A Strong Grants Program Begins with a Strong Grant Research Process
By Leah Weinberg, Grant Researcher & Writer
Building and maintaining a robust grant program at a nonprofit organization is a challenging endeavor every year, but 2020 may be the most challenging year yet. As 2021 approaches and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to upend business as usual, engaging in a strong grant research process is critical to ensuring current and future stability. Whether your aim is to expand an established grant program or build one to diversify revenue, it is worth investing in a comprehensive and well-organized research process to get you there. Here are four key reasons why:
1. A strong grant research process makes your development team more efficient and strategic.
It is not unusual for grant writers to learn about new funding opportunities from colleagues, and this informal process can be a great way to leverage your team’s networks. However, this approach to finding prospective funders can also lead grant writers to focus on opportunities that may have a low return on investment or may not align strongly enough with your organization’s mission to be competitive. A formal grant research process empowers you to target better-aligned opportunities with higher awards, increasing your development team’s efficiency in locating new funding opportunities and enabling grant writers to be more strategic in selecting the top prospects to cultivate.
2. A strong grant research process helps your organization make more accurate budget projections.
Every development team knows how crucial it is to be able to concretely project how much grant revenue your organization can expect to receive each year. Investing in grant research can help your team calculate which and how many grants to apply for each month of the calendar year to optimize budget projection accuracy based on award range and probability.
3. A strong grant research process puts you in the driver’s seat in relationship-building.
Knowing exactly which grants you plan to submit and when each one is due over the course of the year gives you a big competitive edge. Why? Because you are prepared to contact funders on a timeline that gives you ample opportunity to introduce your organization, develop relationships with program officers, and incorporate information from emails and calls with the funders into your letters of interest and proposals. Taking control over this relationship-building process by doing your research enables you to stay ahead of the curve and make your organization as competitive as possible.
4. A strong grant research process provides a fresh perspective on the current field of opportunity.
Even if you already have strong relationships with current funders, undertaking a formal grant research process once every 1–2 years can help you stay up to date in an ever-changing field of opportunity. As strategic planning affects funding priorities and staff and board members change, deliberately and regularly broadening your frame of reference helps ensure you do not miss great opportunities.
As the New Year approaches, now is an ideal time to invest in a formal grant research process. Whether you are starting from scratch or contemplating a research refresh, finding, studying, and connecting with your best-aligned prospective funders empowers your development team to plan ahead and take control, giving your organization the best possible chance to grow and thrive in 2021 and beyond!
Leah Weinberg | Grant Researcher & Writer
Leah has 10 years of experience in higher education. She is passionate about leveraging her training as a researcher, writer, editor, and educator to help mission-driven organizations maximize their social impact.