Grants are one way that nonprofit organizations can receive funding to provide valuable programming and resources to the communities they serve. However, sometimes writing a grant can be intimidating, and it helps to know some best practices for applying for grants. Here are some tips below on how to complete a dynamic grant application.
Make Sure Your Organization and Project are a Good Fit
First, read the grant guidelines completely to determine if your organization or project is eligible for the grant. If you meet eligibility requirements, make sure you have the time needed to invest in applying before the grant deadline. Grant applications can require some research and time dedication, so you want to be able to meet those needs. Finally, consider whether your organization’s mission and the grant program are a good fit. That will help you craft the grant application with those important aspects in mind.
- Tip: Be sure to also look at the timeline for the grant awards to make sure it aligns with the timeline for your project. For example, if a grant deadline is June 30th, but grants are not announced until September, do not apply for funding for a summer program.
Read the grant guidelines and application, and follow all of the directions. If there are specified character limits for responses, be sure to follow the specifications. There is usually a reason for them and not adhering may make your responses incomplete for the reviewer.
- Tip: When writing a grant application that will be submitted online, write your application in a single document first to make it easier to proofread and check character limits, etc. Then, cut and paste your final responses into the online application.
Writing Should be Clear, Concise and Compelling
You should be able to tell the funder how you’re going to accomplish your objectives. Do this in a well-written way, while telling your organization’s story. Clearly describe how your project will meet a need in the community you serve. Again, it comes back to showing how this project supports your mission and fits the grant. It always helps to display well-substantiated needs based on data. Eliminate jargon, acronyms, cliches and overused phrases so your grant application is original.
- Tip: Create a checklist before writing, and when you’ve verified that all requirements are met, you can check off each item.
Align your budget
Your budget should match the content detailed in the rest of your application. Make sure that the budget is balanced, clear and easy to understand. List all other funding sources, both pending and secured. Funders typically like projects where their grant is not the sole source of income. If your program is new but will continue in the future, be sure to think through your plan for sustainability. A Foundation is unlikely to fund the same program on a recurring basis.
- Tip: Note in your project budget what the specific funds from the Foundation, if granted, will be used to pay for.
Before submitting your application, make sure there are no grammatical errors or typos. Have some objective readers review and proofread your application prior to submission. Is your application easy for them to understand? Does it provide motivation for them to support your organization? These are good questions to give the reviewer as they provide some fresh eyes to your writing.
- Tip: Have someone outside of your organization read your application and see what questions they have about it.
Include all necessary attachments
Make sure that you include everything requested and nothing more–even if you think it will win you an advantage. While it may seem like a good idea to make you stand out, grant makers read a lot of proposals and extra materials can be frustrating to the reviewer.
- Tip: If possible, convert all attachments to PDF files preferably in the same orientation (vertical or horizontal) where all the information fits on one page. Name the files to make sense to the reader. Ie. “Boys and Girls Club – Project Budget”
Once all this work is done, your grant is finally submitted. The grant review process can be time intensive, so if you have received confirmation your grant has been submitted, it’s usually best to patiently wait. However, be available and prepared to answer any further questions the funder may have.
When the Decision is Made
If your organization receives a grant, make sure to complete the required reporting at the end of your grant. Otherwise, it could impact your future grant eligibility with that funder.
If your organization did not receive a grant, don’t be discouraged. There are always more requests than there is funding available. While it may be hard to hear that you didn’t receive the grant, there are things you can do to prepare for the next grant opportunity:
Try to understand where you can strengthen the next application. Knowing where your weaknesses are may help you grow in those areas so you are ready to tackle the next opportunity.
Practice grant writing skills
Various organizations offer in-person and virtual grant writing workshops, often free of charge. Find out how to plug in and use those resources for the next time you wish to apply for a grant, and you’ll have the tools ready.
Don’t take it personally
A denial of a grant application is not a statement on you or your organization’s worth. Often there are far more grant applicants than there is grant funding, and decisions regarding applications are often difficult. Just remain determined to continue raising awareness of the impact your organization can have and be willing to put information out there repeatedly.
We have all heard some rendition of the phrase, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” This can certainly apply to grants. Don’t give up just because you did not receive one grant. Now you know the process, so the next application won’t seem as intimidating. And eventually, you’ll match your organization with the grant that is just right for you.
For more information about grant-writing and the grants available at CFCG, click here.