As Founder & President of the Financial Policy Council since 2011, I learned over the last few years more than a few effective ways to win financial support for non-profit organizations.
I thought of sharing some with you in here for the benefit of anyone looking to enter the great world of non profits.
Here’s the lay of the land…
- Don’t Chase the Money – You have to qualify, qualify, qualify. Make sure your mission and purpose fits closely with the funding entity’s mission and purpose. Don’t apply for a grant because your business sort of, kind of fits it. Don’t tailor what your business does to get the funding. In hindsight, I learned to apply only for grants that look like they’re specifically written for me, my business.
- Be Laser Like Focused – Identifying private foundations, and other organizations that give grants to individuals or small businesses requires considerable time, effort and research. For starters, look in your own backyard to find grant-makers that have previously funded projects or services for businesses like yours. Use a rifle approach never a gunshot approach.
- Determine Your Approach – Once you identify potential funders, determine how you intend to approach them. Make a personal contact and cultivate relationships by e-mail, telephone call, office visit and/or letter of inquiry. During this stage you want to determine 1) their interest in your project or company, and 2) what they would like to see first as the initial document of entry (i.e., letter of inquiry or concept paper). Many funding organizations now prefer that requests be submitted first in letter format before accepting a full proposal.
- Get To Know Your Funder – Don’t write the proposal first and then go looking for funders. Your grant proposal has to be prescriptive to what that funder is seeking. Get to know potential grant-makers better by obtaining copies of their annual reports. Scrutinize their website. What buzz words do they use. You can even incorporate that funder’s colors into the fonts and graphics that you use in your grant proposal.
- Do Whatever the “Request For Proposal” Says – Most importantly, request a copy of the grant guidelines. Follow the requirements of the funding notice or application to the letter. Your guide for what to include or not to include in your document is the request for proposal (RFP) or grant application. Give the funder exactly what they ask for, no more and no less. If it says give a brief statement, you write a paragraph. If it says give us two to four pages that is what you will provide—not one page or four and a half pages.
- State Measurable Not Fluffy Objectives – In general, your proposal will start with an introduction, which includes the amount requested, followed by a description and brief history of your company and its products, services or programs. Your proposal should describe anticipated and immediate short-term and long-term results, proposed implementation, staff or key personnel, budget, methodology, benchmarks, and timetable. A common mistake in writing a proposal is failing to distinguish between a goal and objective. To provide value added services to financially savvy professionals helping to create wealth is a goal not an objective. Your objective must be S.M.A.R.T, that is specific, measurable, obtainable, realistic, and time bound. A measurable objective will have a subject, an action, a location, a timeframe and a percentage.
- Spell Out How You Intend to Spend the Money – The person giving you the money has to make sure you know how to spend it – line item by line item. Some reviewers look at the budget first to gauge applicants. People often are disqualified for providing an improper budget. They usually get tripped up by either over estimating or underestimating their costs.
- Consult a Professional Grant Writer – Don’t be fooled by advertisements and promotions for granting writing. There are a lot of scammers, especially on the internet. The Better Business Bureau is a good resource for checking the references of a grant writer. Expect to pay from $1,000 to $3,000 for a grant proposal for private or foundation funding and $4,000 to $15,000 for a grant proposal for government funding, since such grant applications tend to be more intricate. Even if you don’t hire someone to write it, you should consider hiring someone to review it.
Now you know …. Share your thoughts if you believe I missed anything of significance.
Good luck with your funding.