Many smaller (often grass-roots) NGOs with small budgets have difficulty finding funding for their projects. Their capacity to research donors is limited. They also feel most donors prefer giving large grants to well-known NGOs. At the same time, thousands of small NGOs around the world are successfully attracting small grants from interested donors. How do they manage this? This short guide provides answers on funding and successfully applying for small grants.
What is a small grant?
Though there is no formal definition of a small grant, for the purposes of this guide we will assume small grants to range from $100 to $25,000. We also assume that small grants are typically earmarked for small, local NGOs with limited budgets.
Why would funders give to small NGOs?
Many small NGOs feel that they are at a great disadvantage when it comes to fundraising compared to large high-capacity NGOs and that few donors give out small grants. Our research indicates that this is not necessarily the case and that donors around the world are providing small grants to NGOs (see below).
What could be some of their reasons?
- The donors has limited resources and only gives away small amounts
- The donor is interested in helping small NGOs that work at the grass roots level
- The donor feels small organizations are more nimble and can work more effectively
- The donor feels they will be more influential funding a smaller NGO
- Smaller NGOs work in the specific area the donor is interested in
- The donor wants to spread its wealth (give small amounts to many NGOs)
- And many more….
Where do I start?
What do I need funding for? Make sure you clearly develop the program that requires funding. In order to identify a good donor and submit a successful application you need to be very clear on what it is you are going to implement and what results (impact) the program is going to achieve.
How much do we need? Also budget out the program and identify the total resources needed. Can one small grant cover the entire program, or do we need several donors to do this? Before we can ask a donor for funding we need to know for what and how much we are asking.
While it is difficult to find accurate statistics on the number of small versus large grants, a review of US Foundation grants to Tanzanian NGOs is instructive. From some 490 grants given to Tanzanian NGOs since 2003, almost 60% were small grants (8% were under $5,000; 19% under $10,000; 41% under $15,000; 58% under $25,000). Though only one example, this shows that many donors are in fact effectively providing small grants to NGOs.
So now we know that donors do give small grants, but how do we find them?
- Sign up for fundsforngos.org and other newsletters that provide funding information on small grants
- Check websites and annual reports of NGOs that are of a similar size and scope to your NGO to check who funds them
- Check databases of funders (e.g. the Foundation Center Directory of Foundations in the US)
- Check donor websites for guidelines and funding criteria
- Ask peers and colleagues for suggestions
How do I contact these donors? Once you have identified a list of potential donors reach out to them. Email or phone them and request a meeting in person (if they are located in the country/city where you work) or by phone/Skype (if they are located elsewhere). Once you make contact be sure to ask more about their goals and strategies – what is it they want from an NGO? Next provide information on your NGO and project and propose that you send them a short concept note that outlines a program in which they could be interested.
What shall we send them? Send the donor a concept note that summarizes the program and budget. Do not send them a big proposal with annexes unless they have asked for this specifically. Set a date to follow-up with this donor. Answer any questions they might have and ask for feedback.
Getting to yes. If the donor is not interested thank them for reviewing the concept note and indicate you will get back to them in future. Try again with a revised or different proposal six months or so later. No often means – not now – so don’t give up too quickly. If the donor is interested they will often ask you for a more detailed proposal. Keep your fingers crossed for them to say yes!