“We need money! Can you write a grant for my nonprofit?”
I’ve been approached with multiple variations of this conversation for years as a known nonprofit professional, volunteer, and as a consultant.
The simple answer is no.
In reality, yes, I can write grants. Yes, I have written grants. And yes, many of those grants were successful. But, no, I cannot simply “write a grant for you.”
One of the key parts of nonprofit development that I like to emphasize is the importance of all aspects. A fully developed synthesis between each individual component makes for a much stronger whole.
For example, without a strong mission, your organization will have a hard time setting clear goals. Without solid communications and marketing strategies, your organization will struggle to show its impact, make new connections, and find new donors.
And, without a strategic resource development plan, your organization will struggle to fund its activities, become or remain sustainable, and create impact.
“But, a grant would just help us get started until we could find donors.”
Okay, yes. Capacity-building grants do exist.
However, there are multiple factors to grant-funding of which you need to be aware before committing your precious resources and time toward “getting a grant.” And, those factors are the same reasons why I can’t “just write you a grant.”
1. Find a grant for which to apply
Securing grant funding doesn’t happen like:
“Hey, we need money!”
*I’m going to write a grant*
“Writes 3 paragraphs about the organization, mission, and the need for the money”
Rather, the process usually begins by searching for requests for proposals (RFPs), also known as RFAs, in which your organization or program meets the criteria. These can often be found on database systems, such as www.grants.gov.
2. Determine what you need to fund
What will the funding cover? Will the funding only cover program supplies? Does your organization need funds for capital improvements? Or is it mostly funding for day-to-day operations?
It is important to spend time setting goals and assessing the true needs to achieve those goals. This will help as you move forward in developing a funding strategy.
Many grants don’t fund overhead
What is overhead and what does this mean? Overhead usually refers to general operating expenses, and sometimes includes staff time.
This means that if you answered “we need help with paying for our day-to-day operations,” finding a grant to fit your needs could be challenging.
Why won’t they?
Grantmakers, just like nonprofits are responsible to their funders. This means that just like any other nonprofit organization, they need to be able to show the impact of how their dollars are spent.
Just like for-profit investors, grantmakers want to be sure that your organization has the ability to do what it states it will do with the money. They will often require documentation regarding your organization’s finances and budget. A need for funding general operating expenses may indicate to potential funders that your organization doesn’t have a sustainable resource development plan in place.
3. In the end, grant funding is unpredictable
Like anything else, funding trends come into popularity and fall out of fashion. But, regardless as to whether or not your mission is currently considered trendy, your organization will need money.
Just like with personal financial investments, throwing all of your financial eggs in one basket is never a good idea. This is why there’s a case for building a strategic and diverse revenue stream to enhance the sustainability of your organization.
Grants can be a great resource for your organization and should be a part of a strong, diverse resource development strategy. However, they cannot be the only strategy.
Mia is a committed, cause-driven consultant who partners with nonprofits to grow their impact, achieve their mission, and actualize their vision. She believes in the power of nonprofits and their ability to solve the most challenging problems if they have the right resources.