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What every nonprofit needs to do before they start a New (Fundraising) Year

If you are a nonprofit, the beginning of a new year may bring excitement or trepidation. You are on a calendar year if you operate from January 1 to December 31. And if your nonprofit's budget runs on a July 1 to June 30 tax year, the end of Spring means a new fiscal year is right around the corner.

Like in our personal lives, the beginning of the "new year" is a beautiful time to reflect on lessons learned and think about your nonprofit's potential. Regarding grant seeking, bringing in more money than the year before is probably at the top of your mind. But what should you focus on first?

Below is my list of the top 3 things every grant-seeking nonprofit should do before you start a new year of fundraising.

3 Things Every Nonprofit Should Do Before the New Year

1) Review Your win/loss ratio for grants

No one likes to get a grant declined; it may seem easier just to "cut your losses," move on to the next, and try again next year, but when it comes to granting writing, that would be a mistake. If you have been tracking your grant applications, I encourage you to look back across two years to determine your "Percentage of Grants Won."

The Grants Won or Win/Loss Ratio percentage is one of 7 Key Performance Indicators demonstrating grant writing success. Calculate the Grants Won rate by dividing the number of grants awarded by the number of submitted grants.

It works like this: In 2020, a grant writer won 15 grants and applied to 20.

Fifteen grants won divided by 20 applications submitted = 75 percent success rate.

Your win/loss ratio can help you see if you are applying for the correct grant type. For example, a 30 to 40 percent win rate indicates you may be choosing grants that are a poor fit, or your grant applications need to be better aligned. This usually happens when organizations select quantity over quality and use standard, not customized, grant applications.

A rate of 60 to 75 percent success would be pretty good! You could further break this down by looking at Win/Loss for new funders vs. previous funders.

2) Build Stronger Relationships with Prospective Funders

When you find a grant opportunity, do you immediately apply? If so, you need to include a critical step that could increase your chance of grant success. Before you start your application, you must contact the funder. I call this the "initial contact."

The initial contact may be a simple email asking a question about the application, or it may be to introduce yourself and ask for a meeting. The point is you want the grantmaker to know your organization.

Preferably you will make "initial contact" when they are not accepting grant applications. Why?

They will be more likely to speak with you when they are less busy.

Another way I have connected with funders is to attend their events. Do a quick Google search to see if any speaking engagements are coming up, and then be there. Again, politely introduce yourself, and see if they would be open to connecting with you or someone on your Board. The key is to keep these interactions low-pressure and focus on connection. Wait to ask for money.

3) Get Your Board Members Involved in a Friendly Competition

Finally, many nonprofits could benefit from having their Board members participate in fundraising and grant writing. But nonprofit leaders often need help to get them involved, but why?

Some reasons might be that:

  1. Board members need to understand why they should fundraise.

  2. Board members need to learn how to get involved.

  3. You have yet to ask your Board members to help.

Here is what I want you to do. First, identify 3-5 grants you got a No/ Decline. Next, list the Declining Grantor's Board members and Background information.

Show the list to your Board at the next meeting. And then issue a challenge.

"Who on the Board thinks they can build a relationship with one of these funders?" Next, come up with an action plan. For example, some Board members might want to write a letter, some a video; some are connectors, and some like to leverage their relationships. Let them play detective, and then have it be a friendly competition!

We hope these are a few out-of-the-box ideas you still need to consider.

Ready to jump into the new budget year? You may also be interested in our articles, What is Grant Writing Success, and 15 Documents Every Nonprofit Needs to Have on Hand.

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