We know that 2020 was hard on nonprofit organizations, and 2021 will continue to be difficult for much of the year…all the more reason to consider grant funding as a critical and timely source of revenue. In this article, I will share with you many years of experience at Grants4Good and give you three ways to THRIVE (not just survive), in 2021.
The Current Situation For Nonprofits
The most recent Nonprofit Times-News (February 2021) reported the following sobering statistics:
- Three out of five nonprofits cut costs last year;
- Over 50% of nonprofits plan to cut costs in 2021;
- 30% of nonprofits have had program reductions AND hiring freezes in recent months;
- Salary reductions took place at 25% of nonprofits; and,
- More than half of nonprofits made changes to their fundraising as a direct result of COVID-19.
The Good (or Great) News For Nonprofits
There is still plenty of grant funding available for schools, municipalities, and nonprofit organizations. Consider that:
- More than 450 billion was given in grants and donations to charity last year (Giving USA).
- There are more than 87,000 grant-making foundations in the U.S.
- Each year there are thousands of state and federal grant opportunities, some of which are perfect for your organization.
Even though there IS money “out there”, organizations are still struggling with fundraising and a plan for accessing grant funding, especially due to the impacts of COVID-19. Here are my 3 C’s to thriving in a pandemic economy.
Contact (with funders)
The first “C” to remember is the importance of staying in contact with nonprofit funders – whether they are foundation executive directors, federal grant program officers, or agency contacts at your respective state departments. The main thing to remember is always to keep people updated on how your organization is doing (don’t be afraid to share your challenges), what you are doing (highlight a stellar program/project) and why you are still doing it (perhaps the need for your work is greater than ever due to this pandemic).
One of my clients that helps women affected by domestic violence has seen a 40% increase in the need for their services. With this fact at the forefront of every communication with funders, that nonprofit has seen a five-fold increase in grant funding in 2020, compared to the year prior.
Keep in mind one other piece of extremely good news for this year…foundation financial portfolios did extremely well last year due to the strong stock market AND the IRS requires that foundations give at least 5% of their assets annually to charitable causes. You can do that math! See my blog article on The 5% Rule for more details on how this rule can help you determine how much grant funding is available for your organization.
With such a difficult year behind us, it’s not surprising some organization gave up trying to secure grant funding. After all, it does take time, energy and investment – all things that were in short supply. However, one of the most important of the 3 C’s is that you consistently send out grant applications throughout the year.
In my All About Grant Writing online course, I recommend that organizations send out at least one or two grant proposals each month. Why? Because it can take 3-6 months for foundation applications to be approved (or denied) and even longer to hear back regarding state and federal grants. Keeping a steady pipeline of grants going out each month is critical to receiving a steady inflow of revenue from grant awards.
The easiest thing to do is apply to funders that have awarded you in the past, while at the same time searching for new funders. Just keep going…despite the occasional “denial letter” that you may receive stating that you didn’t get the grant this time. Which leads me to the final “C”…
Defined, congruency is “the quality of agreeing; being suitable and appropriate.” Aligning with a funder’s mission has always been essential to the grant writing process. But in the last year, there have been two significant changes in foundation giving that can affect your organization in 2021.
First, because of COVID-19 thousands of foundations shifted their giving to address challenges directly related to the pandemic: health (e.g. personal protective equipment), food scarcity, child care, job loss, housing, etc…
This year we are seeing grant opportunities expanding to include arts and culture organizations suffering from venue closure, technology purchases to provide virtual afterschool mentoring programs, and more. Consider the ways in which the pandemic has required you to make immediate changes to your service delivery. These programmatic or organizational changes may be congruent with how funders are allocating their resources.
The second major change in giving is in the area of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), with some foundations focusing entirely on eliminating racial injustice. These changes in grant allocation were mainly spurred by events in 2020 that brought to light the significant discrepancy among people of a different race, ethnicity, gender, disability, and other differences.
Even if your organization was not formed to specifically address equity, there are likely ways in which you do address the topic. And if not, perhaps now is the best time to more purposefully incorporate DEI into your programs. To do so, consider:
- Rethinking your target audience;
- Rethinking your programs;
- And possibly even rethinking your mission.
To help you get the grant in 2021, download our FREE guide, 7 Steps to Grant Success! And if you really want help each step of the way, check out our online self-paced course at www.allaboutgrantwriting.com.
Margit Brazda Poirier, GPC, M.S. is Owner and CEO of Grants4Good LLC, a grant consulting company that specializes in online training and grant strategy.
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