Your organization needs a new website. You’ve discussed, deliberated and your board is in agreement. Now you need funds.
Oh, right. FUNDS. Money: It (or lack thereof) always gets in the way of a good time, right?
Here’s where a lot of nonprofits say, “Welp, it was a nice thought,” and then decide they don’t want to fundraise for yet one more thing. Plus how do they make a new website sound like a compelling ask—and they settle for their current site, which still doesn’t let donors make an online donation or register for events or sign up to volunteer without going to a third-party form.
Bleh. That’s depressing. So, we’d like to offer you another choice.
Many times, nonprofits we work with are successful at writing grants to cover the costs of updating or refreshing their website. You could luck out and get a website donated, but that’s uncommon, plus it can carry risks. You don’t know what level of quality you’ll get, if there will be support, what the backend looks like, or if there’s a user-friendly content management system.
So, for now, let’s focus on the grant idea, which we love, over the “donated website” idea, which we’re very iffy about.
Here are five tips to get you started on grant funding for a new website:
1. Make sure you’re a good fit.
Before you ever submit a grant proposal to a funder, be sure that their interests match well with your organization’s mission—if there’s not alignment, find another funder. Grant funding is highly competitive, and grant writing is time-consuming. Set yourself up for success by doing a little homework and only appealing to funders who seem to be a good fit with your org and its cause.
2. Remember your audience.
You’re not writing to those directly involved with your org, so you want to be careful to keep that in mind. You’re writing to an outside party—what would be important to them or compel them to fund your request? Assume that the funder isn’t familiar at all with the work you do (or the jargon you use), and write as if they will be hearing about your nonprofit for the first time.
For example, you know a new website with more robust functionality and updated features would certainly make your team’s life easier! But a better approach might be to focus on how a new website will further your mission and benefit your donors, constituents and board members with online donation processing and password-protected portals. Ask yourself, “What does this grant funder care about?” Then tailor your proposal in a way that addresses their priorities and values.
3. Write to persuade.
You want to inform, yes. “Here’s what we need, how much it will cost and how we’ll use it.” But you’re not just filling in the blanks with objective facts, figures and data; you’re writing to humans who have both a head and a heart. Persuasive nonprofit grant writing appeals not only to logic (data does matter), but to emotion, as well. How will an updated website help you impact more lives? Who will it benefit (outside of your team)?
Technology isn’t just a “nice to have” in today’s world; it’s a must-have, and an updated website is a tool that can significantly impact your impact. Depending on your current situation, a new website could be a game-changer for your org. So, while you want your proposal to inform, you also want it to inspire and persuade. “A new, more robust website will enable us to reach thousands more people who need support and raise 100s of thousands more dollars to aid people and families fighting addiction.” Successful grant applications focus on the impact.
4. Play by the rules.
There are typically several guidelines you need to follow for grant submissions. Well before the deadline review the application format, submission process, required attachments and other instructions. Is there a character count? Page number or font size requirements? Forms you need to include? Overlooking any important requirements could land your proposal squarely in the “no” pile, even if your case for funding is compelling. Be sure to dot the i’s and cross the t’s—and if that’s not your thing, find someone with an eagle eye for detail who’ll oversee this process.
5. Be resilient and gracious.
Real talk: Grant applications are often rejected the first time. Don’t let that deter you! Like a lot of fundraising, if you get a “no,” it may mean “not right now.” If your grant proposal is rejected, use this as an opportunity to build a warmer relationship with that funder by responding graciously. You’ll typically have more success with grant funding when you develop a personal connection with potential funders, and oftentimes that connection may begin with a “no”—but eventually end up with a “yes.”
One other important note: If you’re unfamiliar with grant writing or have no interest in writing, period, outsource it. You don’t want to DIY this task if your heart isn’t in it or you’re unsure how to do it effectively. You’re much more likely to get the desired results if you have a grant writer who knows and likes what they’re doing.
Want to learn more? Browse our blog library for more nonprofit-focused tips and tricks.