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December 3, 2021
Best Practices for Effective Nonprofit Grant Writing
By Grant Cobb

Many nonprofits rely on grant funding from government agencies and private foundations to support their programming and supplement traditional fundraising methods, yet this limited resource can be extremely competitive among other eligible nonprofits – which is where effective grant writing comes in.

If you’re looking to maximize your organization’s revenue by exploring an often underutilized nonprofit fundraising strategy, writing a winning grant proposal is critical. To make the most of your grant-seeking efforts, be sure to consider the following tried-and-true best practices.

1. Choose fitting grants to apply for

When it comes to effective grant writing, choosing the right grants to apply for is one of the most important steps. You’re not likely to win grants from mismatched funders, so putting the effort and resources into such an application is not the best use of your nonprofit’s time.

To avoid this, Snowball’s nonprofit grant-writing guide explains that you should begin your search for the perfect grant by starting with your own goals. This way, any opportunities you decide to pursue will already be in line with your mission. Then, research the grant-giving organization in question and tweak your application to align their expectations.

Consider grants from the following sources:

  • Government agencies
  • Private operating foundations
  • Private non-operating foundations
  • Corporations

Regardless of the grants you choose, you’ll want to incorporate your mission statement, goals, and objectives and effectively communicate how these ideals fit with the mission, goals, and objectives of the foundation. The better they match up, the more likely you are to receive the funding.

2. Humanize your mission with storytelling strategies

To receive grant funding, you’ll need to convince the grantor that you deserve the money more than any other organization that applied. To do so typically requires the humanization of your mission through effective storytelling.

This is critical when it comes to asking for donations of any size, whether it’s an individual contribution or a nonprofit grant. But the larger the funding amount, the larger the stakes—so your stories are more critical than ever. Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Grab your audience’s attention with a fact or statistic relevant to your mission.

  • Tell the story of a real beneficiary and how they were positively affected by your nonprofit.

  • Explain the negative impact it will have on your constituents should your organization not exist.

  • Use vivid imagery when discussing your mission and vision.

  • Demonstrate how the grantor can be the main character and hero of your story.

By telling your organization’s story effectively, you can provide the vital context that grant-giving foundations need to make their decision between a number of worthy causes. This puts a face to your mission, making it easier for the grant funders to conceptualize how the money will be spent and the tangible impact it can make.

3. Communicate your ongoing funding plans

Grants can be a great way to fund specific programs or supplement existing revenue streams, but they shouldn’t be the only source of revenue keeping your nonprofit above water.

In fact, relying on any single source of revenue to fully fund your organization and its programming is likely going to be a significant mistake. This is especially true of grant funding which is, by its very nature, a short-term solution.

As a result, grant funders like to know that your organization has an effective plan in place to continue supporting itself long after the grant has run out. This might include the following sources of revenue:

  • Individual donations
  • Corporate giving
  • Fees for service
  • Event revenue
  • Additional grant opportunities
  • A combination of the above

According to GivingMail’s guide to nonprofit funding, a diversified funding model is the most commonly used strategy for nonprofits. When you communicate with potential grantors that you have an existing plan in place for ongoing funding, they’ll be more likely to provide you with grant money that will be in good hands.

Grant funding can be extremely competitive and difficult to secure for your organization. However, when you choose the right opportunities, effectively communicate your nonprofit’s mission, and take a proactive approach to ongoing funding, you can set your team up for long-term success.

Grant Cobb, a fundraising specialist with over six years of nonprofit experience, is head of marketing and analytics at GivingMail, which creates nonprofit direct mail programs.

July 2021

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