What do grantors look for when choosing a nonprofit to assist?
While the answer to that question can vary regarding specifics, the general profile seems to be fairly standard.
1. Compatibility with, and relevance to, the issuing grantor's mission. That means your program and organization should fit in with the goals and philosophy of the grantor. For instance, while both your organization and the grantor may support keeping youth in school, if the donor organization is supporting STEM education, they are unlikely to support a program for art education. Even the best grant application will fall flat without this component, making grantor research one of your more important tools.
2. Geographically qualified. Most, if not all foundations, corporations and even government funding sources list the geographic areas they prefer to support. Even grantors that profess to have a national focus usually seem to support certain areas more than others.
3. Stability. Most grants require that the grantee has been in business for at least two years, have good financial records (including audited financials) and a track record of providing quality programs. Most grantors want to see at least two or even three years of long-form 990's, although your local foundations may settle for one year if you have good financial records.
4. Revenue minimums. There is no specific all-inclusive minimum amount of revenue that applies to all grantors, but all of them want the grantee to have enough income, exclusive of the grant money requested, to cover normal non-program operating expenses. That can vary from as little as $25K for a local community foundation to as much as half a million dollars for a large national foundation. In general, the grantors want to see that the organization can survive without their contribution, since they are normally supporting your program and want to be assured that their funds will be used for that purpose.
5. Management competency. The grantor wants to be assured that the organization can manage both the program and the financial administration to achieve maximum impact from grant funding. Almost all larger grants require at least a short bio or CV for the board and key staff. The more money you want, the more this factors into the decision to fund you.
6. Positive visuals. Does your organization present well in the public eye? That can cover anything and everything from having a quality website, to your Twitter profile, to being well-regarded in your community press. While innovation is often prized, outlandish, immature or highly controversial conduct is not. Your reputation will become interwoven with the grantor, and they want that to be a win-win situation.
7. Strong program design. More grantors are beginning to request a program plan that functions like a business plan. They want to see clear, attainable and measurable goals and milestones they can evaluate for effectiveness.
These seven areas seem to be pretty universal throughout the philanthropic community. While each grantor may have their own subjective criteria, such as degree of sustainability, scalability, and impact, all grantors embrace the basic seven factors.
If you would like an inexpensive review of your grantability rating, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.