Grant Research Basics -- Boules Consulting

Grant Research Basics

Grants provide an excellent way to fund projects, operations, and even capital and equipment purchases for nonprofit organizations. For some nonprofits, a strong grants strategy is essential to securing a financially sustainable future. While there are scores of grant opportunities available, a winning grant strategy is to conduct a comprehensive, thorough search of grant opportunities that uniquely align with your own nonprofit’s mission and vision.

This is where grant research comes in. Grant research is an essential part of the grant writing process and can set you up for success or failure right at the first step. While you might have the urge to jump straight to the grant writing component, it is extremely important that you first learn about the basics of grant research to ensure you are on the right path before you even put down any words on paper.

What is Grant Research?

Grant research is an analytical process to search for funding opportunities and identify the best ones for your organization. It involves analyzing their awards and eligibility criteria and preparing a competitive application package. The more you do your research before applying for a grant, the better your chances are for success.

The Basics of Grant Research

1) Understand your own needs to identify what you are looking for

It might sound counterintuitive, but a good grant research strategy starts with your own nonprofit strategy first. You must identify your own needs and the type of funding you are looking for. Are you looking to purchase a new office space? Did all of your 90’s computers breakdown at the same time and now you need some new laptops? Or do you just need some breathing room to run your programs and could do well with a meatier general operating budget? A great practice is to look at your strategic plan and your next twelve months of operations. This will help you ensure that you are aligning with the true, long-term goals of your organization, rather than going after anything and everything that comes your way. Making sure you understand your goals for the next year will help you find the grants that are right for you. It will help you narrow the list of potential grants you should apply to so you can maximize your time wisely.

2) Calculate your costs for next year

Oftentimes, most funders will ask for a budget along with your narrative. What you do with your program is not enough; most grant makers also take a keen interest on you typically spend your funds and how you plan to spend their own funds. To ensure that you are one step ahead in planning, it's always important to know your costs even before you start writing the application. That is why when a new client is first onboarded with Boules Consulting, one of the first things we do is ask for your organizational budgets and project budgets. If you don’t have a budget that has been approved by your Board of Directors, Boules Consulting will often even create a budget for the you as a part of the onboarding process.

When integrating budgets into your grant research process, you can narrow your grant search even further based on their amount of previous giving.

3) Create a checklist

Now that you understand your needs and costs, you can create a checklist to help you evaluate if your application would be successful or not. This often includes creating a “confidence interval” on your grant analysis sheet that includes your confidence level in your ability to win the grant. For example, grants that you have won previously in the past may score higher on the confidence interval, while grants that are highly competitive or a shot in the dark may score lower.

4) Review the Foundation’s mission

One way of finding the right grant is by looking at the donor's mission statement or their long-term goals. You should also look at how closely aligned your organization's mission statement is with that of the donor. That is not to say that you should take foundations that are not aligned with your mission completely off the table. Rather, when thinking of your time and ability to spend time on each grant, more time and effort should go towards grant makers whose missions are the most closely aligned with yours, since that is where you have the highest chance of success.

5) Review your declined proposal

Understanding your declined proposals is important for your future success. If you are to apply a grant that's similar to what has already declined you, then you might want to reassess your application strategy or find another grant opportunity altogether. On the other hand, oftentimes a declined proposal can become an invitation to start relationship building with a grant maker. For example, after being declined, a simple email to the Foundation asking for a feedback session has worked wonders for many of our own clients in the past and has resulted in tens of thousands of dollars being raised that would have otherwise been left on the table had we not helped our client build the relationship!

6) Repeat the process

Grant research is not a one-and-done process; rather, consistently keeping an eye out for new grant opportunities is something every nonprofit should do. At Boules Consulting, we conduct grant research at the beginning of every month so that our clients know about the latest grant opportunities in their industry.

Are you interested in grant research but are too busy to put in the time or don’t know where to start? For a limited time, Boules Consulting is offering a subscription to our individualized, tailored grant research program beginning at only $125 a month! Reach out to us today for a free half-hour consulting session to see if Boules Consulting’s grant research program is the right fit for you!

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