“Show me the money!”
Anyone who lived through the 90s can identify that famous catchphrase. Despite our opinions on Jerry McGuire, this is all too often the expectation with stakeholders when it comes to grant funding. If only it were that simple! But the fact is, successfully securing and implementing grant funding takes time and effort; to be successful in the business of grants, you need to put equal emphasis on the 5 Rs of Grant Writing: Readiness, Research, Relationships, wRiting, and Reporting.
A key component of successfully securing grant funding lies within good funder research. In my experience, research is often the most misunderstood of the 5 Rs. The goal of funder research is to find the right grantmaker to support your organization. But instead of thinking of this as a financial transaction, the relationship between grantmaker and grant recipient is more of a partnership, which is why it is so important to put the time into finding the right partner.
Before you can start familiarizing yourself with different potential grant funders, you need to be sure you have a clear understanding of your organization’s needs. Think about your organization’s strategic goals for the next 24 months and define the projects for which you need funding. Now you are ready to dig in on funder research, but where do you start? There are a variety of tools that are available for grant funder research, such as Foundation Directory Online, Instrumentl, GrantStation, GrantWatch, and more. Many of these offer a free trial, or there may be a free subscription available at your local library. While all of these tools present excellent high-level information on funders, such as who is on their board and their mission, don’t stop your research there. You also want to explore the funder’s website to learn as much as you can about their priorities, programs, and staff. Another well of information is the funder’s financial documents, such as the 990. The financial documents will help you learn about whom the funder has provided grants to and their overall budget. This will help you determine what the appropriate amount of funding the request should be. Be sure to keep all this valuable information in a place where it is at your fingertips and easy to discuss with your stakeholders.
All too often, organizations are applying to funders without doing their homework, and the funder will not appreciate you wasting their time by reading proposals that do not align with their priorities. Putting the time in on research to find the right funder will pay off in more ways than one; it will lead to grant funding and great partnerships. Before you know it, you’ll have these funders saying, “you had me at hello”. (I couldn’t resist!)