Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Focus on Your Mission for Grant Writing Success

Non-profit consultant and grant writing expert, Derek Link, shares some important thoughts on how focus on your mission can lead to grant writing success:

Sometimes when I need to write a blog post, I’ll sit there in front of the blank screen, and unfortunately, my mind is as blank as the screen. So I just start to write, as I am now, waiting for a spark of inspiration. Just like some well-intentioned non-profits, I just want to “do” something, I haven’t a clue what it is yet.

Chasing the money isn’t an effective way to achieve your vision. Your grant seeking should be driven instead by the mission of your organization. Your mission is the “what we DO.” A mission should be laser-like and specific, and it has to lead logically to your vision.

People sometimes call me and say, “We want grants but don’t know how to write them, can you do that for us?” I say, “I’d be happy to help you. What do you need grants for?”

This is where the conversation can bog down. The client responds generally, “Oh, you know, we work with kids and we do recycling, so…well… grants for just about anything to do with kids or the environment would work. I’ve heard there’s lots of grants out there for kids and environmental projects.”

I revise my question, “What is it you want to do?” If the response is still vague then I know they are just chasing money. It is sad to me that the truest answer for many struggling nonprofit organizations that call me is, “We need grants to fix a budget problem. And, we don’t really care what the money is for, we can do anything so long as we get the money.”

The clear, specific mission is vital in grant making for these key reasons:
  1. It focuses your grant searching.
  2. It defines who will (and won’t) fund you.
  3. It is convincing because it logically leads to your declared vision.
  4. Your full commitment to it inspires confidence in your ask.
If your mission is, "we want to improve the environment", then how can you convince a grant maker interested in reducing pesticide use that your recycling program deserves funding? Unfortunately, you probably can’t, because there is a mismatch in your missions. So if your mission is wide angled, like the environment, or youth, or senior citizens, you need to focus it down to what you are actually doing or want to do to help in those areas before you look for grants or you’re going to waste a lot of valuable time chasing money that’s not available to you.

Using a wide angle lens is not the way to find grants. It’s only a starting place to define your mission. Zoom in, then zoom in some more, and then get the magnifying glass out.

Grant seeking is a little like comparing the grooves on two keys (missions) to make sure they’ll fit the same lock; if one little groove is out of place, the key simply won’t unlock the funding for you.


Want more information on how defining your mission can help you acquire grant funding?  Become a member of GrantGoddess.com and visit the Non-Profit Dream Center for step-by-step detailed assistance!

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About Creative Resources & Research

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Woodland, CA, United States
Creative Resources and Research is a consulting firm specializing in grant writing, grant seeking, program evaluation and professional development training. We have worked with hundreds of clients including public and private schools, school districts, universities, non-profit organizations, and social service agencies throughout California, securing over $155 million from federal, state and private foundation funding sources over the past decade. Our primary grant writers and program evaluators have over 50 years of combined experience in the education and social services fields. At CRR we prefer a personal approach to the clients we work with; by developing long term relationships, we are better suited to match client’s needs with available funding sources. We provide a variety of services to help assist you, including grant writing, evaluation consulting, professional development opportunities, and workshops.