A Blog series to help small and medium-sized nonprofits win and grow grants

First things first

OK, the first step—are grants the right move for you right now? They are a tremendous drain of resources. This really depends on a critical part of your nonprofit resume—who is giving you money and how much.


I’m an intense specialist—I only do grants. I don’t do the other parts of nonprofit fundraising. I’ve come to think that nonprofit fundraising is sort of like a football team. The core elements you consider when you have a football team are offense and defense. There’s your individual giving, annual fundraising events, online donations, and end-of-year appeal. These are the essential and critically important elements of fundraising. They are the most important thing that you do! Let’s look at the numbers.

Statistics from the National Philanthropic Trust show why. In 2019, individual giving was $309.66 billion, compared with $21.09 billion from corporations and $75.69 billion from foundations. That’s more than three-quarters of all giving is coming from individuals. So If your approach is to fund your organization from grants, which make up less than 25% of the available resources that are out there, then you are crazy.

Especially when you’re starting out, individual giving will be your main driver. I wouldn’t recommend starting on a grants approach until you’ve reached stability of at least $150,000 each year from a combination of individuals and events.

Why? Because foundations and corporations are moneyballing (i.e., spreading their bets) philanthropy, too. They are looking for safe, secure bets to advance a particular mission. They don’t want to take risks. There are some grants for emerging organizations and start-ups, but they are few and far between—like finding a white guy who can dance. Sure, some white guys can dance. But don’t act like when you see it, you’re not surprised. (btw I cannot dance). 

So if individual giving is like the offense and defense, grants are like your special teams on a football team. Nobody should start building their fantasy football team with the kicker. Are we grant writers important? Yes! Can we put points on the board? Absolutely. And occasionally, we can run a kickoff back for a touchdown. But that shouldn’t be part of your core strategy

Grants are there to enhance your core approach and individual giving. They can put points on the board. They can help in numerous ways, and you must be focused and organized. But don’t forget that they are there to help you with your mission, not be the only thing that drives it. 


Matt Leighty
2920 W. Broad Street Ste 17
Richmond, Virginia 23230
6 Centerpointe Drive
La Palma, California 90623
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