Learn how a grant readiness assessment or checklist can make grant fundraising easier—and more successful!
Every nonprofit client we’ve worked with wants to secure more grant funding. This is for good reason! Grants play a vital role in nonprofit fundraising. And landing a major six- or seven-figure grant can be the key to launching a new initiative or scaling up a successful program. When managed well, grants can supercharge an organization’s long-term impact and sustainability.
But just because we all want to apply for grant funding, doesn’t mean every nonprofit is ready. That’s why many nonprofit consultants use a grant readiness assessment or checklist with their clients.
Today, we want to delve into what grant readiness means, how to use a grant readiness assessment, and how to make sure your nonprofit organizations—or, if you’re a consultant, your nonprofit clients—are prepared to succeed with grant funding.
What is a Grant Readiness Assessment?
Grant readiness describes whether a nonprofit organization is prepared to successfully apply for, receive, and manage a new grant. Being grant ready means a nonprofit has the administrative, governance, financial, leadership, and programmatic know-how to win and deliver on grants.
A grant readiness assessment or checklist helps nonprofit leaders, fundraising staff, and grant consultants quickly and easily assess whether an organization is grant ready.
The same grant checklist also serves as an organizing tool to make it easier to apply for grants! Using a grant readiness checklist as your guide, you can pull together the most frequently requested documents and data you’ll need to apply for grant funding—and organize it all in one easily-accessible place.
Who Needs a Grant Readiness Assessment?
There are three common situations where a grant readiness assessment is incredibly useful:
1) When your nonprofit is newer and considering applying for a first grant as a 501c3 organization. A grant readiness assessment ensures you have the administrative and financial basics covered. It also guides you in preparing the materials that nearly every funder is going to be asking you for.
2) When you’re a grant consultant talking to a potential client. As a grant writer, you need to be sure any new client you take on is truly prepared to apply for and receive a grant. Otherwise, you and your client could both end up wasting a lot of time. A grant readiness checklist reduces the guesswork of client intake.
3) When you’re ready to make any nonprofit’s grant fundraising more efficient. Even if an organization has already received plenty of grants, that doesn’t mean its grant process is efficient. Trust us, we’ve been there! When used as an organizing tool, a grant readiness checklist can streamline your grant submission process.
Funding for Good first created our grant readiness checklist because we wanted to better serve our clients while also making our own work more efficient. While we do less direct fundraising today—instead focusing more on strategic planning and helping nonprofit consultants grow their businesses—our grant readiness checklist continues to help hundreds of nonprofits and grant consultants around the country.
What’s Included in a Grant Readiness Checklist
In our checklist below, also available as a free grant readiness checklist download, we break down the six core categories where foundations most often ask grant applicants for information. Then we list the most popular items needed in each category.
To put the checklist to work, start by creating a folder called “Grant Documents.” If you’re a consultant, we recommend creating this folder for each client as you onboard them.
Within this main folder, create a subfolder for each subcategory. Then, as you go through the checklist and locate each item, move a copy into the appropriate subfolder.
When you’re done, you’ll have all the key documents and information needed to submit complete grant applications. Imagine never scrambling for attachments or data again!
The six core grant checklist headings are:
- Organizational Background
- Tax Documents
- Financial Information
- Program/Project Information
Then, under each subcategory heading, you’ll want to include the following materials:
1. Organizational Background
- History of the organization (narrative)
- Year established
- Mission, vision, and values statement
- Top organizational accomplishments over the last 3-5 years (narrative)
- Organizational diversity statement and statistics (including a narrative statement as well as demographic information for both board and staff)
2. Tax Documents
- IRS tax-exempt status letter
- Most recent 990
- Current year W-9
3. Financial Information
- Detailed organizational budget for the current fiscal year
- Most recent audit
- Financial statement for most recently completed fiscal year (if the audit is not yet available)
- Board of directors list (including affiliations and contact information)
- Organizational chart
- By-laws, conflict of interest policy, and non-discrimination policy
- Current strategic plan
Note that foundation funders especially are increasingly eager to see that your organization has a current and relevant strategic plan. Learn more in our article: Nonprofit Strategic Planning: Your Complete Guide.
5. Program/Project Information
- Detailed program or project description
- Measurable goals and metrics for the current year
- Outcomes and metrics for the previous year (for example, number of clients served)
- Letters of support from key partners
- Percentage board members who give annually
- Solicitation license (where applicable)
Customizing the Checklist for Your Organization or Nonprofit Clients
This checklist isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a strong starting point for every organization. Once you’ve covered the basics here, you may want to customize it further for your team or clients. For example, you may want to save copies of the organization’s most recent grant proposals for general support and for core program areas.
Organizing these files for easy access now will save you and your grants team a lot of time and energy when you start submitting those grant applications!
The Next Stage: Finding Funding Prospects
Is your organization grant ready, but not sure where to start finding new grant funding prospects? Funding for Good takes a limited number of grant research clients. If you’re ready to save time and raise more money, check out our Grant Research Package.