Why You Must Write Grants in 2020 (Plus, the Where & How)

Are there grants available that are non-coronavirus related?


If you are a freelancer, should you charge for your services in 2020?


If you are a nonprofit leader, are there ways to pay for grant writers?


In this article, I explain why you should apply for standard grants today, where you can find them, and how you can get paid to write them or pay for others to write them for your nonprofit.

Let me know if you are one of the following and have any of these challenges:

If you are a freelance grant writer / nonprofit consultant:

  • You might be paralyzed with going after funding because you just aren’t sure what to do.
  • You might not want to pitch your services because you are nervous asking nonprofits for money right now.
  • You aren’t sure what types of grants and funding are available.

If you are a nonprofit leader or development coordinator:

  • You might have put off applying for grants because you aren’t sure what projects you want to be funded
  • You might have been focused on getting PPP and CARES Act funding and put the grants to the side.
  • You might just think the Feds aren’t funding regular grant programs right now.

This podcast episode will address all these three items and you will learn the following:

  • The current grant environment
  • Where to find grants
  • Why charging clients is acceptable or if you are a nonprofit how to pay for help

This will help you to be competitive in the current funding arena and gain new clients if you are a freelance grant writer or nonprofit consultant, or help you stand out in the crowd and move forward in sustainable funding if you are a nonprofit leader.

Why Apply for Grants Today: The Current Grant Environment

The current grant environment is a bit of an odd mix. Yes, the federal government, state governments, and foundations have pushed out a variety of grant programs to directly meet the needs during this pandemic. Please refer to Episode 116: COVID19 Funding, Grants, and Loans for Nonprofits & Freelancers for the list of specific COVID funding available for nonprofits.

But what I am talking about in this article is the regular ole’ funding. Grant funding is still available in 2020. As far as the coming years, that is going to be another conversation on the outlay, but for the rest of this year, there have already been appropriated funds set aside for specific grants.

And right now, they are much less competitive. Huh? Seems strange at a moment in time when we will see a lot of nonprofits close shop that there is funding sitting there that they are not tapping into.

Believe you me, I am seeing many grant reviewers not getting called right now because the average number of grant submissions is way lower than normal! That means fewer nonprofits competing and therefore will lead to the grant process being less competitive. The time is opportune to hop on the grant application train. However, many nonprofits aren’t doing that.

Why? My outlook on this comes down to a few different reasons.

Reason #1 Nonprofits Aren’t Applying for Standard Grants: There are sexier options.

One reason is that there is a lot of other funding that is a lot sexier than the standard grants. EIDL, PPP, state grants, and foundation specific coronavirus funding is huge, seen as easier to get, and trending. Therefore, many nonprofits have put the regular grants aside to tap into this mega funding to keep their doors open.

I am not saying that they should not do this because they should if it makes sense and they are eligible. They definitely should.

And, yes, some of these funding applications are way easier than standard grants as they funding initiatives are meant to get pushed out quickly.

But many of these grants and loans are meant to be Band-Aids. They are for a specific time and many are dedicated to operational pauses.

The long-term health of your nonprofit, or the nonprofits you work with, should not be forgotten with other grants that are more specific and program-oriented.

This gets to my next observation.

Reason #2 Nonprofits Aren’t Applying for Standard Grants: Uncertainty

With not knowing what the rest of 2020 or 2021 looks like, it is hard for many leaders to make decisions on what projects make sense to continue, grow, or start.

These times are certainly uncertain. But not making a decisive move right now will be the reason many nonprofits don’t succeed. I encourage nonprofit leaders to really hit the strategic planning processes and figure out which projects to cut, revise, or begin now. Waiting around to see what will happen is just not an option. Using the pandemic as an excuse not to make a decision or to lead will weakly be accepted, but the movers and the shakers are the true leaders at this point in time that will shine brighter – even if they make mistakes along the way – than the leaders who lean back and miss opportunities.

Kind of harsh, huh? Yep, but I am a firm believer that now we know our threats (the pandemic), we can also hone down on the strengths and opportunities to take control of what we can take control of. Responding and preparing is something you can control. Kicking back and seeing what will happen is where you float in uncertainty, and honestly don’t have any control.

Right now, there are grants available. Money is in the economy. Actively pursue what you can right now and start preparing for what makes sense with your nonprofits by pulling in your team and people that have experience in strategic planning. To find out more hacks on strategic planning so you can lead your organization, check out the June podcasts episodes 124 – 127 (see below for the links).

Reason #3 Nonprofits Aren’t Applying for Standard Grants: Loss of Experts

Maybe you would absolutely love to apply for grants right now, but you have had to lay off your development coordinator or just do not know what to do. If you have had to furlough your employees or lay off your staff that is a tough spot to be in.

One solution is that you could reach out to universities to see if their students need an online internship. This could be helpful in providing an internship that can be done online and give your nonprofit some real support. Another solution could be getting your board of directors involved in writing grants. Another solution could be hiring a grant writer. I know, you have had to lay off someone so why would you hire a grant writer consultant? Well, maybe you can afford someone, but you just can’t afford to pay for insurance, FICA, and all the pressure that comes with keeping an employee. Plus, your former employee may have never won a grant. However, you might be able to afford $5000 or $10,000 for an expert to write a certain number of grants. That may make more sense for you.

Where you can find grants

Grants are out there! These include federal, state, and foundation grants.

Federal Grants

The best place to find federal grants is on grants.gov. If you want a full video to show you how to utilize grants.gov, please check out Podcast Episode 028: Grants.gov in a Nutshell: Pros and Cons.

Basically Grants.gov is the place that houses all federal grants. It is free! You can search for grants using advanced terms on grants.gov.

