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Nonprofit Education

How to Get Grants for Your Nonprofit

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A successful grant writing strategy begins with a well-thought-out Fundraising Development Plan. As you create your nonprofit’s fundraising development plan, you’ll identify how to get grants for your nonprofit as a piece of your overall funding efforts. After all, nonprofits need funding to sustain their operations and grow and develop programs and projects, and nonprofit grant funds can supplement the mission.

What Is a Fundraising Development Plan Exactly?

Your fundraising development plan maps out how your organization plans to meet its overall fundraising goals. It can help you plan how to get grants for your nonprofit, among other fundraising specifics. From where do you plan to secure the funding? How much will come from individual contributions, corporate sponsorships, grants, etc., and how or what tactics will you implement to secure those funds and meet the financial goals outlined within the development plan? We won’t cover strategic plans here, but it is important to note that everything in your development plan should align with the organization’s strategic plan, if not also called out within your plan. 

Every nonprofit needs a development plan, and if your organization is a good candidate for winning grants, the plan should include a grant writing strategy. Successful grant funding strategies consist of multiple tactics and are part of strategic planning and budgeting. Navigating and applying for grant funding will help the nonprofit meet its organizational goals.

If you want to know how to get grants for your nonprofit, here are the key steps to developing a Winning Grant Writing Strategy:

1. Have a Development Plan

A nonprofit development plan should be directly linked to your charitable goals. For instance, if you want to implement a new program at your organization, you should estimate the cost of developing that program and ensure it’s accounted for in your development goals.  

Then, determine how much money you need to achieve your charitable goals. Break down the funding required into multiple sources. For example, let’s assume your new program needs $100K. Your development plan might set a goal of funding the new program through the following funding sources:

  • 60% of funding will come from individual donors, or $60,000.  
  • 20% of funding will come from corporate sponsorship or giving, or $15,000.  
  • 10% of funding will come from the annual fund budget, or $10,000.  
  • 10% of funding will come from grant funding, or $10,000.  

With these allocations, the Development Plan shows that 10% of program funding should come from grants. Knowing your specific need goes a long way as you begin researching and applying for grants.

Using the example above, if you want to raise $100,000 during the year and 10% of your funds will come from grants, you can create a plan and process to determine how to get the grants for your nonprofit that will help you meet this goal.

2. Define Your Grant Writing Process

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Every nonprofit that seeks to win grants should put a grant writing process into place for their organization. A successful grant writing process is a step-by-step system that you go through each month, quarter, or year as you continually investigate how to get grants for your nonprofit. Developing a grant writing process outlines the tactics you take to meet the grant funding portion of your funding goal. This way, you don’t need to start over each year with a new plan as you seek new grant funding. 

Components of a Grant Writing Process

Program Selection: For what programs or projects at your nonprofit would you like to win grants to help fund? When considering how to get grants for your nonprofit, you want a program that funders will want to support or get behind. General operations or capital improvement efforts are not typically desirable efforts for foundations to support. Grant funders don’t want to pay your staff salaries. Instead, they want their money to support your cause and mission, knowing their contributions will make a significant difference.  

Research: What will your research approach look like? What foundations would be good fits for funding your nonprofit this year? When researching how to get grants for your nonprofit, consider using a low-cost grant database, such as GrantStation, or a no-cost option like GrantMakers or even Google. At BryteBridge, we subscribe to several grant databases and maintain our proprietary database of grantmaking foundations nationwide. We find that using multiple databases provides the best odds of finding and securing grants, as no one solution has the latest and most complete information, and things can change rapidly.  

Work Smart: While it is essential to craft your application to align with each foundation’s areas of support, your nonprofit doesn’t need to write a new grant application for every request.  We help our clients build detailed Case Statements that can be used over and over as they apply for new grants. Having a well-thought-out case statement will save you many hours of labor.  

Funding Cycle Calendar: Identify and track your target funder’s deadlines for letters of intent and applications. Make sure you submit all required materials within their submission windows.  

Role Clarity & Responsibilities: Who will be responsible for submitting each of your grant applications? Our recommendation is to have a dedicated person, such as a development staff member or volunteer, assigned to grant application efforts. Typically, to win the most grants, 10-30 hours or more per week are spent on researching, submitting, and following up on grants.

