This week, the world of grantmaking - and fundraising in general - was rocked by the announcement that Mackenzie Scott will be opening up a competition for funding, with 250 organizations ultimately awarded $1 million in general operating support. This has been a long-awaited development, as her transformation approach to giving and trust-based philanthropy has been eyed enviously by (not yet selected) nonprofits across the country.
This is going to spark a historic competition for funding that will bring out the best and brightest ideas that our sector has to offer. Every nonprofit that fits her giving criteria should apply. Even with the competition that’s likely to emerge, this is an exercise that will benefit every organization and inspire us all to aim high as we pursue new funding opportunities.
That said, this grant shouldn’t be the only new opportunity organizations pursue. A successful, growth-oriented grant strategy will always be designed to maintain a pipeline of potential funders and build the relationships that are necessary to bring new funding in the door. This is a long-term strategy that turns grant funding from a one-time cash infusion to a sustainable revenue stream for your organization.
That idea is great on paper, but it brings up an important question: where do you begin?
Grantors don’t fall out of the sky, and an organization has to take a deliberate approach to the arduous process of finding grant dollars. It takes patience, creativity, and ongoing commitment to growing your pool of grantors.
Here are a few tips to get you started:
Think Local: Big national opportunities - like last week’s presented by MacKenzie Scott - will emerge from time to time, and it’s in your best interest to pursue them. That said, your most immediate prospects are likely to be in your own community. They are the corporate foundations, family foundations, and community foundations that are eager to fund new projects in their own backyard. Look at other organizations that do similar work and see who funds them; that’s the fastest way to find out who has an affinity for your work and maybe a prospect for future support.
Network: It’s not uncommon to come across a funder who seems like a perfect fit for your organization but has this dreaded message on their website: “we do not currently accept unsolicited applications.” This is an obvious barrier to receiving funding, but not an insurmountable one. Find a contact with this funder and try to set up a meeting to introduce your organization, ask for advice, and get on their radar for future funding cycles. It may take some time to turn this relationship into funding, but it could pay off in the long run.
Do Your Research: There is no shortage of available tools to research grantmakers, including my personal favorite, Foundation Directory. These are powerful tools that can help you identify potential funders and learn more about their giving history, giving patterns, and open funding cycles. If your organization does not pay for access to these tools, you can typically access them through your local library.
Take Chances: Some of my biggest successes have come from submitting grants where my organization only partially aligned with a funder and where funding didn’t seem an obvious win. Now, that doesn’t mean a museum should seek funding from a foundation that funds animal welfare. But if there is partial alignment with a funder, it’s worth reaching out to them to explore their interest in your work.
Bring in Professional Help: When all else fails, you can contract with a grant professional who has expertise in finding new funding sources. They can find open calls for proposals and foundations you can network with as you look to expand your portfolio of funders.
Developing a pipeline of potential grant funders takes patience and determination. Whether you’re shooting for the moon by looking for transformational funding from MacKenzie Scott or developing relationships in your community, this is an essential exercise as your organization develops new revenue streams.
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Read this Blog also-- Writing a Grant? Don’t Forget the Secret Ingredient.