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Building a Holistic Approach to Grant Seeking

Resource Center - Foundation

Cynthia AdamsIt’s tricky – we know that nonprofits can’t live on grants alone, yet there is over 50 billion dollars awarded every year through foundations and corporate grants.  AFP had a chance recently to chat with Cindy Adams, CEO of GrantStation, about what goes into investing in a healthy grant program, the subject of her upcoming webinar, Building a Holistic Approach to Grant Seeking on October 24. 

Q.  What does a healthy grant program look like?

A.  In general, the program is guided by board approved policies and adopted procedures that feed an overall grant strategy.

Q.  As more and more emphasis is placed on relationship (vs. transactional) fundraising, what are some tips for building relationships with grantors?  

A.  I believe the best way to build any relationship is via honest communications. I also strongly feel that the grant seeker has to understand the grant maker’s vision and be able to articulate their vision when discussing funding your own project with them.

Q.  A recent article in Advancing Philanthropy mentioned the importance of storytelling in grants.  Do you feel storytelling is important in a grant application, and how would you best use it?

A.  Absolutely. After 40 years of grants research, grant writing, and grant management I can say with confidence that story telling is essential. I use 'stories' in different places throughout a proposal, actually, such as the opening of the statement of need, or sometimes I use it as the very last paragraph or two in the overall grant requests. It is unexpected and leaves the reader with a true sense of the problem you're attempting to address.

Q.  Is there a return on investment metric for grant writing (how much time/how many submissions should one expect to make for what kind of return)?

A.  I can actually give you a very solid answer here! At GrantStation we do a survey twice a year called the State of Grantseeking. That survey gives us real benchmarks to help organizations determine for their budget size, mission, etc. how many proposals they should be submitting each year to generate a return. For example our latest survey clearly shows:

  • One Application: Fifty percent of respondents were awarded one grant.
  • Two Applications: Seventy-three percent of respondents were awarded one or two grants.
  • Three to Five Applications: Seventy-five percent of respondents were awarded two to five grants.
  • Six to Ten Applications: Eighty-five percent of respondents were awarded three to ten grants.

You can download the Spring survey results here. The Fall 2016 survey results will be published within a few weeks, so folks should definitely check back to get the latest information.

Q.  If not a fundraiser, I’d be … ?

A.  An Environmental Activist. No doubt!

To find out more about building a health grants program for your nonprofit, join us for Cindy’s webinar on October 24 at 1:00 PM Eastern, Building a Holistic Approach to Grant Seeking

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