What kind of nonprofit are you working with?

Over in my Facebook group, The Nonprofit Grant Writers Mastermind, we’ve been having a discussion about whether a church is a nonprofit, with or without a 501 c 3, along with other matters associated with those pesky IRS designations.

One of our members is working with a church that does not have its 501 c 3 designation from the IRS, although by virtue of being a church, it does qualify as a nonprofit. The member is writing a grant proposal and wonders if not having a 501 c 3 status will hurt their chances.

The discussion made me wonder about all the different designations included under the 501 category. I located this post that describes the difference in the designation codes. Posted by The Balance, maybe it will help you better understand all the different nonprofit categories used by the IRS.

If you aren’t a member of The Nonprofit Grant Writers Mastermind, ask to join and check out our discussion on the topic.

I’ve been a freelance grant writer for a long time. One common trait among the organizations I’ve worked for is their need for a grant calendar. They seem to react in a panic when a grant opportunity arises. It usually happens when they are in the final week before their gala or when everyone is on vacation.

A grant calendar is an easy way to (gasp) plan ahead for upcoming opportunities and stop the panic. I was searching for a simple grant calendar that can be used by an organization and found this blog by Kerri Drumm. It has a link to a sample grant calendar. I think with some modifications, it could be used by a freelance grant writer who has to keep up with grant opportunities for several clients.

Do you use a grant calendar in your organization? What do you use and how is it working

If you have family foundations in your area you may be in luck. That is, if you can get your foot in the door.

In my geographic area, the secret to getting a grant from a family foundation is in building a relationship with a contact at the foundation. I suspect it’s that way everywhere.

I recently read a blog post from The Grantsmanship Center that deals with how to get make connections with family foundations. Give it a read and let me know if you have any successful secrets for creating relationships with family foundations.

Your mother taught you to say Please and Thank You when you were young, right? What about now that you are a grown-up grant writer?

Thanking your funder should be high on the list of to-do’s after you get your grant. During a recent conversation with a foundation director, he mentioned with a sigh, “You’d be surprised at how many grant recipients forget to thank us for the grant.” He seemed a little sad and a lot disgruntled. You can bet that when we got our grant from this organization, I made sure he got a great big Thank You.

Want to know more about what to do after you get the grant? This blog from Funding for Good will give you their First Five To-Do’s After Receiving a Grant.

We all do it – use jargon in our grant proposals. It makes perfect sense to me, and it’s the easiest way for me to say it, right?

The fact is that while you may understand the terms specific to your nonprofit, the board members of the foundation reading your grant application might not have a clue.

In her blog post, Kristina Leroux explains why we should cut the jargon and provides 4 ideas to recognize and reduce jargon in your writing.

Check out her blog post and then comment below with your own “worst offenders.”

Someone recently asked me how long it took to get where I am today with my grant writing career. That’s a hard question to answer. The simple answer is that I’ve been writing grants for over 25 years. But, how long did it take me to know what I was doing? That’s an entirely different answer. If you know my story, you know that I was not a “grant writer.” My job at my school district was eliminated but the new superintendent offered me a new job. Suddenly I was the new grant writer.

With no prior experience, it took me months of taking courses, attending seminars, and experimenting to find my way in my new profession. Looking back, I realize I needed a mentor – someone to give me the basics and end the frustration. It took me a long time to feel confident in writing grants. Now I have my voice and my way of doing things. I spend much less time on a grant because I have a process that works for me.

If you are a beginning grant writer or need someone to help you find your way, you’ll love my 5-day grant writing overview course. If you are interested, comment below and I’ll add your name to the list. This short course is a great way to dip you toes in the water and get a feel for grant writing.

I’ve got my nice new planner, all clean with no appointments in it yet. (There are appointments on sticky notes but nothing is written on those beautiful, clean pages yet.)

I prefer a paper planner that I can doodle in, take notes in, and slap sticky notes on, as well as an online calendar or app. I use a Google Calendar and set alerts. That way, I have something to actually ding me if I forget to look at the paper calendar, but I have the paper calendar to entertain myself and keep notes.

Have you got your planning done for 2017 yet? What’s that you say? ALL of 2017 already planned?

Yes, if you are a grant writer, you should be planning your year out right now. If you wait, you’ll risk missing important deadlines. We all know how the emergencies and urgent tasks often overtake the really important ones.

Here are 3 things you can do right now to get started on your grant planning for 2017:

  1. Think about the fun stuff.
  2. Review 2016.
  3. Make a plan to do better in 2017.

1. Think about the fun stuff.
I was writing a grant for an organization I volunteer for. I needed a way to tell their success stories, but no one on staff had kept any kind of file or records of successes. So, I went to their Facebook page and there it was.

All kinds of feel-good stories, photos, everything I needed. I didn’t have to wait for someone to find the photos and stories for me, and since it was all out there on Facebook, I felt pretty safe in using it in my reports and proposals. You should look over the Facebook posts your organization made in 2016 and pull out stories, facts, and photos you can use.

2. Review 2016.
Look back over your files and records to make notes on all the grants you applied for and all the ones you missed in 2017. Make a list of those you plan to apply for again in 2017, and note any outstanding reports you need to finish. Track down everything you can on those grants and organize your files. (I always have to fight the urge to throw things in piles and sort later, but that gets me in trouble if I don’t follow through with the sorting part.)

3. Make a plan to do better in 2017.
Decide right now that you are going to be more organized and keep better records in 2017. Being more organized means starting right now to decide what grants you are going to apply for and make a plan of attack. Don’t wait until you suddenly have that head/desk moment when you realize the deadline is next week and you haven’t even started on the proposal.

There, now you have 3 things you can start on right now to make 2017 your best grant year ever.

