Applying For Grant Funding? Simple Steps to Make the Process Easier
Written by Amy Letteney, First Literacy Development Director
Grant funding can be the lifeblood of any nonprofit. First Literacy would be unable to provide support to the Adult Basic Education (ABE) community without the foundation grants (both large and small) that we receive in support of adult student scholarships, professional development workshops for educators, and innovative adult literacy programming.
In addition to searching for and applying for our own funding, First Literacy also provides grants to Adult Basic Education organizations that are developing and testing innovative new programs.
As an organization that both applies for and awards grant funds, we know first-hand the growth and development of this source of income requires careful planning, homework and a bit of luck! So where do you begin?
Prep Work Makes the Best Work
There are a number of online resources, both free and subscription, where intrepid fundraisers and program executives can find lists of potential funders. As you and your team debate the most likely to award your programs, a little homework can make the process easier:
- Have support documentation (board list, 501c3, most recent tax filing) on hand.
- Invest time in prototype writeups of your programs. For First Literacy, we allocate a large portion of our annual budget to professional development, providing free workshops to Adult Basic Education teachers and program administrators across Massachusetts. In our files there are writeups of various portions of the program, ready to send to potential funders.
- Create a standard introduction for your organization, program descriptions and goals which are reviewed and refreshed regularly.
Make Sure the Shoes Fits
Applying for a grant is like assembling a puzzle, the challenge is to discover the opportunities that fit your organization. When you and your team decide to pursue a grant opportunity, there are simple steps that can improve the likelihood of receiving a positive response while growing strategically.
- If your organization does not slot easily into the funder’s priorities, pass on sending in the application. You don’t want to waste your time or irritate a potential future funder.
- In general, don’t create a program to suit a grant unless it’s part of your strategic plan. There are probably other funders willing to support your existing programs. In late 2021 First Literacy was lucky enough to receive a grant for hybrid classroom technology, which was part of the fiscal budget, and was also on our Program Director’s wish list for the coming year. The hybrid technology has enabled us to meet adult educators at their comfort level during the pandemic and provide geographic equity throughout the state for attendance at our free professional development workshops.
- Research the funder like you would a major donor. Does anyone on your board know someone on the funder’s leadership team? Does the corporation that provided event sponsorship for one of your events have a nonprofit foundation?
- Read the funder’s 990, annual report, recent news, etc. Get a sense of what kind of programs the funder likes so you can tailor your submission appropriately.
Be True to Your Organization
In a sea of applications, it’s important to make your organization stand out. When applying for a grant keep these pro tips in mind.
- Be honest about strengths and challenges of the program request.
- Demonstrate impact. First Literacy has invested significant time into measuring the impact of our programs, both hard and soft data, over time.
- Share stories and testimonials from program participants. We’ve found that for First Literacy this is one of the best ways to personalize and communicate how powerful it is to support adult learners and the Adult Basic Education community.
In addition to our tools and tricks there are a multitude of blogs, online articles, books, and webinars available that detail the essentials of writing a good grant application. Good luck to you and your organization as you pursue grant funding!
The First Literacy Grants request for proposal and application for our fiscal year 2023-2024 will open by the end of January 2023.
Have questions about applying for a First Literacy Grant? Contact us.