Most nonprofits can’t—and shouldn’t—look to grants as the path to the promised land of stability. But a solid search strategy, a strong sense of grant writing fundamentals, and a commitment to integrating grant-getting into an overall revenue plan can help ensure that your nonprofit thrives.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting a series of discussions on finding, writing, and winning grants. Today, we’re starting at the top: developing a solid search strategy to locate relevant grants.
New nonprofits may assume that grants account for the majority of their funding. But most nonprofits have a diverse revenue stream, and grants usually account for less than 20 percent of funding. Of course, “less than 20 percent” still adds up to a significant sum, so winning grants is essential work.
The first step to landing a grant is conducting an efficient search. While government grants often seem like the biggest and therefore best place to start, these grants require that nonprofits meet minutely specified standards, and they are intensely competitive.
Nonprofits should certainly search sam.beta.gov (the new site for The Catalog of Domestic Assistance) for information on available federal grants and grants.gov to inquire into specific granting agencies.
But nonprofits should also look closely at local government sources (in Minnesota, the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits has a helpful page of links), and they should look even more closely at local and family foundations and corporations.
In 2016, foundations gave almost 60 billion dollars in charitable giving. To identify relevant local entities, start with your board. Board members usually know corporations and foundations with grantmaking power and can provide helpful advice.
Next, identify local grantmakers with interests that align with your nonprofit’s mission and needs. This kind of research starts with board members (and Google), but it should also include searching directories like the Minnesota Grants Directory for information on available grants and point-of-contact staff.
Finally, it can be worthwhile to pay for a subscription service like The Foundation Center. For about fifty dollars a month (Minnesotans receive free access through many county libraries), The Foundation Center provides data (like top-funder reports with aggregated financial stats) to help nonprofits capture grant dollars. The subscription can pay for itself for nonprofits seeking to bring in new money (and sustain recurring grants).
The process of finding, applying, writing, and winning a grant is unending and arduous, but it's also necessary. In the coming weeks, we'll help you break it down into a manageable—and remunerative—practice!
English PhD, former arts administrator, obsessive cook, native East Coaster, mom to two rabblerousers.
English PhD, former high school teacher, obsessive organizer, native Midwesterner, mom to three troublemakers.