How can you know if a grant opportunity is right for you and your cause? A grant proposal is a lengthy project with lots of elements. Before you invest your time in writing it, you want to know that you’ve maximized your chances of winning an award.
You can increase your odds by screening each grant opportunity using specific criteria. A simple vetting process allows you to identify a funder’s goals and compare them to yours. You can quickly see if you’re in sync – or not. Misalignment is one of the biggest reasons that grant applications are rejected outright.
When you identify appropriate funding opportunities and eliminate those that are unsuitable, you target your writing efforts. You save time and aggravation. And you increase your odds.
Plus, when you find like-minded funders, you can develop a long-term relationship with them. Many funders routinely invite organizations to apply for extra funds or annual support once they discover similar goals.
A bit of well-placed time at the front end will improve your chances of winning a grant. And along the way, you can identify funders who can become long-term supporters and cheerleaders. You can use this workbook to vet potential grant opportunities as you examine specific criteria. Here are the criteria you need to evaluate.
Are you eligible for the grant? Study the application’s “Eligibility Requirements” or “Qualified Applicants” section. If you do not meet the requirements, you have no need to proceed. And you’ve saved yourself LOTS of time.
Do your interest areas align with the funder’s? You’re looking for a relationship between your mission and the funder’s priorities. Some funders list their interest areas clearly. Others require a bit of detective work.
Once you know you’re qualified to apply and the funder looks like a good fit, then examine the specific grant announcement itself. How does your project or cause intersect with the grant opportunity?
Some funders provide resources in any location. Others are quite specific, as in “We fund nonprofit organizations in west Texas only.” Be sure your organization fits the geographic bill. There’s nothing more deflating than to complete and submit a grant proposal for your work in North America only to be told that the funder focuses on Central America projects only.
If you apply for a $25,000 grant from a funder that limits its awards to $10,000, you will look like you didn’t do your homework. And the funder would be right. But what if the award is for $250,000 and your annual budget is $100,000? Funders do not want to be the sole revenue source. Review that funder’s guidelines to find out the grant amounts or check the funder’s latest 990 form.
At this point, you have a good idea whether or not going after the grant is worth your time and effort.
But go one more step and ask this: do you have the capacity to accomplish what is described in the application? The funder will want to see that you have infrastructure in place to carry out the project, including the staff, operational resources, collaborative partners, other revenue sources, and time.
I’ve created a simple workbook to help you determine if a grant opportunity is right for you. I use this same process as I screen all the grant options that clients bring to me. It’s a helpful tool that separates the promising grants from those that are not a good fit. There’s a section that allows you to address each criteria, with special tips to help you dig up the needed information.
The workbook is fillable online so you don’t even need to print it – although you can if you prefer. And you can use it over and over, as many times as you like, as you screen different funders.
Don’t waste your time preparing grant applications that are not a good fit for you and your cause. Screen them. And you’ll increase your chances of an award.
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