Finding funding opportunities that are a good fit for your organization involves a few steps. Before you begin your search for potential funders, you first need to take an inventory of your project's needs and resources.
Your inventory should include:
- The current financial picture for your project/organization: Knowing how much money you need to support your project/programs will help you to plan your grant strategy. If you need $100,000, you might decide to target 4-6 mid-size foundations offering grants in the $40-50K range. If you need $500K or more, you might prioritize applying to government grants over private foundations.
- Detailed descriptions of the projects/services you want to launch or maintain: If you are the director of the project, you'll know the project details and this will be an easy task. If you are a freelance writer and have been hired to write grants for a nonprofit, this will require more work but will be worth the time. Knowing a project's details will help you to identify the keywords you should use in your research for relevant funders. Examples of keywords include the geographic location where the project is based (country, region, state, city); the target population (women, veterans, etc.); and the focus issue (homelessness, disease prevention, mental health treatment, etc.). If you are new to the organization and the type of work it does, you may also want to develop a list of terminology the organization uses to talk about its work. These terms will also be useful as keywords in your search for funding opportunities.
- Who can work on the proposal: With very few exceptions, writing a grant proposal requires the efforts of multiple people. If a grant application is very simple--short, limited details, basic budget--one person might be able to complete the application on her own. If you are the head of a project/organization and know the project details intimately, you can probably write the proposal narrative on your own. From your experience, you'll know the who, what, and where. If you have been hired as a consultant to write a grant proposal, you can put the proposal pieces together, but you'll need help with the content. To get details on the history of the project, who runs it, and how it operates (or will operate, if it is a new initiative), you will need to interview staff or have them complete written questionnaires. You will also want to establish who can (and who must, depending on the expertise required) assist with the proposal writing. Once you know who you need to work with, you should get copies of their schedules. Having their schedules on hand can help you evaluate opportunities. You'll want to make sure that the people you need to consult with will be around when you are working on the proposal.
- Who can work on the project: Before you start looking for opportunities, you will want to know who will be able to work on the project should the proposal result in an award. The people working on the proposal may not be the same people who will work on the project. You should prepare two lists: One with the names of everyone who can help the proposal and a second list of who can or will be working on the project. If you have a list of project staff with their expertise, you can consult the list as you read the descriptions of potential funding opportunities to determine if there is a good match.
When you want to find grant funds for a project, it is hard not to jump right to the research step. However, if you jump in without doing the preliminary work, it will be difficult to determine if an opportunity is a good fit and whether you can apply for it with the resources and expertise available to you.
If you know the project well and have a history with the organization, you may be able to assemble everything you need in a few days.
If you are new to the organization, you'll want to plan ahead and give yourself a couple of weeks to gather the materials, get to know the project, and organize the proposal team.