Chop This Year’s Wood for Next Year’s Fire

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One of the inescapable truths about proposal writing and grants funding is the time it sometimes takes for a funder to make up its mind. Weeks, months – many months – can go by without a word. Funders work on a variety of timetables: some wait for a regular board meeting; some review proposals as they are submitted; some put requests through a series of screens and determinations, each one setting the stage for the next one.


There is very little nonprofits can do to influence the pace of funding decisions. On the other hand nonprofits can do a lot to control the tempo of their own planning, proposal preparation and submissions. And it is all predicated on a simple fact: funders will rarely if ever move as fast as you want them to, so it’s a good idea to get ahead of the calendar.


Planning ahead for submissions down the road allows a nonprofit to align its calendar year, fiscal year and, (where the information is available) the program year of the funder. It lets a proposal writer identify those submissions with rolling deadlines vs. specific application dates. And most critically, it integrates the development process with the program planning of the organization.


There are many variables that affect the successful submission of a grant request. Some of them are out of your control (e.g. how many competitive proposals there are for the same pot of money, the funder’s quirks or speed bumps in the review process). The factors you can control are all about your organization’s planning process and the ability to anticipate how grant dollars will be used.


Is it realistic to plan a year ahead? Absolutely. Your nonprofit is working on significant community issues and “solutions” won’t come overnight. Funders look ahead at least a year to make preliminary allocation decisions. At the end of the year, it’s time to pause, take a deep breath—and go to work outlining what’s coming and what grant opportunities might play a part.


Thomas Boyd is Chief Editorial Consultant for The Grantsmanship Center
and an independent consultant to nonprofit organizations.


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