CEC helps nonprofit organizations prepare governmental, foundation, and corporate grant applications. However, our services extend well beyond basic “grant writing.” If there are weaknesses in current operations, such as lack of evaluation systems or any other “red flag” items that could compromise positive outcomes, we help you resolve these (when possible) prior to submission. Otherwise, you are likely wasting a good funding opportunity. Same goes for proposed plans for new programming. Winning proposals require precise detail, and explanation of “how” you will achieve your aims.
This process starts with a limited grant readiness assessment. As opposed to a full organizational assessment, we focus on what the grantmaker will see when you submit your applications. This includes your financials from the last few years, as well as issues such as limited or no personal donations by the Board, web presence and social media usage, and previous/current/future methods for measuring successes. We also examine your actual and projected budgets, making sure they are accurate, reasonable, complete, and that they reflect acceptable percentages as relates to direct services vs. administrative costs. This assessment helps us determine what documents need to be created from scratch and those that require improvement—which will dictate how much prep work must occur before any proposals are expected to be submitted.
Next, we identify the different types of grant funding that we should pursue, i.e., general operating, program support, program development, capital campaign, capacity building, and so forth. This is followed by (usually) 20 hours of preliminary prospect research, which typically yields at least 25 to 50 funding targets. Development of a full grants plan is strongly recommended, since most organizations need a grant PROGRAM rather than a single funding award. This formalized plan sets our strategy and roadmap for the next 4-6 months… or longer. Prospective grant funders are researched thoroughly, and are ranked on a 4-point scale from “excellent” (best bets) to “fair.” Our priorities are then determined based on grantmaker deadlines, highest potential award amounts, allowable costs and restrictions, and strongest fits first. The customer’s available budget for working with CEC will also affect how many applications can be prepared in a given month—or in total.
If you are pursuing governmental monies (both grants and contracts) for the first time, you will quickly learn that these applications are complex and quite cumbersome. Ideally, you are giving yourself a full month (or more) to prepare your package. Three weeks is cutting it short, and less than two weeks is going to be both intensive in time and stressful for all involved. It may even be impossible to prepare a winning proposal in two weeks or less, depending on the complexities related to type of programming and the application itself.
As for foundation and corporate grants, we do create a “template” that contains the standard core materials required by most applications. But every funder is different and all proposals must be tailored to individual grantmaker guidelines, specific interests, and other requirements. When a number of grantmaker guidelines are similar, subsequent proposals can be developed more quickly. Yet, there is no such thing as “a” grant application when it comes to preparation costs. And, it can take just as long to prepare a proposal for a $10,000 request as it does to pursue $100,000. So, we are not being evasive when people ask for price estimates during our first phone call. The fully honest answer will always be: “it depends.”
Services can be really intensive or scaled-back as far as only critiquing the proposals YOU write. This decision depends on your available budget, as well as your organization’s internal expertise. We do our best to work with you within your fiscal constraints. But, it should be noted that this investment is more far-reaching than you may think. When we visit newly-designed websites of former clients, it is extremely common to see web content that was taken directly from our earlier grant proposals. For many, this verbiage and messaging becomes a cornerstone for all communications, written and otherwise.
Total costs reflect an organization’s preparedness for this process, and how much program or organizational development/improvement may be involved. How ready are YOU? Check out the list of commonly needed documents and information. That should give you an idea of how much early prep work will be needed in order to meet most application standards.
501(c)(3) Letter of Determination
Board of Directors List (sometimes includes donation amount for each member)
Budgets (organizational, program, and project-
Communications Plan (and how you will recognize the funder)
Demonstration of Need (Stats/Studies, etc.)
Goals & Objectives
Implementation/Activities Plan & Timeline
Independent Fiscal Audits and 990s
Key Activities of Organizational Programming
Key Staff Credentials (bios and/or resumes)
Letters of Support
Measurable Outcomes & Outputs
Past/Current Funders List (varies per funder in terms of leveled giving and type)
Persons Served/Demographics –
Purpose of Grant Request
Supplemental Materials (Annual Reports, brochures, fact sheets, newspaper media clips, etc.)