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8 Tips to Grow Your Grants Practice in 2024

A strong grants portfolio is an asset to any nonprofit organization. Scandiuzzi Krebs helps dozens of clients build successful grant strategies, and today we’re sharing some of our top tips for success to help you in crafting stronger proposals in 2024.

Don’t have the time to write as many grants as you’d like? That’s okay – we’re here to help – keep reading to find out about how you can collaborate with one of our grant writers. We’re accepting new clients in January and February. Reach out to book your free 30-minute consultation.

1. Balance the “head” and the “heart”

When we review grants for clients, we often see one of two things, either (1) a focus on story/vision/mission without any specifics, or (2) a focus on data and metrics which makes for a dry read. A great grant combines both of these storytelling tools. Most people tend to make decisions using either their head or their heart (and there’s no telling what the decision-making style of your grants panelists will be) learning how to appeal to both gives you a better chance of success.

2. Be unique

Celebrate what sets you apart. Know who else is doing this work, and be clear about the niche you fulfill within the community. If you are one of several organizations working towards similar ends – how do you collaborate? Do you each take on complementary roles to meet a mutual goal? Show that you are aware of how you fit into the ecosystem and that you are working to provide a service that no one else can.

3. Say what you mean - simply

One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple. – Jack Kerouac. We often see clients sit down to write a grant and assume that they need to use big, academic words. That just isn’t the case. Most grants panelists are just regular people. Keeping sentences and words short and sweet will increase your chance of telling a clear story. Avoid jargon and industry vocabulary: if you must use it, define it. Check your writing for redundancies. Tighten up your wording. The most important thing is to be understood.

4. Don’t try to fit a square peg in a round hole

I have worked with many clients who want to apply for everything – which is not always the best approach. Grant writing is time consuming. Learn which grants are a good use of your time and stick to those. For example, if your focus is on environmental education, I wouldn’t recommend applying for an environmental advocacy grant – even if both you and the funder care about the environment. Carefully read the grant guidelines to suss out when something is a good fit: taking the time to read the fine print will regularly save you the time of writing a grant that just isn’t right for you.

5. Tell a story with your budget

Where you put your money says everything about your values. A great project budget is an important part of telling your story. For example, if you talk about the importance of racial equity to your organization it would be great to see stipends for “community advisory” members, or for racial equity training for your staff. If you are running a career-training program for youth it would be great to see participation stipends, transportation, and snacks built into your budget. How you spend your money often reflects your commitment to serving your community.

6. Don’t procrastinate

We have all submitted a grant 5 minutes before the deadline. Life happens. However, if you regularly find yourself in this position it might be time to intentionally schedule grants work into your day – and to stick to it. Grants (especially big grants, like federal funding) are infinitely more approachable when done in small bites over a long period of time. Extending your writing timeline will also allow you to loop more people into the writing and editing process.

7. Relationships are built on the word “no”

There’s nothing worse than being “declined” for funding after putting in all that work. I get it. That being said, I always encourage people to use that “no” as the first step of building a relationship and getting a “yes”. Always take funders up on the offer to receive feedback about applications (or ask if they don’t outright offer) – it’s very common for this to lead to success during the next funding round, an offer for application review from program staff, and generally having the “inside scoop” on what that funder is up to.

8. Ask for help!

You do not have to tackle grant writing alone. Working with a grant writer can be an incredible investment in your organization and your staff capacity: grant writing is a clear scope of work that is easy for a consultant to take off your plate. We also know that it is an investment of funds that you may not have – working with your Board, or putting it out to your network that you are looking for writing assistance could be a great way for someone to become more involved on a tangible project. The short of it – please foster the practice of asking for help when you need it. 

Interested in working with a grant writer? Scandiuzzi Krebs is accepting new clients in January and February. We’re happy to offer you a free 30-minute consultation to talk about your goals for grants in 2024 and to offer any tips we may have. Sign up for yours today – happy writing!

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