Armanino Blog

Going for the Gold: Apply Solid Grant-Writing Techniques to Your Quest

by Paul O Grady
March 22, 2018
Competition in the world of nonprofit grants grows fiercer each year. How can your organization break away from the pack?
Pick the right field. Like an athlete gravitates to the sport that matches her abilities, a nonprofit’s mission should match that of the funding agency. Also consider whether the funds will be worth any strings attached. Certain grants, specifically federally funded grants, potentially require audits and will require your organization to maintain stringent record keeping, cost reports or other cumbersome paperwork. Make sure you understand all the administrative costs that accompany the award.
Consider your options. While you might want to start with applications to funders that focus on your community, consider branching out to statewide and nationwide grants. Remember to stay open to all types of grant sources—not only private foundations, but also local, state and federal governments and corporations. Also look for “mini-grants.” These small funding amounts, typically available from corporations and other nonprofits, may be just the right amount to pay for a specific need—such as volunteer training for a big event.
Study the tapes. After a competition, one of the first things a successful athlete will do is review the game tapes. They seek to learn from their own successes and failures, as well as those of their teammates and competitors.
Grant applicants can use the same technique. See if the funding agency will send grant applications that have been successful in the past. Review these carefully, with an eye for what made them competitive. Did the winning proposal demonstrate a clear understanding of the need in the community and a detailed plan to meet that need? Did it clearly outline the required tasks and link those tasks to the requested funds? Also re-examine your own failed grant proposals with a critical eye. If possible, talk to those funders to find out what you could have done differently to pull ahead of the competition.
Strut your stuff. Once you’ve selected a grant opportunity that’s a good fit for your organization, demonstrate how your project objectives match up to the funder’s priorities. Establish your organization’s credibility by incorporating statistics and anecdotes that demonstrate how you have already had an impact on your community. By showing how you have brought projects across the finish line, you assure the funder that you do more than plan—you bring home the gold!
Set the finish line. Provide a well-defined, outcome-based goal or goals for your proposed project. Desired outcomes should be measurable. For example, a family assistance organization seeking funding for a food distribution program might state, “The project aims to place food in the homes of 20 percent of the families in River City that are at or below the poverty level and who have expressed a need for food.” Make your case by using credible data about the need. For example, “31 percent of the households in River City are at or below the poverty level, and only 5,100 of the eligible 12,043 families who applied to a food program last year received food.”
Visualize your path. Your funder will want to know specifically how the funds will be used. For example, you might plan to 1) purchase food and fill baskets to feed 240 families of four for a week, and 2) distribute 6,240 baskets over a six-month period. Be sure to itemize the costs associated with these activities.
Make it a team sport. Collaborative projects are popular with grantors, so consider applying in tandem with one or more similar organizations. Not only do you expand your staff resources, but you also leverage shared overhead and organizational oversight.
Demonstrate long-term commitment. Outlining resources or matching funds that you can contribute helps convince the funder of your organization’s investment in the outcome of the project. Also describe how your project is sustainable and scalable in case you want to re-create or upgrade the project and expand it to other locations.
Bring it across the finish line
When you compete on the right field and with the right resources, everyone wins—especially your constituents. Contact your local Armanino nonprofit expert to learn more about how to succeed in the race for funding. 


March 22, 2018

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