As the recently released 2017 Giving USA Report shows, there’s more money out there than ever for nonprofits. According to the report, the most respected and longest-running annual update on national philanthropic trends and statistics, charitable giving is up 1.4 percent year over year to a staggering $390.1 billion. And while individual giving makes up the largest chunk of the charitable pie, foundation and corporate giving is up too and provides an excellent (and predictable) source of support for nonprofits.
If you’re a nonprofit looking to win more grants, here are three tips to help improve your odds of securing new funding:
Tip #1 – Find Out What Works Best for You
Recent funders will always be excellent sources of additional support, but only if it’s worth your time. Sure, it’d be easy to chase after another huge grant like the big one you landed last year, but that doesn’t mean it was your best grant (or that it didn’t cost you too much to take on). To uncover which opportunities and funders your nonprofit should go after, it’s important to understand the true cost of your team’s work first.
To get started uncovering your best funding opportunities, review the grants and other support you’ve secured over the past couple of years, looking carefully at your time tracking data for each. If you’ve been good about keeping tabs on how much time your team puts into each task, you can understand how much each activity cost your organization. By understanding the cost of each task, you can find out which programs had the best ROI and which activities your nonprofit should skip next time.
Without a time tracking system in place, it’s going to be pretty hard to find out what the smart play is. If your nonprofit isn’t tracking time already, it’s probably a good idea to start now so you can start making more data-based decisions. Not only can time tracking data help management discover the true cost of each activity, it can also help with that all-important reporting piece for when you need to update funders on your activities. Time IQ offers everything businesses need for time tracking at an affordable price, and even provides a discount for nonprofits too.
Tip #2 – Invest in Great Writing
Your organization has a lot of strengths, but grant writing is a skill that’s hard to master and there’s a lot riding on it. A professional grant writer can add a lot of value to any nonprofit group, but, before you start looking around for a seasoned veteran, try to identify a talented writer in your organization that has the chops to step up. After all, the people on your team already know and support your nonprofit’s mission, which cuts out a lot of the onboarding associated with a new hire or a contractor. To help your burgeoning writer reach their potential, consider offering tuition reimbursement for grant writing classes that make sense for your nonprofit. To find courses that are a good fit, look for regional programs that connect to your mission so what your writer learns is locally and topically relevant. For more tips on how to find the best grant-writing classes, read this great article from the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
If no one in your group can, or wants to, take up the grant-writing mantle, hire a professional grant writer. Bringing a pro onboard doesn’t mean you’ll immediately land big grants, but, by leveraging their expertise and experience, you can significantly increase your odds of securing funding. To find a good grant writer for your nonprofit, look for someone experienced in your philanthropic arena. Ideally they’re local too, but, as long as they have experience writing successful grants for nonprofits like yours, you can fill them in on any regional issues.
Tip #3 – Know Where to Find New Opportunities
There are a lot of resources out there for nonprofits looking to track down new grants, and the number is constantly growing. So you’re always aware of what funding opportunities are coming up for your nonprofit, here’s a quick checklist of things to keep an eye on:
- Newsletters. Subscribe to newsletters from funders and media relevant to your nonprofit. This one may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked so it bears repeating. While funders will typically put out press releases announcing the opening of a new grant, their newsletter will usually have extra information that can help nonprofits write a winning grant application.
- RSS feeds. If a funder or philanthropic website you match well with has an RSS feed, subscribe to it. Because RSS feeds can aggregate information, it’s a great way to quickly get news that’s relevant to your nonprofit. For more info on RSS feeds, check out (and use) Feedly.
- Google Alerts. While not nearly as foolproof as RSS feeds or newsletters, you should make room for Google Alerts if you haven’t already. It may be a simple notification service from the search giant, but it’s also an incredibly versatile way to discover new opportunities in a variety of places—such as web pages, newspaper articles, blogs, or press releases—that can lead to new funding opportunities. This is also really useful if your chosen targets don’t have RSS feeds.
To learn more about why your nonprofit needs time tracking, check out the related blog posts below.