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What Does Grant Writing Success Look Like?

Many nonprofits rely on grants for their fundraising needs. Deciding when to add grants to your fundraising mix depends on many factors. Is your development plan diverse with a healthy number of individual donors? Do you have a capable grant writer on staff? Then as you build or expand your grants program, how do you determine your level of success?

First, be realistic on immediate results. Grants take time and energy. Having a properly researched list of potential funders is one of the first steps. Next, do you have all your narratives, program descriptions, outputs, and outcomes ready? The more time your organization takes in the beginning, will certainly factor in your success later.

Writing a grant doesn’t mean instant money.

Having automatic success with your grant writing is one of the top nonprofit myths. A few weeks ago, I shared many common nonprofit myths. Click here to see this article. As you begin, expect a lower success rate as you build relationships with funders. Did you know that it’s common to see one in ten applications funded as you begin your grant writing efforts?

Where are the grant funds?

The 2019 State of Grantseeking™ Report shows that 82% of respondents reported that they received awards from private foundations. These funders should be treated just as individual donors with appropriate cultivation and stewardship efforts.

How many grants per year?

Be realistic on the number of grants your staff can submit. According to the Grants Professionals Association (GPA), an international association for grant professionals, in 2018 they surveyed their members who reported that the average full-time grant writer writes and manages up to 50 grant proposals/awards per year.

These are five areas to track your organization’s success with grant writing.

1. Number of grants researched. This is similar to the identification/qualification stages of the Donor Cycle. A sample plan might include researching and reaching out to two new funders per month.

2. Number of grants submitted. Don’t fall for the common “Spray and Pray” approach to grant writing. Simply submitting a high number of grants doesn’t guarantee success.

3. Number of grant awards received. Expect this number to increase over the years as you build your successful programs.

4. Yearly increases in grant awards from the same funder. As your relationship progresses with a funder, it is appropriate to request higher amounts.

5. Number of stewardship activities for your grant funders. Be certain to track the reporting requirements for the grant and include ongoing efforts to further the relationship.

Overall, here are the best take-aways for your grant success:

· Grants take time.

· Grants aren’t the Magic 8-Ball to your fundraising needs.

· Foundation funders are relationships that must be managed.

· Grants shouldn’t be the majority of your fundraising.

· Be sure to follow all the funder’s instructions and guidelines. If their website says they don’t accept unsolicited requests, then they really mean it.

· Have all your materials updated and ready. Better yet, have a case statement which contains:

o Your mission and vision statements

o The history of your organization

o What is the need for funding?

o Describe how this is a pressing need

o Speak to how your organization can address this need

o Detailed descriptions of your programs

o Outputs and outcomes

o Stories and testimonials

o Financial information

o Include a menu of financial support options


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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