A winning grant strategy is about persistence, continuing to tell a compelling story and building relationships.
Here are my 10 tips to prepare and be successful with a grants strategy.
1. Keep it simple, avoid overthinking it. I often say perfection is a tool for procrastination. I’d rather have something out there working then collecting dust in my closet. There are foundational pieces you can have in place to start applying for grants, but you don’t need to perfect everything in the sun. You just need to start, and your strategy with grow.
2. Always tell your story. Even when you don’t have a grant strategy in place, the sooner you start collecting stories, impact data and other information that helps explain what you do – the easier it will be to transition from grantless to submitting applications.
3. Collect feedback from your recipients. If you don’t have a system in place for reaching out to the people you serve to learn about how your impacting their lives and how you can improve, start implementing this today. This helps tell your story.
4. Think about your programs as grant buckets. The most successful strategies will focus on funding programs versus generic nonprofit support. Why? Donors like specifics, they like to know the exact impact. If a funder is agreeing to support a specific program with detailed outcomes, that feels better than simply agreeing to pay for your nonprofit’s general operations.
5. Create a single space to house important documents. Whether you’re comfortable in Google drive, with Dropbox or other cloudbased software, make sure you have a single spot where you can store key documents you need to access time and again.
6. Make a program budget. A strong grant application budget will leverage the knowledge of three key players: the grant writer, an accountant and YOU the person actually doing the work in the nonprofit. Why? The grant writer knows what funders want to see, the accountant knows numbers and you know what it takes to fund the program.
7. Don’t expect programs to be funded overnight. Successful nonprofits have a truly diversified funding portfolio and actually grant funders are more interested in nonprofits that are able to sustainably find funding elsewhere. It validates your worth. As you get started, have the expectation that you’re developing a list of potential funders that you’ll apply to throughout the year to fund a portion of your needs.
8. Build funder relationships. While its about your story and having these pieces organized, its also about getting to know the funders who support your cause and creating a two way relationship.
9. Track your grant application status. Create a system for a clear list of upcoming deadlines, grants applied to and statuses – whether won or lost. You can review this year over year to make application decisions and build those relationships.
10. Have fun! Grants strategies are no simple task, and you need to expect to hear you’ve been denied. But don’t take that personally! A lot of nonprofits are looking for funding. Keep you head held high, remember the first 9 steps and keep trying – you’ll find the funders that are fit for you.
Now you might still have a lot of questions about how to get started with these 10 steps. This is why I’ve created a free Grant Toolkit that has a variety of templates available so that you can easily implement many of these pieces.
The toolkit has a template that helps you reframe your story, templates for a grant cheat sheet to easily keep track of common answers to funders questions, and tools for creating a grant calendar and tracking system. You can get that toolkit by clicking below.