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Get updates on your questions answered, grant writing best-practices, and my take on demystifying the grants world.

  • Kathryn Greener

Updated: Jul 9

Where do you find grants?

Today I’m highlighting a few tricks in grants research. Why? Because finding best-fit grants can be difficult, even expensive.

The good news is that finding them can also be easy and free. No, you don’t need to pay for a database subscription. Maybe later. For now, make sure you’ve tapped into these resources, which, might lead you to results even better than grant dollars.

A surprise scenic view at George C. Manitou State Park, Minnesota. Always on the lookout for beauty, for metaphor.

1. Know what’s across the street.

Sometimes in our noble efforts to secure the perfect grant from impressive grantmakers, we fail to see basic funder relationships right across the street. How well do you know the community giving guidelines of nearby businesses? How well do they know your organization?

Most corporations have a philanthropic arm. Think: US Bank, Family Dollar, your local drug store, State Farm, your town’s car dealership, Walmart, the local electric company. Heck, use Google Maps to start listing businesses in proximity to your nonprofit. Get familiar with their giving priorities. Scour their websites for pages that sound like “Community Giving” or “Our Impact.”

You’ll find grant opportunities, scholarship programs, donation request forms, employee volunteerism, or in-kind gifts. Follow-up your research with a real live handshake with a business representative. Local management can clarify for you what they actually do. Maybe their giving program has been rather inactive. Maybe they just signed the final check for this grant cycle. Or, maybe they’ve never heard of your nonprofit… Yikes. Let this be the first step in a mutually-beneficial partnership.

2. Look to nonprofits doing similar work.

Who are the nonprofits that are doing similar work to yours? Who funds them? If they’ve received a grant, it is likely that they’ve had the runaround doing research, just like you. Look over their annual reports, pay attention to who sponsored their latest event, and review past announcements of grant-funded projects. There’s a good chance that their funders have giving priorities aligned with your nonprofit’s mission. Take note.

The bigger picture: if you don’t already have a relationship with nonprofits doing similar work to yours, at best, you’re missing out. At worst, your isolation from other agencies is damaging your likelihood of not only getting a grant, but also truly achieving the long-term impact you want to see.

Partner agencies are not your competitors. They’re on your team. They need your expertise, you need theirs. Consider how you can take the next step in working together: shared data tracking, improved referral workflows, collaboration in evaluation strategies. Joining forces nurtures a trusting relationship, establishes yourself in the community, and may even pave the way for a collaborative grants project for which you would otherwise be ineligible. Check out the Collective Impact Forum for more ideas.

3. Head directly to 990s.

An IRS Form 990 (or a 990-PF or 990-N) is an annual tax form required to be filed by most tax-exempt organizations. While they look intimidating, you don’t have to be a tax expert to navigate them. The form gives an overview of a public charity’s or private foundation’s contact information, governance, and detailed financial information—including a list of grant awards. “Isn’t this information on a funder’s website?” Sometimes. Depends on the funder. If you want to streamline who to contact (or whether you might already have a connection) and whether your organization aligns with their priorities, look at what’s implied in a 990.

Where to find these? Every tax-exempt organization’s Employer Identification Number (EIN) is public information. If it’s not listed on their website, do a Google Search. Then, plug that number into the search field on the platform. There are databases out there to help you filter through 990s, but many have limited access. If you’re comfortable scouring the forms yourself, head directly to the IRS platform.

4. Befriend your local librarian.

You realize that libraries are usually part of a larger system with access to all kinds of databases? Make the most of these. Most libraries have subscriptions to research databases for on-site use. Ancestry research, peer-reviewed journals, encyclopedias, searchable archives, and… foundation databases. Ding ding ding.

If you’re in a small town, there’s a good chance your local library staff have well-established connections with local nonprofits and funders. The success of a rural library has much more to do with its connectedness to community needs than the circulation of books. Library staff can point you to valuable resources and meaningful community connections. Plus, it feels pretty amazing when the librarian knows your name and begins checking out books to your account faster than you can pull out your keychain library card. If you’re not a patron of your local library, become one!

If, after all this, you can justify the cost of a using a paid database, check these out. Many have free-trial options, or some are included/discounted with a subscription to a professional network (such as the Grant Professionals Association or Minnesota Council of Nonprofits).

· GrantStation

· Foundation Directory Online

· Guidestar

· The Grantsmanship Center

· InstrumentL

· Annual Minnesota Grants Directory

Don’t have time? Does doing research make your head spin? You’re not alone.

Let’s talk. I help nonprofit folks by doing the research dirty work for them, plus guidance in practical next steps.

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Updated: Jul 8

Sooner or later, nonprofits realize that grants are a thing. They’re out there. Their town just got one to build new senior housing. The coffee shop down the street just got one for COVID-19 relief. Heck, their next-door neighbor just got a grant to plant habitats to attract bumblebees to their backyard (which is awesome, by the way).

Surely, your nonprofit addressing complex regional issues is worthy of grant funding.

Let's just appreciate this little guy for a second.

“Where do we begin?”

And so, here begins the most common struggle I hear: “Where do we start?” A few Google searches will take you to sketchy websites or plagiarized blogs. Or grant databases requiring a bazillion dollar monthly subscription fee.

The where-to-begin is nuanced, though. Nonprofit folks I talk with have what seems like a strong-fit grant opportunity in their lap, but they don’t know how to begin applying. “What’s an LOI?” “Do we need a Logic Model? “It’s only due next week, we have plenty of time.”

