Ten Grant Writing Tips for Your Nonprofit Organization
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Ten Grant Writing Tips for Your Nonprofit Organization

Learn ten tips on how to be successful in grant writing. Learn how this traditional way of fundraising for nonprofits can be made easier.

This economy has been tough for many organizations.  For nonprofits, in particular, they have been hit twice as hard. Their donations are down and the demands for services have risen sharply.  In some cases, such as with local food banks, the donors have now become the clients!  More nonprofits are turning to grant writing as a way to supplement their donations and add to their revenue stream. 

For nonprofits who have their IRS 501(c)3 designation, there are a variety of funders who will support the work you do.  Search for the local philanthropic organizations in your community.  For example, the Triangle Community Foundation and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation support organizations in North Carolina.  The Triangle Community Foundation is very specific about the region it covers in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill and surrounding areas, and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation supports North Carolina nonprofits.  Some of these regional and family foundations are members of the Council of Foundations and their member listing provides a to the Council of Foundations members' specific websites. 

Federal opportunities are posted at www.cfda.gov and on www.grants.gov.  Here are ten grantwriting tips: 

  1. Understand the grant making organization. What organizations have they donated to in the past? When do they tend to distribute most of their funds? When does the review committee meet to make decisions?
  2. Read the application guidelines carefully. What is the cut-off date of the grant? Is there a special procedure you need to follow? (i.e. by FAX, email or Internet form) What is the maximum number of pages the organization will accept? What supporting documents does the organization require (i.e. budgets, list of members on the Board, list of current donors, etc.) Make sure you include all the documents needed!
  3. Identify the grant administrator or grant coordinator.  This person will be your primary point of contact and the person who will answer most of your questions.  Some grants will have an initial Q&A conference call, others will require you to send your questions via email to this person, and others will ask you to contact him or her directly by phone.  Don't be shy about asking questions, this is that person's job!  They are often quite genial and gracious when working with people, so ask your questions, and don't bombard your questions at the last minute.  
  4. Ensure your application is project based with measurable outcomes and a time duration.  Most organizations will contribute to a specific project with specific deliverables and time duration.  Does your project align with the organizations goals and principles?  Grant funds fall into a category known as Temporarily Restricted Net Assets.  Because of this, the funds are not released all at one time, but only if an organization achieves specific project milestones or time has passed (i.e. one year increments.)   
  5. Don’t be discouraged. Expect that you may not get approved the first time you submit an application. Consider this an opportunity to fine-tune your grant writing skills so you are ready for the next submission. Ask for feedback from the organization to determine where your weaknesses were in the document or presentation. Consider these learning experiences for you to present a better document next time. Make key contacts while you are presenting your material, and build on those relationships for your future grant submissions. A “no” answer today could actually be a “maybe” answer for the future.
  6. Be prepared for your interview. The grant application is similar to a job resume. It is a document to provide the review committee an opportunity to understand your organization. Large funding institutions rarely give large sums of money to organizations they have not met. Your presentation will be crucial to proving your credibility and building confidence with the funder that your organization will use their money wisely.
  7. Be prepared for a possible site visit. Anticipate that the funder may want to review your organization and ask for a site-visit prior to funding. Some organizations want to talk with the people who benefit from your service.
  8. Build a strong team. If presentation skills are not your strong suit, find someone in your organization who is good at presentation skills to perform the pitch to the organization. If you are the executive director of the organization, you can be there for the presentation to provide insight and answer questions.  Build a team of strong individuals with their best skill sets brought forward. If the person delivering the pitch is weak in the numbers, bring an accounting person to the presentation so that budget questions can be covered.
  9. Build a set of reference organizations. Many funders don’t want to be the only source of income for your organization. The organization wants to know that other organizations have been contributing to your success as well. If you have big name donors who provide you money, make sure you highlight that, and ensure that you are treating your key donors well!
  10. Make appropriate references and proofread your document! Many grants that are provided through large organizations and Federal government grants have grant numbers assigned to them through the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the General Services Administration (GSA). Ensure appropriate reference numbers are prominently displayed in your document, and follow the guidelines as appropriate. Proofread your document carefully, and ensure that you articulate your message and answers all questions clearly. Remember, this document is your foot in the door prior to the decision making process.

Grant writing may appear to be an ominous task, but anyone can create a successful grant submission if they follow these grant writing tips.  Best wishes in successful funding for your organization! 

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Comments (1)

This is very informative and you've given great tips too :)

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