What does getting ‘grant-ready’ mean?
New nonprofit organizations–and even some of those that have been operating for a number of years–need to know how to implement grant writing strategies listed below to have the very best chances of winning grant awards.
- Gather your essential documents and put them all in one electronic folder that your executive director and your grant writer can both access. Back up your essential document folder to a Cloud each time an update is made to any one of the documents in this file. Do not be lazy about this task–A hard-drive crash can put your ability to raise funds in jeopardy! We have found that Google Drive, iCloud, and One Drive are a snap to back up and Google Drive also is a great piece of software for document storing and sharing.
- So, what are your ‘essential documents’? Any materials that you may need to access in the process of writing a grant and/or include in the appendices of a grant application. These materials include: your letter of determination from the IRS declaring your tax-exempt status as a charitable organization, articles of incorporation, bylaws, 990 tax forms, list of directors and officers, key administrative staff, 2-page resumes for officers and key personnel, your operating budget by fiscal year, latest
financials and/or audited financial statements, all annual reports, mission and vision statements, history of the organization, form of governance, organizational charts, description of facilities, description of programs, and so on. For an exhaustive list of the materials you should have on hand, see our Getting Grant-Ready checklist under the TOOLS tab of our main menu.
- Audit your website–this is a must for all organizations. Your website is your internet calling card and you can be hurt in the grant award and fundraising areas if your site is not ship-shape. Make sure that all of your links work, including those to your social media (at a minimum, Facebook and Twitter, but don’t neglect the power of Linked-In and Instagram); your address, phone number, and email appear at the top of each and every page (the upper right-hand corner is a great place for this information); the design is clean and uncluttered; interactive elements–such as video, slideshows, and photo galleries–are included; appropriate images, illustrations, and avatars are in place to help you tell a memorable story; donors can access giving options from any page; and the content of your site is free of grammatical and spelling errors. It is well worth your time and a bit of money to have a nonprofit professional from outside of the organization audit your website. Objectivity is an important factor in a website audit because that 2-minute video you made and that you think is just the bee’s knees may very well be a real clunker! And don’t forget that having a fresh set of eyes is necessary to catch those inevitable spelling, grammar, and vocabulary usage errors–everyone (including editors), needs a good editor. For a list of characteristics that make your website an effective fundraising tool, see our Funder and User-Friendly Website document under the TOOLS tab.
- Make sure your GuideStar profile is complete and at the highest level possible from ‘bronze’ to the new ‘platinum’ level. If you don’t know what GuideStar is, get educated quickly (http://www.guidestar.org/Home.aspx), because this nonprofit organization is the ultimate go-to for all funders looking for information on the 1.8 million nonprofit organizations in the United States, including yours. GuideStar is both a great marketing tool for your organization and a super snooping tool when you want information on your competition or actionable information on foundations, such as the names of its directors, financial status, and grants awarded along with their amounts. When you’re applying to a foundation for a grant award, this information can be invaluable! So, get hopping, get registered, and fill in your organization’s profile with up-to-date contact information, fiscal status, persuasive programming descriptions, your measurable achievements, and your organization’s impact on its demographic(s).