You'd be surprised by the number of people who call and email me everyday asking if I can help them secure grant funding... well, but if you are also a grant professional you may not be so surprised! In a large number of these requests, the organization is not even close to becoming ready to apply for grants. They are either too small or too new or don't have the correct documentation.
But such hopefuls are easy to weed out, right? It's easy to say, sorry you can't apply if you don't have a 501 (c) 3 yet. What about agencies that have all the documentation, have been providing services in the community but are just strapped for cash? How do you as a grant professional assess if they are ready to apply? Well, here's a litmus test:
1. Are they ready for a grant? Remember that this is different from "are you ready for some money?". Being ready for a grant means you cannot get the funds any other way - through a fundraiser, capital campaign, or individual donations. It also means are you ready for the added staff time and the responsibilities of grant management? Many smaller nonprofits do not have professional grant writing staff or not equipped to deal with reports and evaluations.
2. Are they fiscally stable? The concept of nonprofits being strapped for cash is not longer acceptable. Seeking funders to invest in your organization means you have to be a fiscally viable entity, with positive cash flows. This shows prospective funders that have the ability to keep your programs running with or without grant monies. Further, foundations prefer to fund projects that can be easily measured for success; that means that your organization must be able to sustain itself in other ways in order to even qualify for most grant opportunities.
3. Do they know where they fit in? Convincing a foundation to grant you funds to start or continue a project means being able to define who you are, what your goals are, and how you plan to succeed at your new endeavor. Because, after all, figuring out what type of grant seeker you are can make a big difference in qualifying for the right grants.
Several grant readiness surveys and evaluations are also available online, such as this one. So are you ready?