Whether you’re writing your first or your one thousandth grant, chances are you have a handy list of resources nearby to help with a multitude of issues: research on prospective donors, data analysis about your organization’s programs, organizational charts, and where the heck to find grants.
For me, the last point rings true almost always, especially when I’m writing a grant on behalf of a nonprofit organization I’ve never worked with in the past.
Over time, I’ve collected a list of helpful sites and resources that I’ve used in the past, and I want to share them with you. You’ve probably heard of several of them, but I think I’ve got some good ones up my sleeve that can help bring your grant-writing game to the next level.
Guidestar is a search engine for all IRS-registered (501 c 3) nonprofit organizations of all sizes, including foundations. It’s mission is “to revolutionize philanthropy by providing information that advances transparency, enables users to make better decisions, and encourages charitable giving.”
Essentially, it’s the Google of nonprofits – it allows you to search for the most up-to-date information offered in regards to an organization’s financials, programs, board of directors and staff, and other certifications and credentials. There is a free and a paid version, and as is expected, more details and in-depth information are offered with the paid subscription.
I’ve used Guidestar (the free version) countless times to find basic information like where the foundation located, what kind of projects and programs it focuses it’s efforts on, and financials. It’s one of the easiest ways to find a prospective funder’s Form 990, which I’ve found to be an invaluable tool when searching for past grant recipients (including amount and projects funded). It makes it very easy to eliminate the non-contenders, and at least begin a list of prospects to do further research on.
The Foundation Directory is one of the best resources any grantseeker can subscribe to, but it definitely comes at a cost.
It boasts itself as the largest foundation grant directory in the world, with access to more than 120,000 foundations and corporate donors, details about 3 million recent grants, and information about more than 500,000 key decision makers.
The paid version (a minimum of $20/month) allows any grantseeker to identify potential funders based on geographic location, fields of interest in grantmaking, recent grants (including totals and projects funded), ways to contact these organizations, and much, much more.
If you’re a nonprofit organization seeking a comprehensive directory and willing to spend a little money to get it, then this would be my number one recommendation for you. My successes in grants have been in large part thanks to the Foundation Directory and it’s ability to really narrow down the playing field, allowing me to focus my efforts on perfecting the art of grant writing instead of spending all of my time looking for these potential funders.
Yes, you read that correctly. Google is, and will probably always be, my biggest go-to tool. Once you figure out how to sort through all of the… er… stuff, using Google is any grantseeker’s best friend. It’s much easier to open up your internet browser and just type in the name of the organization you’re researching than to open up any other kind of directory and go through the various steps to get to the same information. Don’t get me wrong, the directories and registers are beyond helpful when you’re doing a broad search for potential funders, but sometimes the best and most accurate information you’ll be able to find will be on an organization’s actual website.
Are you interested in federal grants? They are often much larger financial awards than foundations can offer, but they are also much more competitive and tedious to apply for. Check out grants.gov for information on these grants.
Here, you can sift through federal grants offered by categories, agencies, and eligibilities. These grant opportunities tend to be very specific, though, and oftentimes only open to organizations by invite, Before a nonprofit delves into researching about these opportunities on a categoric scale, I’d recommend researching by eligibility first. This should hopefully take the guessing game out of this process.
It seems only appropriate that my first-ever entry discusses the importance of blogging, and how nonprofit organizations can benefit from maintaining one.
Let’s face it – a nonprofit’s website is the most important communicative source your clientele can use to connect with your mission. It contains all of the details your constituents need to make an informed decision about your mission, your programs, your actions, etc. You’ve likely got a donate page, maybe a gallery of photos and videos from the last few events you’ve thrown, and possibly even a news tab. This is all critical information, but how timely is it?
Blogging allows you to keep your followers up-to-date on any and all news, important changes to your organization, cutting-edge research, and just trends they may not have otherwise been privy to. And you know what else? It’s a phenomenal way to tell stories. I’ve worked with nonprofits in the past that are wonderful story tellers, that take amazing pictures of the work being done, and then just sit on them. This is the opportunity to use them! Share these with the world via a well-written and entertaining blog. Your constituents want to know that the work you’re doing is making an impact, right? Here’s that chance to make it known.
Let’s be honest – that’s why I blog! I want you, my potential clients and other individuals who are interested in learning more about the values of online communication and fundraising, to be able to keep up with me and my whereabouts. I want you to see the latest numbers and trends about traffic to websites that also contain a blog. I want you to know that I’m always doing my research and not sitting on a wealth of data and information that could be several years old.
And, this is why you should blog, too. Consistent blogging is a great way for your organization to demonstrate its commitment to the cause. It’s also a great way to boost traffic to your website. Keywords that pop up in your blog will drive traffic to your website via search engines, and increases the number of times your organization’s name appears in web searches.
Earlier this year, Forbes addressed the issue of increasing traffic to your website. One point that really stuck out to me (credit to QuickSprout) was the idea that posting high-quality posts up to 6 times per week (vs 5 times) can increase blog traffic up to 18.6%! Finding a niche blog that fits well with your organization, and maintaining it, will really drive viewership numbers up.
Simply put, blogging drives traffic, and traffic to your website is the best way you’ll find new constituents, and more importantly, new donors.