Matchmaking Your Mission: The Right Grant for Your Organization

by Paul Diaz, Vice President Policy, Public Interest Registry

With more than 86,000 grantmaking organizations in the United States alone, opportunities abound for those looking for funding. However, it can be overwhelming to find a grant that’s right for you. In our last piece in this series, we explored eligibility—learning whether you meet the qualifications for a particular grant. In this article, we look at it from the other direction. 

“Just because you’ve found a grant that seems like it would be a good fit does not mean it actually is a good fit,” explains Jocelyn Wright in this piece on grant matching. So, how do you know? Let’s look at grants from a practical, values-based, and financial standpoint, and from there, we’ll offer a variety of resources to help get you started.

Be Practical

According to this piece by Steve Vick, checking the basics of a grant tells you whether it’s a fit at first glance. As he notes, you should first ask:

  • When is the application due?
  • If approved, when will the funds be available?
  • How quickly will you have to spend the funds?
  • When will the final report be due?

Once you’ve established these parameters, you can dig deeper and ask yourself a series of pertinent questions to see if a grant that’s caught your eye is indeed the right match. Questions such as …  

Does It Fit With Your Value System?

“Just like social good organizations, grantors also have vision and mission statements, and will seek to achieve those through their grant programs,” says Wright. “If your organization has fundamentally different values from those of the grantor, writing a compelling application could be challenging. You also want to ensure there aren’t any specific requirements that could disqualify your organization.” This piece on GlobalGiving.Org advises that, “Remaining focused on what you do best, stemming from your mission statement, is essential and is more likely to lead to the development of strong, significant relationships with funders. That, in turn, will enable you to improve communities through proactive engagement—in partnership with funders.”

Is It Worth Your Time to Apply?

Wright also notes that it’s useful to evaluate how long the grant application will take before you throw your hat in the ring. “While every grant is different, generally, the bigger a grant, the more involved and time-consuming it will be, both during the application phase and during the reporting phase after you receive the grant.”  She advises grant seekers to consider how much staff time will be absorbed in the grant application process. “Ideally, the grant should bring in more funds than the cost of staff time to apply for the grant,” she writes. “If not, your staff might make a greater impact using this time for a different project.” She adds that government grants are usually much more complex, time-consuming, and typically require more documentation.

Is There a Connection with the Grantor?

Wright also points out that it’s important to figure out if the grantor offering the grant is someone you respect and trust. “You want to make sure that the considerable time and effort you are devoting to this process is worth it,” she notes. “Don’t ignore red flags like unpleasant, uncommunicative, or untrustworthy grantors. Only apply for a grant if you are confident that you can establish a positive working relationship with the grantor.”

Does It Meet Your Financial Goals?

According to this post on choosing the right grant by Brenda Love, “The range of funding offered by the grant should be in line with the funding you need to bring your project (or at a minimum, a defined subset of your project) to fruition.”

It’s important to evaluate whether the most important aspects of the program you wish to fund can be covered. “Let’s imagine you’re searching for a grant to implement an afterschool program—including curriculum & materials, professional development, and funds to pay for staff. Do your homework by searching for grants that allow you to request funds for the specific needs you have. Don’t ask a grant giver to pay for staff salaries if the guidelines specifically prohibit it,” says Love.

Make Me a Match
As we noted at the top, there are thousands of grants (far too many for us to cover here). Still, we wanted to illustrate their broad range, diversity, and the many opportunities they may have to offer.We’ve assembled some links to sites that will help you search. Who knows—maybe your .ORG’s perfect match is closer than you think.

Grants.gov is the online source for U.S. government grants. The site also lists international grants from USAID, which you can learn more about here.

Candid’s Foundation Directory Online Quick Start offers free instant access to 100,000 U.S. foundation profiles. You can look up information by name, federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), location, and keywords. 

Grant Watch offers free or paid memberships that allow you to search for grants according to your specific needs, including by category, funding source, and geographic location.

Remember, when an opportunity feels like a perfect fit practically and financially, and it matches the central mission of your organization, don’t hesitate—apply! Our next article will cover grant writing best practices so you can find just the right words to make your case.

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