Win grants with help from the experts

Today we offered a highly-informative webinar by the immensely-talented Stephanie Gerding, an expert in winning grants. It was a whirlwind of practical, ready-to-use information that will help participants start their projects today. How lucky we are to have Stephanie share her expertise!

We're also lucky to have Catherine Hurd on staff, our able Development Director, who jumped in to answer questions in the chat room during the webinar. The questions were so good, and the answers so cogent, that I thought I should share them with a greater audience. During the webinar, we also learned how MUCH you all know about grants, too! If you have any tips to share on this topic, please leave a comment, below.

QUESTION: How do we find foundations that are interested, specifically, in our mission and purpose?

We often start some basic research for new funders simply through the Foundation Center. You can search their database for funders who focus on issue areas relevant to your organization.

QUESTION: How can I be less intimidated by grant work?

It's helpful to remember that funders want to find good projects. You're actually helping them to meet their own goals.For me, keeping that perspective in mind has always helped the whole process feel less intimidating.

QUESTION: How should I efficiently look for grants?

Unfortunately, I don't think there's one "efficient" way to look for grants. I would start by reviewing funders via the Foundation Center just to get a general sense of who might be a good match for you. But, ultimately, it's most efficient to nurture a relationship with funders who support your issue area...it can take a while, but the upside is that you can develop a long-time partnership with funders who can support your org throughout its evolution.

QUESTION: Are grants available to do a baseline measurement?

Yes, I think you can find funding for baseline measurement, although you might not be able to find funders who would categorize their giving strategy in that way. But if a funder supports your org's mission and vision, they may be very interested in supporting work you do that's related to creating a baseline measure, especially if you also propose activities to move beyond the baseline.

QUESTION: What if you are looking for more than project support. What strategies are their when looking for grants for operational support?

Finding operational support can be challenging. We've had the most success in the area by nurturing long-term relationships with funders who support our overall mission. You still need to propose specific fund-able activities, but it's best if you can seek funding for work that your organization is already planning to do. On a more immediate and tactical level, you might want to look into Community Foundations. They tend to provide more general operating support than private foundations and governments.

QUESTION: Are there government grants for faith based organizations?

The Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships might be a good resource.

QUESTION: Is it appropriate to submit multiple grants for the same project?

Submitting multiple proposals for the same project can be ok. In fact, many funders prefer to leverage projects that other funders are already supporting. It can get tricky, though, if you start to "double dip" with the project support. So, you'll need to keep a close eye on financial tracking and reporting. Because, once you first get a grant from a funder, your next best fundraising steps with them are to deliver and to communicate.

QUESTION: How long does it usually take to write a grant?

It varies...a lot! And often the turnaround time is driven by the funder's deadline and their proposal requirements. We've written successful grants in a matter of hours, but they generally take a week or so.

QUESTION: Is there a blog available for grant writing newbies to ask questions as they come up while writing grants?

I don't know of any blogs for grant writing newbies off-hand, but you might want to try searching Google for something like that. In addition, there are a number of fundraising professional associations that offer support for Development professionals at all levels of experience. I know, for example, that one of the professional association groups in San Francisco offers a monthly meeting called Grant  Anxiety Busters. It's designed to help newbie grant writers. You might want to check to see if there's something similar in your community.

QUESTION: Is it appropriate to ask for a specific dollar amount, but add that we would take a lesser amount rather than nothing

I can relate to your sense of caution about asking for "too much." But, don't worry. They'll let you know if they can't fully fund your project. I don't recommend that you say anything along the lines of accepting less. Let them know that your organization is fully deserving of the amount you've requested.

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This webinar was part of a series of blog posts and a culminating webinar. To follow Stephanie's path to winning grants, check out her tip-filled posts.