• Rachel Niemczyk

3 Ways to Optimize Your Grant Search

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Image by Coffee Bean from Pixabay

Honestly, searching for grants can be the hardest part of working as a grant writer. This foundational step sets the stage for your funding successes later on. Recommend something your nonprofit isn’t totally aligned with, and your chances of receiving funding just got that much shorter (if not completely eliminated). That can be a lot of pressure to deal with!

It doesn’t help that the grant search itself often feels like a treasure hunt with a time limit (though thankfully one not as difficult as The Curse of Oak Island). That’s why it’s important to utilize the time you do have wisely. Below are 3 ways to optimize your grant search so you get the most viable options possible out of the time you have.


1. Start narrow, go wide. When grant searching I always recommend starting as specifically as possible and slowly widening the search results as needed. Why? For one, this will guarantee that you see the most relevant/viable opportunities first, saving you and your nonprofit time that could have been spent grant writing or developing fundraising activities. For another, it’ll save your mental stamina for when you need to comb through pages of less relevant results later on! Since the amount of results that meet all your criteria will probably be slim pickings, it’ll be somewhat of a relief to see so many possible listings - even if they aren’t a perfect match. Finding grant funding opportunities that hit all the right marks isn't easy, but the process always goes better if you have the right mental attitude throughout.

2. Focus on geography before anything else. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: always look at the geographic location of a funder’s grant first. Nothing hurts more than realizing a grant is the perfect fit for your nonprofit . . . if you were located in a different city, county, or state. Because that means all the time you invested in researching that funder to make sure your programs are aligned was wasted, which can kill your hope faster than anything else. Avoid that scenario by looking up a funder’s geographic focus first. If the funder doesn’t provide this info in the RFP you can usually find this in your grant database’s funder profile. If you can’t seem to find it anywhere though, look up the funder’s latest Form 990 on the IRS’s website to get a better idea of what cities and states they really like to fund. A word of caution: most Form 990s available aren’t recent (they’re at least 2 years old if not more). If there seems to be a discrepancy between their funding history and current guidelines always reach out rather than assume you meet their eligibility criteria.

3. Consider ALL aspects of your program when grant searching. What city/region is your target audience located in? If you had to give your program a compound label, what would that be? (es. STEM education, Arts & health programming, environmental conservation & animal welfare) Who, specifically, is your audience? (ex. age, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, income level, physical capability) What equipment and resources do you need to execute the program? Do you have multiple streams of revenue to support the program?

All of these things can help you secure different grants for your program. So you may not be able to get one grant that covers everything, but if you know the details of your program/project well enough, you could apply for a grant that covers part of your request. For instance, you may not be able to find a grant that funds arts education opportunities for Asian communities, but you may be able to find one that funds arts education in general or Asian communities in general. Or you may not be able to fund an entire renovation project, but you may be able to fund the interactive technology that has an educational component.


Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next week with another article!

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