The evaluation of a potential grant opportunity can often be accompanied by its own set of challenges, and sometimes, as with any project, getting started presents the greatest hurdle. The good news is that every grant application can—and should—start at precisely the same point: researching the funder. Comprehensive, thorough, heavy-duty research into a funder creates the foundation of every strong grant application. It allows you to fashion a roadmap for your proposal, from beginning to end. So, you’ve found a potential funder, and you want to get started on research. What comes next?
Your first move should always be a visit to the funder’s website. From here, be sure to check for submission deadlines, eligibility requirements, funding priorities, geographical restrictions, and any other key information. Although you may often find potential grants through general search engines, you can count on a funder’s website for the most accurate, reliable, and up-to-date information.
The next step in the research process will take you on a trip into the funder’s past as you review the last three years of the funder’s IRS Form 990. These are treasure troves of valuable information. Not only will they reveal previous grantees and amounts funded, but many times, you will also find information on the specified uses of the funding, such as general operations, capital, or programmatic.
After you’ve reviewed previous 990’s, you should go on to explore the names and affiliations of the funder’s board members—and then circulate the list with your own board. Sometimes, there is an important connection that could be leveraged to champion your proposal. Anything that helps your application stand out from the others will provide you with a distinct edge.
Taking time to conduct preliminary research is always worthwhile. It can make the difference between the success and failure of an application. It can mean receiving the full amount of funding you’ve requested for a project instead of a lesser quantity. Sometimes, it will even save you and your colleagues from wasting time on writing a proposal that has little chance of being funded. Simply doing your due diligence will have a tremendous impact on your results. In the end, just a little effort at the onset of formulating a proposal will pay in dividends.