‘Tis the season once again for holiday parties and the art of polite conversation. Usually at these functions I’m eventually asked “So, what do you do for a living?” When I explain that I’m a grant writing consultant for nonprofits I’ll often hear about a cause that my fellow party-goer is passionate about. Then I get hit with the question “I’ve always been interested in grant writing. Is it hard?”
Well, no. I’ve been thinking a lot about this question lately and decided that no, it really is not hard. It just takes a series of steps to actually get started. This is the point where most people fail at grant writing – they never actually attempt it.
In response to this, I’ve created seven essential steps to achieving success in grant writing. They’re not hard steps – just baby ones – and I think you’ll find them useful in making a difference in winning grants for your organization.
Step 1 – Overcome your irrational fear that you can’t write grants or that you don’t have time. This is the single most important step that can keep you from acquiring hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of grant writing dollars. It is also what keeps you from taking that first step towards the perfect career for you allowing you flexibility to work when you choose and raise your family at the same time.
Grant writing is a simple step-by-step process that if followed correctly will remove doubt and guesswork and give you confidence. Clear from your mind that the only way to win a grant is by filling out a hundred page application that takes you two months to complete. The process is extremely simple and streamlined.
Overcoming this first step is important! Stay with me and let me give you a couple of reasons why: (the next 6 steps are short and sweet, I promise)
Think for a moment what tremendous possibilities this skill can do for you. With $38 billion in grants given out annually, your skill can literally transform your nonprofit to hire new staff, complete a new building, reach hundreds of more clients – whatever your desire.
The ability to write grants can also transform you personally. Do you desire to work from home and make a healthy living at the same time? A proven record in writing winning grant applications is attractive to nonprofits that are looking for grant writing consultants and gives you the financial freedom to follow your personal goals. (Moving on…)
Step 2 – Get your nonprofit ready to receive a grant. Sure, most nonprofits may think that they’re ready (who isn’t always willing and eager to receive some money?) but grant funders may feel differently. There is a systematic, easy-to-follow process that gets organizations “grant ready.”
For instance, can your nonprofit demonstrate a significant need in the community? How effectively are you meeting these needs? Is there anyone else that’s already meeting these needs? If so, how and why is your program meeting these needs better?
There is competition for grant dollars and you better be ready to tackle some tough questions.
Also, for new grant writing consultants, you need to learn your nonprofit clients inside and out in order to win grants and keep them happy. Are you familiar with the “grant ready checklist?”
Step 3 – Use the many grant funding resources that are available to find the perfect grantor match for your organization. No expensive search engines are required. With just minimal effort, learn how to effectively search for funders with the volumes of information that can be used for FREE. (In my humble opinion, free is always good.)
Get familiar with the myriad of resources available and learn how to check for eligibility, the foundation’s purpose and funding restrictions.
Step 4 – Learn to network and build relationships with grant funders to maximize chances for funding. Simply talking with program officers, hanging out with other grant writers and networking with previous grantees greatly increases your chances for winning grants. How? Because each of these requires methodical relationship building.
Just as you didn’t marry your significant other on the first date, it takes time to develop relationships. I suggest calling foundation program officers to learn more about the funding foundation and just generally getting to know the staff. I also encourage membership and participation in such reputable organizations as the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Association of Grant Writing Professionals. This will expose you to folks with many years of fund raising experience, including grant writers, who are usually more than happy to help out fellow grant writers feeling “stuck” when it comes to that funder they just can’t crack.
Step 5 – Write an effective application that grant writers want to both read and fund. Listen to the experts that tout “storytelling” as a proven tool for winning grants. Grant reviewers and decision makers are just like you and me – they can’t resist a compelling story.
Step 6 – Make the grant reviewer want to read your proposal with an enticing “peek.” I like to think of my grant application as a present for the reviewer and what does every present need to evoke anticipation and wonder? Pretty packaging. Make your cover letter enticing wanting the grant reviewer to rip open that proposal and read to the heart’s content.
Step 7 – Be sure to always follow grant funder’s reporting guidelines. Why? Because you want their repeat business! Like any other great investment, you appreciate hearing what is being done with it. Reassure the grant funder that they were right to entrust you with their investment.
See? Those aren’t so hard. Employ this seven-step strategy today in your grant funding quest and see what a difference they can make to your bottom line.