For some people, grant writing feels like this un-conquerable beast standing between you and you organization’s stability. While some foundations do have a long, daunting process, there are others that have a quick one page form.
I got my first grant back in high school over a decade ago. My basketball coach owned a sports apparel company. I wanted to design t-shirts, but I had no capital. After practice one day I showed him some sketches and talked about my business idea. I couldn’t tell if he took 15-year-old me seriously, but he told me that if I brought back a budget he *might* help me out. I talked to my best friend and together we came up with a proposal. I don’t remember whether our projections were good or not, but we got the money and we sold about a dozen shirts. Mind you–this was back in the 90s before social media was a thing. For us, those shirts meant we had a real chance at being business owners. I try to bring that same motivation to grant writing. Most of the folks who need these tips are as privileged to have an adult who believes in their idea enough to fund it. That’s where I come in.
Rather than drive yourself up the wall, use these 4 quick grant writing tips to get started.
#1 Target Small/New Organizations
While it may be tempting to write Oprah a letter asking for $1 million to start your cat tattoo non-profit, let’s take a few steps back. Often, there a smaller foundations and collectives looking for great ideas. Take the Coalition of Black Excellence. Started by a Black litigation attorney, this organization has only been around for a year, but it has already grown to a size that allows them to distribute four (4) grants to non-profits. Another great thing about small and new organizations is their commitment to their mission statement. The Association of Black Argumentation Professionals has provided in-kind professional development services and workshops to entrepreneurs. When you’re looking for operational funding, in-kind donations can help lift some of the burden from nonprofit leaders.
#2 Make SMART Goals
You may have learned about this in one of your intro classes. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Goals that don’t meet one or more of these standards tend to be too abstract, which means you’re sending your potential funder on a wild goose chance for your mission. SMART goals will set you apart from other applicants and this strategy gives your funder a great first impression of your leadership.
#3 Include an Itemized Budget
This is especially important for fixed operational costs. Most donors want to know that their money will be in the hands of someone responsible and forward-thinking. To that end, things like rent & occupancy expenses, salary, and insurance should be built into your budget.
#4 Make a Calendar
Never submit your first draft. Instead, create a calendar so you can stay organized as you move through the application. You want to give yourself at least six weeks to develop a well thought out proposal. Your timeline should also include letting friends, family members, or colleagues review your work. Give them enough time to give solid feedback.
#5 Use Other Orgs as a Cheat Sheet
Why re-create the wheel? So many other organizations have come and gone. Why not use them as a template? The YMCA’s annual report is simple and aesthetically pleasing. The Red Cross’s Mission Statement clearly lays out what they’re about. Instead of wrecking your brain about the perfect wording, take time to study others in your sector to learn trends and best practices.
#6 Follow Directions!
It seems simple, but you’d be surprised by how many people neglect this piece of advice. I’ve been a grant reviewer for Youth Service America and the most common mistake applicants made was failing to follow the directions. Some people go over the word count or forget to include the proper contact information. Others may simply skip a required prompt within their narrative. In order to avoid this common mistake, refer to tip #4.
When All Else Fails, Google It
There are a lot of tools, tips, and tricks out there. Rather than paying a bunch of money for a grant writer who may or may not pan out, take the time to do a little research on your own. Keyword searches for “start up grant” “mini grant” and “quick grant” will go a long way towards landing that first grant.
Every grant application is different. If you’re looking for expert advice, book a consultation today and let me guide you through the grant-making process: LneeRD@outlook.com