Do you want to find and access grant funding opportunities for your nonprofit but don't know where to start? You've come to the right place! In this blog post, we will provide instructions on how to locate grants that are a good fit for your organization.
We'll also give you some tips on how to assess your readiness for applying for grants, and what to look for when researching potential funding partners.
So read on, and get started today!
What is grant funding and how can it help your nonprofit organization?
Grant funding is a type of financial support that can be used to help cover the costs of running a nonprofit organization. Grants are typically awarded by government agencies, foundations, or corporations, and can be used for a variety of purposes including start-up costs, operating expenses, programmatic support, and more. Grant funding can be an important source of revenue for nonprofits, and can help organizations to expand their services and impact.
Common Types of Grantors
- Federal government
- A local government agency
- Community foundations
- Private foundations
- Family foundations
- Corporate foundations
When you're looking for grant funding opportunities, it's important to keep in mind what your organization's needs are. Are you looking for your first grant award to cover start-up costs? Or do you need grant money to access support to sustain your programs and operations? Once you know what you need the funding for, you can start to match them with a grant program and their specific funding priorities. This is one of the most important factors in determining grant applicants' success.
How do you find grant funding opportunities that are a good fit for your nonprofit's needs?
The most critical step is to understand the needs of your organization. Grant programs are always focused on the specific funding goals of the grantor, and without knowing what your needs are, it becomes almost impossible to know if you're in alignment with potential funders.
Some factors to consider when you're assessing your organization's needs include:
- What are your short-term and long-term goals?
- What are your programmatic priorities?
- What is your budget for the upcoming year?
- What are your most pressing needs? (Tip: Don't just say "funding"! Explain what the funding will pay for.)
- What are some compelling stories of your impact?
- Who has access to your programs? Who still needs access to your programs?
Once you have a good understanding of your organization's needs, you can start to look for grant programs that might be a match.
There are a number of ways to access grant funding opportunities. You can start with research tools such as searching paid online databases such as GrantWatch or Grants.gov (which is free). Learning to search each of these databases will take some time to master. They each have different interfaces and search options to find grants, and you can often find free versions to try out at your public library.
For the best free sites, you can also contact your local chamber of commerce or community foundation, a philanthropy news digest, or reach out to national and state-level granting organizations. If you're not sure where to start, try conducting a Google search for "grant funding opportunities" + your city, state or country.
List of Grant Databases
When you're looking for grant opportunities, it's important to read the eligibility requirements and application guidelines carefully. Make sure that your organization meets all of the criteria before applying. You'll also want to look at the application process and timeline, to make sure that you're able to meet all of the requirements.
If you're working on your first grant proposal and your organization's mission is just taking off, it's generally a good idea to look for local funders and grant awards. Federal funding and government grants in general tend to come in large amounts with complex grant applications and reporting requirements that favor large nonprofits with a substantial operating budget, who often cover a large geographic region with their projects.
If you have already won a grant award or a few and you believe you're ready to pursue federal funding or another large funding source, you may consider looking for a grant writer to work with and propose contract opportunities as a way to work together and increase your capacity to win more money for your nonprofit by seizing more open grant opportunities.
Any peer organizations in your community may list the charitable organizations supporting them in their annual report. These can be potential funding sources for your organization as well.
What are the steps involved in applying for a grant, and what do I need to do to get ready to apply?
Once you've found a few potential grant opportunities, it's time to assess your readiness for applying. Here's a quick checklist for you to determine whether you're ready to pursue grant opportunities.
Is your organization's mission clearly stated and understandable?
While simple in form, a mission statement is one of the most powerful ways for an organization to capture the attention of potential funders. Give yourself enough time choose each word carefully, and ensure it has all the critical parts of a mission statement. Check out this post for more detailed instructions and examples. Some grant writers, who have seen many mission statements, may also be valuable partners in helping to shape yours.
Do you have 501(c)(three) tax-exempt status?
Entities that offer grants to nonprofits will require your organization to have 501(c)(three) tax-exempt status. The United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is the federal agency responsible for bestowing this designation on qualified nonprofits. Here's the IRS page with more information and other free resources.
Do you have a board of directors?
Foundations and federal agencies want to ensure the organizations they fund have strong management systems to ensure programmatic success and financial security. Assembling a board of directors is a delicate process. These elected officials in your organizations will have significant power over the operation of the organization and its leadership. Board training programs can be an effective way to help improve board function.
Do you have audited financial statements from the past two years?
Audited financial statements are documents laying out an organizations accounting practices and financial systems, which are produced by reputable accounting firms who follow standard procedures.
