Grant writing is one of the essential individual skills and organizational capacities in the nonprofit sector. Most nonprofit organizations and charities rely on government or private sector grants to fund their community services and operations.
Grant writing is not rocket science but requires a certain amount of expertise, energy and time. This article will try to summarize the seven steps of successful grant writing based on Vectors Group’s years of grant writing experience and fund development research.
1. Built organizational capacity
Your organizational capacity is the primary factor in the success rate of your grant applications. It has three components.
a. Operational capacity:
This is more about your value proposition and the community services you offer. Most of the grantors will look for the operational capability of the grant applicants. They will approve the grant application only after they ensure that the applicant can deliver or implement the proposed project. Before applying to the government or private sector grants, offer some nonprofit services and gain experience. Record and document your operations.
b. Governance capacity:
Your board and governance (decision making, guiding and evaluating) systems are the two primary components of your governance capacity. It would be best to build a diverse, engaged and robust board.
c. Financial capacity:
Most grant organizations ask for the financial statements of the last one or three years to check your financial ability. Although there is usually no official restriction to ask for any amount allowed in a particular grant opportunity, traditionally, it is less likely for your nonprofit organization to get a grant above your annual budget. The only exceptions are the seed grants.
2. Continuously Explore Grant Opportunities
Successful grant writing requires continuous exploration of grant opportunities. Several websites and service providers search for grant opportunities for nonprofit organizations. However, even when you get those services, you still need to evaluate the grant requirements and eligibility criteria before making your final decision.
3. Understand Grant Objectives
If you are new to grant writing and grant applications first thing you need to learn is: “You can’t find grants for your projects; you can develop projects for the grants.” Of course, there may be exceptions, but the grants have clear and usually strict objectives and guidelines in most cases. You have to adapt to those requirements and comply with the grant objectives. The more aligned you are with the grant objectives, the greater your chance of winning. It would help to highlight this alignment between project and grant objectives. Do not expect the person reading your application to understand this automatically.
4. Built a network of strategic partners
Almost all government and private sector grant opportunities require or encourage project partnership. To increase your chances in grant writing, you need to form impactful coalitions with nonprofit organizations, research institutes, universities, and social enterprises. For example, Vectors Institute, as a social enterprise, supports many nonprofit organizations and charities in their grant applications as a training provider. Your team of strategic partners is critical for the success of your grant application.
5. Prepare an Innovative and Applicable Project Plan
After building your coalition and capacity, the next step in grant writing is to prepare your project plan. The project plan must be aligned with the objectives and technical requirements. It also has to be innovative and applicable. The grantors possibly evaluate hundreds of similar projects every year. Therefore, they look for creative ideas and new ways of delivering community services. Finally, the grant organizations also ensure that the projects are realistic and applicable.
6. Include Your Key Stakeholders
Your coalition of strategic partners is one of your key stakeholders, but it is not the only one. For example, your local federal or provincial parliament members, the Ministers, the Majors, the senior managers of other organizations or any other community leader can support your grant writing by providing a support letter. Find your key stakeholders for each grant opportunity.
7. Keep Trying
The success rate of grant applications is not 100%. Even when you write a good grant, you may not get awarded. Grant writing may not always produce the results you want. Especially for start-up nonprofits, a success rate above 25% will be a surprise. So you need to apply for as many as possible grants if you want to increase the number of awarded grants.
As Vectors Group we offer grant writing and grant application services. We also offer grant writing workshops and grant writing training programs.