4 Building Blocks for New Grant Seekers
When you submit a grant proposal, you are asking a grantmaker to believe in your organization. Grantors are not only funding your project, they are investing in your vision and trusting that you will use their money wisely to meet a goal you both hold in common. Potential funders evaluate the amount of risk involved in funding you by looking at your history of grants management and your track record of success in serving your target population. If you have proven yourself trustworthy and effective in the past, they can invest in you with confidence that you will prove so again.
If your organization is young, small, or new to grant seeking, however, it can be difficult to demonstrate its stewardship and effectiveness. Here are four ways that you can build the reputation and experience you need to attract grant funding to your organization:
- Build knowledge. Grant writing is a specialized form of communication, with its own rules, best practices, and common language. You MUST be able to write well and persuasively. From the first page of your proposal, you are creating an impression of your organization and its capacity to manage grants legally and effectively. Benefit from others’ experience by seeking out resources, like this and other newsletters, and attending a variety of grants training programs. You will learn to create strong proposals that resonate with funders and that show you understand industry expectations.
- Build relationships. Organizations don’t give to organizations; rather, people give to people. Spend time forging relationships within your field and with grantmaking program officers. Attend webinars and information sessions hosted by grantmaking agencies. Network with current grantees and program officers at conferences. Take the time to really understand the vision and strategy of the funders you wish to approach, so that you can demonstrate in your proposal how your program and their visions are in alignment.
- Build reputation. Participating in a grant project as a partner or a sub-grantee is a great way to gain the experience and reputation that funders are seeking. Many large grants require collaborative efforts to meet requirements beyond the scope that one organization can provide. Look for potential lead organizations in your area with established grant track records, such as large non-profits, health departments, or education institutions. Let them know about the added value your services and programs can bring to a grant project.
- Build momentum. Show you can be trusted with small things before asking for big things. Grants require significant administrative capacity after the award is received. Develop solid post-award processes and procedures by starting with smaller grants and then applying to progressively larger ones. Community foundations, local corporations, and United Way chapters often have mini or small grant programs that can move the needle for your project while enhancing your experience and reputation as a solid investment for grant funds.
It can be very difficult to get your first grant award when you have little experience to show in running a grant program. Taking the time to build your reputation and track record will pay off significantly in the long run.
Jenny Braswell is a GrantProse Associate.