How to Capture Those Elusive Grants – Part 2

Realize that grant funding is a long haul. It takes time to build up rapport. Grantmakers will typically give you a small grant to get to know you. Some foundations have a policy to not fund any organization in the following funding cycle so that you may have to wait months or even two years before applying again. When you do receive funding make certain that you send in all required documentation of how the grant was used. This will build a great path back to their door—and other funder’s doors. One of the first questions you will be asked is “who else are you receiving money from?” No one wants to test the waters first, they all want assurances that you are credible and trustworthy. Therefore when you receive that first small grant send out press releases, put it in your newsletters for months and months. It’s your foot in the door for many golden opportunities.


  • Work on your public awareness. Try to find a PR person for your board. If you can’t, consider hiring one. If you have limited funds be upfront with your consultant and tell her or him how much you can spend: “we are limited to $200 so we would appreciate your help in training us on how to implement a PR campaign.”
  • Do something radical, have an outrageous event. Have you ever noticed that on the news you frequently see a principal of a school shaving his head because his students read so many books? This isn’t really newsworthy but it’s something fun and interesting and a welcome relief from all the tragedy out there.
    • Send press releases in plenty of time to allow great press/media coverage.
    • If you want to make the evening news (and get your name out there so that when you do submit grant requests the grantor will think “oh, yes, I saw them on the news last week…”) then do something silly, interesting, or different. Such as, if you serve people with physical disabilities challenge some of your local businesses to a backward wheelchair race (don’t do wheelchair basketball—it’s been done to death.)
    • Whatever your cause think of what your constituents do and ask some group in your community to duplicate that in some bizarre, twisted way. If you serve beavers have a dam building contest, if you serve blind individuals have a group paint a huge mural blindfolded. Treat your corporate participants like kings and queens.
    • Print their names everywhere, even on the napkins you hand out. Seek a donation as a door prize so that more people will attend the event. Have fun, the sillier the better.


  • Send grant proposals (remember the correct terminology is that the papers you submit to a grantmaker are the “grant proposal” while the check they send you back is the “grant” therefore you are “grant proposal writing”) to everyone and their brother hoping that someone will read it and give you money. It is a terrible waste of trees, ink, postage, and your time.
  • Call two weeks after you’ve submitted your request and expect them to know who you are and the status of your request. Exception: if it’s been six months a polite inquiry is okay. Sometimes things do get lost in the shuffle or there may have been a question that you can answer for them.
  • Ask for the outrageous. Don’t ask for a million dollars or a new building your first time before these foundations or groups.


This is the second guest post in a three part series by Patricia Gilbers. Patricia has co-founded and co-directed a non profit agency. Patricia now consults for nonprofits specializing in start ups and grant request writing. Patricia also writes novels, short stories, and screen plays.  She can be reached

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