As an AmeriCorps VISTA, I was assigned to conduct research on best practices in youth programming and nonprofit management for the Indiana Youth Institute in 2012 and 2013. During my assignment, I discovered a great deal about effective practices for youth-serving nonprofit organizations. Below are six key findings for grant seekers:
- Before applying for grants, make sure your organization is grant-ready. Although it may be tempting to apply for as many grants as fast as possible, successful grant seeking and writing requires that an organization is not facing serious issues like a high rate of board turnover, a difficult executive transition in the near future, or recent negative public attention. Your organization must also be able to invest enough time, money, and personnel in the grant seeking process.
- Clarify the organization’s case for receiving grant funding. You should compile essential organizational information, a detailed summary of the need or opportunity that your organization meets, and the reasons for which your organization is seeking grant funding in a document called a “case statement.”
- Focus on carefully researching and selecting particular funders, rather than mass-mailing a single, standard application. By applying to a select group of carefully identified funders with individually tailored applications, you can both save time and energy and increase your organization’s likelihood of being funded.
- Make initial contact with funders before submitting grants. Before submitting a proposal to a potential funder, your organization should attempt to contact the funder in the way that it requests to determine the likelihood of your receiving funding. If the funder does not list any contact information or procedures, it is likely that it would not welcome a phone call and you should instead submit a letter of inquiry. If someone in your organization has a connection with a person in the funding agency, it may be beneficial for that person to initiate contact.
- Review proposals before submitting them and submit them on time. Before submitting a proposal, you should make sure to carefully proofread each section, ensuring that the proposal fits the funder’s format and content instructions. The proposal should also be reviewed by at least one other person and approved by the necessary staff or board members (for example, the cover letter should be signed by the board chair or the executive director). Finally, the proposal should be submitted as the funder requests, before deadline.
- After submitting a proposal, be sure to follow up and remain in contact with the funder. If your proposal is accepted, your organization should prepare for any necessary interviews or site visits, express its thanks to the funder, and meet all deadlines and reporting requirements. If your proposal is rejected, you may want to contact an officer or administrator of the foundation to determine what could improve your organization’s chance of being funded in the next grant cycle.
For more information about effective grant seeking and grant writing, check out some of the sources cited in this post for free from IYI’s Virginia Beall Ball Library. Visit http://www.iyi.org/library.aspx for more information.
Additionally, the Indiana Nonprofit Resource Network offers workshops around the state and resources on fundraising and grant writing. http://www.inrn.org/
What grant writing tips have you found to be effective in practice?
 Howlett, S., & Bourque, R. (2011). Getting funded: The complete guide to writing grant proposals. Seattle, WA: Word & Raby Publishing, Inc.
 O’Neal-McGrath, T. (2011). How to seek a grant. In D. R. Heyman (Ed.), Nonprofit management 101: A complete and practical guide for leaders and professionals (pp. 325-340). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
 Sargeant, A., Shang, J., & Associates. (2010). Fundraising principles and practices. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
 Bray, I. (2010). Effective fundraising for nonprofits: Real-world strategies that work (3rd Ed.). United States of America: NOLO; Sargeant, Shang, & Associates, 2010
 Ciconte, B. L., & Jacob, J. G. (2009). Fundraising basics: A complete guide (3rd ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.; Howlett & Bourque, 2011
 Weinstein, S. (2009). The complete guide to fundraising management (3rd Ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.