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Making Grants Out of Nothing at All

Who remembers the classic song by Air Supply, Making Love Out of Nothing at All? That tune came to mind recently when speaking with a new nonprofit leader. They were eager to start writing grants but were unsure how to start.

As a new organization, they had plenty of passion and excitement, but little documentation about their organization, programs or services. A mission statement and a few sentences about their program isn’t enough for a good grant application. Grant writers find this really difficult to make applications out of nothing at all.

In their rush to serve their community, these passionate leaders didn’t have a plan or procedure in place to document the results of their work. At the very least, a nonprofit must demonstrate and document the need their services are meeting, the demographics of the population being served, plus how they will measure their results.

Grant Readiness Checklist

To assist clients like this one, we provide a

. This guides the new nonprofit as they assemble the various documents and basic information needed for most foundation grant proposals. Here is a sampling of what is included in our checklist:

  • Legal Name

  • IRS EIN Number

  • Date organization is established per the IRS (Effective Date of Exemption)

  • Contact Info

  • Current Budget/Program budgets

  • Mission

  • Vision

  • Program descriptions

  • Client stories or testimonials

Tracking Data

How are outcomes qualified? How is success measured? Part of planning the work includes having a method to track important data. Do clients receive follow up visits or services or other opportunities to provide post-service feedback? Is information securely documented in a database to easily produce reports? Knowing the number of people served isn’t enough information. Oftentimes, funders ask for specific details on outcomes or results as they relate to the organization’s mission.

Additionally, financials and program information should always be as current as possible. If a grant proposal calls for it, you should be able to clearly state how outcomes are tracked and how results are documented. Check and double check to make sure you’ve included all documents requested. If something is requested that you don’t have or does not apply, include a statement that explains that omission.

What Funders Think

Based on my twenty-plus years as a professional fundraiser as well as time serving as a grant reviewer, I’m confident in sharing the following questions that foundation officers often ask themselves when reviewing a funding request.

  • Does the organization have the capacity to do the work promised?

  • Does the organization have established goals and objectives for their programs?

  • Has the organization demonstrated how their programs meet their stated goals?

  • Are there data and results to demonstrate their effectiveness?

  • Is the organization tracking its progress in a consistent manner?

  • Is this organization a good investment?

Having a good plan and process in place is critical for effective grant writing. Next week I’ll explain the best ways to set up your Grants Ecosystem.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

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

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