Be able to measure. As we have continued to research national foundations that give grants to 501c3 organizations, we’ve noted that almost all the funders want to know how effective you will use any funds they grant to your organization. The funding organizations consistently ask “how will your organization measure the success of its programs and activities”. This is one that you definitely want to put a lot of time and consideration into up front. Will you measure success by the number of people you help; the number of jobs you can find for your program participants; the number of rides you have provided to sick individuals; the number of homeless individuals you provide shelter to; the improvement in test scores of your students, etc. There are countless ways of measuring an organization’s success. You can be as creative as you like when determining how you will measure success. Just keep in mind that any measurements you decide on should be quantitative.
Management. Founders start nonprofits to help people and society based on needs they see which are not being adequately met. Founders most likely will have some of the management skills for the success of their organization but will need the help of other managers. Before your organization will be granted funding, potential funders will want to see managers in place that can help your organization successfully reach its goals and objectives. Your management team may be in the form of board members, officers, volunteers, paid employees, contracted personnel, etc.
Use of Funds. Funds that your organization requests should be used to carry out the organization’s programs and activities. For instance, if you are operating a literacy program for young adults, the funds should be going to purchase books and educational material and to pay a reasonable rent for classroom space. You should not be using large amounts of the funds to pay board members a salary or for travel to conferences. Sharing an abbreviated budget with the potential funders will be a plus. This will demonstrate to the potential funders that you have thought through the organization’s operations. It will also detail whether you are asking for too little or too much funding.
Show evidence of past success. Funding organizations like to fund nonprofits that show a history of success. If your organization has been in operation for several years, you should have demonstrated the worth and value of your organization. You will be able to share with potential funders the successes you have had. You should be able to share your success in terms of participants that you have helped, volunteers you have assisting the organization and funding that your organization has been able to raise.
Business Plan. Of the large national foundations that we have researched, at least one third of those foundations do not have a defined questionnaire that 501c3 and nonprofit organizations can use to apply for funding. Instead, these organizations require you to describe your organization, its activities and programs. If you have a business plan prepared and ready, you will have your applying document in hand and ready to share with many funding organizations.