Grants can be a wonderful vehicle to fund a new program or expand an existing one; however, if your organization is new to the “grant world,” you may be unfamiliar with the work involved with both applying and managing grants. This checklist will help to recognize whether your organization should apply for grants now or focus on organizational growth to prepare for grant-seeking in the future.
The Before, During and After Organizational Considerations of Grants
Seeking grants from potential funding partners requires time and resources beyond the day-to- day operations of your organization. Let’s briefly discuss what resources are needed to pursue grant funding and if your organization is in a position to do so. In other words, let’s look at the readiness to apply for grants and readiness to manage grant projects.
Readiness to apply: In order to apply for a grant, you must have the skills and capacity to develop a competitive grant proposal. Is there a person on your team with the capabilities to create a solid proposal? On the other hand, if your organization doesn’t plan to do the grant writing internally, do you have the financial resources to hire a professional grant writer? A grant proposal can take on many forms and each one must be individually tailored.
Readiness to manage: In order to manage a grant project, you need to have a certain level of infrastructure in place. Nearly every department in the organization is affected by incorporating grant funds into a nonprofit because of the defined financial, data, and performance requirements, not to mention additional personnel to implement the new grant recipient program. Is that the case with your organization?
The checklist below can help you assess your organization’s readiness to both apply for grants and manage grant-funded initiatives.
Part 1. Assessing Readiness to Apply for Grants
1. Do you have a nonprofit status designation from the IRS [501(c)(3)]?
While not all, most grantmakers will require this designation for their grant recipients.
2. Do you have a well-defined mission statement?
Your mission statement and supporting language should clearly articulate why your organization exists and may include elements about the impact you expect to have on the population you serve.
3. Can you demonstrate financial stability?
Having up-to-date financial statements and organizational budgets for the current and previous fiscal years that demonstrate financial responsibility will show potential funders that you will be a good steward of new funds.
4. Do you engage in long-range planning and have a current strategic plan in place?
While many organizations are focused on their current year, it is important that your organization not only has plans for the future but also can show that you have prepared for it.
5. Do you have a strong track record?
It is important to have evidence of success in serving your target population. Remember that having nonprofit, corporate, or even governmental partners with expertise in serving your community is another way to demonstrate this.
6. Do you have a good reputation within the community?
Donors and funders tend to give their dollars to organizations that have credibility within their community and strong reputations. Share specific examples and data points that showcase your reputation and trust in the community.
7. Do you have strong leadership and an active and supportive board?
If your organization doesn’t have the leadership in place to successfully operate in a given year, it will be difficult to apply for grant funding.
8. Do you have fundable programs?
You want to show that your organization can further its mission by expanding successful existing programs or developing new ones you may have in the pipeline. It is important to have an idea of the costs associated with these programs.
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Part 2. Assessing Readiness to Manage Grant Projects
9. Do you have staff to implement project activities?
Similar to having strong leadership, your organization also needs the people power required to implement a new or expanded program. (Some or all of the staffing needs may be part of a grant request.)
10. Can your accounting and human resources personnel add grant-related duties to their existing responsibilities?
It is important to be aware that some current internal personnel will be involved if the organization is awarded a grant, so you will want to ensure the added responsibilities will be manageable. Be sure to communicate and document expected responsibilities of team members.
11. Do you have an accounting system capable of tracking grant funds separately from other organizational funds?
In some cases, funders require that grant funds be tracked separately from other organizational finances (e.g., federal agencies).
12. Do you have data tracking capabilities to track grant activities and participant/client data?
This can take many forms, from spreadsheets developed by project staff to commercial software. Just be aware of what will be appropriate for your project or program based on the grant reporting requirements.
13. Do you have the evaluation expertise required to evaluate grant activities?
This is crucial, as being able to evaluate your progress and level of attainment of stated objectives is essential for all grant projects. Keep in mind, sometimes funds for the evaluation component will be included in your requested grant budget.
14. Do you have access to adequate facilities to deliver your grant activities?
If applicable to your project or program, ensure that needed facilities are available. This is an area where strategic partnerships can prove useful.
Being able to answer every item on this list is not a prerequisite to apply for a grant. However, this should give you an idea of the type of information your organization should be thinking about as you consider grants as vehicles to fund the creation of new programs and projects for the future. (Note: The first five items on the list are essential to apply for grants. The others are definitely a litmus test of where you are as an organization.)
If your organization does not meet many of these conditions, it may be wise to use this list to guide organizational development and increase your capacity to apply for grants and manage grant-funded projects. Implementing specific timelines for getting grant ready is highly recommended and will put your organization in a stronger position as you move forward with the grant-seeking process. In other words, pause and begin to make your case and assemble the support to become “grant ready”.To learn more about the grant research process and finding funding that your organization can apply for, a resource to consider is The Grant Hunt Simplified.
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