Local governments and non-profit organizations alike can benefit from a strong grant development program. To be ‘grant ready,’ however, it is key to make sure you have done your homework and have everything you need in place before starting a trek down this path. To repeat one of the great mottos of the Twentieth century, it literally pays to ‘be prepared!’
This article will cover four key points of grant readiness for both local governments and non-profit organizations. Thomas Edison once said that genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. Having these four things in place at the start of your grant development process will make it possible for you to be successful – but it may require you to sweat a few details.
Four Grant-Readiness Points
Outcomes: You may have a great idea. You may even have a great budget built for your great idea. But without a vision for how your great idea will turn out, or a way to evaluate it, many funders (government agencies or foundations, regardless) will simply deny your application. Measurable outcomes are important to program planning because they enable you to determine what changed as a result of your hard work. Outcomes measurement makes it possible to determine how effective a program was, and to identify what practices worked best (and can be repeated).
Guideline Alignment: Even with more than 20 years in grant writing and development under my belt, I have been guilty of misguided interpretation of grant guidelines. In all due respect to some funders, guidelines can sometimes be vague. Make sure you have complete understanding of what each funder is asking of your program, and within your proposal. Even if grantor guidelines are detailed, they might be confusing. Do not hesitate to contact the funder if anything is vague or unclear. The last thing you want to do is spend a great deal of time creating what you believe is a solid proposal to later find out you completely missed the mark.
Proof of Past Impact: Has the idea worked before? Great! Now prove it. Remember those outcomes I mentioned earlier? This is where they really come into play. How well did the idea work? Is it something that other organizations can model? Has it been called a ‘best practice?’ Who did it impact, and why? By discussing past impact and outcome results, you are adding credibility to your idea. Or, if the program is new to your government or organization, then make sure you have researched how it worked for others, and be prepared (see, I said it again!) to prove how those results can translate to success for your idea.
Realistic Budget: If we were the true masters of the universe, grant budgets would cover EVERY SINGLE NEED. But we are not, and we must be judicious and realistic in what we ask grantors to fund – and in how we present that need in dollars and cents. Keep your administrative and overhead costs to less than 15% (so says Charity Navigator), heed indirect cost percentages (which seem to level out around 10%, depending on agency), and keep your direct costs realistic. ‘Fluff’ should be something to describe your cat or your marshmallows – not the line items in your grant’s budget.
Having these things in place at the outset will save you time, blood, sweat and tears when you start to prepare not only your first proposals, but the many after that.
About Linda : Founder and Principal of XRD|Resource Development, Linda is a dedicated grant developer for non-profit organizations and political subdivisions. She has served as a dedicated fundraiser for non-profit organizations throughout the Great Plains and Midwest, and as an independent contractor for organizations devoted to homelessness, mental health, the performing arts, human services, and IT education. In addition to being a successful grant developer, Linda provides training in fundraising, public relations, social media, and marketing for new non-profit professionals. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Linda is also a recent second-place winner in the 2017 Winning Grant Proposal Competition, sponsored by Grant Professionals Association and GrantStation.