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The eight fundamentals of supercharged grant fundraising

Grants can be a great source of funding for non-profits of all sizes. While every organisation – no matter how small or large – should be focused primarily on individual fundraising, grants can be a great complement to your other fundraising efforts. Joe Garecht reports.

If you want to raise as much as possible for your organisation through grants, it is essential to keep these eight fundamental concepts in mind:

1. Good research is half the battle

Legion are the non-profits that submit grant after grant without truly understanding the funding foundation’s key giving areas or application requirements. Don’t make this mistake.

It may take you 20 minutes to do a good amount of research on a potential funder, but that research could save you a day’s worth of grantwriting by preventing you from applying
for a grant you don’t qualify for.

2. Build a ‘stable’ of regular grantors
One of the biggest keys to grant fundraising success for small and medium-sized non-profits is to build up a stable of regular grantors who fund your organisation every year, every two years, or as often as their guidelines allow. As a rule, these grantors will be local and regional foundations who provide small and medium-sized gifts in the R10 000 – R500 000 range.

It may seem easier to apply for one or two mega-sized R2.5 million grants, but competition for those size grants is fierce and often national or international in scope. Instead, focus on building a supportive group of foundations in your area who fund your work on a regular basis.

3. Funders want to understand the ‘story’ of your non-profit
It may seem like grant applications are all legalese, but the truth is that the funding officer who is reading your grant proposal wants to understand the story of your non-profit. In fact, they need to understand the story of your non-profit if you want to win the grant.

Your entire grant proposal should be telling a story – the story of your work and your grand vision for the future . . . the vision you want the foundation to invest in. Learn how to tell that story in every grant proposal you write.

4. Funders want to make good investments
Every foundation worth its salt wants to make sure that the organisations it funds with grants are financially stable and acting with the highest integrity. In short – they want to make good investments.

All other things being equal, if a foundation has to choose between two non-profits to fund, one of which has clear financial records, a good accounting system, and studies that show the effectiveness of its work – while the other has only the most rudimentary financial reports, a haphazard accounting system, and only anecdotal evidence that its programmes actually work, the foundation will fund the first non-profit every time. Remember – your non-profit needs to show that it is a great investment worthy of grant Rands.

5. Funders want to change the world
Grantmaking institutions are looking to make good investments, but they are also looking to change the world for the better. This is why foundations would rather fund programmes that are growing and projects that are doubling in size.

Foundations see the money they give out in grants as “seed” money for future growth. If a foundation gives you R1 000 000 to fund a new education programme, it is almost always with the assumption that the programme will eventually become self-sufficient. Then, having changed the world for the better through that R1 000 000 gift, the foundation will move on to other projects and organisations.

Make sure you are casting a big vision in your grant proposals and showing funders that investing in your work will allow them to change the world through your non-profit.

6. Funders are overwhelmed, thus they look for ways to ‘disqualify’ organisations easily
If a foundation gives out ten R500 000 grants per year, chances are that they get 100-500 proposals from organisations seeking to win those grants. Like the non-profits they fund, foundations are generally understaffed, with far fewer grant officers than they need to give each proposal the time it really deserves.

One quick way to cut the workload at foundations is to disqualify non-profit organisations that fail to meet all of the application criteria set out by the foundation. Know the rules for your grant proposal before you begin.

7. You need a grant fundraising system
Super-successful grant fundraising requires a system – an easy to implement and scalable system for finding and applying for grants and stewarding funds once they are won. Don’t just throw everything up against the wall to see what sticks . . . you’ll drive yourself crazy!

8. Be a person not a corporate identity

This is a mistake. Grant officers are people.Grant committees are people. People want to hear from other people, not from a nameless, emotionless automaton or committee. Be a person, speak like a person, write like a person, and your organisation will win more grants.

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