By DonorSearch

Regardless of where you are beginning, grant writing is a journey on all fronts.

In the world of grant writing, folks come from a variety of backgrounds. Many founders, executive directors, program staff, board members and other volunteers often take on the role of writing grants to bring dollars in to well-deserving community organizations. Whoever you are, and however you get into the grant writing game, there are some basic things everyone needs to do (even me and my team) to save time and energy and set ourselves us for as much success as possible.

Today we are going to talk about where to start on the grant writing journey.

Should you start writing grants, and if so what’s the first step?


It might surprise you to know that many nonprofits do not, and never will, apply for grant funding. So, the short answer to the question about if you should write grants is, it depends. Simple as that.


Don’t assume just because you are a nonprofit organization, you are ‘suppose’ to apply for and rely on grants. That is not the case. Many experts in the field agree that a healthy nonprofit should never depend on grant funding for more than 30% of its’ total operating budget.

Consider these 5 situations when evaluating an organization’s readiness to apply for grants

  1. If you are in a place where you have met your capacity (staff, space, program, etc.), it might be time to look at capacity building grants to grow, build, or expand.
  2. If you have an upcoming capital campaign, you may consider making grants a portion of that campaign to ensure its’ success and speedy completion.
  3. If you are in a field where long-term funding sources have been cut or eliminated, you may need to look to grant funding until you can rework your game plan for sustainability.
  4. If your organization has a budget or a previous year’s budget in the ‘red,’ you may not want to begin writing grants until you have a few years in the ‘black.’ Donors will see you as a risk and often times will not look favorably upon your request.
  5. If your organization is in its’ infancy, you may find seed money to support your work. Often donors require organizations to demonstrate a history of success (often 3-5 years) before considering granting funds.


There is a lot of work that gets done prior to working on a grant application. There is research, building a relationship with a program officer at a foundation, preparing a grant template for your program or project to save time and energy and compiling all the information you will need that is often asked by a foundation. What are those items that are requested most often, and how can you organize them?


Our team uses a checklist to get ourselves ready to be as efficient as possible. I personally love the structure it gives me and the ease of checking off the boxes until I have all the information I need (I am very Type-A). Would you also love to have a checklist of the most requested documents, the required documents, and the data you will likely need when working on grants?


To make my life easier when working with clients, I created a Grant Readiness Checklist that makes compiling necessary data easier. This list has saved me so much time over the years and helps me get organized.

What’s in this list you ask?

I break down the areas where foundations will request additional information to six key areas. Then I list the most popular items needed in each section with checkboxes. I create a folder in my computer titled ‘Grant Documents’ and then create subfolders for each heading. As I create or locate the documents needed, I save them in the corresponding folders for easy access.

The six headings I use are:

  1. Organizational Background
  2. Tax Documents
  3. Financial Information
  4. Governance
  5. Program/Project Information
  6. Other

Under each heading, I have items listed such as:

Organizational Background

  • History of the organization (narrative)
  • Year established
  • Mission, vision, values statement
  • Tax Documents
  • Tax-exempt status letter
  • 990
  • W9

Financial Information

  • Detailed organizational/program/project budget(s)
  • Financial Statement
  • Audit

This is not the complete list but should give you an idea of the type of information that is included. Creating these files for easy access now will save you and your team a lot of time and energy when you are ready to work on grants for programs, projects, capital campaigns, or general operating funds.

If you’d like to have the full Grant Readiness Checklist so you can get started organizing your files today, CLICK HERE and we will email it over to you in an editable Word document. I hope it helps as you work now to make next year a little less hectic.

Hopefully today gave you some insights into planning for a successful grant writing journey so you can continue to grow for good.

Join me: Tuesday, February 4th, 2020 at 2pm EST
Grant Writing: What the Pros Know



Mandy Pearce

A grant writing expert, executive and development coach, fundraising consultant, and national fundraising trainer, Mandy Pearce, launched Funding for Good, Inc. in 2009 to equip organizations with the skills and tools needed to become successful and sustainable.


Mandy has taken her passion and expertise for fundraising to the development field and shared it with individuals and organizations for over 2 decades through executive coaching, strategic and development planning, seminars, and specialized consulting programs. Mandy’s dynamic teaching style brings thousands of people annually to her presentations at conventions, trainings, and workshops, in-person and online.


Her business model is centered on her key values: honesty, efficiency, direct communication, and bringing dollars to local communities. Funding For Good, Inc. continues to create sustainability and build capacity for organizations across the country through the effective sharing of the knowledge and skills required to generate success.


Mandy’s passions are development and executive coaching, fundraising planning, budget development, and all things grant writing. Mandy lives in Hickory, NC with her husband and their rescue dogs, Leo and Dalli, who share her enthusiasm for the outdoors.

Preparing to write grants | What’s first? – The Masterminds Blogs