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How to Streamline Your Grants Research Process in 5 Steps

How do you determine the best funding opportunities to pursue? To save time and critical human resources, it's important to identify the grantmakers that will provide the best return on your investment. Developing and using a consistent research process will help you focus your efforts on the best options.

Each nonprofit is unique, and you need to create a process that works best for your organization. But you don’t have to reinvent the wheel or start from scratch. Follow these steps to create your own systematic approach to grant research.

drawing of a woman seated cross-legged looking at a laptop showing a money symbol

Step 1: Capture the Key Elements of Your Project

Start by creating a document that begins to capture the essence of your project. This isn’t the time for beautifully written prose. Instead, it's an opportunity to identify some of your project's core elements.

For example, you can start by asking yourself these questions:

  • What is your geographic scope or service area?
  • Who is your target population?
  • What needs are you addressing in the community? How is your target population struggling?
  • What are the basic components of the services your project will deliver?
  • What resources do you need to fully implement your project?

Identifying these key elements of your project will help you be creative and expansive in selecting search terms. And looking at your project from a variety of lenses will help you explore a greater number of funding opportunities.

Step 2: Identify Search Terms

Next, you'll want to identify key search terms and translate them into terms that funders use. Use the document you created to guide your grant research and pay close attention to any keywords that are repeated or that stand out. At GrantStation, we have a free resource to help you select your search terms.

Step 3: Research Funding Sources

There are many different types of grantmakers. Here are some common kinds that you can review:

  • The federal government
  • State governments
  • Local governments
  • Private foundations
  • Corporate foundations and giving programs
  • Religious grantmakers
  • Associations and societies

Depending on your mission, some funding sources may be more appropriate than others to pursue. At GrantStation, we make this step easier by researching and cataloging funding opportunities so you don’t have to. This saves you time in finding funding sources to meet your needs.

Step 4: Create Decision-Making Criteria

Now that you have a list of potential funders, it’s time to establish criteria to evaluate your list. This will help you find the best fit for your organization. This is where your unique attributes come into play. You will “weigh” the different criteria based on your situation. The next article in this blog series will teach you how to create a decision-making matrix.

Step 5: Build Your Strategy

Now that you have funding opportunities that you want to move forward, build your strategy. This would include calendars and timelines. It's a good idea to map out the next 12 to 18 months to keep your grant pipeline full. It also helps you plan around times you will be busier writing your proposals and slower times for research and planning.

About the Author

Alice Ruhnke is the President of GrantStation, a TechSoup partner. GrantStation offers a database of U.S. charitable, federal, and state government funders that are actively accepting proposals and letters of inquiry. GrantStation members also gain access to a variety of grantseeking resources.

TechSoup members can get a one-year GrantStation membership for just $99 on February 13 and 14, 2024.


Additional Resources

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