If you read the title and thought, “Three reasons? That’s dumb. There’s one reason, Joanna. You write a grant to get money,” then keep reading. This blog is for you.
People often ask me how to write a grant. I’m always happy to direct you to resources, give some basic information and advice. But instead of asking how to write a grant, organizations and individuals should first ask why write a grant.
It’s easy to assume that grants are the “secret formula” to your organization’s funding needs. They are attractive because they can come with high dollar amounts and several commas. The truth is, grant writing can be a tedious, time-consuming process with little success or a great payout.
If you can first answer positively to these three reasons why you or your organization should write a grant, then I enthusiastically encourage you to move forward in the grant writing process.
1. Your organization or program matches the interests of the funder
This is huge. HUGE. And the reason why it tops the list. It also assumes that you have a funder in mind. Pretty necessary if you’re writing a grant, don’t you think?
A few years ago I attended a grant writing conference. On the last day, local foundations and funders gave their insights and feedback to the group. One comment rang true of all funders present: over half the proposals they receive do not match their funding interest. Simply put, over half the time the organization or individual is wasting their time with the grant proposal.
Research is a critical aspect of grant writing. If you are a human services organization, you probably don’t want to apply to an arts foundation. If you are education oriented, it’s unlikely you will get funded from environmental groups. If what you are doing doesn’t align with the funding criteria, you need to look for another funder.
You also need to pay close attention to eligible organizations. Some grants are open only to 501(c)(3) organizations. Some allow fiscal sponsors, others do not. Some grants are open to for-profit businesses, universities or schools. Be sure you read the fine print. It’s better to put the research and hard work on the front end instead of immediately receiving a rejection letter.
2. Your organization or program serves an unmet need in the community or offers something unique.
Or, in other words, “Who cares?” More and more, funders are looking for the creative and competitive edge of the organizations seeking funding. If you are the only program or organization in your area offering your particular services, your funding likelihood increases. If you are offering the same services as two or three other organizations in the area, you need to know what sets you apart, what makes you different. Otherwise, you may apply for the same grant as your competitor with a weak case for support.
3. Your organization or program has a need.
Ah, the need. Everyone needs funding, right? But the need goes so much deeper than monetary support. Funders are looking for specific, concrete evidence of not only the monetary need but what it will accomplish. For example: will open XX more food pantries, serve XX more people, will increase the recycling rate by XX. You get the drift. If you cannot specifically tie the monetary request with an organizational/programmatic need, you may not want to write the grant at all.
It’s also important to consider the need you have for partnerships. Will this particular funder connect you to other potential partnering/collaborating organizations? Will being funded make you noticed or increase your prestige in the community? These are additional needs to consider in addition to the “Oh crap, we need money” need.
There you have it. The “whys” of writing a grant. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for the “hows” of grant writing, chock-full of hints and tips.
Do you have a tip that I may have missed? What doesn’t make sense to you about grants? Leave a comment.