What exactly is Grant Pipeline?
I am sure you have heard the word pipeline thrown around at trainings or maybe you haven’t and that scares you even more. Hopefully I can clear this up for you a little bit. A grant/donor/funder/whatever pipeline is essentially a plan of attack for funding. This is different from a funder cycle or moves management, which involves the phases of donor relationships (think of that as a pipeline for the individual). Compiling where donors/funders are in the funder cycle and forecasting where they will be is what makes up the grant pipeline. A pipeline is more of a long term plan that sets your organization up for both sustaining funding and growth funding. These pipelines will vary depending on the donor you are thinking of (grant versus individual donor). I will stick to grants but there are links at the bottom that have great advice on other donor pipeline strategies.
What is available to fill the pipeline?
Research. Research. Research. This is the first step in developing your grant pipeline and what I will cover in today’s post.
Start in-house. Have you applied to or received any grants before? Do you have any volunteers or staff who have access to grants either through corporations, foundations, or other volunteer work? Start researching your corporate partners, even if these are informal. Often times just listing that you have a contact at the partner who volunteers can get your foot in the door.
Expand from in-house to a local funders web search. While you can rarely just google this if you start with funders you have heard about like the United Way or here in Seattle we have the Seattle Foundation, these type of organizations not only do their own funding but have a list of other places to find funding. You can also look into city and county grants as well. These often will come up in a google search.
Look at your partners and competition. Who is out there doing similar work to you? Maybe on a larger scale. Go find their annual reports. Annual Reports are a treasure trove of funders. Nearly all of their Foundation and Corporate grants will be listed right in the report. If right now you are saying but we are the only ones doing this you are thinking too narrow. For example: I write grants for an organization that focuses on the sex trade. This is a unique market and there isn’t anyone doing exactly what they do, but most of their clients are homeless, suffer from chemical dependency, and mental illness. There are a lot of organizations that work with a similar demographic. I am going to dig into the Annual Reports of homeless agencies in my area as well as domestic violence support organizations and our partner organizations.
After sifting through annual reports and your own connections move on to foundation search site. While Foundation Center Is not cheap you can sign up for a month and put a volunteer or staff member on research duty for that month. Have them put down every grant maker they can find that might fit into an excel sheet with all the info they can get (website, contact, funding range, focus, similar orgs funded, etc.). After a month you can drop the subscription.
Pro Tip: I also suggest checking the local library system. In King County, the Redmond Library offers free searches as well as an expert librarian. After you have gathered all the information you can dig deeper. There is a link below where you can find help near you.
Sift through the list
This is where the real work comes. Look at the list you have and start with right now grants. This is a grant that you 100% qualify for. These are usually under $10,000, and are local to your community (city, county, or state). These are usually family foundations, local branches of corporations or banks, divisions of the city or county, or tribes. Nearly all grantors will have a list of their funding priorities, use those to assess your fit.
Pro Tip: Look at past funding (also available on Foundation Center) as a good gauge of how much to ask for and who else in your field they have funded. This can give you a lot of insight on their real priorities.
After you have this list go through and mark anything you don’t actually qualify for. Maybe your budget is too big or too small. Maybe they don’t serve your county. Perhaps they have changed their funding and no longer accept unsolicited applicants. Maybe they only fund new programming. Whatever it is this is where you have to be honest. We look at big dollars and think “well maybe if I created new programming,” or “well we kind of fit but it’s a long shot.” Don’t chase funding and don’t create new programs just because you can get funding for it. This is a long term plan and the current focus is the easy to pick low hanging fruit.
Pro Tip: Don’t delete prospects that aren’t a fit! You put a lot of work into making your list. Mark them as for future funding or revisit annually or not a good fit in 2018, something that will move them off your radar for now, but keep them available for future potential.
You now have your list. What do you do with it? Create a calendar with all of the deadlines for each grant and assess what you as an organization are capable of doing. This may be the place where you hire a contractor to come in and start writing grants for you quickly or you may talk to staff members and readjust job description to include a percentage of grant writing. After you decide the best route start writing!
Lace has 10 years of fundraising experience for large and small organizations. She has a depth of knowledge learned in the fundraising trenches, through good and bad trainings, from numerous mentors, and by creating all the excel sheets!