3. Use Experienced Volunteers or Development Personnel

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For smaller and mid-sized organizations that may not have the resources to outsource grant management or have an in-house development team, we suggest leveraging trained volunteers to conduct grant research. Train the volunteers on how to get grants for your nonprofit using the grant research databases and on the expectations of what should be included in your letters of intent and grant applications.  

For larger organizations, consider hiring a development coordinator or a consultant. At BryteBridge, we support organizations of all sizes to focus on fulfilling their organization’s mission.

4. Contact Decision Makers or Foundations

Many grant seekers are reluctant to pick up the phone to call foundations and discuss their grant submission. We advise our grant clients to contact, ask for updates, and build relationships with the gatekeepers and leaders of foundations. Even if you don’t win a grant the first few times a request is made, keep at it. You are making an impression that can pay off when you least expect it.  Remember, grant seeking is not only a numbers game but a long game. Grant funding is not designed to be a short-term funding tool.

5. Be Reasonable in Your Ask

When strategizing how to get grants for your nonprofit, it’s important to remember that funders want to work with nonprofits who are reasonable in their ask and not asking the funder to fund their entire goal. Remember, often funders are trying to help many nonprofits. Using the example above, if you are seeking $100K for the new program and aim for $10K to come from grants, don’t ask a grant funder for $100K. Let them know you plan to raise $100K total through all funding sources and consider asking for $15K (hoping they give at least $10K). This way, you’re demonstrating you have additional funding sources to secure the project and are not shooting for the moon with each funder. It also might improve your odds of returning to funders with future asks. They will probably want to see the program’s success as it evolves and continues to grow.  

6. Trust the Process

Typically, foundations provide clear instructions of their process and expectations for how to get their grants for your nonprofit. It’s important to follow their instructions to the tee. Remember, they are often sifting through thousands of applications, and any distraction or missing information will not help your cause. For example, despite our recommendation to contact decision makers, some foundations clearly state not to contact them. If that’s the situation, respect their wishes. But for many Grantmakers, there’s nothing wrong with picking up the phone to ask questions about their grant guidelines or to confirm an application was received. If your grant application is rejected, call to see what you can do next time to improve your odds of funding. Regardless, if you spent time developing a grant strategy, trust your process and continue executing the plan. A successful plan might land you in the 20% of nonprofits that successfully win grants.

7. It’s a Numbers Game

Grant writing is a numbers game. If your nonprofit organization is only writing and submitting to a handful of foundations each year, it is unlikely you will receive the responses you are hoping for. When determining how to get grants for your nonprofit, consider submitting as many grant requests that you have the time and resources to be able to follow up with.  Even the best grant writing plan has a low success rate, with 20% being a common benchmark.

8. Lay the Foundation

Winning grants is difficult enough for well-established nonprofits with experienced leadership, stable operations, and proven programs. If your nonprofit’s house is not in good order, foundations will quickly dismiss your request.  At BryteBridge, to improve the odds of grant funding, we advise organizations to ensure they meet the following prerequisites before they even consider how to get grants for their nonprofit: 

  • The nonprofit has three (3) or more years operating as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization
  • 501(c)(3) status is currently in good standing with the IRS. 
  • The organization is in good standing within all states it operates. 
  • The nonprofit has a clearly defined and compelling mission, vision, and core values. 
  • A strong and experienced Board of Directors leads the organization. 
  • The mission is fulfilled with high‐quality programs that benefit the community or cause. 
  • The organization has a proven track record of success with measurable results. 
  • Can answer, “Why should we give to your organization over other successful nonprofits?”
  • Dedicated personnel to spend 10-30 + hours weekly researching, submitting, and following up.
  • Create and keep an updated GuideStar profile

Summary

If your organization is serious about discovering how to get grants for your nonprofit, make sure you have the resources to dedicate to the process.  If your organization isn’t using a grant writing consultant like BryteBridge, you need a volunteer or staff member who can dedicate 10-30+ hours per week to research, writing, and following up on grant submissions.

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