In grant seeking, fundraising professionals sometimes refer to low-hanging fruit as the donors who give year after year with little effort, synonymous with “easy money.” While the term is often tossed around, it can be frustrating to funders and grant professionals. Funders may have fewer requirements to increase accessibility to nonprofits or value the longevity of relationships. The funder is still striving to make an impact in the community. Grant professionals understand the nuances of grant seeking and can see the industry landscape increase in competitiveness as more organizations apply for funding and foundations give conservatively in response to volatile markets. Fundraising strategies that rely on these dollars without stewardship may find themselves in the midst of a drought.

All the time and effort you put into designing a great project and developing a clear, well-written grant proposal has paid off and you’ve received a notice of award from the funder. Now, it’s time to ensure that you are a great steward of the grant funds that you have received.

Defining Small Nonprofits: Whether a nonprofit or not-for-profit, a charitable organization’s “size” is not determined by its facility, number of staff, or services to the public but by the size of its operating budget. Large organizations have operating budgets in the $10- $50MM range, while organizations with annual budgets of $5MM or less are considered small. Large, nationally affiliated organizations tend to get the lion’s share of public recognition and visibility; however, they are not representative of the U.S. nonprofit sector as a whole. In fact, the National Council of Nonprofits reports that 92% of organizations within the nonprofit sector are small organizations with annual revenue of less than $1MM. Yet the reality is that all charitable organizations depend on public and private support (i.e., government or private grants, individual donations, in-kind gifts, volunteers) to achieve their missions, and small organizations often grapple with how to compete in a market publicly dominated by their larger counterparts.

Denial can be challenging, especially when your grant proposals seem to be on a losing streak. Before you start rethinking your grant strategy or wondering if you’re doing something wrong, there may be other proactive steps and factors to take into consideration. Grant funding is complex. There are a multitude of funding streams, networks and relationships, and preferences involved—most of which are beyond your control. And while you can do your best to present an aligned, impactful proposal, sometimes you will never know the reason a proposal is denied. Sometimes, a string of denials prompts a self-evaluation to evaluate how you could do better, or you take the rejection personally. While self-awareness is important, so is understanding the factors that are beyond your control in an application.

Congratulations! You have received notice that a local foundation will gladly support your organization and/or program during the coming year. The foundation board or staff are excited about your mission, your plans, and helping serve your community. You record the amount in your donor and accounting software, generate a letter acknowledging the gift, and move on to managing the implementation of program activities. Right? Well, no.

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