These Readiness Questions may help an organization determine whether it is ready to begin applying for foundation grants:
- Are the basics in place?
A. Does the organization have a governing board of directors?Foundations will look at the organization’s leadership—who they are as well as how actively engaged they are in the organization.
B. Does the organization have a not-for-profit tax status?Foundations will ask organizations to prove their not-for-profit tax status as part of the application process.
C. Does the organization have a written mission statement?It is important to have a written mission statement to guide the grants program and prevent applicants from “chasing” grants that could lead the organization away from its mission.
D. Does the organization have a diversified funding base?Foundations do not like to be the only funder. A diversified funding base takes away an organization’s reliance on a single foundation and promotes sustainability.
- Are the organization’s expectations about grants realistic?
A. What is the fund raising goal?How much of the goal does the organization want to raise in grant funds?
B. What is the timeline for raising the money?Applicants will submit grant proposals according to the requirements and deadlines of each foundation. The foundations’ calendars may or may not align with the applicant organization’s fund raising timeline.
C. How does the fund raising goal compare to the organization’s current budget?Is the organization being too aggressive, trying, for example, to double its budget through the acquisition of grants?
D. How large must the grant be in order to make it worthwhile to apply?It takes as much time to write a grant for $500 as it does for $100,000. An organization may want to determine a minimum grant amount for its grant writing program to pursue. (For example, the organization will only pursue foundation grants $5,000 or more.)
- Is the organization prepared to accept a grant?
A. Does the organization have an acknowledgement program in place?It is important to continue cultivating the foundation so an organization can submit future grant requests. Thanking the foundation for the grant is an important tool for cultivation.
B. Is the organization prepared to do the required reporting?Some foundations require fiscal and programmatic reporting.
C. Are the grant funds in an audit traceable account?It is important to be able to tell the foundation how their grant money is being spent.
D. Is the organization prepared to abide by the restrictions and requirements of the grant maker?United Way, for example, does not allow funded agencies to conduct fund raising activities during United Way’s campaign period.
- Is the organization committed to a grants development program?
A. Who will write the grants?Does the organization have a grant writer? Full-time? Part-time? Paid staff? Volunteer? Consultant?
B. Does the board of directors have a role?Board members can help the organization’s efforts by making contact and building relationships with foundation representatives.
C. Is the organization prepared to make other investments in the grants program?Is the organization prepared to provide matching or start-up funds? What are its plans for sustaining programs beyond the grant period?