Finding Your Perfect Love: Grant Writing Tips for Nonprofit Organizations

Grant writing is a lot like dating in college (I’m speaking from experience here).

You don’t go out on one date and call it good. You go on many dates—some are duds and some are worth further investigation. You don’t write one grant and expect it to end like a fairytale. It will probably end in frustration, some ice cream and a good movie. You probably won’t get it right the first time. You will learn, rework, resubmit new proposals, and eventually land the perfect one and put a ring on it.

Now for the slightly scary stuff. There are over 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the United States. That’s a lot of nonprofits gunning for the same money. But foundations and corporations award roughly $50 billion dollars annually. So, you know when your mom always told you that there are a lot of fish in the sea? It applies here too—there’s a lot of grant money to be had if you’re willing to go after it.

If you’re ready to start the courtship, here are my dating tips for finding the perfect grant:

Do Your Research

If you’re at the point where you’re looking for “the one,” you don’t go out on dates with any ol’ guy or gal. You look into them. You creep on them extensively on social media. Take the time to get all of the facts about the grant you’ve chosen to apply for, and realize that most grants have very specific requirements. Don’t waste your time applying for grants that don’t perfectly fit your nonprofit organization. If you’re going to commit to applying for grants in the first place, be willing to commit to the needed research that precedes the actual application process.

Figure Out Which Category You Fit Into

You know how there are certain dating sites for different types of people? (Christian Mingle and FarmersOnly for example.) There are different types of grants and it’s vital that you look into which category your NPO fits into the best. The grants given out by foundations or corporate giving programs fall into one of two categories:

  • Operational general purpose support grants

  • Program development

For more details on how each of these categories break down, take a look at the Minnesota Council on Foundation’s Common Types of Grants article.

Use Your Resources

In college it’s usually your roommates who approve of your outfit and restaurant choice before the first date. Later in life it could be your pet, Snapchat followers or your bathroom mirror. You use outside references to ensure a solid course of action. Take a look at these grant writing resources to get off on the right foot:

Understand That Most First Attempts at Grant Writing Don’t Work Out

It’s a hit and miss process filled with lots of red editing ink. Heading into the process with a good attitude is half the battle. If you expect to find the perfect grant the first time, you’re going to get stood up. Try to have a positive attitude throughout the whole process—which is like saying “try and have a positive attitude after getting dumped.” It will be difficult, but I believe in you.

What great grant writing resources have you come across in your research? Any great ones that I missed? Let me know in the comments section below. And good luck with your grant writing dating adventure.