Is your agency's grant writing program in a state of change?

grant writingYesterday, I had the opportunity to spend a little time with a professional grant writer, and I walked away from the encounter wondering if there isn’t a new trend afoot in the world of non-profit grants. During our time together, I got the sense that the winds of change are blowing. So, I thought I’d blog about it this morning and see if you are encountering some of the same things.
Of course, a comprehensive grant writing program has many different components to it, such as:

  • Private foundations
  • Corporate foundations
  • Government grants
  • Family foundations

Even within these areas, you have some additional subdivision:

  • Federal government
  • State government
  • Local government

So, our conversation was predicated on¬†planning question because this organization’s resource development committee is in the process of developing a written resource development plan for 2014. Here were some of the questions I asked:

  • How many grants did you write in each of these areas last year? What were your results?
  • What do you currently have in the pipeline (e.g. written and out the door, in the process of writing, etc)?
  • What strategies are we currently using? Should we shift our grant writing strategies and make adjustments in the upcoming year (e.g. who we’re writing to, what we’re writing for, how we’re engaging decision-makers, etc)?

It was during this interesting discussion the grant writer shared a few interesting observations (and opinions):

  • He sees a contraction in government grants starting to occur
  • He sees increased competition for private foundation and corporate foundation pools of dollars
  • He attributes a huge bump in grant dollars over the last few years to the federal stimulus package and believes that organizations who rode that wave now need to find another wave to surf (and quickly)
  • In the wake of the recession, he thinks there is a “New Normal” where many non-profits tweaked their fundraising plans and focused more on grant writing (thus making proposal pools more competitive)

Of course, I find all of this interesting even if it is just one data point (and one grant writers opinion) in a huge universe of data. However, it still tweaks my curiosity. So, I’m hoping you will use the comment box below this morning to weigh-in on any of the following questions:

  • Did your agency change its resource development plan (e.g. goals, strategies, tactics) since the 2008 economic crash? If so, what did you start doing ¬†differently?
  • Are you seeing some of the same things?
  • If you are experiencing some of the same things (e.g. increased competition, fewer government grants, etc), what are you planning to do about it?
  • Are you in the process of shifting your agency’s grant writing focus? If so, what are you shifting it to?

In the interest of sharing, this organization is contemplating slightly shifting its focus to Family Foundations and engaging its board volunteers to help in the cultivation process. Of course, these type of foundations act and behave very differently than the others. As a result, they need to look at possibly employing different engagement strategies and different solicitation strategies.
As I always say, there is no reason that we need to be alone out there in this vast non-profit universe. We can all learn from each other, but that requires you taking one or two minutes out of your busy day and sharing your thoughts and experiences.
Here’s to your health!
Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847


  1. I am the grant writer for my local organization, and have wrote grants for 10 years. In the last few years, I have started to dread hearing/reading “could you look into this? I think we might be eligible”. I’ve found that grants are getting smaller and MUCH more competitive, with more documentation to ensure accountability. (I understand the importance of why funders are doing this). But I also think it’s a better use of my organization’s time and resources to look less at grants and more at building the annual campaign. Thankfully, our CEO has realized this too. Now we apply for grants from grantors we have a relationship with or a grantor that overlaps in our network. It’s a model that is much more achievable.
    Enjoy reading your blog everyday!

    1. Thanks for your response and sorry for my slow response.
      I love your story and perspective. Now I have two data points in this vast grant writing universe. I think that applicant pools have definitely gotten more competitive and grant writing strategies need to change for those who want to remain competitive.
      Thanks for weighing in!

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