Don’t Fire your Grant Writer
7 Tips for Getting Fundable
I hear this a lot: "We have a grant writer, but s/he’s not that great." Translation: We're not getting a good return on our investment.
It could be your grant writer.
Some grant writers don't have a lot of experience. In today’s world of savvy funders, experience matters. Invest in a seasoned grant professional.
Some grant writers don’t spend a lot of time on a project. This may save you some money if you’re paying hourly but submitting successful grant proposals takes time. It just does.
Some grant writers don't get to know their nonprofit employers or clients. S/he's just not that into you. Make sure your grant writer is into you.
Some grant writers just don't have very good writing skills. Yikes! That’s important.
But before you go fire your grant writer, consider this: Maybe it’s not (entirely) their fault.
Stop and ask yourself this question: “Just how fundable are we?”
Here are 7 tips for how to set yourself up for success in grant seeking, before you fire (or hire!) your grant writer.
Have a 3-year operating history under your belt. Institutional funders seek security. There are some highly coveted (and rare) seed funders out there, but most foundations won’t invest in start-ups. Plus, you may be required to submit a 3-year financial and/or donation history. Translation: New NPOs should not lead with grants.
Ensure that you are addressing a significant community need. Most institutional funders are interested in helping solve critical community problems. There are many organizations out there doing meaningful work, but if you are not about making big(ish) change, you probably won’t be very competitive in the grant space.
Create a clear Case for Support. Institutional funders need to have a thorough understanding of your organization before making an investment. A good case for support will help you paint a picture for potential funders that showcases the need you are trying to meet, exactly how you will meet that need, why you are uniquely positioned to meet the need, and what you will accomplish with their support.
Have a fundraising plan in place. A fundraising plan is a short-term operational plan designed to set goals, create tactics, identify funding sources, and establish a timeline for execution of your fundraising program. Seeking grants can be a component of your plan, but the planning itself will help you put the infrastructure in place to attract institutional funders. It’s also a good idea to have a long-range organizational plan in place to provide context for operational planning. While you may not be required to submit a plan to a potential funder, you must prove that your organization is focused on meeting the need, financially secure, and ultimately sustainable. Otherwise, why would they invest in you?
Get other funders on-board first. Again, don’t lead with grants! Grantmakers like to be in good company. Start small by soliciting small foundations (family foundations are a great resource) while building your base of support from individual donors and companies. Empower your volunteer leadership to help you by engaging their own circles of influence. There’s a lot of discretionary funding out there, so find a way to make yourself the recipient. Contributed income begets contributed income.
Relationship. Relationship. Relationship. Like any other type of fundraising, grants are about relationships. It is unlikely that an institutional funder will give you money just because you ask for it. Foundations are run by people, and people give to people. Many funders are accessible. Pick up the phone and give them a call. At least shoot them an email. Talk to them about your organization and why you need funding. Listen to what they have to say. Attend a professional development session facilitated by a grant maker or panel of grant makers and introduce yourself. And, don’t forget to engage your leadership. They may have relationships that can help you secure funding, or at least get your foot in the door.
Do your homework. Be prepared. It’s a process! Grant seeking (what it should really be called) is about more than writing. It takes planning, research, development, follow-through, and follow-up. If you need support, a skilled nonprofit consultant can help you get your NPO well-positioned for success. An expert grant writer can help you achieve your grant-seeking goals.
Need support? Cecily Lerner Consulting provides expertise in Fund Development and Grant Writing. Contact us today to schedule a FREE 30-minute introductory consultation.
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