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18 Sep 2017

Should We Apply for Small Grants

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We get questions like, “Should your grant seeking organization or nonprofit take time to apply for small grants?” and the follow-up questions including “Are they worth it?” or  “Do they actually *cost* your organization money?” frequently.

These are all great questions for an organization to be asking themselves before they dig in on a new application. Grants are never “free” money – whether large or small, there is some cost to an organization to securing and implementing the grant beyond what is funded by the grant itself.

While there are large grants that organizations should really pause to ask themselves about before digging in on an application, most organizations pause to ask themselves about small grants.

Small grants may be defined differently by different organizations. For some, it is grants less than $1,000. For others, it is grants less than $5,000. For others still, it is grants less than $25,000.

The key is not what the level is that your organization defines as “small grants,” but rather the process by which your organization decides if the grant has a potential strong benefit for your organization.

Here are a few reasons that an organization might consider applying for small grants:

  • They are a new organization, so successfully receiving and implementing small grants helps build their capacity for managing grants and also builds credibility with grantmakers.
  • The organization may have a specific project where a small grant will make a significant impact with starting the idea/program.
  • The organization needs to make a distinct or one-time purchase.

Check out more in this new YouTube video we put together about this question.


11 Sep 2017

Your Best Advice

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What do you say when someone new to the field broadly asks you, “Do you have any tips to help me be successful with grant writing?”

I often joke back that they don’t want to get me started unless they have all day!

The reality is, there is no *one* piece of advice or tidbit that is going to make you successful with grants. There is no silver bullet (sorry, spoiler alert!). But there are some great nuggets that can be shared to help those looking to learn and to improve to hone in on simple best practices that they can integrate into their work.

So that being said, we want to hear from YOU, our fellow grant professional peers and experts! What your best one liner or tidbits of advice that you give you new professionals or well-intentioned colleagues and acquaintances looking for input on how to be successful with grants?

Here are a few of mine that I do often share as part of my responses to those that inquire to help get you started on tips you might share:

  • Never underestimate the importance of relationships in all aspects of grant seeking.
  • Engage your reader’s senses as you describe the needs of your target population.
  • Get to the point and keep it simple.
  • Tell the story of the impact you do/will create, not your organization’s needs.
  • Answer the basic questions for your reader: who, what, where, when, why and how.
  • All elements of your application (including budget!) need to tell the same story.

Share your best advice and one-liners with us via email (diane or via our Contact Us form as we will be compiling *your* advice to share with all of our readers in October. As a way to say thank you for sharing your advice, one random lucky reader who shares their advice will be the recipient of a free webinar of their choice this fall/winter through CharityHowTo!

Note from Diane: We each take a different path into our work as first grant writers and then grant professionals. Understanding how other professionals approach their professional development is a great way to get ideas to help expand and enhance your own approach to professional development. I am thrilled to add Jane Nelson’s perspective to our conversation.


My professional development in the grants field is an ongoing combination of formal
and informal training. The foundation of my training was a formal program (online and
on-site) consisting of grant researching, proposal writing, budgeting, and professional

When I was ready to begin my grant work, I did pro bono work for several non-profit
organizations to gain experience and to get exposure. I intentionally chose projects that
were across various fields of interest.

Continuous learning is important to me! I take advantage of various scheduled and on-
demand learning opportunities. There are many live and recorded webinars covering a
wide range of grant-related topics offered by the Grant Professionals Association (GPA)
and the Foundation Center. I especially like the GPA’s webinars because they are
presented with clarity and expertise. I must admit, I’ve listened to a recorded webinar,
in the middle of writing a proposal, when I needed guidance on how to present
something in the best way possible.

The Foundation Center is a valuable resource. Their GrantSpace service offers tools
and resources including a Knowledge Base, webinars, and sample documents from
winning proposals (cover letters, letters of inquiry, proposals, and budgets). If you don’t
have a subscription to Foundation Center, many libraries, community foundations, and
other non-profit resource centers have subscriptions as part of the Funding Information Network. You can go to the Foundation Center’s website and enter your zip code to find the Foundation Center network closest
to you.

Among my prized reference books are Grantepreneur (Katherine F.H. Heart), Perfect
Phrases for Writing Grant Proposals (Dr. Beverly Browning), and the Guide to Proposal
Writing (The Foundation Center). I also keep Concise Rules of APA Style (American
Psychological Association) close by for writing and formatting standards, and guidelines
on citing and crediting sources.

I recommend joining an association for grant professionals. This gives the opportunity
to network with other professionals in the grant industry. Attending professional
association’s conferences provides the venue to improve your professional knowledge,
competence, skill, and effectiveness. I also suggest joining grant professional groups
on LinkedIn and joining the GrantZone (GPA) community.

If you have the flexibility, you can broaden your view of the grant industry by working in
different roles or positions. Professional development may also come from on-the- job

28 Aug 2017

Why Are My Applications Being Denied?

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Grant writing is not easy; it’s not *just* about finding a grant, writing, submitting, and then repeating.

Rather, the grants profession is very competitive.

While there are many funders supporting a wide variety of fields of interest; they often care about certain geographic areas (i.e. – one city, one state), and often only provide certain types of funding (i.e. – capital, programmatic).

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What is GuideStar?

GuideStar is the premier hub for information on nonprofit organizations. GuideStar’s mission is “to revolutionize philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving.” GuideStar gathers and disseminates information to grantmakers, donors, and potential supporters so they can easily use the information learn more about your nonprofit and make better decisions. GuideStar wants to help nonprofits share their whole story through program, finance, and impact information.


Why should I update my nonprofit’s GuideStar profile?

If you have heard it once, you have heard it a million times: transparency. Transparency helps build and maintain trust with those who support your nonprofit, including potential new grantmakers. Updating your GuideStar profile is an easy way you can share information about your nonprofit.

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