So you have started a non-profit organization. You have selected your cause, received your 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status from the IRS, and are ready to start making a difference. Of course, to start having that impact you need funding for your projects. Seed money, donations, and fundraising will go a long way to meet your needs. Grants can also help expand your impact.
The fundamental approach to obtain grant money is to show the funder your project meets its goals in a compelling way. First and foremost, your basic case for funding must be solid. Our document, Making the Case, can help you get started. Also, always review the grant program’s guidelines, requirements, and deadlines carefully before applying.
The most successful grant seeking effort is a strategic process over time, not a one-time deal. Thus, being successful at receiving grant money requires some groundwork before you even submit an application. In addition to making a strong case for funding, below are some steps you can take to strengthen the foundation for your grant requests.
1. Create a Solid Mission Statement
Many grant-making organizations want to know about your overall organization and goals, not just about the project you are hoping to have funded. Often an application will ask for a mission statement explicitly. A mission statement is a clear, concise statement that summarizes your organization’s goals and the philosophies underlying them. The mission statement should be 2-4 sentences in length. Spend time before starting a grant application to create such a statement. Having a strong mission will help with your funding request and assist you in meeting your overall goals.
2. Create or Update Website
In addition to your actual proposal, your website is one of the first things a prospective funder is likely to look at. If you don’t have a web presence, get one. A static site is better than no site at all. If your site has outdated contacts, no recent updates, or incorrect information, these may be red flags to funders. Make sure your site has your mission statement, pertinent history/information about the organization, examples of successful projects/satisfied clients, a list of goals/endeavors, and several ways to make contact.
3. Other Funding Sources
Before you apply for a grant to support a project, it may be advantageous to securemoney from other funding sources. Large foundations and government entities that provide sizable grants like to see there is financial support from other sources. Such support could be in the form of donations, in-kind support, or small grants. To find smaller grants, look local. Local businesses may be willing to help out, especially if they receive publicity in return. Many community foundations, department stores or service organizations offer small grants that could help with direct funds, which may be leveraged when applying for those larger grants.
4. Social media usage
Some funding agencies may consider your use of social media when reviewing your grant application. Some foundations, typically the larger ones, like to see that you are using social media to your advantage, in building support for a project and thanking your sponsors. If you have a large base in social media, foundations that give you money will benefit from “free advertising.”
5. Boilerplate Documents
Most grant applications require the same types of documents, so it makes sense to have certain information organized beforehand. For example, create a list of your board members, your tax exempt documentation, budgetary information for both your organization and the fundable project, contact information, text that describes and substantiates project need, and information on how you measure impacts. Having this information already organized will save you time when applying for a large number of grants.
Photo Credit: Marc Dalmulder