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How to Keep Our Community Investments Team Jumping for Joy (AKA How to Strengthen Your Grant Application)

Community Investments Team (left to right): Amy Schneider, Rubayi Estes,
Guille Gil-Reynoso, Kathy Simas, Sadye Terre

We love our nonprofits. You are our light, our pride, our joy and the most rewarding part of our work. You are the reason we get up in the morning! Some days we skip down the foundation hallways bursting into song and read grant applications as if they are award-winning novels. Other days... we spend more time searching than singing. That being said, we thought that maybe, just maybe, it would be helpful to provide all of you awesome nonprofits with a list of ways to keep our community investments team jumping for joy while also strengthening your grant application.

  1. Troll us online. Stalk our website, memorize the guidelines and ensure that your proposed project is aligned with a relevant grant program.
  2. Read the directions. Then read them again. We love it when people follow the instructions for completing an application and submitting the proposal.
  3. Make your proposal clear and relevant to one or more elements of a vibrant community. Presenting a clear strategy that directly relates to one of our target areas is basically gold in the form of a grant application.
  4. Be direct in your language. While we want detail, you only have a limited amount of space to convince us that you are the greatest thing since sliced bread, so try to include the most important details as clearly and concisely as possible.
  5. Clearly define the need. Tell us why your project is timely and important so we can understand EXACTLY how awesome you are for trying to help those who need it most!
  6. Show us detailed plans and objectives. We want to know all the dirty details about exactly how you are going to get it done. We want the timelines, facts and evidence to support your solution, project or program. If you understand your project and do your homework, then so will we!
  7. Go ahead and brag! Tell us how awesome you are! We want to hear that your executive director, board members and staff can lead your organization to success.
  8. Be real about money. Show us that you understand the financial realities, challenges and opportunities for your campaign or project and be as detailed as possible – include revenues and expenses, provide justification for your numbers and PLEASE double-check your math.
  9. Include all of the requested items and answer the questions, even if you think we know the answer. If we say to provide us with four items and you only give us two…
  10. Demonstrate how you are going to evaluate and measure the success of your campaign or project in realistic terms. Show us how you are going to positively impact the community both in numbers and through human interest – we eat that stuff up!
  11. Accept denials with style. Community investment officers do all they can to provide constructive feedback to support future submissions to our grant programs or to those of other funders. Sometimes the pool is particularly competitive and we simply cannot fund many worthwhile projects.
  12. Don’t be shy. Call us, text us, linger in the foundation hallways to find us, just please, please, please ask questions and communicate – especially before the last minute! We are here to help and assist you in any way that we can and are always eager to offer advice.

Bonus points: Send us glowing letters about how many things you are accomplishing with our help and acknowledge the foundation in your materials and news releases about projects where our support was critical. Not only can this be used to advocate for future support, but, believe us, nothing else makes us jump for joy quite like this!
North County Headquarters:  (805) 346-6123  |   2625 S. Miller Street, Suite 101, Santa Maria, CA 93455
South County Headquarters:  (805) 963-1873  |  1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101