Saturday, October 20, 2007

How to Start Grant Writing

All non-profits face the same pressure when it comes to raising money, so why do some succeed and others fail? Why do some organizations get funded year after year, while others submit over and over without any funding? Why do some organizations never even start submitting grants, keeping them selves from receiving potentially thousands of dollars?

The biggest reason most non-profits don’t get funded is because they never submit! Starting the process of grant writing can seem daunting, but if you just take it in small increments, setting small goals, before you know it, your organization will be on the road to successfully submitting award winning grant applications.

First, you must have your 501(c)3 designation from the IRS. While some funders allow for fiscal agency (meaning, another organization that does have a 501(c)3 can submit on your behalf, and keep a percentage of the award to administer the grant funds), you really need to obtain your own designation to qualify for the most grant opportunities.

Second, gather your essential documents. While these vary from grant to grant, funders usually ask for enough information to make sure that your organization is legitimate and that it fits in with the area that they fund. These documents usually include your articles of incorporation; past, current, and projected organizational budget; list of Board of Directors; one-page history of organization; media reviews, programs, or any other publicity you may have; audited financial statement or most recent tax filing; and resumes or bios of key staff.

Third, find a funder. With the internet, it is simple to search for funders who make grants to your type of organization, in your state or region. The application is usually straightforward (although it might be lengthy) and accompanied by a set of guidelines that explain step by step exactly how to fill out the application, what documents to attach, how many copies to make, where to send, and the all-important deadline. Do not miss the deadline.

That’s it. Keep your writing to-the-point and simple, and if you have any questions at all, call the person listed in the guidelines as the grants administrator. Just be polite and introduce yourself, admit that this is your first application, and ask for any advice she may be able to offer. Often, funders offer a workshop or may even have samples of funded grants available.

Remember, if you don’t submit, you won’t get funded. So give it a try. You have nothing to lose, and thousands of dollars to gain.