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When Should an Organization Start Looking at Grants?

Would it surprise you to know that some non-profits have never, and will never turn to grant funding as part of their development plan?

I have worked with non-profits that have been around for 50 years and are just now venturing into the grant world. They usually take the journey due to the economy, not because they want to rely on grants.

Don’t assume just because you are a non-profit organization, you are ‘suppose’ to apply for and rely on grants. That is not the case. Many experts in the field agree that a healthy non-profit should never depend on grant funding for more than 30% of its total operating budget.

Consider the following when determining your organization's readiness to apply for a grant:

  1. If you are in a place where you have met your capacity (staff, space, program, etc.), then it might be time to look at capacity building grants so you can grow. 
  2. If you have a capital campaign, consider making grants a portion of that campaign to ensure its success and speedy completion. 
  3. If you are in a field where long-term funding sources have been cut or eliminated, you may need to look to grant funding until you can rework your game plan for sustainability. 
  4. If you have programs or projects that are excelling at what they do and you feel grants may highlight some of these opportunities and allow you to serve more in your field… perhaps it is time to research what is available in terms of grant dollars.
  5. You should never ‘create’ a program or project to fit a grant you have found. Decide on your needs, list them, understand them, and then research grants that match those needs.
  6. If your organization has a budget or a previous year’s budget in the ‘red,’ you may not want to begin writing grants until you have a few years in the ‘black.’ Donors will see you as a risk and often times will not look favorably upon your request.
  7. If your organization is in its infancy, you may find seed money to support your work. Often, donors require organizations to demonstrate their history of success prior to considering funding. In many cases, donors may require 3-5 years of successful programming. So, despite a perfect fit on paper, you may not qualify due to the amount of time you have been providing services.

There are many nuances to consider before beginning to utilize grant writing as part of your annual fundraising plan. But, there is also a lot to consider each year before you decide to continue grant writing in your fundraising plan, or removing it, decreasing the dollars you hope to raise through grants, or reducing the dollars you need.  Your reliance on grants should be strategic, and if need be, consult with peers or other development professionals to help analyze your individual, organizational needs before making these changes.

If you need an easy way to get our documents in order for grant writing, we have a free Grant Readiness Checklist you can download and make your own. This tool helps check off each item needed for the majority of applications, saves you time and energy, and helps you prepare winning proposals. Click Here for your copy.

If you would like to delve further into the world of grant writing, join us for our upcoming webinar with GrantHub, A Proactive Approach to Successful Grant Writing. Click here to learn more and reserve your spot.

Keep growing for good!

This blog is an original work of the attributed author and is shared with permission via Foundant Technologies' website for informative purposes only as part of our educational content in the philanthropic sector. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this text belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect Foundant's stance on this topic. If you have questions or comments, please reach out to our team.

About the Author

A grant writing expert, executive and development coach, fundraising consultant, and national fundraising trainer, Mandy Pearce, launched Funding for Good, Inc. in 2009 to equip organizations with the skills and tools needed to become successful and sustainable. Mandy has taken her passion and expertise for fundraising to the development field and shared it with individuals and organizations for over 21 years through executive coaching, strategic and development planning, capital campaign planning, seminars, and specialized consulting programs. Mandy’s dynamic teaching style brings thousands of people annually to her presentations at conventions, trainings, and workshops, in person and online. Her business model is centered on her key values: honesty, efficiency, direct communication, and bringing dollars to local communities.

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