Watershed groups perform a wide range of valuable services to the community. They work to promote the protection of local waterways and forests, restore polluted or eroded sites and habitats, testify against suburban sprawl, offer environmental education programs, and/or develop eco-tourism in their areas. Despite these inspiring aspirations, most nonprofits have extremely small budgets to implement these activities.
Nonprofits often rely on grant funding to carry out their missions and provide a financial base of support. A strong grant management program, which identifies potential projects and funding sources, clearly states needs and offers solutions, and properly manages their grants, can reap the monetary rewards of grants.
Funders want to fund projects that demonstrate creativity, clearly state a need, and outline a strategic approach to achieve goals. There are six steps to help develop a grant management program within your organization:
- Develop a grant reference file,
- Prioritize your funding needs,
- Compile a list of funding prospects,
- Cultivate funders,
- Develop and submit timely proposals, and
- Manage the received funds properly.
The grant reference file consolidates the organization’s information in a central file that is used for developing proposals (i.e. mission statement, resumes, budgets, program descriptions, testimonials, etc.). Use this information and your strategic plan to identify funding needs for your organization. Compare your identified projects with funders who match your interests and fund similar activities.
Funders often receive more applications than the grant program can support. Applicants need to be favorably distinguished against numerous other submitters. One idea to gain personal recognition is to contact the grant program manager directly and describe your project. Demonstrate that you have researched the funder’s interests and know they fund similar organizations. Celebrate your achievements/capabilities and convey how the proposed funding matches both your mission and the funder’s objectives. Listen and incorporate the funder’s feedback, and develop a clearly thought-out proposal. Grant reviewers can quickly identify well-designed proposals.
Upon receipt of grant funds the organization needs to properly manage funds and implement activities stated in the proposal. Continue to update funders with your activities. The key to a continued positive relationship between funder and recipient organization is the organization’s demonstration for managing the funds and project well. If this is your first grant proposal start small. Successful projects increase the likelihood for a funder to continue supporting your efforts and can open doors to new funding sources
Follow instructions. Complete all requirements and adhere to guidelines. Build momentum from the success of small attainable projects. Describe the need for your project. State your case by clearly stating the need and who benefits. Bullets arrange information into a quick, concise format to assist readers through a complex concept. Proofread! Ask people to review the document with fresh eyes.
The Foundation Center
The Watershed Institute’s Searchable Funding Database
River Advocate’s Fundraising Guide by River Network