Nonprofits exist to serve causes larger than themselves, unfortunately, they are typically underfunded and with many grassroots organizations operating on shoestring budgets. That is why grants are such an important component of a nonprofit’s fundraising strategy. Grants often provide much-needed financial support to further their mission, including supporting programs and operations. For many nonprofits, grants are the vital lifeline that allows them to provide services and keep their doors open.
Grants come in many types, sizes, and through a variety of funding sources, they can be written with a variety of focuses, though the most common is for programs or projects. Additional grant opportunities include capacity building, capital expenses, and general operating support. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize grants can be difficult to obtain. According to Instrumntl, only 10% of first-time grant applications are awarded funding. Typically, the higher the grant award the fiercer the competition is for funding. That is why it is critical to research funding opportunities, implement a robust evaluation process, and focus energies on foundations that closely align with the organization’s mission.
A few key reasons why grants play an important role in nonprofits are:
Nonprofit organizations are at the forefront of efforts around the world when it comes to strengthening communities and improving the lives of vulnerable populations. Grant funding helps nonprofits expand their impact across a broad array of service areas including food and housing insecurity, youth development, healthcare, diversity, education, animal welfare, older adult service, veteran services, workforce development and more.
Research is at the heart of most successful grant programs.
Funders are typically looking to identify outstanding organizations working to tackle pressing challenges in their communities. A robust assessment process often evaluates nonprofits on a variety of factors such as the demographics of the audience served, the organization’s financial history and stability, leadership capabilities, program outcomes and impact, and sustainability plan.
Diversifying Revenue Sources
A diversified revenue stream is a crucial component of a nonprofit's fundraising plan. It prevents organizations from becoming overly dependent on any one source of funding, providing stability and sustainability. Grants are a powerful way to diversify income. They are available through a variety of sources including corporations, foundations, municipalities, and federal agencies. Tapping into the power of grant funding can be an incredibly effective way for nonprofits to grow and thrive.
If your nonprofit is interested in applying for grants, we encourage you to reach out to us for more information on how we can help you access the funding you need to help your organization thrive.
The term “impact” can be difficult to define, particularly for nonprofits that often operate in areas that are hard to quantify. However, measuring impact is important in order to track progress and ensure that resources are being used effectively.
There are a variety of ways to measure impact, and the method(s) used will depend on the specific goals and objectives of the organization. Some common methods include surveys, interviews, focus groups, observation, and data analysis.
No matter which method(s) you choose, it is important to make sure that the data you collect is reliable and valid. This means ensuring that your methodology is sound and that you have a good sample size. Additionally, you will need to make sure that you are collecting data on the right indicators. Once you have collected your data, it is crucial to analyze it carefully. This will help you to identify any trends and make sure that you are achieving your desired impact.
Some effective ways you can measure your nonprofit's impact are:
Output of Programs
This is the most basic level of measurement and simply involves tracking the number of programs or services delivered by the organization to your targeted population. For example, a soup kitchen might track the number of meals served, while a literacy program might track the number of people who complete the program. The more data you can collect, the better!
Outcomes of Programs
This approach goes one step further than outputs and seeks to measure the changes that have occurred as a result of the programs or services delivered. For example, a food pantry might track the number of people who report having enough to eat after receiving their weekly food distribution, while a career development program might track the number of people who gained employment after completing the program.
This is the most holistic approach to measuring impact and seeks to measure the long-term changes that have occurred as a direct result of the organization’s work. For example, a soup kitchen might track the number of people who are able to break out of the cycle of poverty after receiving meals, while a literacy program might track the number of people who are able to gain employment and achieve financial stability after completing the program.
Another way to measure impact is by looking at how your organization has changed over time. This could include changes in funding, staffing, programs, or reach. For instance, if your organization has doubled its budget over the past five years, that would be an indication of increased impact and growth in the right direction.
Staying consistent with tracking and analyzing the data will help your nonprofit not only run a more sustainable organization but it will be well prepared when it is time to seek funding. Many funders require nonprofits to report on their impact in order to begin or continue to receive support. Measuring the impact can help build credibility and legitimacy both with the public and with potential funders. Your organization is making a huge impact in your community - show them with the data!
Let Us Help You
Have questions about how you can begin measuring the impact at your organization? We encourage you to connect with us or learn more about our On-Demand Strategy Consulting service which focuses on building your nonprofit's foundation to prepare you for success.
The time has come to get your nonprofit in gear for grant opportunities. We know every penny counts in your budget and extra funding can go a long way in helping you achieve your mission. But where do you start? How do you make sure your organization is prepared when the time comes to apply for grant opportunities? Follow these five steps to get your nonprofit ready for grant opportunities.
1. Review Your Mission and Goals
The first step is to review your mission and goals. What is the main purpose of your organization? What do you hope to achieve? Be as specific as possible. Once you have a clear understanding of your mission and goals, you can start to identify areas where additional funding would be beneficial to help you carry out your mission.
2. Identify Your Target Audience
Who do you serve? What are their needs? When you know who your target audience is, you can start to develop programs and services that address their specific needs. These programs and services will be directly helping the target population that you have identified but it also will make it easier for funders to understand who this potential grant money will be serving.
3. Develop a Budget
Now it's time to develop a budget. It is important to identify how much money you will need to implement your nonprofit’s programs and services. This process might take some time but it will help you and your board to make realistic yearly projections on growth and funding needs. Having an established budget is a good sign to funders that your nonprofit is structurally sound.
4. Compile the Data
Every year thousands of grants are applied for and granted to nonprofits. However, there is one very important metric that funders are looking for when reviewing your applications - the impact you are making! We see so many hard-working nonprofits focused on the day-to-day efforts each year and making the people they serve a priority, but they forget to track all the progress they are making. Be sure to capture this data, it will increase your chances of the grant proposal being funded.
5. Develop a Timeline
The more you understand the financial needs of each of your programs the more impact they can make in your communities. Developing a timeline around each program’s needs can help you align your requests with the various funders giving cycles. For example, if you have an annual winter coat drive each year, you would need additional funding for those items in the fall.
6. Practice Writing
Writing your grant proposal in-house? Many Executive Directors are tasked with this responsibility even when many times writing is not their strong suit. We encourage you to dedicate time each month and practice your grant writing skills. These practice runs will get you prepared for when the real-time arrives to write your grant proposal. Learning to research the various grant guidelines, documentation needed and proposal specifics will get you acclimated with the process.
Want to learn more about our grant writing services?
Magic Lamp Consulting solely serves nonprofits with strategic consulting and grant writing services to help stabilize these important organizations that serve our communities. Connect with us today to chat about your nonprofit's organizational or funding needs.
Debbi Mallinson enjoys working in collaboration with nonprofit organizations to develop a grant strategy to support their mission.