Most Americans have been either misled or misinformed about grants, all stemming from limited knowledge involving the operations of a 501c3 nonprofit organization. When the concept of applying for grants is mentioned, the first thought that comes to mind is ”awesome! free money, let’s do it.” As clear-cut as many perceive applying for grants is, it is 110% not that simple.
There are expectations and requirements that must be met prior to any grant funder investing in your organization. Funders pay close attention to the internal structure of the organization as well as other significant factors such as community visibility, financials, board composition, and legal paperwork.
According to the Grant Professionals Association, “a Grant Ready Organization (GRO) is an organization that is prepared to apply for grant opportunities. GROs have all of their records, registrations and audits in place, accessible, and up-to-date. GROs have engaged and gained support from leadership, policy-makers, and stakeholders. GROs align their mission, vision, and capacity with their understanding of community needs to build the foundation of their grant seeking strategy.”
Grant money is never a guarantee! There are many organizations, including your organization, competing for the same money. An organization has to do its due diligence to be determined as a credible grant recipient. If your organization has neglected to take the initiative to develop proper infrastructure and follow the expectations of the funder, your organization should consider not seeking grant funding until a later time. Any nonprofit seeking grant funding must have all their ducks in a row to be determined as a successful candidate.
The checklist we created below contains many typical grant-readiness items needed, but it is not comprehensive. The more items your organization has prepared, the more grant ready it is.
Clear lines of decision-making within the organization
Ongoing list of potential funding sources, including specific organizations and general types of organizations
Solid reputation in the community; Credible track record:
Organizational accomplishments AND/OR
Credentials of key individuals (board members, key staff, consultants, partners)
Program descriptions (needs, priorities, clients, services, location, staffing, etc.)
Future goals and strategies
A culture that values collaboration over competition
Existing networks of potential partners
Letters of agreement detailing partnership roles and responsibilities (Fiscal Sponsorship)
Sound accounting practices and systems:
Audited financial statements
Fund accounting capability
Organization‘s address, website
Employer/Tax Identification Number (EIN)
Business plan for organization
Bylaws and other governing documents
Effective program tracking and record keeping systems
Tax and financial data, for example:
501(c)3 authorization letter
Past tax forms
IRS Form 990
Most recent annual and quarterly financial statements, audit statements if available
Board list – names and community affiliations
Resumes of key personnel
Once you have all your paperwork laid out and feel you are grant ready, you will need to explore the various types of grants available that meet your qualifications. There are foundation grants, federal grants, and other government grants. Identifying the specific grant opportunities under which you may apply can sometimes be a daunting task. Having the right tools for research can significantly reduce the time and effort allocated to funding research, allowing you to dedicate more of your valuable time to fulfilling your mission.
Do you think you are a grant ready organization? Do you need help becoming grant ready? Are you ready to research grant opportunities? Is it time to apply for a grant for your organization? Santa Cruz Grants & Consulting is ready to help! Email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started.