Five tips to leverage grant writing at your association

If you’re not already leveraging grant writing at your association, it might be time for you to begin. According to Candid’s official grant reporting data, there are approximately three million grants worth over $180 billion in available funds. This sum only references philanthropic funds and excludes federal, state, and local grants, meaning there’s even more money available for your association.  

Many associations utilize grants to fund special programs, temporary staff, critical research, or designated budgets. One such example is the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). “A large part of our business is grants. We do a lot of federal grants,” says Chuck Everhart System Software Manager of the IACP and Nimble AMS customer.  

Leveraging grant writing is a fantastic way to bring in non-dues revenue to your organization, however, getting started can be a daunting task. The process of grant writing can be complicated, and even if your association has been getting funds for years, there’s always ways to improve. Keep reading for five simple grant writing tips to level up your association or get started.   

Five grant writing tips to boost association non-dues revenue 

You might be new to grant writing, or maybe your association already bases a good portion of your budget on grants. Whatever your situation, your association can still benefit from these simple, non-dues revenue-boosting grant writing tips:     

1. Do your research. If you’re new to the process of grant writing at your association, you’ll want to start by examining any relevant grant prospects. You can do so by selecting a grant directory to sort through potential funders. To help you narrow your search, consider why you need the funding by matching keywords, your target audience, and subject matter.

As you build a list of potential grants, you’ll want to research each funder. Doing so will help you determine how well your association matches the grantor’s goals. Ensuring your interests connect with a potential funder gives your association a better chance of being awarded a grant. 

2. Network in your community. One of the most helpful ways your association can distinguish itself from the competition is to personally know the awarders. This is particularly helpful if you choose to apply for a local, regional, or industry-specific fund. Networking within your community can also shed light on new grant application opportunities.

Even if the grant is federal or from a larger philanthropic fund, you should still try to familiarize yourself with whomever is granting the award and working with your network to help differentiate your association from the competition.

3. Focus your efforts. There are over three million philanthropic funds currently available. Your association may want to spread out its grant application efforts to ensure you maximize your chances for more funds. However, rather than apply a scattershot approach to grant applications, it’s wiser to focus on awards your organization has a chance of winning.

As you move into the grant writing process, you’ll want to focus on having a comprehensive budget to support your grant proposal. Your budget for each grant request will look different because the guidelines for each award will be unique, but generally you can plan to include the following information:

  • Details about cash and non-monetary contributions
  • Notes on how you calculate the value of non-monetary contributions
  • Thorough invoices and quotes from businesses and suppliers

Emphasizing a clear budget for each grant proposal will set you apart from other applicants, giving you a clear competitive edge.

4. Don’t get creative. Following the rules when applying for a grant is crucial for your association’s success. Start by examining the grant RFP (when available) or the general funding guidelines on the award website. Consider if your organization meets eligibility requirements or if the application timeline makes sense for your grant writer.

If the grant seems like a good fit, move forward, ensuring your funding request coincides with the awarder’s priorities. Some awarders can be very particular in their grant directions, disqualifying any applicants who don’t follow the rules, so you’ll want to adhere to all requirements. Be thorough and respond to all parts of the grant guidelines, while staying mindful of character limits, page length, typeface, and page margins. 

5. Recruit a reviewer. Before submitting your grant request, have it reviewed by someone who’s not been part of the process. Consider asking someone within your organization who has a limited background, but some understanding of why you’re applying for the funds.

Enlisting an outsider reviewer gives greater perspective and additional feedback to your grant proposal. Try asking the following questions:

  • Is our grant request clear and concise?  
  • Does it meet the outlined funding guidelines? 
  • Does it support our organization’s mission? 
  • Is it engaging, inspiring, or motivating for our cause?

Receiving this feedback will help you understand if your grant request is ready to be submitted or if it needs more work. 

Grant writing is a fantastic way to boost non-dues revenue at your association. While it may take time to start and eventually refine the grant writing process, you’ll soon find it pays off.

Learn more about non-dues revenue opportunities at your association

If you’re looking for more ways to drive non-dues revenue at your organization, check out our guide: Ultimate Guide to Generating Non-dues Revenue

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