How Do You Win Grants When You’re a New Nonprofit?

This week’s podcast is focused on a wonderful question that we receive quite frequently. Thank you to Susan Silverman, President of the Women’s Tax Resolution Center, Inc. for asking, “My challenge is we are a very small and new nonprofit and don’t have enough of a track record for grants, etc. Do you have any thoughts on how we could get that first grant?”

Be sure to check out her nonprofit and learn more about their mission!

Susan Silverman
President & CEO
The Women’s Tax Resolution Center, Inc.
(626) 577-4405

To begin, grants aren’t the only type of funding you can get that demonstrates a track record. Fundraising, creating revenue streams (such as services or products), events, crowdfunding, donor contributions, and basically, any other way of obtaining funding are great ways to strengthen your track record. This shows community support, passion, efforts, and very importantly that you know how to manage money. Here are six ways to help your new nonprofit increase their chances for grant funding.

1. Diversify your Funding Stream

Funding sources are not interested in how many grants you have received but more of how diverse your funding stream is, how you manage money and how you manage projects. Any other fundraising strategy is good as well, so that grant funders can see that you are managing money (and projects) and are developing relationships driven by community support.

2. Apply for Small Amounts and Build Your Portfolio

A second option is to apply for small amounts for specific projects to foundations in your geographic (or mission-specific) area. You can use the Foundation Directory Online (free version), Google, or subscribe to funding directories to find basic information about local foundations that target your demographic or project tasks. Ask for small amounts (even $1k – $5k) to fund a very specific project so you can start building your portfolio.

3. Association Tour

A third option is to do an ‘association tour’ at all the local rotary clubs, chambers, and other associations. A lot of times they are looking for different nonprofits to highlight and if you can speak for even a 3-5 minute slot, you can get your nonprofit in their periphery. The specific organization may not fund you, but many board members for those different associations are involved with these clubs.

4. Board of Directors

A fourth way is to see if you, or anyone from your nonprofit (including your board members), know any board members of grant-making foundations and directly start to build relationships in that capacity. Sometimes foundations do not accept solicitations, but if you know someone on the board you might be able to convince them to consider letting your nonprofit at least send a letter of interest.

5. Federal Funding

A fifth way is to start applying for federal grants that are a good fit through You will want to demonstrate the ability to handle projects and money so refer back to point one of doing other types of funding.

6. Sub-Grantee

A sixth way is to partner with a larger nonprofit and be a sub-grantee. In this way, you can leverage the more established nonprofit’s credibility, but also build up your reputation since you will be sub-operating a grant. In some cities or regions, there are actually nonprofit umbrellas set up to help build up capacity for smaller nonprofits. This includes being able to utilize an umbrella’s 501(c)3 or their grants management archive.

All in all, there are ways to establish yourself as a credible organization even though you just started up! I know it can feel like a Catch-22, but these options can get you out of being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

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