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Make Your Grants Successful in 2021: Top 4 Tips Before You Hit Submit

By Lisa Pelofsky

Co-Founder + CEO

So, your organization is making grant funding a big priority for 2021. It’s not a bad idea considering that COVID-19 has dramatically changed the grant-making environment for nonprofits. Many foundations have pledged to increase their giving next year, grant restrictions are loosening up and foundations are giving more than ever.

But before you sit down to draft your very first grant, make sure your organization is not only grant-ready, but you’ve done all your homework. Here are my top 4 strategies to lay the groundwork before you hit submit on that grant application:

Do Your Due Diligence

If you have your eye on a specific grant opportunity, find out which agencies regularly receive that funding and get in touch with them. Find out how they approached the application and if they have any advice for a first-time applicant. Also, do your background research on the foundation. Investigate their funding priorities and whether those have changed recently. What are the hot button issues the foundation is laser focused on at the moment? Look for patterns of giving and pay attention to who is on the Board of Directors – what are their interests and priorities? The more you know the better you can position your application for success. And if your organization isn’t aligned with their current focus, your time may be better spent elsewhere.

Ask for a Meeting

If the foundation/funder will take a meeting, ask for one! In one meeting you can get your ‘due diligence’ background information, you can start to build a relationship to enhance your organization’s visibility, and you’ll get a realistic idea of the likelihood of getting funded. A meeting with the grant-making entity is a great way to lay the groundwork for a long-term successful funding source. Don’t be shy – ask for a meeting.

Listen, Learn and Follow Through

It’s so important to take in feedback and follow through. If you get a meeting with a funder, make sure you take their advice when you’re putting your grant application together. If a funder made recommendations to you in the past and you were turned down, it is critical that you follow through the second time around. Foundations do not like it when agencies come back with the same proposal and have not adjusted or addressed the funder’s concerns.

Get a Second Opinion

The best grant applications are succinct, clear, and free of industry jargon and cliches. I often give my first draft of a grant to someone outside of the industry (friend, relative, etc.) and ask them to read it. If it makes sense to them, it will make sense to the grant-maker.  And it never hurts to get an outside perspective on a topic you know so well. Or read it out loud to yourself and see if it makes sense. Sometimes, I can get so into the weeds on a topic that it ends up only making sense to me! It’s worth it to take the extra time and effort to fine-tune your messaging.

For more information on Byrne Pelofsky’s grant writing services, or if you have questions for Lisa, give us a call at 816.237.1999 or reach out at 

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