Words of Wisdom, and Myths, about Grant Writing

1. Grant writing is not a get-rich-quick scheme.  Many funders take months to make a decision, and some make decisions only once each year.

2. Grant writing should be only a part of your overall fundraising strategy.  Only a small percentage of total funding for nonprofit organizations comes from grants.  In the last year for which data is available, 79% ($252 billion) of charitable giving came from individuals (including bequests), 15% ($46 billion) from foundations, and 6% ($18 billion) from corporations, for total giving of $316 billion.

3. Explaining what your organization is going to do about a need is more important than explaining what the need is.  Though most funders want you to explain something about the need for your organization, they want even more for you to explain how giving money to your organization is going to address the need.

4. Funders will usually only consider funding for a project that has not yet happened, or future funding for a program.  Don’t ask for funding for something which has already occurred.

5. It is their money, so you must follow their rules.  Even if you don’t understand why a funder is requesting certain information, you need to give it to them anyway.

6. Explaining the ethnic diversity and low-income economic status of the population you serve makes your program sound more compelling to many funders.

7. Clearly and thoroughly answer the questions presented.  The best source of information is a funder’s own guidelines.  Answer the questions asked, and provide the information requested.  A literal reading and interpretation of grant guidelines is one of the most important practical measures you can take to help your request get seriously considered, and funded.

8. If your grant request is rejected, you should generally wait a year from your last request before sending another request, unless the funder’s guidelines say otherwise.

9. Grant writing is a complex discipline and requires a high degree of attention to detail and a thorough knowledge of the nonprofit community.

Grant Writing Myths

1. Myth – You shouldn’t send a funder another grant request if they turn you down.

Fact – Usually, yes you should.  A rejection is generally just for that request and not a permanent rejection.  About a year after your last request you should try again.

2. Myth – You shouldn’t ask a funder for funding for the same program or project more than once.

Fact – Usually, yes you should.  As in 1. above, a rejection for the requested program is generally just for that request and not a permanent rejection.

3. Myth – If a funder denies your grant request, you must have done something wrong.

Fact – Even excellent proposals with a compelling case statement usually get rejected.  The decision process by funders is not just about the quality of each proposal.  There are many other considerations beyond the control of applicants, such as geographic considerations, focus areas, available funding, and competition from other applicants.

4. Myth – If a funder denies your grant request, they aren’t interested in funding your request.

Fact – Funders are often interested in proposals that they reject for funding, and many are rejected simply because funders don’t have enough funds to make grants to every worthy applicant.  A rejection does not necessarily mean a lack of interest.

5. Myth – If your organization has a lot of money in the bank, funders are less likely to fund you because you have less of a financial need than other applicants.

Fact – This is one of the biggest myths of grant writing.  All other things being equal between two applicants, the applicant in the best financial condition is far more likely to receive a grant than the other applicant.  Funders like to fund financially stable organizations because they have more confidence that the organization will be around long enough to be able to use their funds.  Also, many funders associate good financial condition with good financial management, which adds to the credibility of the applicant.

6. Myth – You have no chance of receiving funding for a grant request unless you know someone associated with the funder.

Fact – Though many funders have a policy of not considering unsolicited requests, and for many others knowing one of their board members can be helpful, there are many, many funders that consider each proposal equally, regardless of personal contacts.  Some funders even have a written policy against applicants using personal contacts to influence the funder’s decision.

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Recent grants received by our clients include:

$128,000 for an organization that prevents homelessness and stabilizes those at risk in decent, affordable, and permanent housing – for general operating expenses

$106,000 for an agency that gives youth in the juvenile justice system the skills needed to break the cycle of incarceration and create positive futures – $100,000 for expansion of the garden in the horticultural program, and $6,000 for general operating expenses

$75,000 for an organization that transforms inmates and executives by unlocking human potential through entrepreneurial passion, education and mentoring - $50,000 to develop and a new women’s re-entry program, and $25,000 for their current men’s program

$65,000 for an organization that prevents homelessness and stabilizes those at risk in decent, affordable, and permanent housing –$40,000 for their veteran’s housing program, $20,000 for housing and intensive support services for homeless women with children, and $5,000 for their financial empowerment program

$37,500 for an agency that meets the critical needs of homeless children by providing necessities – for products for homeless children

$36,000 for an agency that restores and empowers formerly trafficked girls and sexually exploited women and their children - $35,000 for their children’s programs, and $1,000 for the workforce program

$35,000 for a domestic violence organization - $20,000 for children’s programs, and $15,000 for their emergency shelter program

$35,000 for an agency that provides assistance to children in the last stages of terminal cancer – for wishes and gifts for children terminally ill with cancer

$30,000 for an agency that provides chemically dependent women a structured, safe, homelike environment where self-realization and honesty are encouraged and reinforced – for expansion

$20,000 for an agency that provides therapy for veterans, first responders, and families who have sacrificed for our country – for general operating expenses

$17,000 for an organization that serves abused and neglected children - $10,000 for a program for temporary shelter for children, and $7,000 for general operating expenses

$16,000 for an agency that trains and supports adults who fight for a child's right to be safe - $10,000 for their court advocacy program, and $6,000 for their teens aging our foster care program

$16,000 for an organization that provides food distribution and job training for homeless and low-income people – for food distribution

$15,000 for a private day school serving children and adults with sever developmental disabilities – for therapy for children

$11,000 for an organization with a mission to be dedicated to the well-being and education of low-income children in our community – for educational programs for children

$10,000 for an organization that addresses the social, economic, health and housing needs of seniors – for capital funds

$10,000 for a hospital – for their Asian breast health project

$10,000 for a clinic for low-income families – for healthcare for children

$10,000 for an agency that improves mental health through advocacy and education – for an anti-victimization program offered in schools

$10,000 for an agency that assists persons with physical challenges by providing adaptive recreational sports programs – for programs for children

Sameen Wajid