Are You Prepared to Apply for Grants?

There is a general misunderstanding about grants being “FREE MONEY”. Let me tell you…it’s not that simple.

Funders have expectations and requirements you have to meet before, during, and after they consider your organization for an investment. There are many organizations competing for the same dollar. If your organization hasn’t yet developed proper infrastructure, you should probably consider delaying seeking grant funding. You want to be able to honor the organization by taking the initiative to be well prepared and responsible with their fund. To be a successful candidate to receive grant funding you need to have “all your ducks in a row”.

What does it mean to be “grants-ready”? You must have these concepts in place:

Culture & Infrastructure

Resources & Documentation

 Consider the following to determine if your organization is Grant-Ready:

Board & Staff

Do you have a Board of Directors in place? Are they active and involved in your organization? What staff is needed to carry out your mission? Have an org chart, job descriptions and bios available.

State, Local, IRS Requirements

Has your organization received its Letter of Determination from the IRS? Are you in compliance with federal, state and local regulations? Is you organization up to date on the filing of tax forms?

Mission, Vision, Strategy

Has your Board drafted a Mission and Vision Statement? What type of work does your organization do? Do you have a clear vision of how your organization can impact your community? Do you have a strategic plan in place?


Who/What does your organization hope to impact? Does your organization serve a specific geographic area, population, or problem?


Has you organization established a budget? What is the annual operating budget and the program? 


Does your organization have a fund raising plan? What fundraising activities have you engaged in or conducted over the last year? Where does your organization currently get most of its financial support? What type of funds do you want to locate?


Does your organization have  prepared (audited/unaudited) financial statements? Has your organization established policies and procedures regarding proper accounting guidelines? When does your fiscal year begin and end?


How will you sustain and maintain this program/project long-term?


What type of work does your organization do and what services do you provide? Are you able to verbally explain the impact of your services/programs and how outcomes will be measured?


Funders love partnerships; they may even require them. Partnerships and collaboration are key to meaningful and sustainable services. There are four basic types of partnerships: 1.) Complementary Services, 2.) Volunteers, 3.) Council Memberships, 4.) Contractual Relationships.

Mission, Vision, Strategy

Do you have a specific Mission, Vision and Strategy for this program/project? Have you completed a Logic Model? Does your narrative use language the communicates who your organization really is?

Community Needs 

Has your organization conducted a survey to assess the needs of the community or to determine a target audience who will be impacted by your services/programs? Have you researched the number of the same services/programs offered in your targeted area?

The Benefits of Being Grant Ready

Being a grant ready organization increases the liklihood of funding in several ways:

  • They follow a well though out, focused, strategic plan rather than sending a lot of applications hoping one will stick. Quality vs. quantity.
  • They identify a group of possible opportunities that match their funding goal, mission, and vision.
  • They carefully review opportunities and select only the ones they stand a good chance of winning and not wasting time on less-likely proposals.
  • They constantly monitor proposal progress and are willing to set aside a proposal if the chance of success drops to an unacceptable level during the development process.
  • They can respond quickly and competitively to grant opportunities even if the timeline is short.
  • They have libraries of materials organized and ready to use at all times.
  • Over time they become increasingly efficient and effective at writing proposals.

Should you pursue this grant?

You can’t get around the requirements of a grant. It’s best to put time and energy and resources into a grant that meets your needs and the funder’s mission. When considering a grant, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does this funder make grants in my county or area
  • Does this funder fund in my subject area?
  • Does this funder make grants in the amount I’m looking for?
  • Does the grant seem aligned with our mission and strategies?
  • Do you believe you have a greater than 20% chance of winning?
  • Would this grant fund expenses on your operational budget that aren’t currently covered? How much?
  • Would this grant create cover previously un-budgeted expenses? How much?
  • Would this grant fully cover the costs associated with operating the new program, if applicable? If not, how much will still need to be rais

evaluation & reporting

You may feel panicked when writing a foundation grant application and come to the questions:

  • What are your intended outcomes?
  • How will you evaluate your program?

YIKES! You have NO idea.

All funders want to know that you have a solid, honest, and transparent system for tracking your results. So, where do you begin? If you want to be ready to answer these questions, you must take time to prepare. Consider these measurements as a beginning:

1-2 measures of the services you offer. (How many rallies will you organize, meetings held, workshops offered, etc.?)

1-2 measures of the # of people you'll reach. (How many people will enroll in your program, participate in activities, visit your website, etc.?)

1-2 measures of the important indicators of your impact. (How much money did you raise, meals served, etc.?)

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