How Startup Nonprofits Can Get the Grant of Their Dreams

Getting that perfect grant can be a make or break situation for a startup nonprofit. When Nonprofit Hub was at its beginning, we were lucky enough to receive a grant that helped us get our feet on solid ground. But that was because of a relationship I had built with the organization over several years’ time and they trusted me to do good with their money. There are several ways to achieve the same sort of deal and it all stems from creating a relationship with the granting organization you’re working with, once you find the grant you want to apply for. 

Here are some tips on what you can do to get that partnership started.

Get coffee with them

Building a relationship with a granting organization is vital, just as it is with any other donor. It’s risky for them to put money into an operation that they don’t know for sure will be successful. They want to know that you have longevity so their money won’t be wasted. Help granting organizations understand where you’re coming from by asking them to sit down and get to know you and your mission. An informal meeting is a good way to let your presence be known and let your passion shine through.

Apply for the right grants

If you’re thinking about going for government grants…good luck. Those are some of the most difficult grants to apply for since you have to make sure you meet all of their tricky qualifications (psst—use our cheat sheet to know if you end up going this route). Focus on local foundations. They’re more likely to both understand your cause and want to contribute to their community directly.

Float around your letter of intent

Ask the granting organization if they can take a look at your letter of intent before you apply for anything. Ask for feedback to learn what you can do better to increase your chances of getting the grant. Not only does it let you know how to adjust for each and every grant, it can also help build a relationship with the organization because they will get to know you and your nonprofit better. I’ve even run into situations where an organization didn’t get the grant because they didn’t ask for enough. Depending on how well you know the granting organization—or if you have a personal connection—this step will help you ask for the right amount. 

Understand a foundation’s restrictions

Sometimes certain foundations only give to certain things, and usually grants are to fund specific types of programs. There are those that target their grants to only their geographical communities, or ones that will only give to a particular cause, such as animal welfare or cancer research. It’s all about developing relationships with the right foundations for your nonprofit to help you understand the expectation. When you find that fit, you can work with them to better the cause you both care about.

So getting grants is an excellent way to help deepen your organization’s impact, but it usually isn’t the first place you should look to create impact. There are grants out there that help out brand new organizations, but grantors typically like to feel a sense of security in work you’ve already accomplished. When you do go for gold and apply for that grant, focus on the personal connections and don’t be afraid to ask for more than you’re comfortable with.


Randy Hawthorne

As the former Executive Director and Editor for Nonprofit Hub and a Professional Certified Marketer, Randy shares his passions of marketing and education with nonprofits to help them implement marketing and organizational leadership principles so they can grow their organizations. Randy lends his marketing and organizational leadership expertise to a number of nonprofits in his community. Outside the office, Randy works with high school and college students and mentors young professionals to develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

September 27, 2018

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