Grants: 3 Ways to Win General Operating Grants

It’s every nonprofit administrator’s dream to snag grant funding for the ongoing, day-to-day operations of the organization. While general operating grants are still far less common than project-focused grants, the importance of supporting overhead expenses is increasingly recognized in the philanthropic sector.

    “It’s extremely rare for general operating grants to result from cold-call proposals,” said Barbara Floersch, executive director of The Grantsmanship Center in Los Angeles, Calif. “As a rule of thumb, funders require a solid understanding of an organization’s impact and management before they’re willing to invest in its core operations.” When positioning your organization to win general operating grants, consider these three strategies.

  • Focus on Stewardship. In the frantic, everyday life of running a nonprofit, nurturing relationships with funders gets pushed to the bottom of the to-do list again and again. But unless you keep funders informed of progress, engage them in your work, and think of them as partners, the deep mutual understanding and commitment that spawns general operating support is unlikely to develop. When administrators and board members build relationships with funders, they’re laying the groundwork for a general operations grant request.
  • Welcome Evaluation. Document your organization’s effectiveness. Don’t think of evaluation as a grant requirement, think of it as a form of gold mining. Some data will spur critical course corrections, and some will yield proof of impact. Ongoing evaluation keeps projects on track, demonstrates the value of your work, and goes a long way in convincing funders of the quality of your organization’s management.
  • Begin the Discussion. Identify the funders with whom your organization is best connected and open a dialogue about the possibility of general operating grants. Be equipped to articulate the organization’s financial needs and to explain how support for core operations will increase effectiveness. A focus on stewardship will lay the groundwork for the discussion, and a focus on evaluation will provide facts and figures to document impact.

A general operating grant is a vote of trust. Funders need to value your organization’s impact, trust its management, understand its financial position, and feel a deep commitment to its work. © Copyright 2017 The Grantsmanship Center.