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Grant Writing is Part of a Nonprofit's Survival Gear

A foundation notified me today. The grant proposal I drafted for one of my clients was approved for $5,000. Sure, I have secured much larger grants in my career. But I realize whether it is a $5,000 or $500,000 grant, my goal of bringing in new revenue and establishing a new relationship with a funder for my client has been accomplished. This is what I call a Woot! Woot! Moment!

Rule of thumb: See the light at the end of the tunnel in tandem with the bright overall vision.

Writing grants is such as wild card experience. It is an unpredictable journey and sometimes daunting process that involves determination and resolve. It can be painstaking, sweat generating, and anxiety causing. It’s like a TV reality shows where one is running through a remote jungle for 16 weeks, hoping to reap a huge pay-off for making it. I don't think I'm exaggerating. Well, isn’t that what grant writing is truly like?

Answer, yes. For many nonprofits, the grant writing process can mean the difference between surviving or not surviving, making it or not making it. Especially in a highly competitive and uncertain economy where the resources are scarce, the nonprofit sector has had to don its survival gear and run toward the public and private sector for funding. The process begins with a nonprofit understanding the need to diversify its funding streams to be sustainable. Really important! Nonprofits with small or large budgets should seek to think outside the box on what they deliver and how it is fundable by different foundations, corporations, or even individuals. This may require an assessment of its strategic plan or the creation of one to ensure that it seeks funding that will fulfill its mission.

Rule of thumb: Seek funding that helps to deliver the programs and services outlined in the mission statement.

Once an organization decides it will invest its resources to seek grant funds, it must then consider how it will research those grants, identify potential funders, contact different foundations or corporations to check on their funding priorities and guidelines, and then ultimately develop and submit the proposals. The nonprofit needs to be ready to, what I call, step into the jungle. It now enters an uncertain space that requires more strategies to navigate to the other side. Questions start to surface. Who is going to invest the time to get these tasks done? The executive director? A board member? A volunteer? Maybe, but probably not. Many nonprofits may not have the staff, the bandwidth, or perhaps the expertise to get it done.

This is where nonprofits can seek the services of a consultant to help them execute their survival plan – seeking new funding through grant writing. Nonprofits can tap into an experienced consultant’s skills to build upon its strategy to diversify its funding streams. Finding a nonprofit guru, who has worked in several different capacities for nonprofits, such as program development, communications, and resource development, is key. They can bring their experiences to bear and may be better able to shape a winning grant proposal.

Rule of thumb: Seek a consultant who understands the nuances and challenges nonprofits face and who has a record of successful grant writing.

Those of us involved in the nonprofit sector want to make a positive difference in the world. It ain't always easy. It's our commitment that motivates us, and most often the lack of resources or funding that frustrates us. But, it is our passion that sustains us. It’s a good day in my consultant world, and I will check this one foundation off my list for this client. They have delivered. Most important, my client and I worked collaboratively to seek new ways of increasing revenue and building new relationships for its future growth.

Carole Bernard is the president of Bernard Consulting & Associates, LLC offering executive management, strategic communications, resource development, and event planning services to nonprofit organizations. She has 20 years of senior nonprofit management experience.

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