How to Generate Association Revenue Through Grants – It’s Easier Than You Think

“We need to do more fundraising and generate more revenue.”

It’s a familiar refrain of organizations of all types and sizes. A commonly overlooked solution to the challenge is to seek funds for specific programs and projects by applying for grants.

Applying for grants can certainly sound like an overwhelming task, but it really doesn’t have to be. Breaking grant writing down into achievable steps will help pave the way for your association.

Find Funding on Your Own:

Sit down with your work associates and/or board members and make a list of answers to these questions:

Who are our vendors? Is there a financial institution our association uses? Who has given us in-kind contributions or monetary donations? Can we approach any of them to fund a project?

Once the list is complete, it’s time to take the next step.

Make a plan to contact everyone on your list. Pay attention to banks; they often manage trust accounts. These trust accounts can be a relatively unknown source of grant money. If your bank or the businesses on your list don’t have the ability to grant funds, be sure and ask for suggestions on who might.

Socialize! Be wherever the influencers and people with access to grant monies are. Attend public (and private) events. Hand out business cards that explain what your association is trying to accomplish along with your contact info.

Subscribe to grant funding resources. There are online groups of professional grant writers that network and share ideas.

Contact the closest university or large metro library. They typically have access to information about foundations that fund grants.

Leverage your relationship with the media. Distribute a press release about your project and emphasize that you are seeking funding.

Call congressional representatives.  There are many sources for grants, the most accessible and obvious being government grants. Educate legislators on your organization and what you are trying to accomplish. Request that they alert you about any government monies that could be a fit.

Contact government funding agencies. The Freedom of Information Act allows you to request copies of funded grant applications. This is a great resource to learn how to write successful grants.

Are there similar programs to yours? Research what works and doesn’t work when applying for grants for organizations or programs like yours before you get too far into the process.

Hint: When researching, remember that “Cooperative Agreement” is another term for grant-type funding.


Writing A Grant

When you begin writing a grant for your association, there are a few basic rules to keep in mind. Some grants may have detailed applications while others simply want you to submit your request. There are even instances of organizations creating grant requests where no request for proposal existed and getting them funded. (Remember, the answer is always no unless you ask).

Don’t get overwhelmed. Grant writing is not a one-afternoon project. It may need collaboration from other members of your organization. Remember, once you’ve established your standard vernacular, each subsequent application will be easier. Just be patient.

The following information is included in most grant proposals:

Proposal Summary: Describe the issues and or problems that will be addressed if your association receives the grant money you’re applying for and your approach to addressing them. Hint: Sometimes it’s easier to write the summary after you’ve drafted the rest of the application.

Introduction: Outline your association’s mission, history, and objectives. The goal is to communicate what your organization does and its long-term plan.

Programming: This is your chance to make your association shine. Provide an overview of successful current and previous services and programs offered by your organization. Include notable accomplishments, benefits provided, and population served. Consider including a case study (i.e. a written snapshot of a real challenge, solution, and result your organization undertook).

Problem Statement: Provide an overview of the problem detailing the impact it has on your association, membership, industry, etc.

Project Objectives: Include the purpose of your proposal with details on the challenge your proposal addresses.

Methods/Design: Describe the approach that will be utilized during implementation and the key players who will be involved (e.g. companies, organizations, and individuals).

Funding Request: This is a very important section. To put it bluntly, name your number, then outline how the funds will be specifically used.

Evaluation and Sustainability: Providean overview of how you will evaluate the success of the program and your plans for sustaining it in the short- and long-term, regardless of grant status. Include aspects of your organization’s internal support structure (i.e. staffing, budget, etc.).

Budget and Finances: Include any financial information requested by the grantor. Be prepared to provide a detailed budget for the project.

Appendix: Include a list of key personnel involved in the project and attach their resumes or bios.

Grant writing is a step-by-step process, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It’s just a project like any other. You have a checklist, and with a little stick-to-it-iveness, you’ll be on your way in no time.

Tens of thousands of grants are funded every year. With some practice and organization, your association can be on the receiving end of the bounty!

Amy Gitchell is a Marketing Specialist at GrowthZone, providers of the first association management software with fully-integrated sales funnel management. Visit to learn more about project management tools for associations.