Ultimate Guide to Your Nonprofit Grant: Once It’s Yours

Well, well, look at you: your nonprofit just received an offer letter from the foundation you’ve spent months trying to seduce. Your countless man-hours of researching the grant requirements, writing up a proposal and maintaining a back-and-forth with the foundation bigwigs have finally paid off.

We’re very proud of you. They grow up so fast.

Now, the average candidate would throw that letter into the old mail pile, pat themselves on the back and run out the door for some champagne. But you’ve already proven you’re no average candidate.

Instead, ask yourself, what’s the next step for my nonprofit? What can I do to capitalize on this success? How do I best harvest the fruits of my labor?

We’re here to help you out.

Step Back for a Moment.

Take a second look at that letter and evaluate the grant’s terms and conditions. Run some mental numbers to be certain that your nonprofit has the resources to satisfy any grant conditions. If you agree to the grant conditions and are unable to satisfy them later, you may end up having to pay back a portion of the grant money—or even its entirety.

If the terms of the grant are the same as those you proposed, you should be in the clear. If you can’t satisfy the terms of the grant, you’ll either need to renegotiate or decline. Them’s the bricks.

After you’ve accounted for everything, figure out if there’s any requisite grant acceptance paperwork and get it sent in posthaste.

Keep in Communication.

First of all, say thanks. Let the foundation know how thrilled you are to be picked for this honor. This grant is a gesture of faith and support in your cause: respect that, and thank them.

By this point, you’ve probably already done the legwork to determine what kind of grant you’re receiving, and how in-the-loop the foundation would like to be kept. Some foundations desire more of a partnership relationship, and will provide you with support materials, give you plenty of input and want to be apprised of how things are going.

Others just want to write a check and see you make the world a better place.

Either way, keep the lines of communication open and update them on your progress, especially when you make positive impact.

Follow the Funding Conditions—Submit Them Reports!

Always submit any required reports. Again, not to belabor our point, but the foundation has put time, money and trust into you, so it’s of paramount importance to play by their rules and give them a healthy dose of respect.

Many grants have minimal strings attached paperwork-wise: just write a report at the end of the project, describing the outcome and how the money was allocated. Others are more time intensive, requiring you to regularly check in.

It’s easy to regard these reports as the busywork that is keeping you from what you really need to do—change the world through your nonprofit. Instead, realize that these reports are indirectly what are enabling you to make that change in the first place.

Give Them Credit.

The grant-givers like to be acknowledged, and rightly so. Make sure to positively mention them on your website, any press releases, reports, letters and promotional materials. Ask them if there is a specific way they’d like the acknowledgement to be formatted.

Remember, positive press for the foundation will only increase their willingness to work with you again in the future.

Think about an exit strategy.

Not to overwhelm you, but at some point you’ll have to think to the future.

When you have time, evaluate where your nonprofit will be at the end the of the grant’s funding period. Will you have achieved your goal? Will you need to apply for more funding, or start a grassroots fundraising program?

Take some action now to reduce stress later.

Open Up a Cold One

Ok, ok. You’ve earned it. Hit the town with your friends and associates, and celebrate in style (on your own dime, of course).

Let’s face it: Out of anywhere from dozens to hundreds of organizations that applied for this grant, yours is the nonprofit that was chosen. If there were a crop, you’d be its cream.

Be sure to savor this moment. This is one of those rare life experiences that doesn’t come by often. You did the hard work, and there’s plenty of hard work up ahead, but for now—congratulations.

What first steps does your nonprofit take after receiving a grant?


Marc Koenig

Marc Koenig is a regular contributor of Nonprofit Hub. Marc believes smart, ethical marketing can make the world a better place, and strives to create content that helps nonprofits tell better stories, push their organizations to excel and do work that matters. You'll find him writing Nonprofit Hub featured posts, brainstorming infographics and tweeting up a storm at @npmarc - follow him and say hi!

September 24, 2012

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