Any grant writer will tell you that one of the most common questions they get is, “Where can I find grants?”. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a simple answer to this question. In 2012, there were over 86,000 registered charitable foundations in the United States with a collective $52B in annual giving. Federal, state, county, and city governments also have their own grant and contract opportunities AND there are corporate giving programs that are separate from corporate foundations. Whew! It’s a lot to keep up with!
Fortunately, finding great grants for your organization is absolutely doable, as long as you’re willing to dedicate some time to the process. Today’s post will get you prepared to start your grant search. I know you’re ready to jump right in and start looking for grants, but I promise you that preparing in advance will reduce frustration, save time, and produce better grant opportunities that are a good match for your organization. Good preparation will also make you more likely to get funded – and that’s what we all want, right?
Here are my top 6 tips for getting ready for your grant search:
Make a list of needs.
This is your opportunity to DREAM BIG! What types of programs would you like to implement or expand? Do you want a new building? Need to develop a curriculum or attend a conference? Go ahead and write down everything that comes to mind.
Once you’re finished, go back through your list and pick 1 or 2 needs that are the most pressing. Now make sure those needs are going to help you better achieve your mission and meet a need in your community. If not, go back to the list and pick again. Once you have your final selections, promise yourself that these are the only needs you’re going to focus on in your grant search (trust me, this will make your search so much more focused and productive).
Determine what type of funding will meet your needs.
There are a lot of different types of funding out there and it’s best to determine the type of funding you need before you start your search. Here’s a list of just a few of the funding types you may see in your search:
- General Operating Support
- Capital Campaigns
- Curriculum Development
- Emergency Funds
- Capacity Building
- Technical Assistance
- Planning Grants
- Scholarship Funds
The most common type of funding you’ll see will be project/program. These funds are used to implement or expand projects or programs that directly serve your community, such as an after-school mentorship program for teens.
Consider your funders.
Just like funding types, there are also different types of funders. The type of funder you’ll want to partner with is largely determined by personal/organizational preference, eligibility, and how likely you are to receive funding from each type of funder.
Here are the basic funder types:
- Corporate funders. Many large businesses have corporate giving programs that support local nonprofits through financial assistance or employee volunteer support. Most corporate funders will only give to organizations in communities where they have a corporate presence, and many have specific giving priorities. These funders tend to be (but not always!) the least restrictive of all the funders.
- Foundations. Some foundations fund only their local community or state, while other foundations are open to supporting organizations throughout he US (or world!). Nearly all foundations have their own giving priorities and will typically be more restrictive than corporate funders.
- Government funders. Federal, state, and local governments solicit proposals for a wide variety of funding opportunities. These proposals tend to e very specific (i.e., they tell you exactly what they want you to accomplish and sometimes even how to do it) and are going to be the most restrictive. Organizations that are well-established have the best chance of receiving government grants.
Keep track of potential funders.
Once you start your search, you’ll find many funders who are a good match for your organization. How will you remember all these potential funders? The best way is to develop a system for keeping track of all the funders before you start your search. Regardless of how you choose to track your funders, be sure to include, at a minimum:
- Name of Funder
- Funder Priorities
- Contact information and preferred contact method
- Website (if they have one)
- Due date(s)
- List of previous grantees
- Grant amount (or average, if not stated)
- Limitations or specific criteria
Gather your documents.
There are some common documents you’ll need once you’re ready to start applying for grants so go ahead and get those ready now. Here’s a list of the more common items requested by funders:
- IRS determination letter
- Organizational budget
- Project/program budget
- Most recent financial audit
- A list of board members
- Current and potential community partners
- Mission statement
- Number and demographics of clients served
- Organizational chart
- List of existing funding sources
Although we’re still in the preparation stage, I recommend you get these documents ready for two reasons:
- If you look at this list and realize you don’t have any of these items, you’re probably not ready to apply for grants.
- If you find a perfect grant opportunity with an upcoming due date during your search, you don’t want to waste time scrambling for documents.
Track your research
A comprehensive grant search will take you at least an entire work week. Unless this is your full-time job, you’ll probably stop and start your search many times. Keeping track of where you’ve already searched and any filters or keywords you’ve used will ensure you don’t keep looking in the same places.
Congratulations! Now you’re prepared to start your grant search. Be sure to check out How to Find Grants for some great tips on finding the perfect opportunity for your organization.