Don’t Take it for GRANTed

New Organizations and Applying for Grants

Man trying to capture butterflys with the text, "Don't take it for granted: New organizations and applying for grants"

I have to raise funds for an organization that was just founded. I know that this has probably been asked a thousand times but how do I find money for costs and endowments? It would be too much to pay for a grant writer. Are there any grants for new organizations or know of cheap or free grant writers? Thanks!

Derek G., Hartford, CT 

Lots of organizations that are starting out have a lot of trouble obtaining grants. This is because, as a new organization, you will not be eligible for many grants; not to mention, you will be competing with already established charities. They have proven track records and have built personal relationships with funders. While grants for new organizations do exist, they tend to be very specific. Your fundraising strategy must strive to use diverse fundraising avenues. Examples include sponsors, individual/corporate donors, fundraisers, etc. 

How Does the Community Feel About You? 

A good measure for your progress is seeing how the community interacts with your organization. Such as, are they volunteering, donating, and so on? If so, you are doing it right. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of future grants. 

Don’t Rush Applying for Grant 

Paying a grant writer this early in the game would be a mistake! Typically, it takes several years before they’ll actually take a hard look at your organization. Grow your organization’s programs and foot print in the meantime. Whether the grants are coming from a government body or a private trust, mismanagement of organizational funds is a recipe for disaster, and you will not see much in the way of acceptances. 

Use Local Resources 

Your local community foundation is a good place to get started when looking to increase funding. They are public charities that usually focus on helping to support community needs and local non-profits. Community foundations serve anything from individual districts to entire regions and are considered grant-making foundations. 

Spend Time Preparing for Grants 

Do not take what I am saying to mean that you should just forget about grants altogether in the first few years. Ideally, you will spend that time analyzing the grants you will pursue as well as cultivating relationships with potential funders. If you get ready for the future now, you will save yourself a lot of headaches later. 

Say No to Free Grant Writers, Normally 

If the thought to hire a free grant writer has crossed your mind, consider the old adage “you get what you pay for.” Since applying for grants is a time-intensive and difficult process, you don’t want just anyone handling it. With that said, there are a couple examples I can think of in which a “free” grant writer is acceptable: if they’re an established grant writer who is passionate about your cause, or if they’re trying to get experience so they can be paid in the future. The latter scenario is based on your own judgement. But other than those few instances, if your organization does not have the money to hire someone for this purpose, then you should not be pursuing grants yet. If you’re still looking to cut costs, consider grant writing workshops and programs in your area, which can sometimes be offered for free or at a discounted price. You can use such a service to train someone within your organization for the specific purpose of writing grants. 

Final Thoughts

The takeaway from this is that grants are never a guarantee. The methods you use to procure funds must be diverse to protect your organization during fundraising dry spells–think of it like your organization’s 401K. You wouldn’t risk your lifesavings all on one company’s stock. Even if you obtain a grant, typically you’ll need to reapply for it yearly.  

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