Right on the Money: Three Tips For Partnering With Other Organizations to Win New Grants

Photograph of five diverse people smiling together.

Grant writer Jim Garrett knows a good funding opportunity when he sees one. In 2011, he zeroed in on a Department of Justice opportunity that could enable his Wichita, KS, runaway and homeless youth program to provide a new service to the community. But the grant’s terms—three years of funding from the Office on Violence Against Women for programs to help youth victims of sexual and dating violence—were too much for his organization, the Wichita Children’s Home, to attempt on its own.

Executive Director Sarah Robinson says she and Garrett realized, “We can’t provide all the services ourselves, but referring victims to other agencies can help them get timely care.”

The happy ending: Together with two other Wichita organizations, the Children’s Home got the grant, which they are using to assist young survivors of sex trafficking. Their experience applying for the money exemplifies the benefits of collaborating with other nonprofits on funding proposals. Joining forces can enable you to address new issues that fall within your mission but don’t completely fit your staff’s expertise. Plus, joint applications make the most of a community’s existing resources, rather than creating new programs out of whole cloth.

“Applying together made our application more attractive than our individual organizations’ would be,” says Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center Executive Director Kathy Williams, one of the collaborators on the Department of Justice grant. “The grant addresses a complex issue and each of us has expertise in one component of that.”

Here are three tips for writing a grant proposal with other organizations:

1. Treat the grant application as a blueprint for your partnership. Every grant application serves as a blueprint for how you will actually do the project you hope to get funding for. Viewing your proposal as a formative document becomes even more important when you have partners.

Start by cataloging everyone’s strength. Then, in your grant proposal, highlight the ways you complement each other and lay out a basic plan. For example, the Wichita partners described how the Children’s Home, attuned to the needs of runaway and homeless youth, would house young women who had run away. Those who had experienced sexual violence would go to the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center for group meetings. The third partner, the Catholic Diocese of Wichita's Harbor House Shelter for victims of domestic violence, would employ a therapist to counsel victims assisted by the other two agencies.

2. Show the funder that you can work together. Funders may be reluctant to green-light an ambitious partnership if it hasn’t been tested in the field already. The Wichita partners emphasized that they already knew how to make their division of labor work because they’d collaborated a few years before on an anti-teen dating violence initiative. In your proposal, mention ways you and your partners have collaborated before, say an event you co-sponsored, a committee you served on together, or a community-wide initiative you participated in together.

3. Do things by committee. Though grant writer Garrett spearheaded the application process, he ensured that things stayed collaborative by organizing and leading a steering committee. The group included one additional staff member from each organization.

Besides representing their organizations in the grant-writing process, steering committee members got other people in Wichita who work with sexually abused youth on board with the proposed project. Robinson says, “We met as the core group, then talked with other community members,” including representatives from the local hospital, the Wichita Department of Children and Families, and the police.

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