A big part of the health of any non-profit is its ability to secure grants. Although the funding models of different non-profits vary, grants are a significant portion of the income for a vast majority of them. Most non-profits depend on grants to pay for their operational costs and to allow them to keep doing the excellent work that they set out to do.
Grant writing isn’t easy, but once you get the hang of it, it isn’t that difficult, either.
In most cases, non-profits have specific employees or volunteers assigned to the task of grant writing because it is a skill that takes some time to learn and to master. Most people who write grants will tell you that writing successful grants gets easier over time and with practice.
If you are new to grant writing, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. However, armed with the right guidance, tips, and tricks, paired with a little confidence and a lot of practice, you’ll be writing successful grants before you know it.
Keep reading, and soon, your non-profit will be celebrating the income you have earned through your grant writing efforts.
Why Grant Writing Is Crucial for Non-Profits
Over 50 billion dollars are awarded every year to non-profits through foundation and corporate grants. That’s a lot of money! These organizations want to give money to non-profits to help them accomplish their goals. If your organization doesn’t apply for this money, another organization will.
There are grants out there for every type of non-profit. Some work only with local non-profits, but others are national or even worldwide. Grants are often written to find funding for specific projects or needs, but there are also grants available for more general use funds as well.
Your organization will not get access to this funding unless it participates in grant writing. This money is there for the taking, but you have to ask for it to receive it.
Grant writing is your key to this funding. If your organization is not writing grants now, it should start right away.
What to Know About Grant Writing
However, it’s important to know that grant writing is hard work. You cannot simply submit the same generic application to many grants and expect to win any of them. You will need to complete a new application for each grant for which you wish to apply, and each application can take many hours or even weeks.
Your organization will need to do research to tailor each grant application to each grant and awarding agency. In most cases, you will need to create new, innovative projects and programs to make your non-profit attractive to the powers that be and, in turn, to win those grants.
Once your grant applications are complete, you will have to wait to hear back, and in many cases, you will not be awarded the grant even after all your work. Often, you and your non-profit will experience much disappointment – and then you will have to start all over again.
Although 35% of foundations fund at least half of the grant applications they receive, 6% of foundations report that they receive over one thousand applications for their grants each year. That’s a lot of competition to consider.
When you awarded a grant, you will celebrate, and it will all be worth it. However, you will likely have more failures than successes along the way.
How to Search for and Choose a Grant
Since grant writing is a time-consuming process, you will want to find and apply for grants that your non-profit may actually get. Therefore, it’s very important that you take time to find appropriate grants and choose only the grants for which you think your non-profit is eligible.
Searching for Grants
There are many websites and databases out there to help connect non-profit organizations with organizations that fund grants.
Grant Advisor is a free site that features reviews of foundations nationwide; you can search for foundations that offer grants in your non-profit’s realm and also learn about the foundations themselves. Once you find a foundation that seems to be a good match, you can search that organization’s site for grants. GuideStar is another site that can help in this way.
You can find other free grant search sites on the web as well. One of the most popular is grants.gov, which helps connect non-profits with government-based grants.
There are numerous paid grant search sites that are even more helpful, but they will cost a subscription fee. These include the Foundation Directory Online, Foundation Search, GrantStation, and others.
Choosing a Grant
When it comes time to choose a grant, there are a number of factors you should consider before moving forward.
First, make sure that the receipt or denial of the grant will not make or break a special project. Create a diverse funding plan for your project and make sure that you are not counting on any more than 20% of your funding from grants. That way, if your grants fall through, you will be able to use your organization’s creativity to determine a way to move forward without it.
Second, make sure that you have plenty of time to research and write the grant proposal before moving forward. Rushed grant proposals rarely lead to successful grant awards, and you don’t want to waste your time. Make sure there is plenty of lead time to complete the grant in a thorough and conscientious manner.
If you have never written a grant before, there are tons of resources online to walk you through the required sections. Take the time to do your research and make sure that you use impeccable spelling, grammar, and sentence structure along the way. If you can find a grant writing course either in person or online, it will be beneficial, but many people write successful grants without any specialized training.
Finally, only apply for a grant if you are sure that your organization and project or programs meet the foundation’s qualifications. If you apply for a grant for which you are not eligible, you are wasting your time as well as the time of the people on the grant-awarding committee.
Grants Open New Doors
Grant writing, submitting proposals, and receiving grants are very exciting. However, don’t be surprised if your first grant is rejected. More often than not, this is the case.
If your non-profit does not have a relationship with the organization to which you are applying, you will likely be turned down. Keep trying, though; with continued effort and perseverance, you can find success, and you can receive funding for your non-profit. Good luck!
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