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The Dream of a Four-Course Meal: The Recipe for Grants Success

All too often, grant proposal planning resembles how I make soup:

  • pull leftovers out of the fridge,

  • throw most of them in a pot,

  • simmer and hope for the best.

If you’re lucky, you’ve got some chicken scraps and veggie ends. Otherwise, the results can be completely inedible.

Have you ever worked on a grant proposal, but it felt like your organization was pulling leftovers out of the fridge and hoping for magic? There’s part of a program here that needs funding, a training need over there, and some general operating needs to include. Can we make that into a grant proposal?

Sadly, no.

Grant funders don’t want to be responsible for helping create a barely edible soup--or for funding a grant that is a hodge-podge of unconnected expenses. To try another metaphor: they don’t want to fill a hole in the dike that will need to be plugged again by a new funder next year.

Like all donors, grant funders want to invest in well-conceived programs and projects that align with the nonprofit’s mission, increase the organization’s impact, and build sustainability.

That’s why good grant management starts with the project design. More and more frequently, foundations want to be part of an organization’s transformation. How can their grant help serve as a catalyst to get your organization to the next level, the next BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)?

Envisioning your next grant opportunity

So, when your grant team sits down to discuss a new funding opportunity, don’t start by looking at your organization’s unmet needs. Start by thinking about your vision for the community's future and your participant's desired outcomes. Look at how those align with the type of impact the funder wishes to have. Find that magic spot on the Venn diagram where those two intersect. Then, craft a proposal that doesn’t start with the leftovers, but starts with the dream of a four-course meal.

Download this free toolkit to help your team pursue the right grant opportunities.


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