Narrowing the Field of Prospects
Sure, it only costs a stamp to write letters to every foundation or government agency listed in a grant-seeking catalog, but it's a waste of postage and your time if you're unlikely to succeed.
Mass mailings can really damage the credibility of your organization. It's very much like submitting a science-fiction novel to the publisher of Harlequin romances. If they remember your name, they are not likely to read any subsequent submissions that you send in — even if you've written the next
It's much better to target each letter or grant proposal to the individual interests and focus of each grantmaker. To do that, you have to read the guidelines or the RFP very carefully. When you've discovered several likely prospects, target your submissions to those funders and funding sources that are the most appropriate of all.
Maggie once had to advise her clients to seek a grant they didn't want to go after: “The leaders of the organization had read through the RFP, and they thought it was offered as a grant for providing programs for troubled teenage girls. But when I read through it, I saw that it was a grant to convene all the ‘players’ in the community and have them develop a systemic, cooperative approach to addressing teen girls' problems. My organization, however, had no experience in collaborating or operating focus groups or any of the things called for in the grant.
“When they understood what the grant was about, they decided against seeking the funding. I had to explain to them that if they received the grant, they could hire another organization with grant money to facilitate the meetings. Moreover, if they were successful in leading the effort, they could gain credibility with the other organizations in town and become a linchpin organization in addressing the needs of problem teens.”
If you are a freelance grant writer, think like a consultant advisor. Your clients will be eager to go after every grant possible. You should advise them when a grant is inappropriate or when their planned approach is not in keeping with the goals of the program.
Maggie eventually persuaded the nonprofit to apply, and as a result, they were acknowledged statewide as the only applicant who addressed the true purpose of the grant. Three years later, they had state senators on the organization's board, and now they can raise money easily to support the programs they've developed.
Maybe you've been successful in garnering large federal grants, but don't start applying for anything and everything. If you see an RFP that you think you could do something with, but the deadline is in two weeks and you haven't even talked to others in the community about partnering, it's best to get some ideas going and start planning now for the next time that RFP is issued.