4 Signs a Nonprofit Should Start Looking at Grants

by | Jul 19, 2017 | Development/Fundraising, Grant Writing

Would it surprise you to know that some nonprofits have never – and will never – start looking at grants as part of their development plan?

I have worked with nonprofits that have been around for over 50 years and are just now venturing into the grant world. They usually start looking at grants because of an external force, and not because they want to rely on grants.

Don’t assume that just because you are a nonprofit organization, you are ‘supposed’ to apply for and rely on grants. That is not the case. Many experts in the field agree that a healthy nonprofit should never depend on grant funding for more than 30% of its total operating budget.

Consider the following when determining your organization’s readiness to start looking at grants:

1. If you are in a place where you have met your capacity (staff, space, program etc.), then it might be time to start looking at grants, specifically capacity-building grants, so you can grow.

2. If you have a capital campaign, you may consider making grants a portion of that campaign to ensure its success and speedy completion.

3. If you are in a field where long-term funding sources have been cut or eliminated, then you may need to look to grant funding until you can rework your game plan for sustainability.

4. If you have programs or projects that are excelling at what they do and you feel grants may highlight some of these opportunities and allow you to serve more in your field perhaps it is time to research what is available in terms of grant dollars.

I also recommend considering this information:
  • You should never ‘create’ a program or project to fit a grant you have found. Decide on your needs, list them, understand them, and then start looking at grants that match those needs.
  • If your organization has a budget or a previous year’s budget in the ‘red’, you may not want to begin writing grants until you have a few years in the ‘black.’ Funders will see you as a risk and often times will not look favorably upon your request.
  • If your organization is in its infancy, you may find seed money to support your work. Often donors require organizations to demonstrate their history of success prior to considering funding. In many cases, donors may require 3-5 years of successful programming. So, despite a perfect fit on paper, you may not qualify due to the amount of time you have been providing services.

There are many nuances to consider before beginning to utilize grant writing as part of your annual fundraising plan. But, there is also a lot to consider each year before you decide to continue grant writing in your fundraising plan, or removing it, decreasing the dollars you hope to raise through grants, or reducing the dollars you need. Your reliance on grants should be strategic, and if need be, consult with peers or other development professionals to help analyze your individual organizational needs before making these.

To make sure you have everything in place so you can begin successfully completing applications, download this free Grant Readiness Checklist. 

Grants and Your Fundraising Plan

Using Program Grants to Build Capacity

How to Create Program Budgets for Grants



Free Grant Template


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