A not-so-secret recipe for sweet grant success

According to Giving USA, foundations gave away $90.88 billion in 2021, or 19% of total charitable giving.

As a nonprofit association, that’s a pie you want a piece of.

The good news for grant seekers: this slice of the pie is growing – up 3.4% over 2020. The bad news: breaking into the grant pantry can take a significant degree of effort, and many organizations are unnecessarily daunted at the prospect.

Grant seeking does require effort: articulating organizational strategy, documenting programmatic outcomes, projecting a grant’s impact, identifying interested grantors. To assemble, sift and stir all those ingredients – for a cake that might never rise – is more effort than some association bakers are willing to put in.

But there’s a great reason to persist: do the diligence one time, and you’re already half-way done for your next grant, because so much of your work can be repurposed. When it comes to grants, muscle memory means money.

The grant writing recipe

Grant writing requires an understanding of the grant-maker’s mission, goals and application process. Writing persuasively and accurately, you’ll need to communicate a compelling idea, demonstrate the project is well-planned, and identify a clear financial need and feasible path to impact.

Key ingredients for a sweet grant proposal:

1. Make your project description easy to understand, clearly stating what the project aims to achieve.  Confront the hard questions head-on: What need does your program address? Why is it important? Why should this funder care? Share relevant data and statistics from multiple sources.

2. Show how this issue relates to your mission and why your organization is the best one to address it. Document knowledge, resources, and services you provide that others can’t match.

3. Show how your needs align with the funder’s priority. Tailor your proposal to match the funding organization’s mission, goals, and funding priorities. For additional insights, find out who they have funded previously.

4. Detail the feasibility of success. The proposal should show that the project is feasible and the organization has the capacity to carry it out. Project timeline, milestones, and budget should show the project is well-planned and achievable.

5. Articulate clear and measurable outcomes. The proposal should outline success measures linked to the need for funding. Be prepared to project how many individuals will achieve successful results from your program. What does success look like when scaled locally, regionally, or nationally? If you can’t supply impact data, provide expert testimonials, photos, or other representations of impact.

6. Demonstrate innovation. Show how your approach to this issue is creative and innovative, while also being sound and evidence-based.

7. Assemble a strong team. Introduce an institutional team with the necessary skills, experience and commitment to complete the project. Include the team’s roles, responsibilities and expertise.

8. Provide a comprehensive budget. Detail overall program cost, the amount of your ask, and how you’ll use it (operating, staff, capital). Include all current and ongoing expenses. It is critically important to demonstrate your organization can successfully manage the grant you are requesting.

9. Address sustainability issues. If your grant request is for a start-up project, include your timeline and show how the program will be administered during the start-up phase. Show how diverse funding streams will be applied over time to sustain the program and provide an exit strategy for the funder.

10. Secure institutional leadership. Ensure the grant request has the support of your administration and board of directors. Communicate the effort required for this program and expectations for their involvement moving forward.

11. Offer sponsorship recognition. The importance of this will vary among grantors. Be prepared to provide examples of how your organization can visibly recognize their support.

12. Steward the foundation grantor. Communicate prior to and following your grant submission and whenever possible.

As a slice of your organizational revenue, grants can be more than just frosting on the cake – just follow our proven recipe. We can’t guarantee you’ll be rolling in dough, but you’ll definitely receive your just desserts.

Consultants in Association Philanthropy’s 35-point questionnaire can ensure your grant request targets appropriately, communicates effectively and asks persuasively.  To find out more, contact Brad Hutchins at brad@associationphilanthorpy.com or 630/965-7708.

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