You serve a non-profit organization in some sort of function and you commit to searching for and
possibly securing grant dollars on its behalf. How fortunate the organization is to have you accept this vital role!
A successful grant application will reflect a need and a logical response to that need. Your non-profit organization has carefully researched and planned its project before approaching private or public foundations, government funders, and corporate philanthropists. There are expectations when it comes to completing a grant application form. You must be able to use words and figures to clearly explain your goals. Then, you must integrate these words and figures into the grantor’s application format.
Forecast your financial need well ahead of the funding opportunity. Set realistic timelines, because grant writing is a long-term process. Did you notice that the bulk of the work is in the planning and preparation of your project? For starters, you must have a solid concept of the project. Clearly show how the project will come to fruition from beginning to end. Convey the scope and sequence of activities that will address the problem.
A letter of inquiry or an executive summary will clearly define your organization and its strengths. A good introduction provides detailed information about your goals and how you plan to achieve those goals.
Can you describe the anticipated outcomes, timeline, budget, and the manpower needed to complete the project? How will you evaluate that you achieved the anticipated outcomes? An evaluation measures how the goals were met. Write with emphasis on why your project will make a measurable difference. When you focus on your impact instead of your activities, then grantors tend to take stronger notice. Ensure your organization is eligible and always follow the application guidelines. Ensure you have the capacity to fulfill the reporting requirements and spend the money according to the grant stipulations.
Tailor each grant application to the granting body you are applying to. Avoid the cookie cutter approach and most grant reviewers will notice if you cut and paste in haste! Thoughtfully respond to all of the application questions and effectively shape your answers in a concise manner.
You may need extra time to gather background documentation about your organization. For example, most application forms demand a current list of the board of directors with signatures or at least one person with legal signing authority. Other requests might be a certificate of incorporation and an audited financial statement.
Supply what they ask for and not what you think is a reasonable substitute. For example, if they require a needs assessment, then don’t plug in something else. If you are unsure of what they are asking for, then contact the funder to clarify the expectations. Asking questions is a good thing to do. If there is a phone number or email, then feel encouraged to use them.
A budget is the project plan expressed in dollars. The total income must equal the total expenses. Use a separate column for notes to describe the expense. Outline any actual and anticipated money from other funders. Be sure to submit a balanced budget.
Most grantors expect the requested funds to be matched by the grantee. Many grantors accept in-kind donations of goods and services as part of the matching requirement. Some grantors accept volunteer time converted into dollars. If your organization has any cash reserves, you might explain to the grantor why the cash assets are not being used toward the project at hand.
There is no guarantee that you will be granted the money! Allow plenty of time to hear back from the funder. Funders don’t like to be the only source of income for your project, so diversify your funding scheme. Mention a plan about how you anticipate to fund the project into the future, because most grantors don’t fund projects for multiple years.
Review and proofread all information before submitting it. Ask an objective person to comment on the application form that you completed. If they have questions, then the grant review committee will likely have questions, too.
Append any mandatory documents and refrain from including ones that are not a part of the application process. Refrain from straying from the instructions. For example, if they ask for no paper clips, then don’t use paper clips!
Always remember to thank your grantor for the money received and their trust in your organization’s capabilities.
Grant Writing (Board Development Program)