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What Comes First: The Grant or The Budget?

A truly integrated development plan includes a diversified mix of fundraising methods. Best practices remind us to focus on individual giving as our base for several reasons. A 501(c)(3) organization must raise at least 33% of their support from the public and as the annual Giving USA report reminds us, individuals account for over 80% of all giving.

One of the most common questions I get asked is when to start raising dollars through grants. There is an eagerness to get larger awards through grants although this is a very competitive process.

In the rush to begin applying for grants, I see many well-intentioned nonprofits skip several crucial steps. Much like you would get ready for tax season by gathering needed materials, you must go through a grant readiness stage to ensure your organization is truly ready.

The biggest challenge is when grant writers start with the grant application rather than having materials ready such as the program descriptions, goals, objectives, and most importantly, having a finalized budget. Here’s an insider’s secret: funders often look at the materials first such as the organization’s budget and program budget to see if these documents match the grant narratives.

I’ve been privileged to serve on several grant review committees and yes, I do look closely at those supporting documents. I check to see if the budget supports the grant requests and verify the numbers in both areas.

My recommendation is always to go through a grant readiness checklist before starting the grant process. I also suggest reviewing materials and narratives regularly to confirm you have updated information.

Here’s a handy checklist of items to have on hand before starting a grant application:

Having a solid budget first will help direct your programs and guide your grant applications in a consistent manner. Whether you create a full annual giving case statement or just keep all your information in one place, being organized and prepared makes grant writing a much smoother process.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

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.

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