Grant Writing Tips

How to Write Successful Grants

Grant Writing Tips

Identify Your Sources – In order to have the greatest chance for success in obtaining grants, you must first identify potential grant agencies. There are many agencies that provide grants to individuals and non-profit entities, but not all of these agencies will be right for your organization. Do your homework. It is crucial that when selecting an organization from which to seek funds, you choose from among those that are most closely aligned with your organization’s mission, vision and values. The following are a few strategies to use when conducting your research into potential funding sources.

  • Visit their website and learn all you can about the agency or foundation from which you are seeking funds, including their history, their mission, vision and values.
  • Learn what the focus of their work is and determine how it coincides with the objectives of your organization. For example, if you are seeking funds to build a new community center for Latino families, it is probably not wise to apply for a grant from a foundation that awards money solely to the African American community.
  • Check the list of organizations that have been funded in the past by the foundations you are considering applying to. How does your organization compare?
  • Read the synopses of grants that have been approved in the past. How does yours compare?


Define your Objectives

What project is it that you are seeking funding for? Why is external funding critical to the success of your project? What objectives do you hope to achieve through the implementation of your project? These are all critical questions because the answers to these questions will form the basis of your application. If your organization does not have a well-thought-out plan for why the funding is needed and how it will be used, your grant will not be approved. Most granting agencies will expect to receive periodic or scheduled reports that detail the progress you are making toward your stated objectives and how the money is being used. It is not enough to simply state that you would like to receive a grant in order to help build a neighborhood community center for Latino families. You have to dig much deeper. What niche would that fill in your community? What other agencies provide similar services in your community now? Why/ how is what you’re proposing different that what those other agencies are providing? How will your community center serve Latino families? Will it provide social services? Access to free or reduced cost health services? Educational services? ESL classes? Childcare? Free or reduced meal plans? Cultural activities? Be specific. It is those specifics that will drive your application’s chances of success.

Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

Many foundation applications inquire about other agencies from which you may also be seeking funding and any other agencies that have already committed funding to you. In essence, they are interested in two things: (1) what is the company that they are keeping and (2) if the give you $3000 but you are requesting $20,000, what will happen if you don’t have other funding sources identified? Will their money go to waste? Would they be better off giving the $3000 to a different agency that is only asking for $3000? While there are many foundations out there that are ready to give out grants, there are countless more grantees searching for funding. Therefore, the foundations have the luxury of being very selective with how they dispense their grants. Despite the strength of your applications, you will likely be denied more times than you will be approved. Do not despair. Keep trying.

Follow the Rules and Guidelines

Every foundation has guidelines for applications. Many have their own application forms that give very specific instructions for completion. Be sure to follow these tips when completing your application. Those that do not pay attention to these details may find that their applications do not even get read, let alone funded.

  • Use the application form provided. Do not design your own.
  • Answer every question on the application form. Do not skip any, and provide as many pertinent details as you can. Remember, you are selling your organization’s project idea, and you want them to buy it!
  • Some foundations will place a limit on the number of pages that a grant proposal may contain. Do not exceed this limit. Even if you are only one or two sentences over the limit, this could have a detrimental effect on your ability to gain funding. Be as concise as possible in your descriptions. Spend more effort describing the meat of your proposal and cut out the fluff.
  • Most foundations will ask not only for the applicant’s name, title and contact information, but also, for the names, titles and contact information of each boarch member on your non-profit board of directors. If you do not know that information, find out. Do not send incomplete information to a potential funder.
  • Be sure you attach all supporting documentation. This typically includes a copy of your organization’s 501 c 3 letter and a proposed project budget.
  • Be sure that you know how many copies of the application or narrative document you are required to submit. Many foundations will ask for a separate copy for each grant committee member, or if applications are being reviewed by more than one committee, a separate copy for each committee.
  • Be sure that you place enough postage on your application packet. No foundation wants to receive a request for funding and have to pay for postage due.

Know the Due Dates

Various foundations will have different due dates for their grant applications. Due dates often correspond with the foundation’s fiscal year. They may also occur, for some foundations, to coincide with the completion of annual fundraising campaigns. If you send in an application too early, it may be filed and forgotten or dismissed altogether. If you send in an application too late, it will not be considered. Many foundations will post a range of submission dates, for example, you may submit applications between January 1 and April 30. When these submissions periods are identified, be sure to adhere to them. Some foundations have more than one submission period per year. If you are not approved during the first cycle, you may resubmit during the second cycle. If you have any suggestions for things that may strengthen your chances in the second round of considerations, be sure to make those amendments. If your proposal is significantly different, it may be a good idea to identify the rationale behind the changes so that the grant committee does not assume that you have submitted contradictory proposals.

Network and Nurture Relationships

It is always a good idea to have personal interactions with foundations from which you are seeking funds. It is advisable to set up meetings, ask questions, introduce yourself and your organization and establish mutual goals prior to submitting grant applications. You can often meet members from local foundations at a variety of venues such as Chamber of Commerce meetings, Rotary Club meetings, seminars and other networking forums. If you are able to take advantage of these opportunities, do so. If not, you may wish to inquire about setting up special meetings, assuming that the grant committee membership allows that.

Ramp Up the Funding Requests

While most agencies would love to receive huge gifts right out of the box, the fact is, that agencies that are new to a community or to the grant writing process, are not likely to receive large cash awards in their initial years. It is not impossible, it is just uncommon unless you have an undeniably valuable project with the potential for far-reaching implications. Therefore, a good strategy includes asking several foundations for smaller awards. Once you’ve received one, and massaged your relationship, met your reporting commitments, and capitalized on your expected outcomes, you will be able to use your leverage to seek out larger awards during subsequent grant cycles. Think of it this way…if I met you on the street today and you had a serious need for cash, I might give you $5.00. But if I had known you for years and you had proven yourself trustworthy, I may be more inclined to give you $25.00. This logic follow when seeking out potential funding sources. Forge relationships. Be true to your proposals, and the dollars will follow in time.

Follow Up After Receiving Grants

It is critical to not only adhere to the specifications for grant reporting, but also to send a personal thank you note to the grant committee in order to express your gratitude for their support and reassure them that you will be putting their gift to good use through the implementation of your proposed project.

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© 2010 Jaynie2000

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