Monday, July 13, 2015

How do funders pick award winners?

Successful grant proposals illustrate these key points.

·         Your proposal delivers an important idea relative to the grantor's mission by addressing a significant issue.
·         You show that you understand the grantors mission by providing an innovative approach to that issue.
·         You set reasonable objectives and present a detailed plan, including a budget, to achieve them.
·         You can provide proof to the funder that you are capable of success.
·         You can explain how the project will advance the funder’s mission.
·         You can show that the project is sustainable beyond any support the grantor may provide.
·         You don't apply if you aren't qualified.

Grantors receive from dozens to hundreds or even thousands of proposals when they announce an open application period.

You have to stand out. One of the best ways to do that is to provide documentation of your success in addressing the issues even if it is through a pilot program or another type of program that is still mission-centric.

Sometimes that simply means presenting your program differently.

Homework is the most important part of any grant proposal. You already know about you and your needs. Your assignment is to find out what the funder needs or wants.

Get to know everything you can about the funder. Who have they funded in the past? What type of programs do they fund? Who is on the board? Do they fund the same organizations every year? Is there an opening to present a new twist that those other grantees haven't explored? Don't be afraid to look at those other grant winners and discover their strengths and weaknesses.

 For instance one nonprofit that worked to provide transitional safe housing for domestic violence victims presented their program as "Safer homes mean better educations" and landed a $25,000 grant from a grantor that normally supports early childhood education.

The trend toward online applications that began a few years ago is not your friend. Learn to condense your narratives and program outlines because you may not have several pages to elaborate on your planning and goals.

The last bullet point above is important. Don't apply if you can't qualify. Aside from making you look incompetent, you might very well leave such a bad impression that you hit the funder's blacklist (and yes, virtually every funder has one).

It is rare for a smaller nonprofit to have dozens of potential funder matches. If you can align with a handful each year, you are doing far better than average.

Grantors don't typically fund organizations that have few or no other resources, which is why they almost never fund start-up organizations. New programs are often okay, new organizations, not so much. Grantors are looking for impact potential, and it's hard to have impact if you can't pay the light bill.

On the other hand, if you have managed to grow your organization using financial resources from avenues other than grants, that's a definite plus.

That said, if you have a truly outstanding angle and an ironclad plan of action that offers a new twist on an old problem it might not hurt to try.

Consider these tips and you are likely to connect on more proposals.

Next week – Collaborate and conquer. 

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