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Grant Prospecting 101 

It’s the beginning of 2023, and the perfect time to start financial planning for your nonprofit! As you’re in the spirit of New Year’s organizing and goal setting for where your nonprofit can be by the end of 2023, here’s an article that can walk you through building your 2023 grant prospecting plan.  

What is Grant Prospecting? 

So, when you think of “prospecting”, you might think of gold rushes and oil tycoons. You’re not far off! When you find the perfect grant opportunity, it really is like striking gold. 

In essence, grant prospecting is specialized research focused on identifying opportunities to apply for grants. It involves researching grantmakers’ grant lifecycles and giving histories and identifying if there is the right amount of alignment and feasibility for you to apply.  

How Do I Plan to Prospect for Grants? 

It can be overwhelming to sort through the vast amount of information that exists in the grant universe- there are many different types of grants, for many different funding amounts and even “in-kind”, non-cash opportunities as well. Funders can support broad expenses like general operating support, or specific awards like project and training-related grants.  

To keep things focused and simple when it comes to prospecting, keep your focus on the following areas: 

  1. The amount of money you need to raise through grant funding according to your 2023 organizational budget. This will determine the overall amount of grant opportunities 
  2. Decide what type of projects you are looking to get funded. For example, are you looking for general operating funding, or funding for a specific project or program? 
  3. Look for prospect opportunities from grantmakers that have funding priorities that align with your organization’s mission and vision, and/or the project that you are looking to get funded. 
  4. The staff time you have available to write and report on grants. Remember, grants always require time and effort in administration and accounting! 

How Do I Keep Track of Grant Prospects? 

There are a number of different tools you can use to track grant prospects, from paid subscriptions like Instrumentl or GrantHub, to more simplified spreadsheets and documents. If you are just starting out with grant prospecting, the best method for you is to get all of your thoughts down into a spreadsheet like Google Sheets or Excel, and from there, build out a tailored database to address all the key pieces of information you would like to include.

How Many Grant Prospects Do I Need? 

When prospecting, it is good to have a fundraising goal in mind in terms of how much you want to raise and what programs need to be prioritized. You will also want to spend time every quarter identifying what opportunities are materializing in the next few months as funder deadlines and priorities can change annually. If you would like to take a page from the pros, you can look at each opportunity and assign a weighted point value to it to estimate your likelihood of receiving it.  

5 Tips for Effective Grant Prospecting 

1. Plan Your Year’s Finances in Advance 

Yesterday was the best day to start prospecting, and the next best day is today! A comprehensive fundraising plan is essential to ensure you find the ideal amount of funding through grant prospecting. Know how much grant funding you are looking to identify each month before you begin prospecting. 

2. But Also Plan Time for Last-Minute Opportunities 

Sometimes, grant opportunities can surprise you! Funding isn’t always finalized at the beginning of the year. There can be RFPs that pop up throughout 2023 that you won’t hear about until the quarter (or month!) that they are announced. So, make sure to build in time to evaluate the grant prospect landscape throughout the year. 

3. Dedicate Time to Prospecting  

Identifying high-probability grant opportunities is essential for the financial health of your organization. Make sure that you set aside a few weeks at the beginning of the year to really hone in on what the grants landscape looks like for 2023, and quarterly or monthly time windows to evaluate through the year. 

4. Have A Board-Approved Budget at the Get-Go 

Your nonprofit’s budget is closely tied to your grant prospecting. Don’t go into      prospecting with the mentality that “we should just try to get as much money as we can”. Grants can require a large amount of reporting and administration, you should carefully align your grant goals with your grant fundraising efforts.  

5. Assess Your Network for Grant Opportunities 

Your nonprofit board and volunteer network are key to the grant prospecting process. Grantmakers that you have a “warm” connection to are much more likely to be awarded. Tap your board and volunteers to look at your grant prospect calendar and identify and connections between your organization and the grant funder you are applying to. 

Next Steps 

So now you have a solid plan you can use to start your 2023 grant prospecting on the right foot! Remember that you cannot predict everything, even with the most carefully crafted plans, so leave yourself enough flexibility to adjust your prospecting efforts as your nonprofit’s needs inevitably change throughout the year.  

Another option that is open to you is to hand this project off to the Social Impact team here at the Woolf Group! For some folks with tight schedules and time budgets, that might be your best option, as we take on the grant prospecting research and management process. We can utilize our extensive experience and specialized prospecting tools to streamline the process- and even write grants for you if you need, too!  

For more information about how we can collaborate on your grant prospecting needs, contact us for a virtual appointment. 


By Catherine Ruff, TWG Social Impact Specialist and Strategy Consultant