the grant applications that you’ll be filling out don’t provide much room for details (200-500 characters). A Case Statement is fluid 2-7 page open narrative that gives a holistic view of your organization. You can add a hyperlink to your Case Statement within the grant application for funders to see more. This document is meant to be modified and revised for each grant that you apply for and should include:
- An emotional attention getter. Include quotes and photos. This first paragraph determines if the rest of the Case Statement is worth reading
- Your mission and vision statements clearly stated. Then illustrate these throughout your case statement.
- History of your organization-a brief summary of the organization(board, staff, participants, network). Also include:
- Past accomplishments
- Future goals
- Outcomes and proof of impact-prove what you’re doing is worthwhile and that the donor’s support does make an impact.
- Brief Stories
- Financial/volunteer/in-kind needs:
- How much do you need to raise and why(what will it be used for?)?
- Other means of support:
- In kind-gift cards, Goggle AdWords, banners, etc
8.) Know Your Budget
The budget and proposal should go through the same narrative. No surprise, funders want to see what you’re planning on doing with their money. Your budget is one of your best storytelling mechanisms and also one of the best ways to prove that you know what you’re doing and that you plan to spend resources wisely. A budget shouldn’t raise questions but should raise answers. Note that budgets are often the first thing funders look at.
Most of the grants you come across are going to fall under restrictive funding. The best way to succeed is to break down your budget and to cover all of the different fees that are hard to write grants for when you come across unrestricted funding.
- Edit, TWICE!
- Follow directions and ANSWER THE QUESTIONS.
Convince the funder you know what you’re doing. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the need in your community and your holistic programmatic response. The funder should feel confident that your organization would be a responsible steward of their funds.
- Save questions from each application and the answers you come up with in a file. Many times, the same question will come up in another application
- Re-apply for grants that you haven’t received
- To find donors and funding organizations that would be interested in helping to fund your organization, find like-minded non-profit organizations and look up their Annual Reports. These reports always contain their top donors. Once you have the names of those top donors, look their 990s up on Guidestar. Their 990 will not only contain their address and best phone number but also a list of their board members and key employees. Find these individual on LinkedIn and try to get introduced by a shared contact. The 990 also shows you how much these donors are granting and gives you a general idea of how much you’ll want to ask from them.
It's important to note that while grant writing can be a tedious and daunting process, it can also be an exciting and hope inspiring one. This is a good opportunity to remind yourself of why you do what you do and challenge yourself to work past the hard parts. It's these small, steadfast actions that will eventually lead to the big moments that you envision.