How to Present Your Organization's Qualifications when Applying for Grants

5 of 9 in Series: The Essentials of Finding and Applying for a Grant

Any funding source you approach will have questions about the grant applicant organization’s legal name and structure, such as nonprofit, unit of government (village, town, township, city, county, or state government agency), association, or membership-based organization.

Although the wording may vary slightly from one application to another, the cover documents (if applicable) and narratives of grant applications generally ask for the same basic information. Understanding exactly what the application is asking for and knowing how to reply in the right language is critical.

Don’t hesitate to call the funding source for assistance if you have questions about any portion of the application. Asking a funder for help won’t hurt your chances of getting a grant. In fact, doing so may even help because you’re filling out forms in the best possible way.

If you’re trying to enter your responses into an online electronic (e-grant) application, pay special attention to any word, character, or space limitations and stay within those limits.

The basic applicant information requested by all funders includes the following:

  • Legal name of the grant applicant: Be sure to list your organization’s legal name here. For charitable organizations, associations, and foundations, the legal name is the one that appears on the organization’s IRS 501(c)(3) or 501(c)(6) letter of nonprofit determination. (If you’re not sure, 501(c)(3) is the charitable designation, and 501(c)(6) is the association or membership designation.)

    For cities, townships, villages, county units of government, and public schools, which have a different classification of nonprofit status, the legal name is the incorporated name.

  • Type of grant applicant: Check the box that best describes your organization’s forming structure. For example, you can choose from state agency, county, municipal, township, interstate, intermunicipal, special district, independent school district, public college or university, Native American tribe, nonprofit, individual, private, profit-making organization, and other (which you have to specify).

    Is your organization a type of applicant that isn’t eligible? Search for a partner (government agency or nonprofit) that can be the lead grant application responder. Doing so gets dollars into the front door of your organization because you’re incorporated into the funding request as a subcontracting partner.

  • Year the grant applicant organization was founded: Enter the year your organization was incorporated or created. Often, the year of incorporation differs from the creation date because many nonprofit founders start providing programs and services first and seek incorporation several years later. You need to explain any such discrepancy in your opening narrative, which is the background/history narrative section.

  • Current grant applicant operating budget: Supply the organization’s 12-month operating budget total for the current fiscal year. Note that some funders also request the operating budget for the time period that the grant would cover. Always comply with whatever information is requested.

    When it comes to money, be sure to supply information that portrays the truth and nothing but the truth.

  • Grant applicant organization’s employer identification number (EIN) or taxpayer identification number (TIN): This portion of the form asks for the seven-digit EIN/TIN assigned to your organization by the IRS. The EIN/TIN is also called a taxpayer reporting number. You can find the EIN/TIN on your IRS letter of nonprofit determination or by calling your organization’s financial person/department.

  • Grant applicant organization’s fiscal year: Indicate the 12-month time frame that your organization considers to be its operating, or fiscal, year. The fiscal year is defined by the organization’s bylaws and can correspond with the calendar year or some other period, such as July 1 to June 30.

  • Grant applicant organization’s contact person information: Name the primary contact in your organization for grant or cooperative agreement negotiations, questions, and written correspondence. This person should be your executive director, board of directors’ president, or program director — not the grant writer. Why? Because you have no legal authority to act as the contact person. Communications clearly need to be with the governing body or the authorized executive-level staff.

  • Grant applicant organization’s address: Provide the current street and/or mailing address for the applicant organization.

    Potential funders view a post office box address as a red flag because these addresses tend to be used by grassroots nonprofits and fly-by-night (here today, gone tomorrow) grant applicants. Stick with a street address on your grant application.

  • Grant applicant organization’s telephone/fax/e-mail information: List the contact person’s telephone and fax numbers (with area code) as well as an e-mail address.

  • Grant applicant organization’s website address: Organizations seeking grant funds are wise to have a website that funders can refer to that includes an overview of the organization.

If you’re applying to a federal funder, you also need to provide the following information:

  • D-U-N-S number: Federal grant-making agencies require that all grant applicants have a D-U-N-S number that lets others more easily recognize and learn about their organizations. The D-U-N-S number is a nine-digit identification sequence that provides a unique identifier of a single business entity while linking corporate family structures together. You can register for a unique D-U-N-S number by visiting the Dun & Bradstreet website and following the on-screen instructions.

  • Grant applicant’s congressional districts: On a federal grant application, you need to list all the congressional districts in which your organization is located and your grant-funded services will be implemented. You can get this information by calling the public library or surfing the Internet to locate your legislator’s website, which will contain his or her district numbers.

    Knowing and developing ties with representatives in Washington, DC and at your state capital is critical. You always need friends in high places.

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