I often get questions about the type of information that is needed in order to complete a grant application. A grant application requires not only a strong story that tugs on the heartstrings, but there is also a long list of organizational paperwork required to make the request valid. We know the story, the mission, the passion is the driving force for the very existence of your organization. Telling the story is often the easy part. However, I find myself urging organizations to go back to the basics in order to set a strong foundation for the grant application process.
Each grant application will ask for the following documentation:
A strong grant application will have all of these documents readily available. The best way to win a grant is to have transparency, thorough information and a kick-ass reporting/monitoring and evaluation process. Funders want to know they are entering a relationship with an organization that takes things seriously. They want to know that their money is being wisely used, and more importantly having a positive impact. Funders want to see numbers; they want to see results.
Although I love hearing the passionate stories that drive nonprofit organizations into existence, I urge you to set a strong foundation with your paperwork. Almost treating your organization as a for-profit business structure. This solid foundation can truly go a long way when requesting funding. They good news is that once you set this paperwork up right, you can reuse it over and over for each grant you apply for!
An interesting thing happened to be the other day… a friend, who has been completely supportive of me starting a grant writing business, finally asked the question, “so, what is a grant anyways?” For starters, I am glad I have people in my life who are willing to support me regardless if they fully understand what I am doing. Secondly, I had to kind of laugh at my response, “It’s ummm, well essentially it’s a way for organizations to get money… ummm... it’s like an application, but it can be really tedious to complete, and there is a lot of competition. But umm… well let me give you an example…” Now, let me make it VERY clear: I know what a grant is, I wouldn’t be going into this business if I didn’t; but this was a small reminder that when we involve ourselves so much in a subject area, we can forget that there are people out there who have no concept of said subject. I suppose it’s a bit humbling to have to go back to the basics and explain what I perceive to be a simple concept to someone who has no knowledge or previous experience in this topic. I mean, hey, the reverse would be true if a biochemical engineer mentioned any sort of fancy science related term as if it were part of my everyday repertoire. So, let’s dive in – what is a grant?
We all know that the word grant means ‘to give’ as in “I grant you this wish.” In this case, it’s not too far off. It is, in essence, giving someone a gift.
“A grant is a monetary award given by a government agency, foundation, corporation, or other entity to another body in order to plan, implement, or operate a particular program or fund a particular project.” – Alexis Carter-Black, Getting Grants
The easiest example of a grant is financial aid for college students (FAFSA anybody??). Essentially, the person receiving the money has proven a genuine need for this money AND can prove how they will use the money to benefit the giver’s mission (in this case, more students in higher education). Grant money is not paid back (it is not a loan), but often times reporting during the time period of which the money is used is required (after all, we don’t want you running away with the money and going on a luxury vacation when you are supposed to be attending university!).
In my case, I aim to work specifically with nonprofit organizations that are seeking funding for youth or environmental/outdoors related programs. Say, for example, a school wants to install a community garden so that students can experience first hand what it is like to grow their own food, learn how to cook healthy snacks, and take this home to share with their families, but the school has no money in their budget this year to make such a wonderful program happen. That’s where I come in! I research and find organizations (usually foundations) who are looking to fund particular projects. If a community foundation aims to support programs that focus on youth, the environment, and nutrition, this would be a perfect match! But of course that is only the beginning. Grants are a process that needs planning far in advance. It is a highly competitive field (everyone wants money!). And the money only lasts for a certain period of time, which means sustainability needs to be considered as well. In the end, getting awarded grant money is a very exciting opportunity for a nonprofit organization. Oh the possibilities!
Whew! Was that too much information or what?! Any questions on this topic, please feel free to comment or message me directly. To learn more on grants and the grant writing process, check out these resources:
Grant Writing for Dummies, 4th edition by Beverly A. Browning
Getting Grants by Alexis Carter-Black
90 Days to Success in Grant Writing by Timothy and Judith Kachinske
Grant Writing 101
This blog contains anything and everything nonprofit, grants, youth development, outdoor education, and more. Really, this is just an informal way to chat more about what I love! Enjoy :)