Grantseeking 101: 6 Tips to Find Grants and Smash Your Fundraising Goals

12/23/2015

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For many nonprofit organizations, the grantseeking process is overwhelming. Every foundation asks for something a little different from their applicants – and after all the hard work, funding is never guaranteed. Maybe you find yourself wondering how you’re ever going to streamline (let alone master) the grantseeking process at your nonprofit. Don't worry. We've got five tips to get you started.

We’ve spoken to some of philanthropy’s foremost experts on the subject, and we’ve compiled some suggestions that will help you find the right foundations to fund your work, write and submit better grants, stay on top of your work, and ultimately win the funding to help your organization thrive and accomplish the mission you set out to accomplish. Here is what we learned:

1. Know your organization.
Long before you start researching foundations or writing grant proposals, you need to understand your organization inside and out. This might sound like a no-brainer, but it’s always good to objectively review how you communicate your work to the world. Look at your organization’s mission statement. Does it communicate what you do, why you do it, who you serve, how you serve your beneficiaries, and where?

2. Know the field.
You’re not the only organization doing the kind of work that you do. The social sector is chock full of organizations serving similar, if not identical populations. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing! You can actually look to your sister organizations for grantseeking inspiration, know-how, advice, and opportunities to collaborate.

3. Diversify your funding.
Did you know that on average, foundation grants funding only makes up about 15 percent of a nonprofit’s entire budget. There are other ways to generate funding for your organization. Don’t forget, you can switch gears and focus on earned income strategies, or relationships with individual donors.

4. Ask yourself: Exactly what am I funding?
Before you start researching funders, ask yourself: What do I need to fund? It seems like a simple question. Maybe you feel like you need to fund everything! But your grant application won’t benefit from a lack of focus, believe us! Look around your organization. Do you need to hire more program staff? Then it’s probably time to searching for program funding. Or do you need to update your equipment? Look for grants dollars that will help you buy new computers. You get the picture.

5. Research and find the grants.
There are a few database tools out there in the philanthropy universe that will help you get data on funders – from private foundations and corporate foundations, to tiny family foundations, and more. See our complete guide, Grantseeking 101, for more database tools and tips to find funders.

6. Stay organized.
Frustration and anxiety are two of the most pervasive feelings that can arise during the grantseeking process. And not just because the success rate of funded proposals is low – 15 percent to 20 percent, according to estimates. Juggling a bundle of proposals at once is hard work. 

Finally, when you’re pursuing funding, it can be easy to forget why you’re hunting for money or what you’re trying to fund. When you’re pulling your fourth all-nighter of the week, trying to finish a proposal – remember to stop and breathe. Get your mind off the deadline. Think instead about your beneficiaries, about your passion for your work, about your colleagues. Remember that grantseeking should not be hurried – it’s a practice that benefits from thoroughness, patience, and perspective.

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Written by Aaron Lester