The Benefits of Humor and Play in Nonprofit Work

Have you ever wondered how foundations decide which nonprofits to fund? It’s a maddening question as so many struggle to carefully craft the perfect grant proposal.

Putting yourself out there for the judgement of others is an exercise in humility. Especially, since we all have different values and ideas about what makes a good cause. The process is subjective and often frustrating. So, how do foundations make these decisions? Here are some of the things that I’ve learned over the years.

First and foremost, funders want to ensure that their investments align with their priorities and mission. That means nonprofits should carefully research potential funders—and tailor proposals accordingly. It’s important to show how your organization’s work is related to the funder’s priorities and why their support will help you achieve your goals.

Another key factor that funders consider is measurable impact. They want to see clear outcomes and results from their investments, so nonprofits should provide a detailed plan for how they will evaluate the impact of their programs—and demonstrate how those efforts translate into real-world benefits.

While it’s important to make your case, funders also want to know how you will use their funding. Your proposal should include a budget that shows where the money will be spent and how it fits into your organization’s overall strategy. For example, if you’re applying for an unrestricted grant, provide details about what types of programs or initiatives are most in need of funding.

Funders also want to see that nonprofits have the capacity and track record to effectively implement their programs. This means being able to demonstrate experience, expertise, and a proven ability in getting things done — all factors that help build trust over time. Nonprofits should make their work visible and explain how they are addressing a particular challenge in an innovative way.

Nonprofits should also provide a clear and detailed timeline for how they will use the grant funds, along with any other supports or services that may be required. This often includes an explanation of how the project will unfold over time and what outcomes are expected from each phase.

Financial stability is also a significant concern for funders, who want to be sure that their investment will be used productively and effectively. Nonprofits should provide evidence of sound financial management practices. It is important to remember that funders are not the only audience for a grant proposal. They will also be sharing your application with other stakeholders, such as board members and donors. Having a clear and compelling story will help them understand why this project is important and why their support is needed.

Funders may also be interested in supporting organizations that work collaboratively with other nonprofits and community partners—rather than solely focusing on their own missions.

At the end of the day, funders want to make a positive impact on the world. They are looking for nonprofits that share their values and are working towards similar goals. They want them to win! They want YOU to win.

So there you have it, a closer look at some of the factors that funders consider when making decisions on grant awards. By keeping these in mind and tailoring your proposals to the funder’s priorities, your nonprofit can increase its chances of securing funding and making a positive impact on the world… and your sanity.

Mission Forward

Mission Forward is a weekly LinkedIn Newsletter written by Paul Durban with tools, tips and tricks to help nonprofits reach their goals. Subscribe to the newsletter on LinkedIn.