Fundraising: why grant prospect research should be your first step

When you’ve started a nonprofit or thought of an exciting project idea, the next thing you think is, “Where will I get the funding?” Fundraising for nonprofits, museums, libraries, and archives is typically within the top three priorities for any organization, and especially so at the beginning. There are a number of ways to fundraise, and I’ll get into those in a future blog post. For now, we’re going to focus on grants, as they’re typically the branch of fundraising that requires bringing in a grant writing consultant. 

If you already have a list of grants you know will fit your organization and proposed project – great! We can move on to the grant writing process. But if you’re new to grants, and/or are launching a new program or project you’ve not previously sought funding for, it is highly advisable that your do your research. Otherwise known as grant prospect research.

Why you should do grant prospect research:

By conducting grant prospect research first, we are maximizing your organization’s potential to win relevant grant funding, and minimizing the cost of resources it takes to apply for grants.

By finding funders whose mission matches your mission, you’ll:

  • raise more money
  • reduce rejections
  • spend your time and resources more effectively when applying for grants

To ensure this, vet and evaluate funders for:

  • mission match
  • reward patterns
  • minimum/maximum/average given
  • requirements

Grant prospect research should also include a component where you verify that:

  • your organization and the proposed project meet the requirements of the granting agency
  • the total award amount is sufficient to (or helps with a significant portion of) the stated budget
  • the timeline of the grant (due date of proposal and due date of project completion) matches your organization’s timeline for the project

Why you should hire a consultant (me):

If you don’t have a grant expert on staff, you should consider hiring a consultant. Consultants have the professional knowledge, access to funding databases, and depth of previous experience with granting agencies that will make them more effective at conducting this research for you.

This will save your organization money because you wont have to appoint an inexperienced staff person to the task which will inherently take them more time. You’ll also increase your chances of successfully finding and applying for funding. These two reasons add to the return on investment (ROI) you get when working with a consultant.

My process for grant prospect research:

I will review a number of private, corporate, cultural organization, and government grants. After my review, I will create a prospect report for you, detailing: who the funder is, the maximum award they give, the average award they give (if available), who they’ve awarded in the past that have project similarities to your proposal (if available), the grant application requirements, and my evaluation of how strong a match it is to your organizations mission.

There may be instances where it is more beneficial to line up several grants that can fund phases of the project. This can be attractive to granting agencies because it shows broad interest and support, it’s for a smaller amount of money per granting agency, and it also increases the mission match chances by aligning a specific phase of a project with a specific granting agency’s mission.

Next steps:

Review the grant prospect report and prioritize who to apply to, for what, and when. If you hired a consultant to conduct the grant prospect research, you should continue to work with a grant writing consultant to maintain your ROI.

Let’s work together! Call or email me for a free 30 minute consult call, to learn more about my grant prospect research and grant writing services: 503.922.3402, consulting@rachaelcristine.com.

Good luck out there!

Rachael Cristine


Image courtesy of luckey-sun, via Flickr’s Creative Commons (https://www.flickr.com/photos/75279887@N05/6886478111/), and follows the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/. Image downloaded for use July 2017, and was not purposefully altered.