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Grant Readiness Checklist: Tips for Application Success

Is your nonprofit prepared to secure grant applications?

“A [grant] proposal must convince the prospective donor of two things – that a problem of significant magnitude exists, and that the applicant agency has the means and the imagination to solve the problem or meet the need,” argues the Center for Nonprofit Management. These criteria often prove challenging for emerging and even some established nonprofits. Due to the intensive time, expertise, and expense of preparing a grant application, organizations should ensure readiness before pursuing grant opportunities.

 

To maximize your organization’s critical resources, follow these six tips before applying for your next grant:

 

1. Enhance your agency’s marketing and communications strategies.

As described in a previous blog on The Good Pixel, consistent branding leads to better fundraising.  With major donors viewing their gifts as investments in the community, “building and managing your brand to create connection, relevance, and resonance” will attract funders. A strong brand conveys an established, professional look and demonstrates a resilient fundraising infrastructure to grow revenue. Let the professionals with The Good Pixel design, develop, and maintain your agency’s online presence before applying for private or public grant opportunities.

2. Demonstrate your organization’s long-term sustainability.

“Does your organization have […] sound management, strong governance, and a persistent rededication to assessing and achieving results?” asks Caroline Herbert, nonprofit fundraising trainer, when describing characteristics of thriving nonprofits. When deciding whether or not to fund a proposal, grantors need to know if their money “will be spent wisely and for the stated project purposes.” Grantors look for organizations to have diversified and reliable funding, a knowledgeable board of directors, measurable history of program impact, competent staff, and fiscal accountability. As such, many nonprofit fundraising professionals advise against relying on grants as the primary source of revenue, especially for new organizations.

3. Conduct a needs assessment and adopt research-based interventions.

When reviewing dozens of worthy grant submissions, funders look for proposals that will have the greatest impact. Hence, applications that recommend research-based interventions to address measured community needs will be the most competitive. A standout application would demonstrate how the agency provides a unique service for the geographic area (e.g., the only mental health facility in high-risk Smith County) and achieves a measurable change in key outcomes (reduces suicide attempts by 30% using practices with documented evidence for effectiveness). Not sure where to start with gathering this research and structuring your grants accordingly? Consider conducting a needs assessment, “a systematic appraisal of the available services and/or gaps in services within a defined community at a particular point in time,” before submitting a grant application and especially before starting a new program.

4. Learn about grant applications, reports, and management.

Whether your organization’s grant writer is the Executive Director, Fundraising Coordinator, board member, or freelancer, fundraising team members need to understand grants before applying. In my experience as a freelance grant writer, organizations with internal knowledge of grants more often have success with their proposals than agencies that rely only on outside expertise. Free online grant training like Candid Learning, grant writing books from your library, and more can help your team build a strong organization that demonstrates sustainability, accurately report financial and program metrics, create infrastructure for grant oversight, and communicate seamlessly with the grant writer.

Keep in mind that “just because a funder is accepting proposals does not mean that you need to submit one.” Use your resources wisely by ensuring that your organization has excellent branding, a strong infrastructure, programs backed by research, and a knowledgeable team before investing in grant proposals. By following the tips above, your organization can craft highly competitive applications that will secure the funding needed to advance your mission.

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