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Don’t Try to “MacGyver” Your Grant Strategy

Fans of the show MacGyver know the action hero can do anything with a Swiss army knife and whatever he finds around him: duct tape, bubble gum, and paper clips would always save the day.

Successful grant writing can’t be accomplished on the fly. Grabbing your proverbial Swiss army knife and jumping into a grant application is stressful. Click HERE for my tips on increasing your grant success.

When a nonprofit client comes to us for grant services, there is a three-stage process: 1) review current grant work and materials; 2) make recommendations on organizing their grant work; 3) collaborate on a grant strategy for future work.

Review Current Grant Work

How many grants are being written? What is the number of awards? Are there goals associated with the grant work? Do you keep a historical list of grant awards? Are you cultivating those funder relationships in between applications? How do you decide which programs or projects to request grant funding? Have a consistent strategy will allow you to write more grants.

Does your grant strategy include methods to increase the number of grants submitted? Surveys from the Grant Professionals Association show full-time staff grant writers submit on average 35 – 50 grants per year. If your development staff is already stretched thin, consider outsourcing your grant work.

Organizing Grant Work

Like many grant writers, I have been guilty of writing a great narrative that I want to use for a future grant. Now, I have to research old grants for that information. Keeping narratives organized and updated will make your grant writing more efficient. Do you have a process to get updated information? Are you tracking ongoing outputs and outcomes?


• Among the organizations with active grantseekers, 75% reported that one to two people were directly involved with the grant process.

• Applying for at least three grant awards increased the frequency of winning an award.

Success grant seeking can’t happen in a silo. Have regular development meetings that include the grant work to brainstorm and plan future applications. Do you have regular meetings with program and accounting staff members? Let colleagues know when you will need updated program and budget numbers on a timely basis. I’ve seen examples when the chief financial officer is on vacation the same week as the deadline for a big grant.

While MacGyver is a great and smart action hero, adopting the same reactive approach to grants will results in ongoing stress for your organization. Keep your Swiss army knife handy for other needs.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching, grant writing, and fundraising services. We specialize in small to mid-size organizations because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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