Grant readiness is more than an exercise in checking items on a checklist. It is the organization’s readiness to competitively apply for grants, finalize the awarding process, and manage the grant.
Where to Begin
An evaluation of an organization’s grant readiness begins with an assessment of three areas: organization, financial, and program.
We start with evaluating the organization because it must be able to demonstrate it meets basic eligibility requirements for a grant. To meet minimum eligibility requirements for many grants from independent family and corporate foundations, a nonprofit organization must have its tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In order to apply for this designation, the organization must be incorporated with Articles of Incorporation filed with the applicable agency within your state. The state agency to file these articles is typically the Secretary of State.
Once the entity is incorporated, it can file for its tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status through the IRS. Filing for tax-exempt status is not required for profit entities.
During the goal planning session offered by Grants Works, we outline multiple materials or resources that apply to nonprofit organizations and small businesses and separate them by three categories: minimum requirements, nice to have, and work toward.
Benefits of Collaborative Partnerships
Many nonprofit and business leaders are aware that they can expand their impact or reach a broader audience by developing partnerships with complementary organizations.
For example, a nonprofit organization that provides youth development programs to area youth can partner with nearby K-12 schools to recruit additional youth, local universities to partner with faculty with expertise in a relevant area or identify college students interested in volunteering, local recreation centers to gain access to space for activities, or even another nonprofit to serve as referral services for each other.
In some instances, a funder wants assurance that the grant funds can have a greater impact because of existing partnerships. Some government agencies require copies of formal memoranda of understanding (MOU) with community partners with the grant application.
Eligibility to Apply
You read the grant announcement and you believe with certainty that the organization you lead is the perfect fit for the funding. But, as you read further, you learn the foundation or government entity is seeking to fund only organizations in a certain region or state or an organization that provides service in a specific area.
It is critical that you determine if the organization is eligible to apply for the grant before you use limited time, money, and other resources to prepare a proposal or application.
Capacity to Implement
When preparing a proposal or application for a grant, you must be able to provide details on how the organization will implement the grant-funded project. This is one of the areas of the proposal that will be closely reviewed as a key part of the evaluation criteria.
You must be able to outline the organization’s qualifications, successes to date, experience with programs or similar initiatives to be funded, and what resources, financial and otherwise, currently exist to demonstrate the organization’s capacity to implement.
The “Why” of Grant Readiness
We understand that grants are just one “tool” in a toolbox of funding sources. There are individual and business donations, fees for services, product sales, sponsorships, fundraising events, intellectual property or technology licensing, space rentals, and matching gift campaigns. However, the ability to competitively pursue and be awarded funding for either general operating or program- or project-specific grants helps the organization diversify its sources of dependable funding.
The “What” of Grant Readiness
Becoming grant ready is simply the baseline for submitting a competitive proposal or application for a grant. It ensures that the organization or business meets the minimum requirements to apply for a grant funding opportunity.
Grants can offer substantial, reliable, and even renewable funding for an organization or business’ programs or services. This is one of the reasons pursuing grants should be a part of a larger funding or fundraising strategy. After identifying mission-aligned grant funding opportunities, the next step is to create an annual grant calendar that factors in upcoming deadlines, the organization’s capacity to prepare and submit a competitive proposal or application, and other factors.