Grant strategies to build nonprofit capacity

Why Grants aren’t a Silver Bullet – and long-term strategic thinking is best!

KateBNEAuthor: Kate Sunners

This one’s a must-read for small nonprofits just beginning to look at fundraising strategically.

You’ve got your nonprofit set up, you’ve got some great programs in place and you need funding urgently to run your program through the next two months or so. Where do you turn for funding?

Sad to say, but not grants. Or at least, not only to grants.

Why?
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Because seeing success from grants can take up to 12 months, due to deadline dates, turnaround time between submitting and receiving notification of success, and then the time between notification and the money arriving in your account. And grant funders do not fund retrospective projects, nor in most cases ongoing operations. So if your project is already mid-way completed by the time a grant deadline comes around next month, it won’t be eligible for funding.

The other reason is that when we do look for grants there’s a certain way to go about it to ensure success, and this takes strategy, relationship building, process, key documentation and skill – not things you’re going to be able to put in place overnight (but which you can read more about here and receive training in setting up here). Building a grants program takes time, and you get out of it what you put in.

Grants are not the silver bullet to meet all your funding needs – they are suited to time-limited projects with concrete outputs and outcomes (which you will also need to factor time in to report on). Different funding streams are suited to different needs – for example events might be better suited to sponsorship, or operations and salaries might be funded by individual donations and bequests – and it’s necessary to have the right mix to ensure your organisation has what it needs to continue carrying out its great work for the community into the future. More about fundraising diversity for sustainability here.

But what you should know about grants is that if you set everything up well, you plan your projects and package them, you go in with open eyes as to how much of your time it will take before you see a return, and you have a strong grant writer who understands how to communicate need and your organisation’s strengths, and you put time and effort into building funder relationships – you’re well on your way to ensuring both the sustainability of your organisation and its reputation among funders.