Updated: Aug 28, 2021
Applying for grants during the pandemic has been a race against the clock. The first 3 applications I worked on closed weeks before the deadline due to high demand. This was heartbreaking because my clients desperately needed that money. They were struggling in the face of so much uncertainty, 100% closed operations, and cancelled fundraising events. I vowed to never let that happen again.
Since those early weeks of the Covid-19 shutdown, I have developed a tried-and-true process to get proposals out of the door fast! Using my method, I have applied for SBA grants within hours of the application opening and helped bring in nearly $500,000 to date in funding for emergency community needs, including medical kits to help Covid patients recover at home, weekend meals for families with school aged kids, technology to shift to virtual disability services, and programs that beautify open spaces and reduce social isolation.
We are slowly creeping to a recovery, but the need is great. Thankfully, many foundations still support emergency grants and money from the American Rescue Plan Act is FINALLY being spent. Expect to see an influx of new grant opportunities over the next two months.
If your nonprofit has struggled to respond to Covid-19 grant requests with quick turnaround times, these 6 actions are guaranteed to speed up your response.
6 Actions to take to Rapidly Apply for Covid Grants
1) Have your documents in order
For most nonprofits, gathering grant attachments can take days or weeks if you need to check with your accountant. To be ready for your next application, have these 4 documents on hand: 1) Profit and Loss statement for 2019 and 2020, 2) Current Operating Budget, 3) Most recent 990 IRS form (this is the tax document for nonprofits), and 4) Employee Roster. Read “15 Documents Every Nonprofit Needs to Have on Hand" for a complete list.
If you are a for-profit business include your IRS 1120 (tax return for corporations) or your IRS 1040 Schedule C (tax form for LLCs and Sole Proprietors).
2) Prepare your (Grant) Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is a quick overview of your organization’s background and experience that is short enough to present during a brief elevator ride. For your grant “elevator” pitch, create a template of preapproved answers to common grant application questions. Common questions are 1) What Services do you provide; 2) Why do you need funding; 3) How has Covid impacted your nonprofit’s operations; and 4) Who does your nonprofit serve. Now, when a great opportunity comes along you can quickly respond without wasting time on endless edits and approvals.
3) Create and Update Your Impact Statement
I have worked with all my clients to create impact statements and I have one for SGR. An impact statement should demonstrate how the pandemic has changed your operations and revenue. I like to create this in a Word document and update quarterly. In your impact statement describe loss of earned income, event cancellations, higher operating and staffing costs, extra expenses for protective gear and sanitation, and reduced revenue from donations and grants. Financial software, like QuickBooks, can be used to compare quarter to quarter differences in spending and revenue.
4) Demonstrate Viability
As businesses shudder their doors at historic rates, grant-makers want to support nonprofits that are viable and have a long future ahead. Organizations are viable if they have more money coming in (revenue) than money going out (expenses). Your Profit and Loss Statement can be used to demonstrate how much money is left after expenses (net profit or loss), and your Balance Sheet can provide a snapshot of what the organization owns and owes. You can also highlight your fundraising success, especially if you have received other Covid grants or a PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan. I also like to mention efforts to support and retain staff, reduce overhead expenses, and adapt services.
5) Know What You Need, Now.
As the pandemic continues, nonprofits are evolving to meet constantly changing community needs. Maybe at the beginning of the pandemic you needed tools and supplies to transition to virtual work, but now you need money to provide care packages to the people you serve. Keep track of what has already been funded and what is still needed by creating a “Needed-Funded” list in Excel or Word. Update this document every time you receive a donation or grant. By assessing your nonprofit’s needs on a regular and consistent schedule you can quickly craft the “purpose” or “needs statement” of an application.
6) Never Stop Grant Seeking
My final tip is to continue your grant seeking efforts. During the first few months of the pandemic, I expanded all my clients prospecting to include a weekly search for Covid-related grants. Now, I search monthly. Read our post, on how to find perfectly matched grant opportunities here.
Trying out any one of the 6 Actions listed will make a difference. What has been your process for keeping up with grant applications during Covid?