Capacity Building Grants 101 (Part II)

(Just a heads up that this blog post is part of a series. If you have not already done so, make sure you read Capacity Building Grants 101 (Part I) to find out more about what makes your organization an ideal candidate for capacity building grants).

Hey everyone,

If you’ve gotten to this point in the series, you’ve already assessed your nonprofit as a perfect candidate for a capacity building grant. You’re doing amazing things and can speak to those accomplishments, your board is fundraising (and in most cases contributing) and you’re operating cash-positively! All of these are qualities partners love to see, and will help them to support you. But how do you find your ideal foundation partners?

Start with your board

When assessing potential partners, start looking at foundations that you may already have existing connections to. You’d be surprised to find there are some you may have not known about! I was talking to one of my clients, and it turned out that one of our board members wrote a grant for a foundation for his day job, so he already knew what the process looked like. Another one of my clients had a board member who knew someone at a foundation through mutual friends. Lastly, even just striking up a conversation with one of my friends, I found out she helped an organization win a grant through her employer! Looking through your connections and seeing where those outside connections might be could help at least get you an appointment with the foundation so they can hear more about the good work you’re doing.

Look for local partners

There are no grantors more invested in your nonprofit’s success, than the ones right here at home! I called up a grantor in one of my client’s counties, and their Executive Assistant was so enthusiastic about what we had to offer. Her first question was “How had I not heard of you before? You should be applying to us every year!” That local, home-grown enthusiasm is something that you’ll definitely receive when setting aside time with local foundations. Also, if you do not get the grant in the first round, they’re usually the first to tell you why, and ask for quarterly updates on what you are doing should they decide to fund you in the future. Local foundations can be major contributors to your organization’s success, and you can find them through websites like Foundation Directory Online and Pivot. I have access to both and can help you to find funders that meet your needs.

Look for organizational keywords

If you’ve looked locally and through your board and are still trying to find that ideal match, look at keywords in grant proposal categories. If they talk about scaling, or opportunity funds, or building, these are likely capacity building grants. Sometimes these grants are smaller than the General Operating Support grants, but if you apply for them and you do well on your post-grant report, they will see that you are a reliable organization they can support in the future!

Lastly, catch up with foundations where they are:

If there are opportunities to schedule calls with foundations, meet up at foundation events, and even just write a letter to a prospective foundation, take them! Just because they do not accept your proposal the first time does not mean you won’t be competitive the second time. This happened with one of my clients, when I asked what we could do better, they replied back and said “we’ve committed our funds to other nonprofits this round, but I’ll bookmark your email and let you know when our application opens back up for the second round!” Sometimes timing is a huge part of it, so communication is key!

I hope that you found Part II to be useful in your search for capacity building grants, Part III will be discussing in more depth, a few best practices around how to make a stronger capacity building grant application. If you have any thoughts around areas you’d like to see, shoot me an email at :)

Janet Gonzales