How to Approach Nonprofit Grant Writing

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away, I embarked on the journey of nonprofit employment, fighting on the side of the light against the world’s dark forces. At this time, the universe was a very different place: a multitude of organizations existed primarily on grants. Some had a full-time Grant Writer, while others would write a generic proposal, send it blindly to hundreds of funders and see what stuck.  

Change came swiftly as bank mergers reduced pools of money coming from banks, the economic meltdown of 2007-08 diminished the amounts private foundations gave, and we saw the proliferation of nonprofit organizations competing for funds.

If my jedi nonprofit training has taught me anything, it is to not rely on grants. In 2016, they are a good supplement to other sources of funding, but they should not be relied upon year after year.  While we have written in prior posts about how important individual donors are to the long-term, sustainable health of your organization this post tackles how to utilize and maximize the money that is available from private foundations.

Step 1

Target your funders. Whether or not they fund other groups like yours indicates whether it’s worth your while to approach them. Also measure relative cost vs gain: It may not be worth it to complete a complicated application that sucks hours of staff time for $1,000 in funding.   

Step 2

Apply to the funders that are the best fit for your organization; do not waste time on long shots. You and your board should leverage connections to anyone associated with grantmakers. It is much harder to reject an organization with a personal connection.

Step 3

Make sure you fit their guidelines and read directions. It’s a shame to have weeks of work dismissed because your budget narrative exceed the page limitations. In the large pool of proposals, those that do not following directions are easy for funders to weed out.

Step 4

Once you have targeted your funder, put together a compelling and succinct proposal.

To learn how to craft your proposal, check out our post on Tips for Improving Your Grant Writing.

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