This blog is the third in a three-part series that will focus on the tools you need in order to build a comprehensive grant seeking program. Today’s post will focus on how to build a grant strategy and apply it to your grants calendar.
Grants are hard work. They require thoughtful planning, research, and management. But when you fit the right funders to the right projects, the results can literally be life changing. Before you can even start applying for or receiving funds, however, you must first build a solid grant strategy. This process can be time-consuming, but it is a useful tool in discovering funders that are a good fit for your project or program.
Before the strategy building can begin, however, you have to start with the right tools for the job. Create project description worksheets for each program that requires grant support, and run them through the grants research process. Then you’re ready to start building your grant strategy and use that to guide your grants calendar.
Summary of a Grant Strategy
Strategy is an elaborate plan of action that relies on in-depth research, and an understanding of the grant makers intentions. Think of it not as something set in stone, but as a framework you can use to work out how to respond to a rapidly changing external environment. As discussed in last week’s post, a powerful grant strategy should remain goal-oriented, fact-based, and adaptable.
When building your grant strategy make sure to:
- Look for three types of support: cash, products and services, and technical assistance. Each of these can provide key leverage points in your overall strategy.
- Include enough funding in your strategy to offset any denials. The total amount in your strategy should always add up to more than needed for a specific project.
- Build in several collaborative partnerships: Farmers Market, school district, etc. to expand the field of potential funders. Collaboration is no longer an option for grantseekers – it is now a necessity. A strong collaborative partnership will propel your request through the funding process. Think about who your project partners might be, and build several sets of collaborative partnerships to include in your grant requests.
- Identify and secure planning funds (either via TA or cash grants) using the partnership(s) as leverage.
- Secure local support (even if it is minimal) using the planning documents as the request.
- Identify potential product donations and weave them into the overall plan where leverage points may be critical.
- Apply for larger cash awards using the support garnered to demonstrate credibility. Take the planning grant and develop it into a detailed grant request.
Tip! Posting your strategy to fund a project on your website speaks to transparency.
Give as much thought to shifting the strategy as you did to its initial development. If you get a larger award than expected, go in and rethink the entire strategy. Avoid making changes mid-stream without considered thought.
Apply Your Grant Strategy to Your Grant Calendar
Integrate the grant strategy into your project-specific grant calendars. To create a to-do list for the grant calendar, refer to the application guidelines of each grantmaker. As you begin weaving all of this information into a calendar you may notice that you have multiple things happening at the same time creating a heavy workload. Adjust these pieces by spreading out the workload over weeks and months making it easier to get everything accomplished. That may mean doing some things out of order, but it’s going to help lessen the workload tremendously.
Each project description worksheet will have its own strategy, identifying a set of grantmakers. Work backward from the deadline date to create start dates and draft due dates for each proposal. Bunch like-items even if they are out of sync with the rest of your development schedule. If you are working on several proposals for the same project, and each requires a budget, do the budgets at the same time to make the process easier.
Combine project calendars to create a Master Grants Calendar. It’s important to make sure the Master Calendar highlights all significant decision points and due dates so you don’t have to scramble to get essential items together at the last minute. You want the calendar to be clean and easy to read, and it should include the: grantmaker, start date, draft due date, submission date, and decision date. Remember to establish benchmarks to monitor progress. Your calendar is an organic document; it’s going to keep changing, and it should keep changing.
Keep the pipeline full. Always have grant requests out there working for you, but be careful not to bite off more than you can chew. It’s easy to go through this process and create too much work for yourself. So be cautious, and only attempt what you really think you can achieve.
Cynthia Adams has been a dedicated to helping nonprofits identify and secure the funding they need to do their good work for well over 40 years. Much of her early work centered on raising funds to help set-aside public lands in Alaska.
In the early 80’s she introduced the idea of building sustainable communities throughout the state, serving as the Executive Director of the Interior Alaska Economic Development Council. In 1990 she opened her first business, the Alaska Funding Exchange, which served as the testing ground for a larger, national business: GrantStation, which opened it’s internet doors in the fall of 2001.
Cynthia built this business because she believes that grantseeking requires a thorough understanding of the funders and sound knowledge of the playing field. Her life’s work has been to level that playing field, creating opportunities for all nonprofit organizations, regardless of size or geographic location, to secure grant support.
Ms. Adams lives part time in New York City, and part time in Baja, Mexico. But her heart and soul are still in Alaska, where she and her husband keep a small 5-acre parcel and dry cabin in the Taiga forest 12 miles north of Fairbanks.