With over one million charitable organizations in the U.S., competition for funding is fierce. There are social and economic issues affecting your community, and you have a solution…but how do you get funding for your idea? You may have local donors who support your mission and give on a regular basis, but even with an extremely strong donor base, chances are you’ll be writing proposals for many grants.
When you first begin, the process can be daunting. From finding grants to forming action plans, creating timelines and determining evaluation methods, you may be wondering how to get started. The best approach to grant writing is to focus on two key points for the solution you provide: your proposal must be original and sustainable.
According to Giving USA, 29% of nonprofit funding comes from government and foundation grants and corporate philanthropy.
Create an original solution that sets you apart.
There will be many organizations applying for the same grant, so what makes your organization stand out? While the specific needs in each community can vary, basic issues like hunger, health, and education affect each community in some way. When basic needs are not met, issues facing a community can snowball. If a family of four has lost one stream of income, they may be falling behind on bills, running out of food in their pantry and unable to get their children to and from school.
Considering your organization’s mission and vision, what solution can you provide to help those in need? While you can’t solve every problem, you can contribute by doing what you do best. Your solution should offer a unique way to contribute to the need in your community. Take a look at what you’re already offering and seek ways to improve your process. Research organizations that have been funded for similar projects and take notes on what they’re doing.
Narrow your focus.
Keep in mind that no matter how creative your solution is, it won’t get funded if it doesn’t address a pressing need. It is important to focus on the need first and then come up with a solution – not try to make your “creative solution” fit a need.
The best way to narrow your focus is to choose grants wisely. Don’t waste your time applying for grants that don’t truly fit with what you’re trying to accomplish. Instead of applying for every grant under the sun, narrow your focus and choose wisely. By choosing grants that truly fit with your mission, you’ll be able to focus all of your attention on the grants you do apply for.
Funding parties want to see sustainable solutions.
Chances are, the problem you want to solve won’t have a “one and done” solution, so how will you sustain your project over time? You should consider this from a financial standpoint as well as what other resources you will need – equipment, manpower, etc.
Many grant writers will include a sustainability statement in their proposal. This lets funders know that you have put thought into how you will continue this project after their funding ends. Your sustainability statement should not make promises you cannot deliver on. Never assume that you have future funding unless you have a very good reason. Be ready to provide excellent reasoning and proof where possible of future funding.
Another great way to show sustainability is by providing a track record of previous funding. While you can’t guarantee future funding, you can provide proof of past success. If you’ve been consistent in successfully being funded in the past, chances are you’ll continue to have success in the future.
Seek out partnerships that make you stronger.
Instead of trying to be a superhero and save everyone, narrow your focus. Those reading your proposal will be able to tell if you’re trying to spread yourself too thin. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you rather see your organization provide a fantastic solution to one piece of the puzzle or a proposal that tries too hard?
If there is another organization you can partner with to make your proposal stronger – do it! Reach out and see if they would want to work with you for funding on a project to help your community. Collaboration is a powerful tool that can make your proposal stronger. When nonprofits work together for the better of their community, resources are maximized – and funders love to see that.
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Don’t be discouraged by failure.
Winston Churchill said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” You will not complete every grant or project 100% correctly. You may miss deadlines or even miss opportunities altogether. Instead of allowing failure to swallow you up, keep moving forward. Learn from what you did wrong and continue to make improvements.
If you missed an opportunity, add it to your calendar for next year. If you didn’t get funded on a proposal, take any feedback provided and apply it to future grants. Reread your proposal and take notes on ways you can improve it. Don’t let failure slow you down. The funder you applied with may not have seen your vision, or there may have been a better project requesting funding, too. But someone will see what you want to accomplish. Keep applying, and keep improving.
Grant writing is a skill that takes time to hone. If you start with a problem that needs to be solved and find a creative solution you can implement, you’re on the right track. Be patient as you search for grants. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out our post on finding funding to get started.