Applying for a nonprofit grant is like applying for a job. You spend a lot of time perfecting a resume/CV that is supposed to concisely describe who you are, what your best qualities are and why they should hire you, all within a short amount of space. Then, you wait while you know your resume is being compared to others that also applied for the job and hope that you are selected for an interview. If you do get the interview, then you need to make a strong first impression that will set you apart from the other candidates.

While this process can get easier the more you go through it, there are two things you can do to increase your efficiency of applying for grants.

Look for Grants With The Right Fit

Just like job hunting, you wouldn’t apply to be an astronaut if you were not qualified. Similarly, you need to make sure that the grants you apply for are a great fit for what the nonprofit does. Some grantmaking organizations will only fund nonprofits in a specific geographic area, under or over a certain annual budget, or will only fund specific types of programs or funding needs. If you do not pre-qualify the grants you want to apply for, you run the risk of spending a bunch of time completing an application only to find out that they don’t fund organizations like yours.

The best way to pre-qualify the grants you apply for is by doing research. Look at the grantmaking organizations website and find the following information:

  • Their mission
  • Who sits on their board of directors
  • Recipients of grants and any trends that they may fit (like small organizations, very specific types of nonprofits, geographic areas)
  • Specific grant requirements

By finding this information, you can see if your nonprofit has a chance, see if you know anyone who sits on their board of directors who can make a personal connection, and see if your organization fits the trend of other nonprofits that have been selected for grants in the past. If you do the work ahead of time, you can save yourself time, energy and heartbreak.

If you are unsure if you can apply for a grant or if you think you should be able to apply even though their requirements say they wouldn’t fund you, give them a call and ask them. You can explain your case to them for why they think you should be an exception and see what they say. While it may be a long shot, its happened before and it shows that you took the initiative to reach out and introduce yourself. As with applying for a job, showing how you stand out from the rest of the applicants increases your chances of getting noticed.

Start A Grant Application Portfolio

While there are subtle differences between each organization, grant applications tend to share points in common. Grantmaking organizations want to know what your mission is, who you are, and how you will use the money they give you. They want to know you are able to manage funds, how you measure success within your organization and want to see the success you have already had. As such, you can create a portfolio of information that you can pull from every time you apply for a different grant that will cut down the amount of time you spend on the application step.

In order to have a useful portfolio like the one described above, you need to be well organized. Not only do you need to have this information all in one place, but the organization as a whole needs to be coordinated and dedicated to accurate measurement and evaluation metrics, as determined by the board of directors.

Take, for example, an organization whose measurement of success involves increasing attendance in school for 9th-grade students. This organization would need to have up to date information on current program participant attendance as well as the students’ previous attendance rates before joining the program AND average attendance rates for 9th-grade students who do not participate in the program.

While the setup to make this easy access to information available may take a while, it will drastically decrease the time it takes for you to apply for grants. That means that you can apply for more grants, meaning you have an increased chance of getting one. Additionally, the better you get at concisely describing the impact of statistics to back up that impact, the higher your chances of getting that grant as well.

So what kind of information is in a Grant Application Portfolio? I have made a summary sheet that walks you through everything you will need to start your own portfolio, and available for you to download!

If you have any questions or need clarification on the summary sheet, join us over at the NPO.lib Nonprofit Professionals Facebook group where you can ask questions, join in discussions and get feedback on funding appeals, messaging and more.

Build Your Donor List, No Matter Where You Are In The Process

Brandon Reed

Founder at Reed Community Consulting and NPO.lib

Brandon helps people help other people. He has over 10 years experience working with small and medium-sized nonprofits in two countries in many different sectors. He has worked at all levels of organization from entry-level service delivery up to the executive director and board president. This experience affords him insight for whole level management of an organization, which he transfers to his clients. In his free time, he likes to play volleyball and spend time gardening with his wife and dog.

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