Grant funding is important for nonprofits, especially right now amid an ongoing period of pandemic challenges and associated economic turbulence.
Thankfully, most organizations have been able to move beyond the more urgent disaster fundraising phase of the pandemic and are looking forward to an exciting new year of programming and campaigning in 2022.
For smaller teams without dedicated grant writers, the top of the year can be the perfect time to shift focus towards grant seeking and writing stellar grant proposals. In the first months of the new year, the virtual fundraising and event tasks of the holiday rush will have calmed down, giving you more time to focus on securing new and diverse revenue sources for the coming year.
But how can you know where your efforts will be best spent? How can you prepare now in order to confidently identify the right opportunities to pursue in 2022?
For many nonprofits, the answer is to work with external grant experts to support the identification and proposal processes. But there are still signs that every nonprofit professional should understand and be able to recognize when researching grants.
We’ll walk through the signs that might mean you should or shouldn’t pursue a grant opportunity, plus what you’ll need to get started on the right foot in the coming year. Let’s dive in.
Let’s say you find a grant opportunity that appears to be a great fit for your organization. It’s in line with your programming capacity, has an achievable application deadline, and would provide an amount of funding that gets you excited for what you could accomplish. Excellent!
But remember that grant seeking is hard work that requires your team’s time and resources. Before committing to drafting a proposal for this grant, you’ll need to double check a few things.
Here are the top signs that pursuing a grant opportunity is likely a worthwhile use of your time:
While these signs aren’t necessarily prerequisites that must all apply for you to succeed, they are still extremely important indicators of your odds. If a grant opportunity displays several (or ideally all) of these signs, going for it could be a smart move!
Think of it this way: While it might be possible to secure a grant with a shot-in-the-dark proposal, your team’s time will certainly be better spent pursuing opportunities where these signs do apply, making your chances of success higher.
On the flipside, let’s say you find a new grant opportunity that looks extremely appealing at first glance. But after digging deeper into the funder’s history, mission, and the grant’s scope and requirements, you decide that pursuing it won’t be worth your organization’s time and resources.
What are the red flags to look for? These signs generally indicate that your organization won’t be the right fit for a grant opportunity:
Again, these signs don’t definitively mean that your application has zero chance of success, but remember that you need to spend your time and resources wisely.
You’ll be able to maximize your own ROI from the grant seeking process by prioritizing opportunities that avoid the hurdles listed above. Understanding and recognizing these signs will help you to develop a more efficient and ultimately successful grant seeking strategy over time as you refine your strategies and build more relationships with funders.
Once you’ve reviewed these green- and red-light indicators and determined that a grant is worth pursuing, there are a few essentials you’ll need to have:
These are essential resources when seeking any type of outside source of funding, including:
Simply put, you need the ability to devote time to grant seeking and the resources to illustrate your mission and proposed project in a compelling way.
But it all starts with knowing which opportunities are worth pursuing. Although any extra funding for your mission is generally welcome, remember that your time and resources are valuable!
External grant seeking experts can be excellent resources whether your team is stretched thin, you’re new to grant seeking, or you just want some extra guidance. They’ll be able to familiarize your team with the signs discussed above and walk you through the process of sifting through opportunities to find your next grant.
This post was contributed by Kari Elsila, a Senior Advisor at Grants Plus. Grants Plus has secured $200 million in grant funding for nonprofit organizations around the country since 2007. As Senior Advisor, Kari coaches and guides nonprofit leaders to be more successful at finding and securing grants from foundations, corporations, and government funders.
Kari is an experienced grant writer and editor who brings passion for the nonprofit sector and excels at crafting compelling cases for support. Prior to joining Grants Plus, she held positions in foundation relations and grants management at Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. Earlier in her career, she worked at a Cleveland-area family foundation, which gave her valuable insight into the grantmaking process. Kari holds a BA from the University of Michigan in Social Science and a Master of Nonprofit Organizations degree from Case Western Reserve University.