Imagine having all the money you need to run your nonprofit.
Bills are getting paid. Your operations are buzzing. Everyone’s smiling.
You’re making the difference you set out to make!
Feels great, doesn’t it?
Do you know one of the keys to achieving this state of bliss is in your nonprofit’s fundraising plan?
Grants can be an effective way of raising lots of funds for your nonprofit.
Grant dollars you get can pay for salaries, cover your cost of supplies, keep your lights turned on – and so much more. An influx of cash would be incredible for your nonprofit, right??
Yes. Yes, it would.
Uh oh. The dreaded “but clause.”
I know what you’re saying to yourself:
You don’t know how to write grants.
You’ve never written one.
They’re too complex.
You don’t have time.
I get it. I really do.
BUT… I bet you’d really like seeing a $5,000 or $10,000 check with your nonprofit’s name written on it, wouldn’t you?
Of course you would!
Here’s the good news: there are specific steps you can take to cut the chaos and get your nonprofit ready for grants.
The following 7 questions – if you take time to truly explore and reflect on them – will enable you to take your very first step.
Are you ready? Here we go!
1. How would grants benefit what we do?
More money! Woo hoo! THIS is the primary reason to want grants. Getting grants will increase your income – enabling you to meet your fundraising goals and efficiently carry out your mission. In other words, more money would let you have a bigger impact and do more good.
As an added bonus, grants help diversify your streams of income, and most funders like seeing that.
2. What do I need funded?
Grants can pay for large chunks of expenses that your nonprofit incurs throughout the year – like:
- Materials to build a house.
- Food and beds for animals.
- Supplies for youth programs.
- Tools for community gardens.
Start making a list of what you need to pay for each year. Put a dollar amount next to each item. In other words, make a budget. Funders want to see a budget that shows in some detail what you need to spend this year and you’ll be required to submit it with your proposal.
3. What solution am I providing?
You need to have a well-thought-out mission and a clear explanation of who or what you’re helping. Plus, you should be able to bullet point what programs and/or services you offer, and then, concisely describe them.
Give it a try. Take a sheet of paper and jot down the top 3 – 5 activities your nonprofit does. Now, describe each of those in 1 – 2 sentences only.
4. How do I explain the reason why?
Everyone wants to know why. Why is your nonprofit focusing on [insert issue area]?
Here, you’re defining the need your nonprofit is addressing. Sure – we all know animal overpopulation is an issue. But why is it an issue in YOUR community? What does it look like in YOUR community? The point: paint a picture for the funder. Help them visualize what the need looks like that you’re trying to impact.
Take time to do some research and find data and statistics that support your argument of the need. There are several free tools and resources at your fingertips (hint, start with Google).
5. What impact are we making?
This is your time to shine. Seriously, don’t be afraid to toot your own horn! Take a moment to reflect on your nonprofit’s success.
- Numbers – Gather your numbers to illustrate your accomplishments. Use them to show how many people have been served since your nonprofit started, the percent increase of youth leadership skills, the number of animals adopted last year, etc.
- Testimonials – Find creative ways to capture these from clients, customers, volunteers, etc. Include ‘before’ and ‘after’ if possible so the testimonial demonstrates the change experienced through your programs.
- Website and Social Media – In grant applications, it’s perfectly acceptable to invite the funder to check out pictures on your website, view videos you put together on YouTube, or read a blog your nonprofit posted. So share those if you have them.
- Partnerships – If you collaborate with other nonprofits in your same line of work, this is a good time to talk about it. Why? Because this shows you’re trying to play nice in the sandbox…and funders like that.
6. Why does what we’re doing matter so much?
Remember that picture we talked about in #4? Here, you’re going to paint another picture. This time, help the funder see what their donation – nay, their investment – helps do in the grand scheme of things.
Relate how your work has affected change for the greater need. In the grant world, we call this the “so what.” Here’s an example:
|According to local statistics, utility assistance is the greatest unmet community need.||Nonprofit XYZ completed energy-efficiency upgrades in 5 homes owned by low-income residents.||Thanks to your investment, Mr. Funder, these low-income homeowners will experience an average annual savings of $350 (per home) on their utility bills – making this an affordable cost.|
|United Way received more than 35,000 calls for assistance – the highest number of calls in 10 years. Considering the rising cost of utilities each year, this problem will worsen.||Energy usage in each of these homes will be reduced by an average of 10% – as indicated in utility bill analysis.||In fact, these low-income homeowners can use these savings for other life necessities, such as medical care, transportation, and food. Doing so improves their overall quality of life.|
In the funder’s mind, you want them to envision side-by-side pictures. On one side, a picture of the need – the gloom, the sadness, the heartache. You know, the picture from #4. On the other side, a picture of hopefulness, positivity, and smiles….one that would pull and tug at the heart strings of even the toughest person.
7. How is my organization different than the others?
Last, but not least, figure out what makes your nonprofit unique. There are lots of nonprofits out there doing a lot of the same work you do, and they’re vying for many of the same grant funds.
Be explicit. Explain your niche. Describe what sets you apart from the rest.
Funders receive requests for much more money than they have available.
These 7 questions will help provide you with a foundation for a strong, competitive grant application – which will increase your chances of getting funding!
Getting ready for grants is an important piece of a healthy fundraising effort.