Large nonprofits with complicated financial systems often hire accounting firms to review, or audit, their financial systems and accounting documents. For large grant awards, like those from federal funding sources, will likely require audited financial statements to review.
Not all grant applications will require audited financial statements, which can be expensive and burdensome to produce.
Do you have evidence of your organization's impact?
Of all the details contained in your grant proposal, the data you provide is often the strongest evidence of your organization's impact. The more up to date information and other resources that clearly demonstrate your impact, the better. Make sure the data you provide points to clearly valuable outcomes. Don't make grant reviewers search for the point you're trying to make.
Do you have a budget for your project?
Grant applications will usually require the grant writer to provide a budget that explains how grants will be used within the fiscal year. These uses should be verifiable, since most grantors will also request a report at the end of the grant term to confirm the grant was used in the way it was intended. Like your grant writing, your budget is another opportunity to tell a story with numbers to describe the way you would make the most of a grantor's funding.
Do you have a project plan with measurable outcomes?
Your project plan should be a road map for your project, with specific milestones and objectives that can be measured. This is often called an "evaluation plan" or "theory of change." Outcomes should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound (SMART).
A good project plan will also include a timeline, target population and other important details that describe what success looks like. A quick Google search for "SMART project plan" or "measurable outcomes" could also help you find more resources to review.
Are your organization's administrative and governance structures up to par?
Organizations should have administrative and governance structures that serve as systems in place to ensure operations run smoothly. These structures may include human resources, financial management, information technology, risk management and other systems. Grantors will want to see that you have strong systems in place to manage their investment in your organization. Reviewing your organizational chart and job descriptions can help you assess whether your systems are up to par.
If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then you're ready to start the application process!
Many local government agencies, community foundations, and organizations like the United Way, often have free training resources for small businesses, which share many of these same requirements. In terms of administration and governance, nonprofits have a lot in common with small businesses and it would be easy for organizations to adapt this training. Search for free services that will let nonprofits join in.
How do you manage and track grants once they've been awarded to your nonprofit organization?
Once you've been awarded a grant, it's important to track and manage the funds carefully. Make sure that you're using the funding for the purposes that it was awarded for, and keep good records of your expenditures. You'll also want to stay in touch with your grantor, and update them on your progress. An experienced foundation maintains good records of its applicants and grantees, and is usually open to building a strong relationship with the organizations they support.
Help the funder see a clear line tracing from the time they gave you funding, to what that funding paid for, the projects it enabled, and the outcomes of those projects. Organizations that do this well put themselves in the best position to win follow on grants from the same grantors who wish to keep funding successful organizations they have strong relationships with.
Government agencies often structure each grant proposal with the intent of funding additional phases of the work, if the first projects go well. Foundations are also known to support yearly grants on an ongoing basis if funders believe the nonprofit is doing good work that has more potential to grow.
What are some common mistakes made when seeking grant funding, and how can you avoid them?'
Many of us make some common mistakes made when seeking grant funding.
Not doing your research
Before you start grant writing, and certainly before you hire a grant writer, do your research on each funding source to make sure it's really an attractive opportunity for your nonprofit to pursue. If you do want to hire someone to help you with this phase, make sure this person clearly understands your nonprofit, so they'll be able to find the appropriate opportunities for you to pursue. This can be an effective way to save time and get great results because professional grant prospectors have more experience with grants research tools.
Not reading the eligibility requirements carefully
Even after you have a list of funders you have carefully researched to ensure they are actively making grants to nonprofit causes like yours, in your area - it's still critically important to go deeper in your research to confirm your organization meets all of the funders eligibility requirements.
There is nothing more frustrating than spending hours grant writing, building a budget, and gathering all the other supporting documents only to find that you've missed a requirement that makes you ineligible. Foundations are notoriously inconsistent about how they share these details and the only way to be sure your nonprofit is eligible is to review all of the instructions.
Not having a strong project proposal.
To avoid these mistakes, be sure to take your time in researching potential opportunities, and make sure that you understand all of the requirements before applying. Also, be sure to put together a strong project proposal that outlines your goals and objectives, and how you plan to use the funds.
The search for grant funding can be a time-consuming process. Grant writing takes even more time, but it's important to remember that the funds you receive can make a big difference in your ability to sustain and grow your nonprofit organization.
When organizations are getting started, they need to do sufficient research, always looking for grants opportunities that are a good fit. They also need to be sure to read the eligibility requirements carefully, in order to put together a strong project proposal. If you win money for projects, foundations and government funders will always appreciate accurate reporting and appreciation for their grants.
By following these tips, you'll be on your way to securing the funding you need to support your nonprofit. Thanks for reading! I hope this was helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out. We're happy to help! :)'