Best Practices When Applying for Senior Care Grants
Grant funding can be a valuable addition to your senior care organization budget. Grants can help you to expand or start new programs, offer residents additional activities, and improve the quality of care that you’re able to offer. But applying for grants can be a tricky process, especially if you have minimal experience.
Arti Sharma, founder of Bespoke Writing Firm, has almost a decade of experience in the nonprofit industry and in grant writing. She explains how senior care organizations can improve their grant application process and increase their chances of securing funding.
Before You Start Searching for Grants
Sharma explains that the work of applying for grants begins even before you start writing an application. “I think it’s important for organizations to clearly understand what the issue they are trying to solve is,” she says. After identifying the issue, the organization needs to be able to define what effects are resulting from the issue and how it is impacting people, such as the organization residents.
With the problem defined, the organization needs to define their solution to that problem. It’s important to identify the steps that the organization is taking to implement that solution.
Sharma explains that it’s also important to back up those statements with research. That research could be stories from community members, data, and more, and that research helps to establish the credibility of the organization’s request of a funder.
Finding and Identifying Appropriate Grant Opportunities
With some of that background work done, an organization will have a better idea of the types of grant opportunities that are the best fit for their needs. That clearer understanding can make the process of finding relevant grant opportunities simpler.
When it comes to searching for grants, there are several places to look. Sites like CMS.gov and HHS.gov occasionally post healthcare-related grant opportunities. An organization’s state government website can be another helpful resource.
When it comes to searching for funders, Sharma recommends searching the grants.gov website, which provides a comprehensive listing of Federal grants. There are also several databases available that allow you to search for foundation grants. Using these websites, you can search for funders who have given to similar types of causes in the past. “You are able to narrow down your list to who will be interested in funding the program or facility,” Sharma explains.
If considering a foundation grant, Sharma recommends reviewing the funder’s recent Form 990s, which you can access on sites like GuideStar. You can use the 990s to look at the funder’s interests, see how much they have previously given to organizations, and to get a sense of whether the funder is more interested in funding capital items or operational expenses.
The 990s can also help you to determine if you have any valuable connections to the funder that you could use to build a relationship. “See who are their board members, and pass that list around to your board,” recommends Sharma. If any of your organization’s board members know the funder’s board members, you could use this connection to start a conversation. “Talking one-on-one with a foundation board member can help you to sift your way through the process faster and see if your project is something that they would be interested in.”
This could pay off in several ways. Knowing that there is interest, you could focus your attention on creating an application. And if you discover that there isn’t interest, or that the timing isn’t right, you could save yourself valuable time and instead focus on applications for other opportunities.
Preparing Grant Applications
Before you start an application, Sharma recommends developing the right grant writing team. She recommends including program staff, since they are the ones performing the work “on the ground.” Once the application is drafted, Sharma recommends having program staff review it for accuracy.
If you hire a grant writer, then make sure that the writer is involved and able to see and experience the work the organization does. Sharma explains that if she were hired to write a grant application for an organization, she would want to visit that organization so she could see and develop an understanding of the work being performed.
It’s equally important to ensure that you have a fiscal staff member assisting with the budget section of your grant applications. “If your finances aren’t correct, even if that’s unintentional, then you’re misleading the donor,” says Sharma. “Your organization can get in trouble for that.” She recommends that a fiscal staff member complete the budget sections and stay involved in the grant writing process. “They can break down project budgets, including what you’ve been spending, and can also help you to determine how much money you need in each of the areas,” she says.
As you identify relevant grant opportunities that you would like to apply to, make sure to budget enough time for that application development. “The actual grant writing process varies,” says Sharma. “You would probably spend at least two to three weeks developing an application for a program ask that you’re already familiar with. You would need to give updated statistics and source updated internal data, and you often have to wait on other people to give you that information.”
Grant applications for new projects can take significantly longer, and Sharma recommends to budget anywhere from a few months to a year to craft those applications. Your organization will need to identify measurables and deliverables, and the complexity of the grant application can also affect how much time you will need to prepare it.
Sharma cautions against submitting grant applications that aren’t polished and reflective of your best work. “Funders know each other, so you want to be mindful of not just throwing in applications,” she notes. She explains that it’s important to not present yourself as desperate for money. Instead, demonstrate need and how your solution can help, and show that you have support for your cause. That support might come in the form of community engagement and relationships, but it can also be valuable to show that other grantmakers have funded the opportunity, too. “Funders want to see you leveraging the grant with other types of funding,” says Sharma. “They are more likely to come on board if you have other funding and won’t depend on them to fund your project year after year.”
Additional Strategies for Success
If you are awarded a grant, be prepared to perform all additional reporting, and to submit that reporting on time. Some grantmakers require quarterly interim and/or end of grant reporting. “Have a system where someone is on top of all of those deadlines,” says Sharma.
Most importantly, Sharma recommends, be patient. “Many grants don’t get funded.” If your application isn’t funded, then learn from the experience and try to maintain a relationship with the funder. Grant writing is time-consuming and highly detail-oriented, but when you implement these best practices, you can increase the chance of your applications being funded.
Topics: Administration , Facility management , Featured Articles , Regulatory Compliance , Staffing , Technology & IT