Monday, November 29, 2010

How to Use Your Nonprofit's Recent Grant Work to Apply More Often and Receive More Grants

Grow your organization's grant writing, or increase how much it achieves, by building on what has already been done.  Believe it or not, each nonprofit that applies for grants has something to build on to increase how many grant applications go out the door, and (more importantly) how many grants get awarded to your organization.

Grant writing is an endeavor that creates a paper trail.  Whether one keeps all grant documents printed in hard copy files, filed into a filing cabinet, or keeps all grant application documents organized in one's computer; there is a trail of the organization's work.  Most organizations keep some combination of both forms of record keeping.

Those files are more important than just sitting around as back up files in case a potential donor did not receive all of the documents in a grant application you submitted to them a week or so ago.  There's a good amount of helpful information, among those files, for your organization to improve its grant raising work; and they can actually be very powerful for the organization's ability to apply for and raise more.

Look for the following, in your nonprofit's grant application paper trail, and consider what I suggest about each document or sets of files - in order to increase and improve your grant program's results:

__ The calendar where you have marked when a grant should be submitted from your office in order to be on time for each grant donor that you've applied to can help you reflect on how often grant applications have been going out of your office for any interval of time (the last fiscal quarter, the last six months, or the past year).  For any amount of time, you think is a fair sample of the current work effort, take a look at the rate of grant application submissions.  Determine how many applications are submitted for that time period, on average.  Understand why that rate has been the pace.  This exercise is about the organization's fundraising increasing productivity and results.  This is not an exercise intended to result in your badgering your grant writer.  Rather, enable your grant writer and their team.  Determine with them what could be done to truly increase that pace (so that the grant writer and their team are ultimately submitting more grant applications) such that the increased pace is realistic and an improved work process.  Sometimes a grant writer needs a volunteer who can regularly come in and file and do other administrative work to free up more of that writer's time each week.  There are other processes that can be put into place to improve work processes that can be determined, for each unique organization's grant writer's need, based on each different grant writer's needs.  Also, where can the costs of applying for grants be reduced or cut for the organization's benefit, without reducing grant work quality or efficiency?

__ How are the documents written by and ultimately submitted as grant application content developed?  Does the grant writer tailor each application's document per each unique and individual grant donor's own giving guidelines and preferences?  What works for them?  Do they update content in a master grant application draft and then copy and paste from that to formulate each unique individual grant application document, each time your organization applies for a grant?  What is the writing process, generally?  How is that working time-wise, success rate-wise, and intended results-wise for the organization and the grant writer?

__ To whom, in the past year or maybe year and a half to two years, has your organization applied to for grants? Or, put another way, to which grant donors has your organization submitted grant applications?  List them out (noting whether these are the recipients of your applications for the past two years or less (and don't go further out than the past two years because grant donors' programs change and two years ago is generally recent enough for the info to still be relevant)). Now, of those grant donors, how many grants did your nonprofit's apply to those grant donors for?  Finally, and these are really crucial questions, how long has the organization been applying for grants (as a fundraising method)?  Also, how are the grants that your organization applies for selected?  Is there real prospecting work (grant research work) and time being put into figuring out which grant donors to apply to for which grants; or is your organization just sending out grant applications to any and all grant donors?

Regarding answering how long your organization has been conducting grant writing, if your organization has been conducting grant writing for two years or less, but have been doing it according to contemporary, professional, nonprofit best practices, then you're doing fine (no matter what the results have been so far) because it takes time to achieve successes.  A brand new grant program (depending on the organization, the region that the organization's community resides in, that economy, how much the grant writer and organization understands best practices and practices them, etc.) usually takes over two years to roll out successfully into its community such that grant donors in that community know enough about your organization, its name, its work, its mission, its success rate, its reputation, etc. to feel confident granting to your organization.  Put another way - hang in there and keep the 'best practices' work up!  Success is likely coming.

If you answered "yes" to "...or is your organization just sending out grant applications to any and all grant donors?", then you and your organization's grant writer need more training on how to run a more efficient grant program (and that's O.K.  No harm in having to learn, ever.).  The skills you'd learn would increase your rate of success, lessen the costs of running the grant program, and help you understand better what successful and professional grant writing work is and why it is done the way that it is.  This blog is a good (free) start to understanding more.  Click the "How To" Label (lower right side of this blog's web page) for some of our posts to be taught the basics about effective and efficient grant writing.  In those posts read up on the basics about grant writing and what resources are reputable and follow through on what you learn.  Or, click on any Label (which is an index of the topics we cover in this blog) that seems relevant to your current work.  Also, check out our Amazon book store.  It's in the upper right side of this blog's right margin.  We hand select each book, there, based on each book's professional reputation.  There are standards in this professional field, there, discussing grant writing and other (different) fundraising methods, accounting practices, board development, and all other aspects of nonprofit operations.  Finally, see what blogs and links we recommend (to other excellent sites) on the left hand side of this blog's web page, in the left hand margin (under "Recommended Links" and "Blogs That I Recommend").  There is so much reputable, excellent, and free information on the web, today, for nonprofit volunteers and staff to learn from and use to work better, smarter, more efficiently, in order to be more effective. 

For a really good start to understanding what efficient and effective prospecting is (which means seeking grant donors), read:

How Do I Prepare To Find Foundations Who Will Fund Us?


Top Ten Ways to Find A Grant Donor Who Will Give to Your Nonprofit.

__ Prior to submitting applications, does your organization's leadership look for any social or professional connections between your organization's volunteers and staff and the organization's volunteers and staff that your nonprofit applies for grants to?  If it does, what is the follow through process?  Is communication initiated between your organization's connection with theirs'?  If so, when in the application process?  What have the results been?  Can this process be improved?  If your organization doesn't look for connections between it and grant donor organizations, when applying to them - why doesn't it?  It's a powerful way to get your organization's grant application not only noticed by the grant donor (if there is a connection between your organization and theirs').  It's also a good way to get your organization's application seriously considered for funding if not just getting funded.  For more information on this concept, read Leadership's Role in Seeking Grants.

__ Is the organization's team that works with the grant writer (volunteers or staff), the grant writer, and the leadership staying up on the latest in professional nonprofit best practices related to grant writing by reading media considered standards in the profession, attending professional grant writing (or fundraising) conferences, and attending professional continuing education courses (online or in person)?  If not - why not?  Keeping current isn't just about being professional in one's work.  Remaining connected to the latest in the profession can often inform leaders about the latest and newest in effective and efficient (new) grant writing (or other nonprofit operations') methods - and this can save an organization (that implements the current paradigm) time and money (and more).  Also, the resulting networking that comes out of active participation in one's wider professional field is invaluable for learning what's going on, currently, with a grant donor and their interests, for example, from other organizations' representatives who may have just recently applied to the grant donor that you're about to.  This kind of information, for example, can be very powerful for you and your organization to know when applying (if they are looking for a specific kind of program to fund, but didn't list this in their giving guidelines or website because this update to their interests is so recent, for example).


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this information.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this information.