You did the research. You worked out all the details of your programming ideas or your capacity building needs. You got the required paperwork together. You submitted a budget with exact numbers, nothing rounded. You wrote the proposal or contracted a grant writer to do it. You reviewed it and were sure you followed the RFPs instructions to the letter. And even though you dotted every “i” and crossed every “t,” your proposal wasn’t funded.
You’re beyond disappointed. You feel like the time, effort and even money you invested into writing the proposal were wasted. But they weren’t. Here are 5 reasons why:
1. You’ve become familiar with an RFP.
This is especially helpful for annual funding opportunities that rarely change their requirements. It’s also a bonus when it’s a federal grant because federal grants have a special submission process that may require extra paperwork and that can take an extra day to submit. Additionally, you need a DUNS number for federal tracking. Once you have it, you can reuse it, and once you’ve submitted a federal grant online the first time, the technical aspects of it won’t be so daunting the next time. Likewise, all RFPs vary, but getting used to reading and following instructions will help your next proposal. The number one reason proposals aren’t funded is because the applicant didn’t follow directions.
2. Elements of your grant proposal can be reused for other proposals.
Many RFPs ask the same or similar questions regarding evidence of the problems your organization intends to solve, statistics about the populations you serve, and proof of your organization’s track record for solving problems and/or spending money wisely. Your information may need to be shortened, lengthened or otherwise tweaked for the next proposal, but once you have the information, you have it. Even if you have to update it, you already know where to go to find it.
3. You’ve solidified goals and ideas.
Grant and funding proposals require details. Many nonprofit executive directors have a grand vision of the feats their organizations can accomplish for their constituents, but plans to get there are vague at best. No one wants to fund anything vague in scope; that’s why the RFPs offering the most money tend to ask for the most details. If you complied with those instructions, you should have a solid vision for future programming, know what the outcomes should be, know how to measure them, have deadlines for getting to those outcomes, know the number of staff or volunteers needed to make the program work and know how much it will cost.
4. You’ve assessed your organization.
Every company needs to know where it has been and where it is in order to know where it’s going. A grant proposal forces you to gather data about your organization’s previous track record. You may see that you’re serving more people than you thought or that your record keeping needs to be improved. You may find that that your programming in one area is much stronger than in others and that you want to redefine your mission. If you wrote a capacity building proposal, you’ve had the chance to thoroughly assess your organizational strengths and weaknesses, which is critical to any organization’s success.
5. You have a plan for alternative funding or for important alliances.
Just as no one wants to fund a program vague in scope, no one wants to be the sole party responsible for a program’s future. Most RFPs will include a question something along the lines of, “What is your plan for sustaining this program after funding has ended?” and many encourage organizations to collaborate and share resources. If you have a solid plan, perhaps the proposed future funding sources or other organizations you were planning to look to as future resources could become more immediate allies. If they can’t spare money at the outset, the fact that they allowed you to name them in a grant proposal shows they have faith in your organization, and they may be willing to advocate for you in front of sources you previously hadn’t considered.
So whether you write it yourself or hire a grant writer, a well-written funding proposal is an investment in your nonprofit’s future–even though unfunded, it looks like a loss.