A Foundation Center report released earlier this year states that almost two-thirds of foundations expect to reduce grant payouts in 2009. This report was based on surveys of 1,200 US Foundations.
If your nonprofit has relied heavily on grants in the past you could be at risk. In fact, you may already be feeling the pinch from reduced grant awards. So what can you do?
1. Sharpen Your Skills
There are a variety of places where you can get training. From books to classes at your local nonprofit management center, to online courses, there are resources out there to help you. For a variety of resources, see this list of 20 Free Grant Writing Resources for Non-Profits.
Personally I love going to seminars and conventions. The way I look at, if I come away with one or two really good tips and implement them, it could make a big difference in my work. Online training is great, but if you have the chance I’d encourage you to go to in-person training. I find that I learn so much from the personal interaction with the speakers and other attendees. It’s a great time to network, ask questions and offer help to fellow colleagues too.
2. Focus Grant Requests
Submitting more grant requests may give you better odds of getting a “yes.” But also be sure that the requests you are submitting are matched well to the funder’s priorities and requirements. For example, submitting a request to fund an animal shelter to a foundation that focuses on social services may be a big waste of time.
If the foundation doesn’t give specific funding priorities in the grant application and/or instructions there are a few other ways to discover this information. First, most foundations provide information on their website about their mission and history. Others will make a simple list of previous grantees available on their site. Grant expert Pamela Grow says that the foundation’s 990 form (available for free at Guidestar) provides the best research tool. She advises that there are six things to look for when reviewing this document.
3. Diversify Funding Sources
If your organization has relied on grants for 50% or more of its income, and you find that support in peril, diversification is a must. There are many solid ways to raise funds that you could consider: special events, direct mail, and corporate partnerships, just to name a few. Grant writer Arlene Spencer suggests several money saving and money raising methods.
When considering your options, think about how the ideas would fit into your overall, long-term fundraising plan. Just adding more fundraisers is not the answer. Be sure that the strategies you are using will produce results, and be worth the time, effort and cost it takes to do them successfully.
4. Continue to Build Relationships
Just because someone can’t give today doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. So continue to build relationships with foundations and individuals givers. Contact donors personally for reasons other than asking for a donation. They need to know you love them for something other than their wallet. Of course show your appreciation every time you do get a donation.
Keep spreading the message of the great work you are doing, highlighting great stories of clients, volunteers and donors. Keep sending those print and email newsletters on a consistent schedule. How often do you send press releases? That’s another great way to keep the public informed (and maintain relationships with your media contacts).