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Reviewer Reflections on Funding Grant Proposals

grant writing Aug 10, 2021

We’ve narrowed it down to a small group of applicants. The proposals are all focused on meeting a mission that matches ours. They all present nicely and are written well, using proper grammar and no misspellings. The request is focused and cohesive. The narrative and the budget are consistent with one another. The numbers add up correctly. All of these requests are worthy of funding. I wish we had more money to give away. How will I decide which is the best of the best and who I’m going to ultimately recommend for funding?

Regarding Financial Capacity

To be a top contender. you, the potential grantee, must have the financial capacity to carry out the grant, particularly for large amounts. What do your attachments say about your financial capacity? Is the request in line with the size of your budget? Does your nonprofit have a clean audit? What does the 990 say about your agency’s income trends? What will happen financially to your nonprofit without our gift? Is your organization desperate for funding? What will happen when our gift ends? Will you be able to sustain your efforts? What is your financial position? How much do you have in reserves? What is your debt ratio? Is your organization financially stable? If not, what steps has and are your nonprofit taking to get there? For more information about creating financial capacity, read Simple Strategies for Achieving Nonprofit Financial Sustainability.

You also must tell me how you know the money will be used as stated in your request. What proof does your proposal offer to ensure the money will be used the way it is intended? How do I know, particularly if you are financially shaky, that you will be able to deliver on the outcomes you promise in your proposal? As an extremely cautious person, I also want to know what the risk of fraud is. I look at your words and phrases describing your financial management practices to find out.

I have legal obligations to use the money as stated in our tax exemption documents. How easy will it be to work with you in conducting our due diligence? Will you provide financial reports on time? What is your agency’s staff capacity for meeting the financial reporting requirements? What does the proposal tell me about your ability to carry out our administrative requirements? It is important that you tell me.

Regarding Program Capacity

I evaluate your program budget in light of what you promise in your narrative. Does your budget adequately support your program activities? Are you understaffed and will have trouble meeting your stated objectives? Are you overstaffed and don’t really need our money? The job descriptions and organizational chart you provide give me an idea. For more information on creating grant budgets, see Grant Writing: Answering the Question How Much Will Your Program Cost?

How much are you paying your workers – enough to attract and retain qualified workers?  Are your staff adequately trained? Are they adequately supervised? What personnel policies and procedures do you have in place to assure quality delivery of services?  How do you know they’re working? Do you have objective data or outside certifications that your nonprofit is as good as you say it is? Objective data speaks volumes. And I listen to the experts. 

I want to know that what you will say you will do is possible during the life of grant. How big are your goals and objectives? What is your timeline of activities? Is it feasible? Are you overreaching or underreaching? How do you know if you can do what you promise? Your organizational and program history tells me what I need to know.

Regarding Mission Capacity

I assess your nonprofit’s capacity to meet your mission through this grant. What specific impact will our donation make? Will our gift magnify what you are already accomplishing? How do I know? What proof do you have? The testimonials of the people you serve will help be form an opinion. Your agency’s name mentioned in planning and research documents gives you credibility as to your effectiveness. The awards and certifications you’ve received that are relevant to your funding request tell me your credibility in the field. Community survey data helps me understand how important you are to the public. To be one of the top grantees, you will include references to your nonprofit’s role in the community and how the organization is perceived. To really stand out, you need to tell me how your agency differs from all the others I’m reading about. For tips on how to do that, read Grant Writing: Answering the Question What Makes You Uniquely Qualified to Do What You Say You Can Do?

Wrapping It Up

To fund or not to fund your application, that is the question. While I can’t guarantee that I will allocate monies to every time, if you pay attention to what all the components your grant application say to me about your nonprofit, chances are good you’ll get the money. Understand your attachments. Know your financial position. Tell me about your organization’s financial health and what your agency is doing about it. Show me that your nonprofit has just the right amount of well-trained, adequately supervised, qualified staff to carry your objectives - through both your narrative and project budget. Let me know how you know you will accomplish what you say you can. Tell me your nonprofit’s history. Give me evidence that your agency is tops in the field and perceived well in the community. Getting the money is about more than just good writing. Getting the money is also designing systems and working towards excellence to reach optimal financial, programmatic. and mission capacity.

Next Steps

Getting grant awards is just one part of raising more money. It is important to build on your success by identifying your other fundraising strengths and gaps, empowering your board to set the stage for more funding, mobilizing your staff to raise additional money, and excite your community for a broad base of support.

To learn what your nonprofit can do to move ahead, schedule a complementary 30-minute discovery session with me. During our time together, we will clarify the fundraising issues your nonprofit is facing, explore possible solutions, and develop a plan of action.

When you make your appointment, you will be asked a few brief questions about your situation so that I am best prepared to help you. I look forward to our conversation!  

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