Tips for Effective Grant Writing

Many nonprofits see grants as a great source of financial support for their current or future programs and services. However, getting and managing these grants can come with a lot of work for you and your team. Thus, you want to be sure that your nonprofit’s efforts are directed toward those opportunities where they are most likely to be awarded.

It is also important to note that not all grant and funding opportunities are made equal. Therefore, not all responses to these opportunities should be delivered in the same way.

Even with a great grant proposal, the odds of being awarded the grant from an unsolicited proposal is between 10% and 20%. The best way to increase the likelihood that your submission stands out in the crowd and is awarded is to make sure you have an effective grant writing strategy to respond to the announcement.

These tips can help your nonprofit get prepared to submit a winning proposal for grants.

Read Entire Grant Announcement

You’ve found the perfect grant that you want to submit a proposal, right? Well, before taking on the daunting task of developing your proposal, carefully review the entire announcement to make note of any eligibility requirements or restrictions, matching requirements, and application components and required attachments. Also, look for the point of contact for the grant so that you are aware of who to direct questions about the announcement.

Assess Organizational Readiness

Closely review the announcement and funding organization requirements. Too often, nonprofits see an announcement for funding that can support their mission and goals, however the organization is not positioned to compete for those resources.

There are clear indicators that your nonprofit is ready to submit a grant. For instance, ready nonprofits will have their IRS 501(c)(3) status, articles of incorporation, a positive and established reputation in the community, as well as proof of measured impact in the community.

Programmatically, ready nonprofits have strong and sustained programs and services in progress, organizational capacity to recruit or retain staff to support programs, clear program goals and objectives, and evaluation of programmatic results.

Lastly, ready nonprofits have a solid financial strategy to support their programs. Whether grants are for a new program or to support current programs, having a strong financial outlook helps strengthen the grant application.

Some grants are reimbursement-based. Does your nonprofit have on-hand cash to be reimbursed? Others require documentation related to how funds awarded were used. Does your nonprofit have adequate accounting practices that would support this level of funding?
Ensuring your organization is ready to apply for a grant will strengthen the grant writing process.

Organize your Proposal Writing

There are many ways to organize your nonprofit’s proposal development. You ultimately will need to find the methods that work best for you and/or your team. However, an idea may be to treat your grant writing process as a project by developing a “workplan” for your proposal submission.

In the work plan, you can outline all the major components of the proposal (e.g., sections, attachments, etc.), identify who is responsible for completing each component of the proposal, and provide the timeline for completion.

Be sure to map out the entire application so that you don’t miss any of the required components. Having a plan in place that ensures that you address each of the required components will ensure your application is not thrown out for noncompliance.

It may be helpful for you to create folders with these requirements to help you organize the information in a place where other members of your team can access or drop in relevant documents and attachments.

This is also the time that you want to make sure you are prepared for the inevitable submission. If the funder has a submission portal or other process for sending the application, make sure you are registered ahead of time and familiarize yourself with the portal and ensure you have correct authorizations in place to actually submit the application.

Give them What they Asked For

Submitting a grant proposal is not your opportunity to throw in everything your organization does. You must resist the urge to include irrelevant information in your proposal just because it looks or sounds good for the organization. The announcement provides specific instructions on what the funder does or does not want to be included with your proposal submission. This is key.

Inclusion of more information than the funder asked for can leave a poor impression. Funders will kick out applications that include extra letters of support, attachments, etc. if they have specified a number in the announcement. It is important to be very clear on these guidelines.

Omitting information from your application can cause serious outcomes for your application. Key details about your proposed activities, budget, or even supporting documentation, can also have your application kicked out of the review process. If nothing else, your nonprofit’s submission should include the required elements. If you are missing any elements of the application, go back and add them before you submit.

Review Your Proposal

Though this may sound like a no-brainer, the review of the proposal is just as important as the organization and writing of the proposal. In your review, you want to make sure you have adequately responded to each component of the announcement.

If the announcement indicates you need a specific number of letters of support, make sure you have that many letters ready to attach. If they ask you to provide a project work plan with specific details, then your proposal should have the work plan with each of those details included.

Pay particular attention to page limits, font sizes, annual or total budget allowances, and required attachments. Also, look for other requirements or instructions about the presentation of your proposal – such as headers, footers, and grant information that should be included throughout your proposal.

Submit Your Application

Once you are confident that you have a fully responsive grant proposal, get ready to submit. Make sure your documents and files are named correctly, saved in the correct file sharing formats, and packaged as the funder indicates.

Review your application within the funder portal or other method to make sure all components are included and that you have not mistakenly omitted a critical attachment. Some portals will give you error messages, however, do not count on those to make sure you submit a complete proposal.

Plan to submit your application a few days prior to the due date. By building in buffer time to have your package completed, you give yourself time to address any missing or unclear information in your application.

This can also prevent you from getting caught in the last-minute submission delays some systems have. These delays happen many times because many organizations are trying to submit at the same time. They can sometimes even cause your proposal to be submitted after the grant deadline.

Grant writing can be an effective source of funding for your nonprofit. Developing a solid development and execution process will increase the quality of your proposal and likelihood of funding.

Looking for support in developing your next proposal? Give us a call today.

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