You have spent hours daydreaming about the critical work your nonprofit could do. You have big hopes, but it can feel like there is just one big barrier in the way: MONEY! Have you ever wondered why some organizations get a lot of grants, but yours doesn’t? One of the keys to being funded by foundations is understanding the types of activity foundations are most interested in funding. If you are in one of these times in your organization, growing your grant proposal writing might be right on time!
Four times foundations are more interested in funding your nonprofit:
#1 When you are starting a new program- When you start a new program, there are many new expenses, but it can also be a great time to pursue new funding partners. When you have built the stability of operating funds for the organization, the program money needed is more attractive to donors. There are clear paths for the foundation between the financial investment and the tremendous impact of your program. Be sure to take the time to plan the program out well. The program will have expenses such as staff, equipment, marketing, training, or facilities. You can build costs into new grant proposals. The neat thing is, a new program doesn’t have to mean creating a whole new infrastructure. It could be as simple as adding a service to a time your clients are already with you.
#2 When the need has increased significantly- As a front line provider of care, you feel when your people’s demands are rising. It hits home even more when a new census data report backs up your hunch! You can approach foundations when the need has increased due to changes in the geographic area, newly identified client needs, or changing populations. In one county, we noticed the formerly rural communities were rapidly growing. As the population increased over ten years, new needs came into the lives of the residents. There were more homeless persons visible than before. Some of the target populations had increased in population, such as seniors and youth. There used to be enough after school programs, but with the new population growth, there are now thousands of students home unsupervised after school. By highlighting these needs, it validates a requirement for further grant funding.
#3 When you need a capital item: One of the most exciting times in a nonprofit’s life is raising money for a particular capital project. Let’s talk about smaller projects first. When you are ready to invest in a piece of capital equipment such as technology, vehicles, or warehouse equipment, there is an opportunity to ask for grant funds. In addition, a building program is an ideal time to pursue grant funding. Capital items provide donors these two great opportunities. First, they can see the impact of a financial grant for the long term. Capital investments can serve a community for years or even decades. Second, the project is funded and done. This type of giving protects the gift from being squandered on operations that are not sustainable. One way foundations can help during a capital funding season is to leverage the gift as a match challenge for individual or major donors. A foundation gift can also be a great way to kick-off or wrap-up a campaign.
#4 When you have an innovative strategy- Interest in the new thing isn’t limited to fashion or technology. When a social services organization has an innovative way to solve a difficult problem, people take notice! Foundations are groups of people and, by nature, can get bored with “same ole’ same ole” approaches to providing services. You can get a reader’s attention if you submit a new plan or approach a problem from a new angle. After decades of food pantry programs in came the food truck! Now food programs are going to the people. Innovate! Have you heard of the community homeless shelters? Instead, how about a homeless persons’ tiny house village? Innovate! Innovation is exciting, and some funders are willing to be first in funding these new strategies. One of the keys to getting an innovative approach funded is an excellent plan for evaluation. In the proposal, be able to answer the question, “How will we know this works?” Also, be able to draw upon experience to inform the new idea.
BIG IDEA: Do you want to get new foundation money into your nonprofit? Consider writing proposals around new programs, new needs, new capital items, and new ideas. If you are doing the same ole’ same ole,’ they are probably not as interested in funding you. If your services are declining or stagnant, it is perhaps not the best time to focus on competitive funding, but more on local donors. But, if there is growth and new opportunities, then it is time to get those proposals written and reach out to new grant opportunities to win money!
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