Going into Grants? – your first steps toward a giant leap

Joan M. Renner, CPA, CGMA, Director, 501(c)(fit!)

There are more than 100,000 grant makers out there, according to the Foundation Center.  Think of what good things you could do with a small piece of that money.  It’s likely that your nonprofit has considered, or will consider seeking grants to provide additional funding to advance your mission.

Although grants provide power for your mission, they’re not for everyone.  Grants have strings attached and noncompliance can have bad consequences.  You have to be into accountability, or grant funding is not for you. 

As we know, grants frequently don’t fund all the costs of a program.  If you’re going to make the leap to grant funding, you’ll need a strategy to raise the rest of the money for your project. 

How do you know if grants are right for you?  A good approach is to take a few small steps and explore your grant opportunities and responsibilities before you commit.

First, see what’s out there.  Foundations tend to specialize, making grants to certain types of charities or in specific geographic regions.  Look for foundations that are interested in funding what you do.  Review annual reports, tax filings, press releases and any other information you can get your hands on.  

One place to start is the Foundation Center’s online directory at foundationcenter.org.  You’ll be able to find a list of foundations that support programs like yours.  But, once you have a list of matches, do a little more research before diving into a long grant proposal.  Call them.  Talk to staff about their areas of interest, the kind of information they need and how they prefer to communicate.  Most will be happy to provide insights into their decision-making process and shed light on your chances of securing a grant.

Next, see what you will have to do to get a grant.  You’re going to need to write a grant proposal, describing your program and providing the information the funder requests.  Include specific descriptions with measurable outcomes.  Include a rundown of the entire project from start to finish and describe your other sources of funding.    

Find out about all the strings that will be attached to the grant.  Ask the funder what rules you must follow and what accountability they require.  Make sure you are willing to do what it takes to set up your accounting and other records for success. 

Finally, take it all into consideration, and decide if the whole package is right for you.  If you’re not interested in detailed accountability, then grant funding is not right for you.  If you’re willing to do what it takes to do grants right, your small step could be the beginning of a giant leap for your organization.

How can we learn more?

Learn more about how to meet grant requirements in our on-demand webinar, Grant Basics—Following the strings attached.  Just so you know, our one-hour on-demand webinars bring you topical information, available on your schedule, for one year, for a really low price.

Learn about The Grant Paradox in our FIT! TIP, What you don’t know can hurt you.  Our free FIT! TIPS arrive in your inbox weekly with timely nonprofit topics.

Explore.  The Foundation center is a nonprofit with many resources to guide you in exploring grant funding.  Learn more at www.foundationcenter.org.

Get more FIT! TIPS.  Join our 501(c)(fit!) community.

© 2017 501(c)(fit!) All Rights Reserved.