Grant writing success can be an elusive animal. The industry average acceptance rate is about 1 in 10 submissions funded – even for nonprofits that have reached household name status.
So how can your nonprofit ensure the greatest chances at success? After all, these submissions take serious time and effort, and losing out on critical funding can feel like a waste – and can put critical programs at risk of shutting down.
Several strategies can help your nonprofit become more successful at grant writing. And luckily, these steps aren’t too time intensive, especially once they become habitual.
All too often, nonprofits get discouraged from declined grant proposals and never follow up. But valuable energy has gone towards developing the proposal, so it shouldn’t be relegated to the recycle bin. Instead, call the foundation (or send them an email if they communicate this way) and ask if you can get more details on the decision. They may encourage you to apply again in the future, and they may have valuable insight into improving your application.
The contact may also be able to tell you more about how the foundation makes its decisions. It’s very possible that they simply didn’t have enough funding to get around to all the worthwhile applications. If you resubmit for the next cycle, you will likely have a better chance of getting funded.
Try, try again
Be diligent about your grant writing efforts; don’t give up right away. Persistent efforts pay off with long-term grant writing success. If your nonprofit offers great services through well-run programs, and writes strong grants that perfectly encapsulate these things, then it’s all about long-term grant writing strategy. And patience.
Over time, you learn what works and what doesn’t. You’ll hone your messaging and your strategy, and you’ll develop deep knowledge about the local funding climate and which foundations are likely going to make good partners.
Look for ways to improve
There are always ways to strengthen your grant proposals. You may need only to tweak the language in the grants; or you may need to take a critical look at your organization and how it collects data, tracks results, and organizes the board of directors and budget. One of the best ways to do this is to ask a trusted source outside your organization to take a look; often, outside sources can help you when you’re too close to the subject matter to be truly critical.
Bio: Megan Hill is the founder and CEO of Professional Grant Writers, a skilled team of professionals assisting nonprofits around the world with grants and fundraising. We’ve written successful grants for federal and state agencies and corporations and foundations of every size. Our expertise covers topics like the environment, health, housing, homelessness, education, animal welfare, arts and culture, community development, human and civil rights, research and public policy, and international aid and development.