The success of a grant fundraising effort is challenging to measure. Simple ratios that compare the number of grants submitted to the number funded don’t really reveal much. Grant fundraising success must be defined for each organization individually, in part by considering how appealing its organizational mission is by current public or foundation standards.

More importantly, success is measured by whether or not the organization is building relationships and program credibility with funders and achieving incremental increases in grant funding revenues.

There are eight key indicators in achieving success:

1. Timing, Fit, and Public Interest

Because timing, fit and public interest profoundly influence foundation response, the organization must stay abreast of trends and adjust its grant funding strategies and approaches accordingly.

2. Annual Review

The grant pursuit strategy should include annual identification and review of the complete set of prospective corporate and private foundations, emphasizing discovery of new foundations and increasing the scope of grant pursuit.

3. Advance Contact

When feasible, advance personal contact with foundation staff helps to determine degree of interest in the particular funding need, improve the targeting of the grant request, and enhance receptivity to the application.

4. Existing Relationships

It is important to maximize existing personal relationships between the organization’s staff or Board members and foundation staff or Trustees. Such relationships can pave the way for informal contacts in support of the request.

5. Request the Right Amount

Determining just the right dollar amount for the “ask” is important: most non-profits underestimate how much they should request. Foundations never give more than you request.

6. Continuous Improvement

Evidence of ongoing efforts to improve program effectiveness, particularly as demonstrated by objective outcomes, is indispensable for program credibility and fundability.

7. Staff Visibility

Visibility of key organization staff in the community builds recognition.

8. Compelling, Clear Case

The grant request must be written with clarity, in the format required by the foundation, and make a compelling case that sets the application apart from that of others competing for scarce grant funds.

While a win-loss ratio offers a snapshot of return on investment, these eight steps provide a deeper, more comprehensive system to help evaluate the success of a grant strategy. They also offer valuable insight into where improvements can be made.

This post is the first in a four part article series on Grant Writing:

1. 8 Keys to Grant Strategy Success by Robert P. Stewart
2. 20 Free Grant Writing Resources for Non-Profits by Sandra Sims
3. Building Relationships with Foundations by Sandy Rees
4. Secrets From A Grant Reviewer by Katie Krueger

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Posted on 06 August 2008

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