Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Funding for ongoing programs: diversification is key

Maree-Syd

 

Author: Maree Perfrement

 

“What I really need is money to run our core operations – the things we do day in, day out. Will a funder support that?”

This may well sound familiar – it’s a question that comes up again and again in our Grant Seeker Workshops.

Let’s look first at your overall pot of funding.
Our advice is generally that non-profits should always seek a diversified income stream to ensure the sustainability of their programs year on year. In other words, putting all your eggs, or too many eggs, in one particular income stream is far too risky.

Apart from grants from Trusts and Foundations, a diversified funding stream could include:

• income from fees-for-service;
• government funding;
• workplace giving
• community/event fundraising;
• bequests; and/or
• corporate partnerships.

The optimal revenue mix will depend on the types of services you provide and the relationships you have developed with your supporters.

Some trusts do fund existing programs but multi-year commitments are rare beasts, and it’s even rarer to receive the level of funding needed to run a whole program. Even if such funding is secured, your organisation will still need to plan how the program will continue should funding from this source cease. Organisations reliant on a corporate partnership or government funding will face the same challenge.

So what will Trusts and Foundations grant to?

Rather than fund an entire ongoing program, Trusts and Foundations will more often support a pilot program in a particular geographic area and/or with a target group that fits with their funding areas and criteria. 

For example, ABC Charity’s core business is providing shelters and counselling for homeless men in Littletown, but ABC is keen to expand this service to families. To do this, ABC needs to develop a pilot program to work through the unique issues faced by homeless families and to properly address their needs. Staff may also need further training to participate in the pilot.

When seeking a grant, this project would be distinct from the ongoing program and the application would need to present evidence for the program’s need in a new area and/or with people from a new target group.

Many funders will also want to know that the program can be sustained in the long-term, once the pilot is complete – so again, it comes back to having diversity in your fundraising mix.

When applying for a grant, the best practice grant-seeking principles outlined in previous Strategic Grant blogs and podcasts will, as always, apply.