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What does it take to launch and sustain a successful grant program? If your nonprofit is exploring grants as a funding option, review the following key elements first. In particular, consider the strength of your organization, the success of its programs, the resources needed to develop a successful grant proposal and your ability to administer it.
- Organization. A successful grant program begins with a strong organization guided by a meaningful mission statement. Programs should reflect your mission and have a successful track record using outcomes-based objectives. Your staff and board of directors should be committed to your mission. Standard documentation and financial reports should be in order and available to share with funders. Finally, because collaboration is key to many successful grant proposals, consider the strategic partnerships you may need to forge with other service providers and community players.
- Program. Before you seek funding or respond to a request for proposal, develop a case statement to help ensure that the program fits your mission and that all necessary details have been developed. A case statement answers many of the same questions asked in a grant proposal and thus serves as the foundation for your application. Consider the need your program addresses, the target population served, goals and quantifiable objectives, program details, timeline, defined areas of staff responsibility, budget and evaluation process. Commit this information to paper.
- Grant writing. Grant proposals differ tremendously in length and depth of information requested. While a short proposal may seem less daunting, it often is more challenging to write because every word must count. The best way to write a succinct proposal is to have a clear understanding of your program. While that may seem obvious, many proposals fail because the details have not been fully developed. Federal and state grant proposals often are longer and more time consuming to prepare than proposals for local foundations. Review the requested attachments before you respond. Most foundations require an annual report as well as financial documentation. Pay attention to style requirements, including page length, typeface and margins. Don’t let a minor detail eliminate your proposal. Adhere closely to deadlines as they are almost always non-negotiable. Finally, consider if you have a staff person who is qualified to write the grant proposal or if you should hire a professional grant writer on a project basis.
- Grant administration. Congratulations! You were successful in securing funding. Before you get to this point, plan how you will administer the program, including staffing, facilities and resources. Be aware of reporting requirements and follow all deadlines.