Establishing credibility for a new organization

The credibility of the applicant is critical in winning grants. Funders must be convinced that the applicant knows what it’s doing and can deliver what it promises. “New organizations face special challenges in this area,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles. “But even new organizations have a history, and many have already made a difference in the community. You’ve got to make the most of what you’ve got.”

Here are some possible credibility boosters that new organizations can consider.

1. Why the organization was created. Did concerned people come together to address a pressing situation? That shows responsiveness and purpose.

2. Community support. Is there broad-based buy-in? That shows the organization is needed.

3. The founders. Are the founders experts in their field, community activists, or passionate about the issue because they’ve been affected by it? Knowledgeable founders show the organization has a strong foundation.

4. Board of directors. Qualifications of board members are especially important when the organization doesn’t have a track record. A strong board shows funders that thoughtfulness and expertise will guide the organization’s work.

5. Services and activities. Often the people involved in starting an organization were offering services and completing activities before they recognized the need to formalize the work. Work done before incorporation shows commitment and passion.

6. Affiliations with others. Collaboration with well-respected groups is a plus. Acceptance by established, quality organizations shows the new group is taken seriously.

7. Raising money. Successful fundraising shows motivation and good organization. Donations of goods, time, or money show that the cause matters to the community. Contributions from board members show commitment. Funds from foundations, government agencies, or businesses suggest that the organization is a good investment.

Pull together a draft that includes facts and figures, along with quotes and stories. Then share it broadly and ask for advice on how it can be strengthened. “People deeply involved in the work sometimes can’t see the ‘wows’,” said Floersch. “They may overlook really impressive accomplishments.”