Lilah Crowe's Grant Writing Tips for Nonprofits

The Itasca County Historical Society has been a cultural gem of the Grand Rapids area for quite a few years now. People from across Itasca County and beyond have come to utilize their facilities and get to know more about their familial roots.

A driving force behind their fantastic programming and organization is their Executive Director,  Lilah Crowe. Lilah has helped to drive funding for the nonprofit organization and bring cultural enrichment to the local community. Her ability to help grow the 501c3 nonprofit has led her to be a seasoned grant writer with wise words for others looking to request funding for their nonprofits. Here are her top recommendations for working with your 501c3 and developing grants for web development.  

Don’t Run, You’ll Get Frustrated

Lilah laughs as she talks about all the ideas she is constantly coming up with for the Itasca Historical Society, “The board’s job is to focus the vision.” With any big transition or decision, it will take time. When Lilah wanted to have ICHS purchase a building instead of renting, it took 3 years before they were able to move forward. Changes are possible, they just take a lot of time when so many heads are involved. At this point in the moving process, Lilah started to realize that they needed to develop their website. This started a new quest to further understand what it takes to write a good website grant.

Websites Grants are Like Hitting a Moving Target

Grant companies really like solid things where they can see something accomplished. Websites are difficult in that sense because there is always room for future improvement. When you write a grant for a website, you can’t go back for more money when it runs out. You need to make sure that you are going to have a system and finances set in place to maintain the website once it’s built. Make sure that the grant company knows your plan of action to maintain your website if they fund you.

Find Others Doing Something Similar

Many times there are a few different organizations in the community that are reaching towards the same goal. Figure out how you can partner with them to combine your efforts. Lilah said they found the Genealogy Club had similar goals to theirs. They decided to partner in order to double their efforts. She says, “You need to define: this is what we can do apart, and this is what we can do together.” They faced some challenges in uniting the groups, but in the long run both groups were able to see the added benefit. “We had to give up our ownership and realize that this belongs to the people. You will not succeed unless you give that up.”

The unity has really expanded the borders much further than the Itasca Historical Society, and helped educate more than just the Itasca community. The partnership is starting to pay for itself. Lilah said they are now even able to get ancestry.com for those who want to utilize it.

How to Start Out With Grant Writing

Lilah says it’s important to utilize your local grant opportunities without over-reaching. Don’t ask for all of the grant money they have to offer. If you have a big project that needs funding, ask a few smaller grants to fund specific parts of the project instead of trying to fund the whole thing. You want to make sure that there is enough money to go around to other groups in the community they are looking to fund.

Amend grants when people choose to match you. Grant companies want to see that they are not the only ones to think your organization is valuable, and that you are working hard to get other money for your project. If you have a smaller grant come through, you can ask the larger grant to match the smaller one or amend part of the bigger grant cost if part of the project has already been funded.

How Do You Benefit Those They Care About?

Lilah suggested looking at local utility companies, local manufacturers, mining companies,  and larger Minnesota businesses for grant opportunities. Make sure to talk about how your foundation serves members in their service area or the customers of their business. Ask yourself, “What is this business passionate about, and how do we align with that passion in the services we provide to the community?”

Develop Long Term Relationships

When you work with grant companies, it’s important to get connected with people who are plugged into the business to know what they care about most. They’ll be able to tell you what areas of the grant need to be improved, and what is valuable to the company’s mission. Sending grant companies a picture of the completed work and a thank you note is incredibly valuable. Make them feel appreciated and proud of what they chose to put their money toward. If they request any signage regarding their contribution to a project, make sure that it is displayed nicely and in an appropriate spot.

Art Unlimited offers a huge thanks to Lilah Crowe for making this information to our readers possible! For more information about the Itasca County Historical Society, visit their website: http://www.itascahistorical.org/ . For more information on developing a website for your nonprofit, connect with Art Unlimited.

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