Nonprofit Essentials: Applying for Grants

One of the prime reasons for setting up a 501(c)3 nonprofit is the ability to incentivize contributions with tax deductions. The other reason is applying for public funding in the form of grants. Most if not all public grants require 501(c)3 status for all eligible candidates. For the most successful nonprofit organizations, the process of researching and applying for grants is sophisticated and ongoing.

Be realistic about your chances

If you are creating a new organization and preparing to seek grant money, it’s very easy and very common to exaggerate your chances. Grant money is definitely out there for a nearly endless variety of projects, but competition for these grants can be fierce, and credibility is a major consideration. In short, unless your organization is backed by partnerships, board members and accomplishments that can boost its initial credibility, it can be difficult (but not impossible) to get grants in the early stages of your organization.

Looking the part

Understanding that the credibility of your organization plays a role when competing for grants, the next step is researching and finding which grants fit your organization well enough to be worth the effort. Hiring or delegating a member of your team for researching and assessing available grants can be very beneficial. Having a grant writer on your team, or teaching a competent writer to become a grant writer, will give your new organization a huge advantage.

Factors to consider when applying for grants

When applying for grants, here are a few things to keep in mind. First, and we’ve already touched on this, credibility is a major factor and means more than the age of your organization. Everything your organization does is a reflection of its credibility, especially its writing and other communications, both with the public and with grant judges. If your grant application is riddled with bad grammar, it is unlikely to be awarded.

Another consideration is implementation and reporting. For every grant your organization is awarded, there will be a reporting requirement. These reports are basically a detailed summary of every expense and the results of your efforts towards your initial goals. Grant funders want something in exchange for their money – results. And even if the outcome is not what you intended, be prepared to carefully document every step of the process.

Grants are not the only source of funds available for non-profit organizations, but they are very useful to the longevity of your organization and for funding new projects or expansions. Keep following our blog at for the next installment in our series when we talk about attracting private donors.