Who Gets General Operating Grants?

A general operating grant is the most prized type of funding award. In the best circumstances, it’s a significant chunk of money handed to your organization with the magnificent instructions to “do what needs to be done.” Private grantmakers increasingly recognize that general operating funds provide flexible support that enables nonprofits to be most effective.

“There are some rules of the road when it comes to securing these types of grants,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif.

Because a general operating grant is an investment in an organization’s effectiveness, nonprofits with a solid track record and data demonstrating impact are more likely to win one. “Operating grants help you continue your work, so to attract these types of grants you’ll need to prove that your work matters and is worth the investment to keep it going,” said Floersch.

Because the grantee organization will decide how to use the funds, the quality of its leadership is pivotal. Grantmakers need confidence that administrators are competent, run a tight ship, and are experts in their field. Funders also want to see high-quality board members who demonstrate their commitment through contributions of both time and money. “By making an operating grant, a funder is joining your team,” said Floersch. “To interest funders, your team must be strong.”

General operating grants to new, start-up organizations are rare. Grantmakers must embrace the necessity of the new organization’s mission, agree that it is filling a critical gap, and have strong faith in its leadership. “It’s possible,” said Floersch. “But the relationship between the organization’s leadership and the funder needs to be especially strong. There has to be a great deal of mutual trust.”

“When working with private funders, relationships always matter,” said Floersch. “But when seeking general operating support, they matter more than ever.” © Copyright 2017 The Grantsmanship Center.