BONUS THING TO DO NOW!   Join the Challenge!
I’ve got it all organized for you. Just join my FREE 14-day Make 2017 Your Best Grant Year EVER Challenge. I’m organizing a few of the processes and practices I have learned and used over the years to help you Make 2017 Your Best Grant Year EVER.

The Challenge will consist of 14 emails with helpful hints and challenges to help you get organized for 2017. Yes, all of 2017.

You’ll get some suggestions for how to find your best projects, get your colleagues on board with you, track your efforts, and be ready to start each day knowing what you need to do to bring in the money.

If you want to join the fun, here’s the link: Make 2017 Your Best Grant Year EVER! It’s FREE, but the deadline to join is January 9. The Challenge begins on January 10. Hurry over today and sign up.

If you’re Facebook friends with me, you know I love animals and volunteer for a local animal rescue organization. I write several grant proposals for them every year.

Here’s where the lessons start, folks:
A good grant opportunity came up for our organization. The Director was out of town, but gave us permission to put the grant together. (That alone is a scary thought.)

Luckily we had a project on the back burner just waiting for an opportunity. We scrambled to get all the information needed, including those pesky financials as well as a source for our letter of support.

Of course, the letter of support was the hardest part of getting the proposal together, but at least we had the first contact made. I stopped by and introduced myself to the contact and offered to send him a “pre-written example” of a letter of support. He did his part and emailed the letter back quickly.

The clock was ticking and the deadline was near. We got it all together, checked one more time with the Director by email, and excitedly hit the submit button. Whew! We made it.

A few days later the finance director contacted me to say that she had heard from the granting organization. WOW, I thought.

But, here’s where things go terribly wrong:
The granting organization was checking our credentials and found we had an unfinished grant with them from several years ago! They generously gave us about a week to get that cleared up so we could be in the running with the new proposal.

Since our organization is fairly young, staff and record keeping procedures had changed over time. No one currently at the organization even knew there were outstanding grant reports.

Needless to say, the report didn’t get done in time, we didn’t get in the running for the new grant, and if my guess is right, we don’t look too credible with the granting agency.

Now, to the lessons learned from this experience:

  • Do your reports on time! Put them on your calendar and make sure you’re collecting the data needed for the report.
  • Have some fully fleshed out ideas on the back burner so if an opportunity pops up, you can be ready to pull a great proposal together.
  • Write a “sample” letter of support that you can provide to each local contact that is willing to support your project. Make it specific because they will probably copy and paste it on their letterhead and sign it. (I have a horror story about that, but we’ll save it for another day.)

I know it’s the holiday season, but since the year is closing out, please take time to look back over your year of grants and make sure everything is finalized and complete so you can start your New Year off right.


Speaking of starting the New Year off right, why not join my challenge to Make 2017 Your Best Grant Year Ever?

This email challenge is a great way for new grant writers to start planning for an organized and successful grant year. Seasoned grant writers can use it to put some structure behind their planning process.

If you want to Make 2017 Your Best Grant Year Ever, come and join the celebration. (It’s a 5-day challenge with a weekend in the middle for catch-up if needed.)

You can sign up now, but the challenge won’t start until January 10.

Oh, and did I mention its FREE?
But sign up right now as the doors on this opportunity close on January 9th.

Here’s what you should do now:
Click here to join the challenge.

That’s it. You’ll get the details in an email after you sign up!


Jo McMahan, The Grant Coach, has been in the business of writing grants and raising funds for over 25 years. Her experience includes writing grants for schools, hospitals, human needs organizations, and animal rescue groups. Her passion is teaching others how to write grants for their own organizations and helping new grant writers begin their grant writing careers.



Any seasoned grant writer will tell you there are a gazillion (don’t use that word in a grant proposal) places to find grant writing information. You can search for them on the Internet. But I don’t have time for that, so I look for one-stop shops that offer resources, funding information, and professional development.

To save time and get a good return on your investment, find a service that offers what you need and then stick with it. Get to know all it has to offer and slowly make them your go-to site for all things grants.

If you can locate a service that fits your needs, you will save yourself time and money in the long run. Here are the components of my favorite grant writing resource:

  • A great research tool that allows me to search for private foundations and government grants (never going to grants.gov again). A good resource will let me search by a variety of categories and will provide me with a good funder profile.
  • A weekly email newsletter that comes straight to my inbox. I need something that will tell me about new grant opportunities without having to remember to go to the site. Big. Time. Saver.
  • Professional development opportunities that are offered in a way that I like to consume them. I want something that offers blog posts, webinars, and podcasts.
  • Tutorials on basic grant writing as well as tips for seasoned writers. (I’ve been around a long time, but I’m always ready to learn something new.)
  • Other resources at my fingertips. There is a lot of great information out there. I need a service that collects it for me in one convenient site.
  • Affordable and convenient. I need research and learning at my desk, whenever I’m ready and at a price I can afford.

There are many great grant-writing resources out there, but I always consider that my time is money and I want something good, convenient, and provides value for the dollar.

I use GrantStation and after thinking about what I want in a service and looking at what they have to offer, I plan to use them more and more. They seem to fit the bill for me.

I hope the list above gives you something to think about and will encourage you to find your own go-to site that gives you everything you need. Spend your time bringing in the big bucks instead of surfing the Internet.

By the way, I think Grant Station is such a good value for the money that I got them to offer a fantastic (and secret) sale on a one-year subscription. As in less than $10 a month for 12 months good! Better than the sale they are offering on their website good!

Here’s what to do next:   Sign up for my 20 Tips for Great Grant Proposals and you’ll get on my list to receive the link for the special GrantStation sale on December 6th and 7th. (Remember, this sale is even BETTER than what they offer on their website.)

The Grant Coach

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