Four Steps For Increased Grant Funding

By Laurence A. Pagnoni, MPA

What is a Grant Assessment or Desk Study? It’s a process that determines how healthy your grants program is and charts the course for increased institutional funder revenue.

You probably see your doctor every so often for a physical check-up.  LAPA recommends a grants check-up to determine the wellness of your private and corporate foundation funding efforts.     In the U.S., this is called a “grants assessment.”  Abroad, the procedure is known as a “desk study.”  Wherever you happen to be located and whatever nomenclature you use, a deep look into the overall vitality of your nonprofit’s grant solicitations might be just what the doctor ordered.

Here’s four steps that describe how it works.

Step One: Examine Your Grants History

We start with a close examination of the foundations which have funded you in the past.  Often a couple of lapsed funders might be turned up that can be appealed to anew.  Funders seem to change like the climate; staff members come and go; priorities shift in accordance with the social winds.  A rejected proposal five years ago might be approved today.  A small issue that may have gotten in the way of a renewal—like a report your predecessor neglected to submit—could be smoothed over with a belated filing.

Step Two: Study The Grants History of Similar Nonprofits

LAPA then takes an equally close look at the foundations that are funding nonprofits similar to yours. This is how a significant pipeline of foundation prospects is built.  Funders awarding grants to, say, youth development agencies in one part of town are just as likely to look favorably at a youth development organization across town, or, in the case of national or regional funders, across state lines. 

We also research hard to find family foundations and donor-advised funds. It’s not just a matter of compiling foundation names—we double-check to make sure the prospects we surface really are a good fit for your locality, budget, and programs.

Step Three: Determine Who Knows Who

To avoid “shot in the dark” submissions, we check to see if anyone in the orbit of your organization (former and current board members, donors, advisory committee members, community leaders who know you well) have connections to officers or trustees of the foundation prospects we surface.  To make this determination we use relationship science software. We cultivate these relationships to see if we can get an insider to steward the submission.  Needless to say, an inside contact notched up the probability of being reviewed and potentially receiving an award.

Step Four: A Plan Emerges from the Research

Finally, a comprehensive report/plan emerges highlighting “best bets” among the foundation prospects, amounts to be requested, and next steps are defined. 

Key to the report/plan is the forecast that determines the potential revenue that could be raised. Some grants programs are worth $200,000, others $2 million. You have to know the size your grants program should grow to, and then staff is correctly so that it meets those targets. So many grants programs are underperforming because they do not make this critical assessment!

Once the plan is set, we follow these 12-steps for implementation.

Sixty-seven potential new foundation funding partners were identified in a desk study we recently conducted for GAIN (Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition), a health and nutrition-focused nonprofit based in Geneva.  Twenty-nine of the prospects were family foundations! 

Yes, grants may be a small part of your fundraising regime, but vitamins and minerals are also easily overlooked yet vital for your overall health.  A periodic visit to your fundraising counsel for a grants check-up ought not to be neglected.

What types of assessments do you do to keep your grants program functioning at a high level?  Please share on our blog so that we can all learn from you too.

If you would like a grant assessment or desk-study, contact us here.

We welcome your comments about this post on the LAPA blog.

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