Securing Nonprofit Grants: What You Need to Know

Imagine losing your sole source of income. What would you do? How would you survive? For nonprofits with one primary source of income, such as government contracts, this scenario is very real. Having diversified streams of revenue is crucial to a nonprofit’s ability to survive and even thrive. A solid grants program built on a…

Imagine losing your sole source of income. What would you do? How would you survive? For nonprofits with one primary source of income, such as government contracts, this scenario is very real. Having diversified streams of revenue is crucial to a nonprofit’s ability to survive and even thrive. A solid grants program built on a pipeline of identified funders and a strong case for support can be an integral part of your organization’s fund development plan.

So, What Are Grants and Where Can a Nonprofit Find Them?

Grants are funds distributed through a competitive application process and commonly come from four sources:

  • money distributed from government entities
  • foundations established by large corporations
  • foundations established by the local community
  • or private family foundations.

According to Giving USA’s Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2018,  “Giving by foundations increased by an estimated 7.3%, to $75.86 billion in 2018 (an increase of 4.7%, adjusted for inflation).”  While this represents only 18% of total giving, $75.86 billion means there are thousands of grants funding a huge variety of programs and services. With all this money available, it is likely your program would qualify for grant funding.

Luckily, databases exist to help match a nonprofit’s program with potential grant sources. Most are available through subscription, yet many offer limited free access through public libraries and a variety of local and regional resources as detailed in this article from the National Counsel of Nonprofits.

But why should an identified funder be interested in you? They won’t be—unless you offer a compelling case for support.

Why Choose You? Answer: A Compelling Case for Support

What is a case for support? It is how you command a funder’s attention and show that you are capable of and prepared to address a human or societal need. In it you tell funders why you exist, you describe what sets you apart from any similar nonprofits, and how your program will benefit the community.

The first consideration when establishing a case for support is showing how your program meets a specific, documented need within the community and what it will accomplish. This is the basis for identifying if a program is even a fundable program or just a good idea. Keep in mind, depending on the nature of your nonprofit, “community” could mean anything from a neighborhood, to a continent, or even the entire world!

Quantify Your Impact to Strengthen Your Case Statement

Next, programs must be measurable. Numbers are a nonprofit’s friend. Use them! Quantitating your results means you are demonstrating impact through the nonprofit’s work. For example, an after-school program can demonstrate impact through academic improvement because of consistent tutoring. An equine therapy program could do pre- and post-tests to measure improvements in confidence, self-reliance, or other attitudinal changes. Follow-up assessments would report the participants’ employment and social or civic engagement because of the program. Such outcomes are the result of a successful program backed by adequate funding. Quantifying results such as these help a funder see exactly how their dollars are being spent.

Grant applicants should show that a program is achievable and sustainable for funders to deem them worthy of investment. Place yourself in the funder’s position. While they may care about your mission or population served, they won’t want to sink money into unrealistic expectations or short-lived interventions. Stand out from the hundreds or thousands of applications received during each grant cycle by demonstrating that you have planned appropriately in terms of the program’s scope, feasibility and long-term support. Through your case for support, show that the organization has the resources available and a reasonable timeframe established to launch and/or sustain the program beyond the life of the grant cycle. The after-school program could describe the facilities and trained volunteers already secured when requesting a grant to offer STEM courses in the summers. An equine therapy nonprofit could cite their success with clients with disabilities as a rationale for funding a new program to serve veterans.

Why Now?

Lastly a nonprofit’s programs need to be both relevant and timely. Does the community need your specific program or service right now? Why is an after-school program needed? Is there not one in your area? If there is another program in your area, what makes you special? Will your program target talented and gifted students, or will it target students who are struggling? Does therapeutic riding continue to demonstrate physical, social, or psychological benefits for special populations? Again, funders need to know why you exist and how you benefit, or plan to benefit, the community.

If You Build It, They Will Fund

A grantor will be more likely to fund programs that have built a strong case for support.  Every nonprofit should be able to provide documented evidence of the need it seeks to meet, how it will address the problem, and how it will measure success. Develop a written case for support for every major program or initiative you undertake, and your grant applications will practically write themselves! Make it strong, make it compelling, and show potential funders their opportunity to make a sound investment in changing the world.

Nonprofit Consulting in East Tennessee

Need help developing your program outcomes, evaluation strategies, or case for support? Contact Redbird Strategic Resources today.  We partner with you to enhance your nonprofit and help you reach new levels!  To talk more in depth about the services we provide, give us a call at 865-212-4867 or submit a contact form online.