7 Ways Applying For A Grant is Just Like Applying For A Job

By Mehron Price

Have you heard “No” more often than you’d like to when submitting grant applications? Who knew that applying for a grant was so similar to applying for a job?

Make sure to check out these 7 similarities between applying for a grant and applying for a job before you hit “Send” on your next grant application to draw some great lessons from the job search.

1.      Focus On Building A Long-Term Relationship

Just like with applying for a job, you’re trying to build a relationship. Most people in the job search aren’t looking to jump from job to job. It’s the same thing with applying for a grant. Few funders start out any organization with multi-year funding, so if your goal is to secure a stable source of funding, you are better off investing the time up-front to make sure you’re really connecting with funders whose missions align with yours. If not, sending off a proposal is a waste of your time and theirs.

2.      Sometimes It’s Who, Not What, You Know

This is definitely more true in the job market than we’d like it to be, right? Sometimes personal connections are really the best way to be considered for funding. Have you researched the Foundation’s staff and Board thoroughly? Are there any connections between your Board and theirs? Particularly for Foundations who do not take unsolicited proposals, an personal connection is really the only way to get noticed.

3.      It Takes Time

Just like with finding your dream job, finding the right supporters for your organization takes time. Foundations want to make sure that they are investing in the right organizations that further their grantmaking priorities. Making sure that you really align with what they’re looking for is a great way to start, but you have to be willing to give the relationship the time it requires in order to mature.

4.      Get An Informational Interview

Wherever possible, talking to someone at the Foundation is a great way to assess your fit for a grant. Wherever possible, you should try to accompany your letter of intent (LOI) or grant proposal with some form of personal contact. Some Foundations conduct 15-minute phone calls with interested nonprofits to assess fit. If this is an option, take advantage of it. Reaching out to a program officer is another great way to check if your nonprofit’s mission aligns with what the Foundation is looking to fund.

5.      You Have To Be The Right ‘Fit’

Ah yes, the dreaded “not the right fit” response. While few people enjoy hearing this at the conclusion of the hiring process, sometimes your organization will really just not be the right fit for what the Foundation is looking to fund. You don’t know how you stack up to the competition of other organizations that apply, so recognize that part of the process is out of your hands.

This is why initial conversations with Foundation staff, when they’re available, are so helpful – they will save you and the Foundation time if you’re not exactly what the Foundation is looking for. Carefully researching how you stack up to the Foundation’s grantmaking priorities is a great way to do the best job you can in assessing your fit. Here’s a tip: if you don’t meet the criteria, don’t apply.

6.      It Has To Be The Right Time

Similar to the issue of fit, it also has to be the right time to apply. If you’ve ever worked in a position of hiring staff, we’ve all seen that amazing resume that came in right after the last position was filled, right? Sometimes you can be a great fit but come in at the wrong time. Shake it off and work on applications to the other Foundations who may be looking for an organization like yours!

7.      Sometimes It Has Nothing To Do With You

This is probably the hardest pill to swallow, but just like with hiring rejections, sometimes grant proposal rejections have nothing to do with your organization. There are any number of reasons why a Foundation may reject a proposal, and life happens. Keep it going, be resilient, and send off the next application!

What similarities do you see between applying for a job and applying for a grant? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Mehron Price is the Founder of Grants on a Mission, LLC. Grants on a Mission provides nonprofits with high-quality support in developing exceptional fundraising strategies. Our vision is to see (and help bring about) a well-resourced nonprofit sector that is able to make strategic decisions based on their missions, not on the next funding cycle.