5 Ways to Maximize Your Grant Funding
It’s a challenging time for nonprofit organizations. There is more need in every community, but less overall funding to help organizations deliver programs. A majority of nonprofit leaders anticipate greater demand for services, yet many of them are unsure their organizations will be able to meet this demand. Funding shortages are driving staffing reductions, and many organizations find themselves with little to no cash reserves.
In this financial environment, your organization needs to operate as efficiently as possible, as well as pursue all appropriate sources of additional funding.
Austin, Texas-based The Arc of Texas advocates for the inclusion of the more than half a million Texans with intellectual and developmental disabilities in all aspects of society. The organization is supported by three major grants and several entrepreneurial funding sources. Camille Atkins, The Arc’s chief financial officer, says, “Grantees face increased competition to win grants and increasingly strive to provide grantors with additional financial accountability.”
Here are five ways you can maximize your grant funding.
1. Manage your grant pipeline. Organizational leaders and staff members often spend too much time poring over spreadsheets in order to track grant applications and deadlines, create budgets, allocate funds, and report on performance. Using spreadsheets to manage grants is inefficient, error-prone, and labor intensive. That inefficient use of time takes away from the opportunity to research new grants, properly manage existing awards, and develop stronger grantor relationships. It can also distract from measuring success, reporting performance, and ensuring mission success.
One way to get out from under the chaos is to leverage grant management technology to apply for grants, track and receive funds, budget, and report success measures. The right solution can help you automate your grant application process; enable better collaboration within your organization; allow you to be more responsive to grantors; and provide you with immediate visibility into program performance and success.
“Using technology can cut the time spent analyzing data and preparing reports for funders in half,” says Atkins.
Using technology to measure grants can also help ensure you have a steady supply of grants in each stage of the grant lifecycle – application, distribution, and renewal – to ensure sustainability of your programs.
2. Create Stronger Grant Applications. Like every donor, grantors want to ensure their funds are going where they will do the most good. Show grantors why your organization is most deserving by establishing success measures and key performance indicators for every program. State your goals and defined success measures for the programs the grant will fund, and include program milestones along the way. These milestones can give you an opportunity to show grantors that you are serious about tracking progress, and gives you additional opportunities to engage the grantor throughout the life of the award.
Many grant applications lack the thoroughness of program budgeting and success measure definition. Utilize pro-forma budgeting tools within your grant management software to build a strong case that shows how you will be utilizing the funds for the best return on investment. With the business intelligence tools, you will be able to monitor and track your performance and give quick, visual presentation of your success when later reporting to grantors.
Provide your grantors with details about your strategies that will help ensure you achieve your goals. Include community impact and specify how you will collaborate with other nonprofits organizations to maximize resources and success. Grantors are looking for shared resources and partnerships across nonprofits as a way to leverage and expand their impact. Lastly, build and present a sustainable funding plan. Create and show your long-term plan for the program and how it will transition into the community infrastructure.
3. Gain more grant renewals. Grantors want to know that you achieve or exceeded your initial goals for the funds they provided. The best way to ensure renewals is to continually measure, monitor, and report on the success measures established in the planning and grant application phase. Make sure your management team is actively involved in reviewing results, as well as collaboratively and dynamically planning program changes and strategies to ensure you meet your goals. Also, include budget tracking in your reporting to the grantor so they will have confidence in your stewardship of their funds.
The leadership team at Family Health Centers of San Diego, the second largest Federally Qualified Health Center in the nation based on number of unique patients, manages more than 100 active grants. Anthony White, assistant director for grant support & special projects, says the organization uses grant management software to track performance measures across the organization. “The software’s scoreboard feature gives us a quick snapshot of each grant throughout the project period, so we know if we’re ahead, on track, or in need of making adjustments to ensure success by project end.”
Make sure you show the impact your programs are having within the community. Include pictures to help connect the funders to your organization and its mission. Through regular communication and timely reporting, develop a two-way communication with your grantors. Take the initiative to build genuine communication by providing additional information, reporting and results of your programs. Regularly contact your funders for reasons that don’t involve asking for funds. This will ensure that both parties understand the perspective, goals and expectation of each other and will lead to a deeper and more permanent funding relationship.
4. Make your grant management process more strategic. As funding is critical to your organization, grant management should be a top-level and strategic priority. It cannot be led by administrative or contract grant writers.
Strengthen collaboration across your organization to make the process more strategic and more effective. Engage everyone from the board of directors to administrative employees. Utilize contacts, knowledge, and networks to maximize research and target funders.
Another way to make grant management more strategic is to prioritize your research.
“Correctly aligning funders with your organization’s goals can result in stronger engagement, greater renewals, and more opportunities for long-term funding,” adds Atkins. “Your organization’s senior leadership team should have quantifiable metrics for measuring and reporting on grant funding.”
Keeping and distributing scorecards can also help you build accountability and top-of-mind focus.
5. Seek long-term, engaged and aligned grantor partnerships. As mentioned previously, it is important to research, develop, and pursue relationships with grantors who will be committed for the long-term. Begin to think in terms of fewer funders, with greater investment, for a longer period of time. The correct alignment of goals and priorities will offer opportunities for this type of relationship. Utilizing the two-way communication and relationship development you have established to increase renewals will allow you to explore more enduring grant funding relationships and partnerships.
Develop unique ways for the funders, beneficiaries, and organization to share in the success and impact of your initiatives. Building visible and experiential interactions will deepen the relationship and be evident in the return on investment – maximizing your connectivity, partnership and funding.
Finding grant management technology that works for your organization can allow you to automate processes and collaborate effectively so you can help ensure your organization has the necessary investments to serve its mission, constituents, and communities.
Joan Benson is a product marketing manager for Sage North America’s Austin, Texas-based Nonprofit Solutions business unit. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or through her Twitter handle, @Joani_B_. Benson has worked in the not-for-profit space for eight years and in product marketing/management for 15 years. She began her career in the accounting and manufacturing sector, where she developed expertise in cost accounting, operations, and product development.
- Leap of Reason: What Nonprofit Leaders Should Know About Impact and Funders (onphilanthropy.com)
- What If Funders Really Acted Like Purchasers? (ssireview.org)