I had the recent pleasure of interviewing grant writing guru & expert Rocio Puente Mata owner of Faith Sparked Passion. Rocio has a success grant rate of 90-95%. Rocio shared her inside trade secrets with us.
First and foremost, research is key in deciding which grant application to complete. You must be strategic and apply for what fits between your organization and the funder. This is where the research benefits you. Do you know the funder history, their annual giving, who they fund, etc? If you take the time to research the grant you will have much greater success.
Secondly, make sure your organization has the infrastructure in place to be a grantee.
- Financial Readiness – You must have a budget that makes sense. For example, if your operating budget is $120,000 and your CEO makes $100,000 something is not right. You must document checks and balances ensuring that the budget is reviewed at minimum quarterly by the board of director.
- Compliance – You must have someone committed to program and fiscal compliance. It does not necessarily need to be a compliance position, but it does need to be a person dedicated to those duties.
- Supportive Leadership – The organization’s CEO or Board of Director must completely understand the commitment to receiving the grantor’s funds. They must be on board with the deliverables and outcomes needed to receive the funding.
- A strategic plan– The organization must know its vision and where they are going.
So now that you have the infrastructure in place, and you have done the research here are 5 other things to consider during your grant writing journey.
Read the direction and keep your language simple
It’s important that you follow the grantor’s instructions. They receive many proposals and those who don’t follow the directions are easy to eliminate first. If you made it past the instructions cut, remember to keep your language simple and clear. Rocio suggests if you have a teen in your home give them the proposal to read. If they understand your deliverables and outcomes then you have done the proposal right!
Start with State grant applications. Federal grants have a lot of detail and paperwork. They are generally more competitive with a small number of awards. Pursue federal grants only if you are an absolute fit and part of a coalition. For example, if a Federal grant is specifically for the border region and you are located along the border then go for it. Otherwise, start with state applications.
When applying for government grants understand they are competitive and require a lot of compliance. However, government grants are traditionally recurring. Meaning once you are in you are in. If you stay compliant this could be funding you can count on for several years. Be reminded as politics change grant funding focus and requirements may change.
When applying for foundation funds it’s important to build relationships. You build those relationships by being honest with the funders. Call them to ask questions if you are unclear on instructions. If awarded, take care of the funds by doing what you say you would do. This will go a long way towards repeat and increased funding down the road.
The Worst Mistake to Avoid
When writing your proposal remember to write from their perspective, not your organizations. Rocio warns that this is hard to do. Especially, for those of us who are passionate about their organization and their mission. The funders want to give you the money but for their purposes. So, if their focus is family support or mental health write to address that issue. Don’t focus on how great your organization is in general. Rocio swears this is the secret to her success.
It’s a numbers game
The more grants you write the more likely you will be funded. Each year GrantStation- The State of Grant Seeking & Survey Report confirms this again and again.
We closed the conversation with a message to those who want a guarantee in granting writing. Folks, there are no guarantees that a proposal will pay off with a grant award. Many variables impact grantmaking decisions, only one of which is how well the proposal is written. Success or failure does not lie in the hands of the grant writer alone. Winning grants depends largely on the level of community need and the effectiveness of the applicant organization in responding to that need. The organization’s track record, capacity to implement programs and deliver outcomes, partnerships within the community and the ability to sustain the project are huge considerations for funders. These elements are not in the proposal writer’s control. You are paying a grant writer for a solid, professional job, not for a grant award.
The work completed by the grant writer becomes the property of the organization and can be submitted to other funding sources. It’s the organization property to reuse over and over.
Grantseeking is an inherently risky endeavor, but it’s a cost of doing business.
So, there you go. A recap of Sipping Tea with Sabrina Topic: Grant Writing. Rocio and I will be furthering our conversation and training on grant writing in our 2-Day boot camp to be held October 3-4, 2019. If you would like to attend register here.
I hope this helps. Your feedback is appreciated. I would love to answer any grant writing question you have. If you share your question in the comment box below your name will go into a drawing for a free registration to the Boot Camp.
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