Consider a Proactive Grant Strategy
by Diane H. Leonard, GPC
You may be asking, “What is proactive grant seeking?” Isn’t the act of submitting an application for grant funding proactive rather than merely sitting back and waiting for foundations to find you and make grants? True.
That is an initial way to look at being proactive in your grant-seeking efforts.
For the sake of this column, proactive grant-seeking is the act of writing a proposal — or at least a proposal outline — before you identify a funding source or even a request for proposal or application. I can hear the questions now: “Why write a proposal if you aren’t sure there will even be a funding source to submit the proposal to?”
Responding to open RFPs/RFAs is a critical piece of a grant-seeking strategy for any nonprofit organization. However, responding only to open RFPs/RFAs leaves your organization in a position where you are missing out on funding sources that do not publish formal requests for proposals. In that case, you and your organization are being reactive in scheduling applications for grant money.
When you write a proposal for a program that you want to launch, expand or find additional support for prior to reading a RFP/RFA or making a list of funders that you want to approach for support, you have increased the chances for a better outcome by:
- Focusing on the ideal layout for your proposed program.
- Creating a true project budget for the pilot or expansion rather than building a budget based on a grant award ceiling.
- Keeping the proposal in-line with your organization’s strategic plan – or at least its stated mission, vision and goals if you don’t have a concrete strategic plan.
Outlining the proposal and project budget first as “boiler plate” and then looking for funders that have missions and values similar to your organization or proposed program accomplishes two important things:
It leads to a higher percentage of success for submitted proposals.
And it makes implementation of funded programs more seamless so they are well aligned with your organization’s strategic plan or mission.
I can hear your second question: “How do we find out about these funding opportunities and create a proactive grant-seeking strategy?”
A number of grant databases that include private and corporate foundations for nonprofits are available for research. Using these search results to create a proactive plan is an excellent start. There are also forecasting sites available for some state and federal agencies that are appropriate for nonprofit and for-profit organizations.
Finally, for state and federal agencies, you can look at their deadlines for the previous year or two in specific program areas and use that as a guide to determine what funding may become available. It can serve as a basis to reach out to agency staff to clarify their understanding of funding priorities and timelines for the upcoming year.
I encourage you to sit back and consider what programs you would seek funding support for if you weren’t focused on specific restrictions of a RFP/RFA and let that start to guide your grant-seeking strategy.
There will always be open RFPs/RFAs to respond to, and while you shouldn’t stop applying through those avenues, you may want to consider being more proactive in your grant-seeking approach as a way to cast your net wider. Who knows, a new strategy may just work to grow grant revenues in your organization’s budget.