Grant applications are becoming more and more elusive and more and more difficult to access. The funds are just in such high demand that grantors have many hurdles in place. That said, most grantors want to give away their funds – that’s their single reason for being! So how do you make your organization the most attractive to grantors? Here are a few tips to help you along.
The best piece of advice I can give is to start as early as possible. Starting early allows your organization to have all of the pieces necessary and in place before submitting an application for funding. I have been at both ends of the spectrum when it comes to grant applications and, though possible, writing a grant application at the last minute is stressful and usually results in a refusal.
Knowing your project and the possible grantors well, makes starting early a little easier. Starting early has nothing to do with the writing process at all. Starting early means doing some prep work (see Part 1 of this series). It also means that you should know everything there is to know about the possible grantors. You should know what their priorities are and what they want from you as a possible grantee. Most grantors encourage that you get to know them and will offer you their support in terms of webinars, face to face seminars and phone support to help you along the process. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of any of these services. Have a look at The Trillium Foundation’s website at www.otf.ca to see all the help that is available.
Know your organization’s strengths and limitations
This might seem a little odd to say, but part of a good grant application is knowing what you do well. Grantors want to make sure that your organization will be successful in the project you are proposing. You’ll likely be asked to describe your Board of Directors and the election process. You might also be asked how your Board is held accountable for your organization. Another aspect of successful project is whether or not your organization has had similar successes in the past. A good practice is to make a list of past projects. Know what you did well and why, as well as what went wrong and why.
How well do you know your mission and values statement? This is extremely important because being able to copy and past it to the application DOES NOT constitute knowing it. You HAVE to know why your project supports and furthers your mission and values because you WILL be asked. A good base for a strong grant application is being very well versed in your org’s strengths and limitations and why you will be the best group for the proposed project.
KNOW your project well
If I stressed that you should know your organization – double it for the project you are proposing! Here’s a list of what you must know to not only secure a successful grant application but to ensure a successful project.
Have a great title for your project. If your project is a community yoga class, calling your project ‘community yoga class’ is good a title, right? Wrong! Put some effort and thought into it. Try something like ‘Afternoon Calm Yoga’. If your grantor stops at the title than you’re in trouble.
Have a schedule of event dates ready. Have the entire project planned out and be ready to explain why you’ve chosen this specific plan. For example, if you’re grant involves a community class learning to create Christmas planters, your final class should be scheduled close to Christmas. Again, the more you can show that your project is well thought through the more successful your project will likely be, and this will be obvious to grantors.
Be prepared to explain to grantors why your organization is the best choice for the proposed project. If you’ve decided to ask for a grant to further your project, you already believe that your project is a great idea. So now just explain why your project and your org is a great investment. In this respect, it’s a good idea to list the specific community or group of people who will benefit from your project. If you work with a senior center, don’t ask for a grant that will help youth find work. If your organization is a fantastic place for seniors explain that and narrow your clientele to the seniors in your community.
Make a list of the project’s objectives. Your project will have one main goal. Let’s use the yoga class again. The main goal is to offer free yoga to the community, pretty obvious right. But there are minor objectives that you should know about. In the case of the yoga class, one goal might to offer a mindful choice to exercise, another might to enlighten people about the spiritual side of yoga. Create a comprehensive list of all of the objectives to your project and then take it one step further. Once you have all of your objectives, turn them into an action plan. Create a table with your objectives listed on the left and the all of the main actions to achieve each goal on the right.
Have a plan to measure the results and/or statistics of your project. The best way to know if your project was a success is to measure the results and grantors want to make sure you will be checking on this. Plan the way you will be measuring results and make sure to follow through with it. If you will be using participant surveys, have them ready and describe how and when you will be administering them.
Link your project’s priorities with the grantors priorities
In all of the listing and preparing you’ve been doing, you should be well aware by now of your project’s priorities. You can now find some similarities between what the possible grantors list as their priorities and what your project is proposing. Sound confusing? Let’s have a closer look at it. If the possible grantor lists their priorities as improving community, allowing more volunteer opportunities, enhancing economy and improving health, than you should be matching those priorities to your project. Let’s use the yoga class again. Does your class improve community? Will your class allow for new volunteer opportunities? Is there a way that your class will enhance the economy? Will your class improve health? You’ll notice that your project may not link with all of the grantors listed priorities, but you will find one or two that link nicely. Find a few great connections and don’t be afraid to stress how well your project fits these priorities.
Finally, and going full circle back to the beginning, the reason you should start early is to give yourself enough time to re-write the grant application several times. No one gets it perfect the first time! Also, in case you think you can get it perfect the first time, grantors will be able to see a quickly written proposal a mile away. Take your time – Know your stuff – Re-read and Re-write. Good Luck!