Updated: Dec 19, 2019
When nonprofits look at raising funds, many times the inexperienced board members, executive director or even the development director suggest “let’s write a grant!” Many assume it is easier to ask a foundation for several thousands of dollars rather than asking hundreds of people for a donation. All you need is a template or boilerplate that can be used over and over again with different foundations, right? The reality is a nonprofit needs both grants from foundations and donations from individual supporters to provide the diversity of funding for the organization.
Another myth is that grant writers are paid only if the grant is funded and they are paid a commission. Grant writers, like any other professional, are paid for their time and talent. It is unethical for a professional fundraiser or consultant to accept commission-based payments. Here’s what you need to know about applying for a grant from a foundation.
Do your research. Which foundations fund what you do?
Foundation Directory Online is a subscription service that is often available at local libraries.
The foundation’s website.
The 990’s of other nonprofits that serve a similar population as yours.
Track your program goals and measurable outcomes
Keep consistent donor records
Have appropriate policies and procedures in place
Follow the Generally Acceptable Accounting Principles (GAAP)
Don’t recreate the wheel.
Set up an electronic file that includes such documents as up-to-date program descriptions, a list of your board of directors, a list of staff and their positions, current budget, financials, 990 and audit, if available. You will also need a current copy of your IRS determination letter. These are just the basic documents. There may be other requirements from different foundations.
How many grants do I need to write, is another question I’m frequently asked. The answer is, it depends, but generally, a nonprofit starting to write grants might have one in ten proposals funded. It is a numbers game. The more you submit, the more likely you are to be funded by someone. The temptation at this point is to submit the same grant to everyone. But having a strategic approach is key and you must pay attention to what each foundation wishes to fund.
Remember, in addition to asking for funding you are also building a relationship with the program officer at the foundation. They want to see you grow and be successful.
We Can Help
Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.