Others have what seems like the perfect application on paper, but they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t realize the relational cred that drives the fundraising sector, the significant time commitment that managing a grant will take, or, say, the red flags of a bureaucratic funder they’re innocently eager to befriend.

“We keep getting denied.”

I talk about grants rejection further in this blog post. But real quick: when I talk with folks eager to expand their grants programs, many times it’s because they’re sick and tired of getting denied. Why bother spending 15 hours applying for a grant when it will just get rejected again?

And to make matters worse, grant rejects often don’t know why they’re denied. Nonprofit ghosting is an unfortunate reality in philanthropy. We want to put our efforts toward opportunities where there’s a certainty, return on investment, stability. And at the very least, people not being jerks, please and thank you.

Here’s a few other common concerns I hear from organizations pursuing grants:

  • We just need some grants.

  • We don’t have the application materials this grant is requiring.

  • We are doing great work as a nonprofit but just don’t have it written down.

  • We don’t have the time to prepare a proposal.

  • Seems like there aren’t any grants in our region.

  • Approaching funders feels daunting.

  • The last grant writer we worked with screwed us over.

Is this you? You’re not alone.

Imagine voicing these struggles to someone who “gets” you. Imagine having time-saving solutions where you’re no longer wondering whether there’s any grants out there that fit your organization. Imagine having a list of legitimate grant prospects to keep you busy for the year. Imagine having organizational language you’re actually proud of.

When you talk with me, I’ll be listening for your “stuck” points. Then, we’ll get rolling. I’ll work with you on common-sense approaches to your org’s grant success. Why? Because you’re the expert. You’re the one solving addressing issues in your community. You owe it to yourself to stop wasting time and take subversive steps toward organizational success.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s nice, but it sounds too good to be true, and we probably can’t afford it.” Unlike other grants consultants, I don’t bill by the hour. I don’t flaunt a click-bait grants success rate. And I never, ever promise grant prospects being funded (which, I suppose, my saying that could actually drive people away…!).

One of my recent clients said,

“Katie followed through with her commitment and built my trust by doing so. Anyone interested in hiring her would get high praise and a strong recommendation from me!”

Shoot me a message, and let’s talk.

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  • Kathryn Greener

What do butterflies and the British monarchy and local electric company grants have in common? My week! Read on for a run-down of what struck me the last few days.

Kate Bowler’s Advent Devotional, “The Season of Almost” blesses the start of my workdays. Her podcast “Everything Happens” and books Everything Happens for a Reason and The Preacher’s Wife reveal the sneaky places the prosperity gospel’s empty assurances of freedom actually limit us from seeing life as both beautiful and hard. Kate is irreverent and kind and responded to one of my comments on Instagram (yay!).

Turns out, sitting in a room full of butterflies is actually quite therapeutic. Props to the museums and aquariums doing everything they can to stay open right now! They bring the beauty we need.

I read this article and participated in its sister webinar on Transformational Capacity Building. There is work to be done in calling out #CrappyFundingPractices and being honest about the kinds of funding that actually transform organizations. Quoting from the article at length:

“Conventional capacity building’s unexamined desire for nonprofits of color to conform to standards of success rooted in white professionalism pushes communities of color toward compliance with unnecessary practices, which can ultimately thwart the innovative potential of these organizations, rather than boosting it. In failing to expand its cultural frame of reference, conventional capacity building has missed an opportunity to radically reexamine how organizations can operate and achieve their mission.”

Received my hot-off-the-press copy of The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary. Shout-out to Dr. Boyd Seevers, who let me edit his sections on Old Testament Warfare, Judges, and Joshua a few years ago when I was a student in his Old Testament college course.

I began reading Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild. Arlie, Berkley-born sociologist, journeys to the deep “red” of the Louisiana Bayou Country to understand what she discovers to be a great paradox of the American right (namely, those whose communities could benefit from government help are the same ones who disdain it). Her interviews are gracious, her portraits complicated and truthful. I was reminded of Deepwater Horizon and Dark Waters as companion movies to this book.

I’m a big fan of small, high-impact grants through local electric companies. It's so fun to work with nonprofit staff on these. The hype around receiving these small potatoes local awards is REAL.

The 2020 Giving In Minnesota Report just became available. Notable findings: 65% of “survey-participating organizations plan to give more to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) led entities,” and 27% of organizations “plan to relax reporting requirements.” This is good news.

Started watching The Crown because it was at the library, of course, and I haven’t been watching any new shows lately. I’m still in Season One, but my goodness. So much expression in hardly any words. Claire Foy was born for this role.

Rich Villodas wrote a helpful piece on the celebrity pastor dilemma in the wake of the Carl Lentz fallout: “The Celebrity Pastor Problem is Every Church’s Struggle.” He says, “One simple way to measure humility as a leader is to tell yourself: ‘Honestly identify the tasks and people you think are beneath you.’” As the wife of a pastor in a small place, I and my husband face daily “beneath us” tasks that continually draw us to gospel clarity.

Here we go again… The SBC, among others, claiming that “critical theory is incompatible with Christianity.” Holy Post Podcast debriefs. Justin Giboney tweets.

To quote from Kate Bowler's Advent devotional, quoting Hamilton Wright Mabie,

"Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love."
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