Another place you can find federal grants is by browsing the federal agency websites. For example, if your nonprofit serves people in recovery you might want to go to the SAMHSA website. In this way, you can also find out more information on current and previously awarded projects and get a better feel for the priority of the agency.

For a list of all the federal agency websites:

Federal Agencies

State Grants

Some state grants will actually comprise of part or all of federal pass-thru. This basically means that the federal government divvies up grant monies for the states to administer. Of course, this isn’t all state grants. Different state taxes also include funding for grants that are specific for nonprofits within the state or region.

To tap into this funding, you will need to go to your state, county, and city websites and start searching for ‘Request for Proposals’ and ‘Grants’. Other places that states like to post grant announcements are in newspapers, social media, community boards, libraries, and other places where the community has access.

Foundation Grants

Foundation grants are funded through non-government organizations. These are through corporate, private, individual, or family initiatives and are given for very specific priorities or geographic areas.

What you will notice is that where foundation grants are housed can be a pay-to-play place. This is for good reason as these sites spend a lot of time and money scanning foundation websites and 990s, so you don’t have to. However, there are some other ways to find these without paying.

You can find these grants through the following means:

  • GuideStar: Check out podcast episode 032: Finding Grants on GuideStar for a full tutorial. GuideStar is a fantastic website that gives you free information to post information about your nonprofit but also to investigate foundations and what they fund. Now there is also a paid element of GuideStar, but you can search and find quite a bit with the free version. While you are there make sure you update your nonprofit’s profile. Or if you are a freelancer this is another service you can tie into a package. Foundations do check GuideStar sometimes before awarding grants to nonprofits. This helps with credibility.
  • Google: Yep, I said it, but don’t we all do this. With more foundations having a website this might help you find updated information on their grant applications. Yes, Googling is free, however, the downfall is that it’s not the best way to target foundations and you get a lot of unnecessary information to wade through.
  • Social Media: If you know the foundations you drool over, then follow them on social media. In this way, you can easily search for them with hashtags and follow upcoming grant announcements.
  • Instrumentl: This is a paid service, but I love it. Instrumentl continually updates their information with foundation and funding information. In this way, you actually fill out some information about the different projects you are wanting to get funding for, and it will find grant announcements for you. It’s kind of like Tinder for grants. Awesome. If you want to check it out be sure to use the code Holly15 to get 15% off your subscription. I’ve had one of the co-founders, Angela Braren, on the podcast and she gave a behind-the-scenes of Instrumentl and the discount to all of you Grant Writing & Funding podcast listeners. Here is your link for a coupon.
  • Foundation Directory Online and Others: If you want to pay for a subscription, there are many, many different online directories. Foundation Directory Online is one of the oldies, but goodies, but is pricey. There are a bunch of other ones, as well.

How to Get Grants: Why you should charge if you are a freelancer and how you can pay if you are a nonprofit

Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty. A lot of freelancers are asking if they should charge right now or even approach nonprofits. The answer to that is yes and yes.

Freelancers: Reasons you should not feel bad about charging are the following:

  • Certain nonprofits and city governments have gotten CARES Act funding to build their capacity. They have money they need to spend on developing this and that means funding you.
  • Because of losing staff, many nonprofits are looking for consultants who are experts in grant writing.
  • You still have to pay your bills, right? Remember you conduct a service just like a lawyer, a plumber, and a bookkeeper.
  • Yes, the economy is shifting in many respects right now, but there is still money out there.

Nonprofit leaders, you can still pay freelancers to help you with grants! How?

  • Remember that these experts can help you fast-track funding.
  • Look for capacity building grants and write grant writers and development coordinators into future grants so you can pay for future services with grant funding. Remember, you can’t pay a grant writer on commission, however, you can write them into future grants that can pay for future work.

So, there you go, in a nutshell, this is the Why, Where, and How you Must Apply for Grant Funding Today.

The current grant environment is ripe with opportunities. But many nonprofits are not focused on pursuing these prospects due to other funding available, being stagnant with uncertainty, or lacking skilled staff.

Places where you can find federal, state, and foundation grants include places like grants.gov, newspapers, and Instrumentl.

And finally, it is important the freelance grant writers understand that they can charge for grant writing and will be supporting nonprofits by doing this. Additionally, nonprofits can get creative in how they fund consultants and it is important that they see this is a time when grants are less competitive.

If you liked this article, please leave a review on iTunes or your podcast listener. This really helps others find these resources and up-level their freelance business or nonprofit.

I’ll see you all next week as we spend more time scratching back the surface of grants, funding, and running a successful freelance grant writing biz or nonprofit consultancy. Plus, it’s my birthday week next week and I’ll be giving away some goodies!

List of Sources and Data:

List any sources or data that you want to include in your post:

  1. Episode 116: COVID19 Funding, Grants, and Loans for Nonprofits & Freelancers
  2. Episode 028: Grants.gov in a Nutshell: Pros and Cons
  3. Federal Grants: Grants.gov
  4. Foundation Grants: https://www.guidestar.org/
  5. Finding Grants on GuideStar: YouTube video
  6. Episode 107: Behind the Scenes with the Co-Founder of Instrumentl
  7. Episode 124: 4 Reasons to Expand (Not Grow) Your Nonprofit or Freelance Consultancy
  8. Episode 125: How to Make Decisions Swiftly and Lead Your Organization
  9. Episode 126: Strategic Planning Crash Course 10 Steps To Skyrocket Your Nonprofit or Freelance Biz
  10. Episode 127: Strategic Hacks To Rethink Fundraising To Grow A Nonprofit With Samantha Taitano


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