Every established nonprofit was once a fledgling organization, founded by an eager individual with a 501c3 determination letter in hand and a passion to serve their community or change the world. Does this sound like you? First, thank you – we are grateful to people who are willing to roll up their sleeves to tackle problems, and who create and innovate to improve quality of life and, well, to just make cool things happen. The less exciting part – except for grant professionals – is that implementing these great ideas costs money, and, if you are a brand new organization, you may not have much of that.
So what is a new nonprofit with big ideas, a shiny new 501c3 letter, and little money to do? Of course – apply for grants! Big grants! And who better to help apply for big grants but an awesome grant consultant?
We love writing grants of all sizes, and we’d love to help. But you may not need us – yet. A grant consultant can help you understand the connection between organizational development and grant seeking and help you assess and improve your grant readiness, and can help you understand the kinds of grants that you will be most competitive for initially (Pro Tip: if you’re a new nonprofit that has gotten few or no grants, you should start local and start small: a $1,000 grant from your bank’s charitable giving program is a reasonable target; a $500,000 grant from your state government is probably not). But before we even get to that point, ask yourself two questions…
1. What *exactly* do I want to do?
We love that you want to feed the hungry, or that you want to provide low-income youth with dance classes, or that you want to provide art therapy to survivors of domestic violence.
What exactly does that look like, and how will you do it?
A strategic plan will address big-picture, organizational development goals (ex: will provide dance classes at one community center each year, for the first 3 years). A program plan, even if its broad to start with, will address how you will do it. What exactly will these dance classes look like? Which community center will host them? How often will they be offered? Who exactly will you serve? Who will teach? Why is this program needed? A grant consultant can help you with program or project development, but you should already have a fundamental idea of what exactly you want to do, how you will do it, and why it is needed.
2. How much will it cost?
Applying for grants can sometimes feel like asking a funder for permission to do something. “This is my great idea! Don’t you think its great too?! Can I do it?” While we do seek approval – if the funder doesn’t think the project is great, they won’t fund it – at its basic level a grant application is a request for money. Before working with a grant consultant, you should have a ballpark idea of what your project – and your organization – might cost. This process will help you right-size your program and your organization to align with reasonable expectations for what your revenues might be.
If you are part of a new nonprofit, we recommend that you develop solid answers for these two fundamental questions, and that you seek an organizational development consultant to help you build the foundation of your nonprofit (strategic plan, organizational budget, board, donor development, etc.), or that you utilize the myriad of books, articles, and training available. Once your structure is sound, and you have clear goals and a plan for achieving them, you will be in the best position to be served by a grant consultant.