You might ask yourself, “what does private investigating have to do with grant research?” Well, an awful lot it turns out. Like any good private investigator, a good grant researcher needs to think outside the box, be able to think like a funder, follow the money trails and learn how to get close to and build relationships with potential donors/funders/foundations. You need some inside information from the nonprofit world via 990’s, annual reports, networking events, other development officers, board members, foundation staff and program officers. You need to spend time observing and learning the patterns of donors, learning their preferences and finding a way to make your case fit their passion.
Grant research doesn’t just fall in most of our laps. It happens on occasion, and for those times, most of us are grateful, but the majority of the time, we spend hours scrolling through 990’s, searching the Internet or browsing files in our offices to learn about those who have and who might fund our organizations. There are a few steps you can take today, to produce the research you will need tomorrow, to have your programs and projects funded fully next year.
- List your needs
- List the dollar amounts associated with those needs
- List the geographic area where your program will have an impact
- List the type of funds you need (gen ops, capital, program, technology etc)
- List the date by which you need the money in-hand
One you have this list, then spend 1-2 days researching yours needs and compiling a good list of potential donors. Then….
- List the reasons you feel these donors are a potential match
- Put your ‘findings’ in order by best fit for your needs
- Start contacting program officers to determine the funders ‘take’ on your project – and take notes on their feedback
Once you have done this, you should have a great working list of grants, deadlines, amounts to write for etc. Now you have a grant writing outline for the next few months. Go get some grants!