Organizations where leaders document a solid track record of success are well positioned to attract grant funding. “Everyone likes safe bets,” said Barbara Floersch of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “To hand over a $250,000 award, the funder needs confidence that you know what you’re doing and will deliver what you’ve promised.”
Many factors contribute to credibility — high-quality data, good evaluation reports, financial stability, good audits, community buy-in, staff and board qualifications, a track record of effective programming, are a few of them.
But without a warehouse of documentation and a history of accomplishment, what’s a new nonprofit to do? If your organization is hosted by a fiscal sponsor while its 501(c)(3) application winds its way through the IRS labyrinth, or if the ink has just dried on your nonprofit determination letter, take heart.
You can still demonstrate the ability to handle the money and get the job done.
- The Mission. Nonprofits emerge to address unmet needs. Whether you’re addressing a crisis, advocating for change, or improving the quality of community life, the power and punch of your mission can motivate funders to step up. A mission that focuses on a hot-button issue no other group is tackling gives you clout.
- Community Buy-in. A corps of active volunteers shows your organization is important to the community. In-kind donations of necessities such as space and supplies show people care about your work. Expressions of appreciation captured in emails or notes show you’re making a difference.
- The People. Are the organization’s leaders experts in the field? Are they passionate about the issue because they’ve been affected by it? Are board members well-qualified and committed? Having passionate, well-qualified people involved builds confidence that your work will be relevant and professional.
- Results. Many groups offer services before they recognize the need to build a formal organization, and the work of new nonprofits is often inspiring in its intensity and authenticity. Just because you don’t have a long history doesn’t mean you have nothing to show. Document what you’ve done, gather data, and show evidence of impact. A commitment to data-gathering and evaluation is a powerful credibility booster.
- Partners. When you collaborate with well-respected groups, some of their credibility rubs off on you. Acceptance by established, high-quality organizations shows your organization is taken seriously.
- Funding. A budget built on funds from individual giving, events, corporate donations, board member contributions, sub-grants, and private funders doesn’t have to be large to be impressive. Diverse revenue streams show great promise for the development of long-term financial health and organizational growth.
Draft an introduction to your organization that focuses effectiveness. Use quotes and stores to include the voices of those you serve and of the larger community. Give it all you’ve got then circulate it widely, asking for advice on how it can be strengthened. “It’s easy for those involved in the organization to overlook the ‘wows’,” said Floersch. “Many new organizations have some really impressive accomplishments.” © Copyright 2020, The Grantsmanship Center