Category Archives: Grant Applications


Are You Ready to Apply for Grants?

The Linkedin Grant Writing Networking Group created this grant readiness checklist.

It is interesting, although I like my list better.

I have not cleaned up the obvious grammatical, structural, and punctuation errors.

Organizations Grant Readiness
❏ What is the scope of work needing funding?
❏ Do you have nonprofit status at this time?
❏ Do you have a minimum of 3 years of clean tax audits?
❏ Have you implemented any project? If so, did you evaluate the project?

New Non­profit
❏ Where do you see this organization going?
❏ Do you have a strategic plan?
❏ What are the unmet needs or unique problem the organization is being created to meet? (Similarly, how is the organization unique in comparison to others providing similar services?)
❏ Who already funds your requests (some funders, like United Way, may not fund you if you receive awards or support from organizations that they fund.}
❏ Have you done a well­documented market analysis, complete with all the stats that support the unmet need for your mission and vision?
❏ Do you have your organization’s legal paperwork, history, mission and vision statements prepared and accessible?
❏ Is your accounting done in a standard non­profit method? Is your accountant available to provide needed financial data in a timely manner?

Organizational Status and Information
❏ Business Plan for organization
❏ Annual Budget for organization
❏ DUNS number
❏ Employer/Tax Identification Number (EIN)
❏ Registration with SAM; and/or other appropriate agencies
❏ (501)c3 Status letter
❏ Bylaws and other governing documents Standard Documents (boilerplate)
❏ Organization mission and goals, population served
❏ Organizational chart and description of management structure
❏ Tax and financial data (i.e. past tax forms, audited statements)
❏ Resumes of key personnel and Board of Directors

Organizational readiness
❏ How do you plan to sustain the project

How to Use the Cause Effect Chain

Nonprofits start with the recognition of a problem, a vision of the problem solved, and a mission to achieve the vision and solve the problem. This is basis foundation for strategic planning and is the key to winning donors, grants, and volunteers. One of the biggest problems in grant applications is not properly stating the problem, or, more commonly, not stating the right problem.

Everything is driven by the definition of the problem. Once you get that right, the rest comes much more easily. But defining the problem is more complex than it looks.

I frequently see grant applications for funding to provide additional reading interventions for early elementary students. They will state the problem as x% of third grade students reading below grade level, and the goal is y% (y > x) of third grade students reading at or above grade level. but as a potential donor, funder, or volunteer, I want to know why that is important.

They will respond that reading proficiency is an important factor in high school graduation rates. OK, so why is that important?

High school graduates have higher earnings as an adult. So economic well-being increases.

So we have a chain of causes and their effects (problems):

Low reading proficiency ⇒ more high school dropouts ⇒ fewer graduates  ⇒ lower incomes  ⇒ more crime and dependency  ⇒ lower GNP & GDP

But the chain also goes the other way. Why is proficiency low? It could be because there are too few teachers for close attention. It could be because most do not have reading opportunities at home, or they have english as a second language, or reading is not valued at home, or they don’t have breakfast in the morning, or any of a hundred other reasons.

Understanding the causal factors is important. Remember the old illustration of the townspeople who saw a baby floating in a river. They rescued him. Then there was another, and another, and another. They were very busy rescuing babies. Finally, they sent someone upriver to find out why the babies were in the river in the first place. (Usually the answer is something like a troll was grabbing them off his bridge and throwing them in the river.)

In the long run, it is better to address the root cause than to just keep addressing the immediate issue over and over again.

Some people will attempt to solve a problem by  prohibiting the problem.  This usually makes the problem worse or creates new problems as the root causes still exist.

For example, the Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the sale of liquor without removing the root cause. People with a thirst quickly found many ways around it and crime gangs arose to meet the needs.

Looking at the reading score example, some people have suggested that we just require everyone to graduate from high school, ignoring the fact that many people don’t have the necessary skills…and there are reasons why they don’t have the skills. Mandating the expected outcome just does not work. You must address the root cause to permanently solve the issue.

Private versus Public Outcome.

Note in the reading example that outcomes related to the initial parts of the cause and effect chain provide an benefit to the individual client, such as a higher reading score. This is called a private outcome.

The outcome related to the final effect impacts society as a whole. This is a public outcome.

To be effective, the ultimate public outcome should always be clearly defined.


Always focus on the root causes to achieve a permanent solution.

Always state a clear public outcome.

How to Get Past the Blank Page

You have just completed the grant application, but need a cover letter. Or, You are starting to prepare a presentation to a gathering of potential donors. Or, you are offering a course in street-smarts. Or, you want to set up a world peace conference. Or, you want them to sign up for your newsletter.

You are facing the dreaded blank page. You know what message you want to convey, but that page is blank. Continue reading How to Get Past the Blank Page

Real – Win – Worth

There are lots of opportunities to apply for grants.

But grants require applications and applications take time, effort, and money.

Unless you have myriads of free grant writers sitting around, you can only apply for a finite number of grants. For most of us, that number is quite finite.

Resources spent pursing the wrong grant or losing the grant competition are resources wasted. So the most important decision you can make is, “Which grants do I invest in?” Continue reading Real – Win – Worth