1. Our organization needs to just go get a grant or two, and we’ll be set.
Wrong. Grant writing must be a part of a diversified, long-term, supported fundraising (or development) plan. For example, your fundraising could include grant writing, an annual appeal, bequest planning, envelopes in your monthly newsletter, a major donor program, and a walk-a-thon special event. This takes experience, commitment, and work. A new fundraising method often takes two or three years to make money, and it takes a lot of planning. Your fundraising must be ongoing and diversified.
2. Grant donors are just the wealthy giving their money away so that they can feel good.
Wrong. Today’s grant donors are savvy. They do not just sign away checks. They select causes that they are passionate (and informed) about to effect change in our world. They often research which nonprofit organizations are mission-driven, healthy organizations, successful at their mission statement’, and good to work with. They often expect reporting, and always program success and results. Grant donors talk to one another and share information about bad apples.
3. We can just dive in and apply for a grant.
Wrong. Successfully getting grants takes planning, learning what to do and how to do it well, professional know-how, commitments to the process from leadership and staff, time, research, writing drafts and re-writing, patience, relationship building, communication, public relations, and more.
4. There aren’t any grants out there for our organization.
Probably wrong. Unless your organization is trying to perform some obscure service, most every cause can gather some support. If your cause is having a tough time raising support, perhaps you need to develop educational materials about what your organization is doing and how your community can help.
5. Once we receive the grant, we’re ‘home free.’
Wrong. Seeking grant money is part of a fundraising strategy. It is not a short-term venture. No organization dedicated to its mission can do all its cause needs through the funding of one grant.
6. Whether or not we receive a grant depends mostly on how good our grant writer is.
Wrong. This is a common incorrect assumption. Raising grant money is a team effort. A professional grant writer must be reputable, successful, and knowledgeable about potential funders. They have to be very good at what they do. But they do not work in a vacuum. Staff, leadership, and even volunteers must be dedicated to the grant writing process, as it often requires proof-reading, fact-checking, research, pulling necessary agency documents, feedback, draft mark-ups, etc. Also, a grant writer must provide a great grant proposal but the agency’s reputation, track record, relevance, effectiveness at its mission work, financial health, etc., are more important factors to the grant donor. Grants are awarded based on many attributes, 99% of which are the organization’s – not the grant writer’s.
7. The board does not need to be involved in obtaining grants.
Wrong. Grantors who choose to meet with perspective grant recipients (some do, some don’t) should be meeting with the highest level representation from your organization, such as board members and the executive director. This is called peer-to-peer relations. Treat any potential donor with respect and interest. This should come from your leadership to demonstrate your care for the relationship with them.
This blog is a repost from February, 2014.
Recent grants received by our clients include:
$200,000 for an organization creating safe, more stable neighborhoods, free from crime and urban blight – for a feasibility study for program expansion
$200,000 (3 grants) for an organization that connects the nation’s top executives, entrepreneurs, and MBA students with convicted felons to prevent recidivism, maximize self-sufficiency, and transform broken lives – for general operating expenses
$25,000 for a domestic violence agency – for their emergency shelter program
Murray Covens, Principal
North Texas Nonprofit Resources