Have you heard the siren song of grantwriting?
On the outside it looks so easy! Here is money that HAS to be given away. You don’t even have to convince someone to part with their hard-earned cash, they’ve already set it aside for the purpose of giving away!
What’s even more attractive is that there’s usually a clear request process. It’s all laid out – You answer specific questions, fill in the form, add a couple attachments, hit the submit button… and receive the much needed funds for your worthy cause.
When you look around it seems that there are nonprofit grants being awarded left and right. There are announcements from the grantmakers and press releases from the recipients. Maybe you’ve even been to a ceremony where a similar cause to yours receives a significant grant.
With all these grants being awarded you’re starting to feel like you’re losing something. Maybe you’re starting to think you might be missing the boat. After all this is serious money and your cause is passing by available funds with every second you are not submitting proposals!
The Secret Key to Nonprofit Grants
Here’s what you need to know to get traction with your grants. They key to building a successful nonprofit grants program is creating relationships.
Think about your grants program as your Major Gifts focus for your fundraising efforts. Each grant awarded is the result of a carefully fostered relationship, rather than a lucky application to a lottery or contest.
Setting out to develop relationships with grantors can seem counter-intuitive. After all, someone has clearly spent a lot of time putting the application guidelines together, inviting proposals, and anticipating any questions that might come along. If you reach out to them, maybe you will seem like you weren’t paying attention!
The Give and Take of Grantwriting
The process of grantwriting imposes its own set of obstacles in forming relationships, and you are required to think creatively about how you are reaching out and engaging your prospective funder. They need to get to know you and how you are different from all the other applicants that are asking them for funding.
Each submission you make is another step in the relationship building process. Each letter, each application, each invitation you extend, and yes, even every conversation you have with your prospective funder is building that relationship foundation.
Developing a relationship with a prospective grantor takes time. When you take into account the needed time to not only research, write, and apply to funders, but to get to know them and for them to get to know you, successful grantwriting requires a significant time budget.
Set yourself up for success early and plan on the time needed to build those relationships. You can more than triple the odds of getting that grant and being approved for funding!
It can be frustrating to break into receiving nonprofit grants. Maybe you feel like your proposal skills are not as well developed as you need, or that your system for finding and applying for funding is not up to snuff. Things are just not going as quickly or smoothly as you think they should. Working with a Fundraising Coach is a great way to cut out the guesswork and focus on successful grantwriting strategies.
Hard not to sound like a broken record here, but I want to echo the others... so much of successful fundraising is about building relationships. Thanks for the great post!
Building relationships is the x-factor of success that no one in fundraising/marketing wants to talk about. People buy from and donate to those they know, like and trust (fortunately or unfortunately). This is great advice for anyone who wants to improve their success in writing a grant application.
Heidi, I love how you point us to the importance of relationships - the basis of everything, I believe. It's a fine art and your suggestions are helpful! Thanks!
Here's a link to the book you asked about, Heidi. Hope your readers enjoy it! http://www.causeplanet.org/book_summaries/detail.php?id=110 We'll also be excerpting our author interview with Clarke in the upcoming weeks: http://www.causeplanet.org/blog/?p=1154
Love the aspect of relationship building in grantseeking, Heidi. I think fundraisers get absorbed in the actual document and forget the relationship is a big part of it. I'm featuring a great book this month called "Storytelling for Grantseekers." This topic fits nicely with yours!
Thanks Denise! Just the forms and format can get you thinking that being successful in grantwriting is more about crossing your 't's and dotting your 'i's, than the people actually reading your applications. Sounds like a terrific reference you've got featured this month! It would be great to share where you can check out "Storytelling for Grantseekers." Where would I find the book or review?