When Should an Organization Start Looking at Grants? | Funding for Good
Would it surprise you to know that some nonprofits have never, and will never be looking at grants as part of their development plan?

I have worked with nonprofits who have been around over 50 years and are just now venturing into the grant world. They were never looking at grants in the past. They might take the journey because of the economy, but not because they want to rely on grants. So, don’t assume just because you are a nonprofit organization, you are ‘suppose’ to rely on or be looking at grants. That is not the case.  If your organization is in a place that it might be considering looking at grants, these are the things I tell folks to consider:

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

  1. If you have a capital campaign, you may consider looking at grants for a portion of that campaign to ensure its’ success and speedy completion.
  2. If you are in a field where funding has been cut through your historical funding sources (mental health services for example), then you may need to look to grant funding until you can rework your game plan on how to sustain your organization.
  3. 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 do serve more in your field… perhaps it is time to research what is available in terms of grant dollars.

I also tell folks to consider this information:

  1. If you are creating programs or projects to fit a grant you have found or heard about, that is not the right order of operations. Decide on your needs, list them, understand them, and then go find the grants that fit those needs.
  2. If your organization has a budget or a previous year’s budget in the ‘red’, you may not want to begin looking at 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.
  3. If your organization is in its’ infancy, you may find seed money to support your work, but funders who have been around for a while may require you to show  a history of success prior to funding you. This can be 3-5 years or more. So, despite a perfect fit on paper, you may not qualify due to the amount of time you have  been providing services.

There are lots of 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 changes.

Here are some additional articles that may be helpful:

Developing Your Development Director

Grants and Your Fundraising Plan

What Should Happen After a Grant is Awarded? 

Identifying, Applying for and Managing Grant Funds for Nonprofits