The A|R Team: How To Increase Your Odds With Grants from Paula Swope

Over the next few weeks you will hear more from my terrific team of colleagues giving advice in their area of expertise. First up – Paula Swope, Vice President, Grants Division and Senior Consultant. Paula has more than a decade in the grant-writing world. Prior to working independently, Paula worked in higher education most recently at Berea College. Beyond grant writing she brings a wealth of fundraising, event planning, program evaluation and strategic planning knowledge. You can find more background on Paula here.

I asked Paula to talk about the grant process and how to increase the odds of submitting and landing a successful request. Here is her advice:

I hear so many people say, “grants are nothing but a crapshoot.” Although there is some truth to this, applicants have way more power than they think in this game of grant making.

Being in the business for over a decade has taught me a lot. I have made every mistake there is to make when it comes to applying for grants. Grants become a crapshoot when organizations get sloppy. What does a sloppy organization look like? Allow me to paint a picture of how applicants start off on the wrong foot:

  • Fail to read grant application instructions
  • Ignore relationship building with the funder
  • Submit a poorly written grant application
  • Ask for too much money
  • Do not take geography into consideration
  • Fail to analyze the funder’s 990

Making these mistakes are often reasons why your application is denied. Granted, there are some things that are out of our control, such as the foundation having pet projects. But, for the most part, you have more control over the process than you think.

Organizations need to spend as much time researching the funder as they do with writing the grant applications. This is the number one strategy for increasing your odds. Before you begin writing make sure the following steps are complete:

  • Read the application instructions
  • Find a personal connection to the foundation
    • Look at the foundation’s trustees
  • Use strategy to write a compelling argument
    • Ethos, pathos, logos
  • Make sure you are in the funder’s geographic focus area
  • Look at the funder’s giving patterns to determine the ask and the amount

After many years of practice, these strategies have proven successful. In the grant world I now have stronger proposals resulting in more “wins.”

Paula and her team of 8 grant writers have helped to secure at least $250,000 since December 2019 for area nonprofits. We receive results through our process of foundation searches and grant writing. To learn more about our grant division, please contact us at 502-244-5835.