I'm a grant writer. I recently read an article titled "5 Reasons to Wait on Hiring a Grant Writer" and one might think I would take issue with an article with such a title. In actuality, I 100% agree.
I've included the link to the original article. When you get a moment, check it out.
The abbreviated version with my thoughts are as follows:
Reason #1: Grants aren't part of a disaster plan.
My thoughts: I would say get your organizational ducks in a row before you attempt to apply for a grant. Ninety percent of the calls and emails I receive are from nonprofit organizations who are still on their journey of grant readiness. I ask questions about impact, what makes you different, and how would the community be affected if your organization did not exist. Many don't have answers. These are similar questions that funders ask in their applications just posed a different way.
Be thoughtful about where you are and where you want to be. Examine your current environment- a SWOT analysis of sorts. Who else is doing what you are doing? Are you duplicating services? Is there a real community need- if so, how do you know? What statistics can you to point to support this fact? Is your mission something that many funders are passionate about? If not, you may only have a handful of potential funders so be prepared.
Reason #2: Grants are never a fast fix.
My thoughts: Grants should not be your primary source of revenue or serve as an emergency fund. It's better to nurture a variety of different funding sources including fundraising, in-kind donations, donations from individuals, volunteers, and event sponsorships. The process of researching, applying, hearing back from the funder and getting a check can be a heck of a LONG process.
The best course of action is to have an overall multi-year funding plan incorporating all types of potential streams of revenue with a grant application calendar covering at least 12-18 months of grant opportunities. This way, you can be strategic about what grants to go after and when, and plan to have the capacity to submit a thoughtful application thus never being in "emergency mode" (this is no fun for anyone and is stressful on your staff).
Reason #3: Grants don’t start with the proposal.
My thoughts: Good relationships are essential in any partnership. Yes, I said partnership and that is how you should see your relationship with a potential funder- a partnership. Take time to nurture the relationship before you apply for a grant. Get to know them. Who have they given to in the past? What are they passionate about? I know, the first thought is “our organization needs….”, but the truth is the goal is to appeal to the funder by finding out what makes them tick and hopefully it aligns to your program.
Examine your network- who knows who, and where? Is there anyone on your Board of Directors that can make an introduction or has a connection? What about your personal network? Do your homework, and it can eventually pay off.
Reason #4: Grants require all hands on deck.
My thoughts: Grants do require all hands on deck. Taking a step back from grant seeking for a moment, I always say seeking overall funding is a team sport from the once a year volunteer to the Executive Director. Everyone should be on the lookout for funding opportunities.
OK, back to grants- the person who is in charge of grant writing shouldn’t write in a vacuum. They should engage the Program Manager, the Accountant, the Executive Director, participants and any other role that impacts or benefits from the program.
Also, some organizations skip this part and jump right to applying for grants. Focus on grant readiness before you engage, and especially pay for a grant writer. Grant readiness encompasses having an effective Board of Directors, being prepared to accept and manage funding, executing the requirements of the grant and follow-up reporting, having audited financial statements and a host of other things that you don’t realize are hindering your grant seeking efforts until someone brings it to light.
Reason #5: Grantmakers want to see an existing grant record.
My thoughts: This is the hard part for newer nonprofit organizations, which for this purpose, is an organization that has had their 501(c)(3) designation for less than two-years. Funders are investing in your dream, vision, goals, and organization. They do not want to invest in an organization that will not be around in five-years.
Leverage donors that are passionate about you and your cause (particularly friends and family) in the very beginning and host fundraisers when you are ready. Don’t overlook smaller grants because of a preference to invest time in larger grants- smaller grants add up, and they do demonstrate a track record that someone that decided to invest in you.
Bottom line: These are five reasons not to hire a grant writer; however, these are five reasons why Think and Ink Grant Consulting™ can help your nonprofit organization get ready to apply for grants.
Learn more or visit www.thinkandinkgrants.com
Shavonn Richardson is Founder of Think and Ink Grant Consulting™ www.thinkandinkgrants.com. She is a grant writer, nonprofit consultant, speaker and also a member of the Grant Professionals Association.
Read this and other blog posts at Think and Ink Grants™ Blog