This article assumes that much (20%+) of your revenue will come from grants for the foreseeable future (5+ years) and it’s worthwhile to invest in doing it right.
This year you’re going to be great at fundraising and here’s why: you’re starting with a plan. You know there is free money out there but somehow, even if you win a few, it seems to be a game where you don’t know the rules. That’s frustrating.
“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” -Art of War
To begin we need a strategy. From a big picture perspective, the strategy is that Grant writing is a sales process. This may seem odd (and it is odd) but once you start with this framework it makes everything make a lot more sense.
If you say “but I don’t know how to do sales” don’t worry. I believe you do. Here’s why:
You have been doing sales your whole life.
Dating is sales, getting hired is sales, getting into college is sales, convincing a friend to go on a road trip is sales.
Any sales process has a sales funnel:
At the top you have a lot of leads with Awareness of your product.
At the bottom you have a few sales who take Action to buy your product. Hopefully.
If you don’t start with a lot of leads you won’t have any sales.
So let’s start with the leads.
make a list of potential funders
To get started, here’s a spreadsheet of 300+ grants, accelerators, conferences and impact investors that I’ve curated. It’s the best of the best I’ve found for grants in Africa. It’s free to use.
(There are other funder lists for other sectors. If you are a non-profit in the US, GuideStar has a great database.)
To make this easier, get clear on the following:
With these three pieces of information you can filter the leads in the spreadsheet to something manageable.
Let’s say we want to win at least one grant this year. It’s realistic to apply for one grant per month. At roughly a 10% win rate, which is conservative, you should win one. Then, working backwards, you’d ideally need to be in touch with 25 grantors . And to do that you’d need to research 100+ (because not all grantors are going to be a fit).
You might be saying “whoa! that’s crazy. I can’t do all of that.” First, you now have a database of 300+ funders so you have a head start. Second, you can’t research 100+ grantors today or this month, but over the year you can. That’s why we are making a plan.
And you need a plan because this is a big project. It’s going to make up 20% or more of your revenue this year. If your annual budget is $1,000,000 expect to raise $200,000 to $1m in grants.
Of the ones who fit your criteria, figure out how they work. Is it a blind application like NIH or do they only work through referrals like Jasmine Investments. Do they make a decision by committee like InnovateUK or do they have one person who makes the final call like GIF. What are the chances of winning? I avoid Prizes as usually 1,000+ people compete for 1 winner’s spot. Government funding is usually a higher chance of winning but usually have an arduous application and reporting process.
Note: if you already have grants you plan to apply for this year, go ahead. This blog series will only make your grant applications more effective as we go through this process together. My goal for you is that by the end of this you will increase your win rate by 10 percentage points. That is, if you were winning 10% last year then you’ll be winning 20% the year after this. That’s my goal for you. That means you can either double your organization’s income or halve your work.
online audit (of your company and your personal brand)
Remember that grant writing is a sales process and for a sales process you need marketing support. Even though the grantor plans to make an unbiased decision about whether to invest in your organization, they are human. If they have heard of you before they are more likely to buy.
Here’s how they might have heard of you:
There are other organizations applying to the same grant as you. How well known are they compared to you?
I like to summarize the results compared to competitors.
The 3 on the right have raised a lot more money than those on the left. Can you see any difference in the data?
You’re right, they have a lot more online traffic, backlinks, followers and news mentions.
You might say “but maybe they got more news mentions because they were more successful.” And you are certainly (partly) right. But at one point, just like you and everyone else who started something great, those organizations on the right had zero news mentions. Everyone starts at zero.
Here’s my template for doing your own Online Audit.
More tools for tracking:
What’s coming up later this year
Mark off half a day each month in your calendar to work on this project. I find that if I’ve already committed the time I’m more likely to do it.
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Kyle founded Grant&Co after running a biogas company in Kenya for 5 years. We raised a lot of grant capital there. And now we help other entrepreneurs raise capital.