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Truths about Grant Writing

As a grant trainer, grant reviewer and successful grant writer, I have three truths about grant funding to share:

  1. Writing a successful grant proposal or application takes time and effort.

  2. Establishing a flow of grant funding takes commitment and consistency.

  3. There are no guarantees, foundations are not obligated to fund your organization.

How often have you heard from your board members or Executive Director, “just write a grant.” Or “let’s have a luncheon next month.” These methods of fundraising are easy for your board members to understand because they see the end results. They don’t always know or appreciate the work that goes into a successful grant application or event.

Are You Ready?

I have worked with many nonprofit clients who simply are not ready to apply for a grant. They don’t have good program descriptions, they don’t have a defined program/project budget, and there are no measurable outcomes. There are also some whose work is so specialized or who serve a niche population, that there are few foundations who support that mission. This does not mean they aren’t doing great work.

Here is a closer look at our three truths about grant funding:

Time and Effort

Investing time and resources in ongoing grant work is important to successfully winning grant awards. Here are a few key points to address to make your organization grant ready:

  • Research foundations to find those that match your mission.

  • Write narratives for your programs, history, and overall organization.

  • Compile program data and financial information.

  • Manage grant deadlines.

  • Track awards and reports.

Having a dedicated staff person or contract grant writer is crucial. You will not be successful if you are juggling grant writing with several other duties. You cannot write grants here and there and expect success.

As a consultant, I spend a great deal of time editing grant narratives to ensure the question being asked is answered. The hardest part of grant writing is being succinct and persuasive.

Commitment and Consistency

The experienced grant writer knows it’s a numbers game. An average grant writer will receive funds for four out of ten grants submitted. For new grant seekers, you might have one out of ten awarded. A survey by the Grant Professionals Association confirms these statistics.

  • Applying for at least three grant awards increased the frequency of winning an award. Twenty-five percent of organizations that submitted one application won no awards.

  • The percentage of organizations that won at least one award was high among organizations that submitted three to five applications (91%), six to ten applications (96%), or eleven or more applications (98-100%).

No Guarantees

Private and family foundations are required by IRS Section 4942 to distribute five percent (5%) of the fair market value of their endowment annually. Most often, foundations have specific focus areas and guiding principles for their funding. Periodically, focus areas change, so it's a good idea to check their websites annually or every other year.

Grants can be a wonderful way to fund your nonprofit’s programs. Being consistent and focused will ensure ongoing success.


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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