How nonprofits can go from surviving to thriving

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Despite grim predictions for the nonprofit sector, Margit Brazda Poirier expects agencies to become stronger this year. Though some might merge with larger organizations, nonprofits will seek to establish relationships with potential funders even before monies come in, she predicts.

Poirier, founder of Grants4Good and former executive director of the Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation, will teach local nonprofits how to pursue grants in a webinar Thursday at 1 p.m. She believes this year is an ideal one for agencies and businesses to tackle grant opportunities.

“Data shows that three out of five nonprofits had to cut costs last year and predictions are that 11 percent to 38 percent of nonprofits could close in the next two years as a direct result of the economic strain from the pandemic,” Poirier says. “Grants, while not a cure-all, can be a valuable source of revenue that could mean the difference between staying open (and even thriving) to shutting down.”

Titled “How nonprofits can thrive in a pandemic and beyond,” the free webinar will share tips on applying for grants, preparing essential documents, and tips on how to get the funds this year. Poirier will also offer access to a grant-writing guide.

“The reason I continue to teach webinars and training sessions is because I see the powerful impact that these grants can have—not just on the organizations that receive them, but on the people they serve,” she says.

The Rochester Beacon posed a few questions to Poirier. Her answers are below.

ROCHESTER BEACON: Why do you think 2021 is the best year to pursue grants?

MARGIT BRAZDA POIRIER: Every year there are thousands of grant opportunities that can benefit nonprofit organizations (and businesses). What I have found in more than 20 years in this work is that most people will not pursue grant funding because they don’t really know where or how to get started. There are more than 87,000 grant-making foundations in the U.S. and thousands of federal and state grant opportunities each year, but knowing how to access those takes a bit of time and skill. 

Margit Brazda Poirier
(Photo: Mike Bradley)

So really, every year is a great time to pursue grants, but 2021 is especially critical.  Data shows that three out of five nonprofits had to cut costs last year and predictions are that 11 percent to 38 percent of nonprofits could close in the next two years as a direct result of the economic strain from the pandemic. Grants, while not a cure-all, can be a valuable source of revenue that could mean the difference between staying open (and even thriving) to shutting down.

Grants pay for all sorts of things that are needed for nonprofits and businesses to function such as staffing, rent/occupancy, equipment, training, insurance, program supplies, and even capital costs (building expansion, renovation, or purchases). Most grants are for nonprofits, but I also encourage businesses to seek these opportunities, especially if they can show community benefit such as job growth and economic development.

And finally, because 2020 was such a strong year in the stock market, the assets of most foundations increased dramatically, meaning there is more money to give out this year than there was last year. I talk about why that is the case (hint: IRS 5 percent rule) and what we can do to access these funds in my upcoming webinar.

ROCHESTER BEACON:  What does the webinar aim to do?

POIRIER: It’s gearing toward nonprofits that are completely new to grant writing OR that have submitted some grants but haven’t seen the level of funding that they need.

I understand the challenges nonprofits face when it comes to getting grant funding. Having been a nonprofit executive and the executive director of a large New York foundation, I want to make getting grants as easy and painless as possible so that the valuable nonprofits in our community can go from just surviving to thriving in 2021 and beyond. 

In the one-hour webinar we will go through the exact steps to take so that nonprofits can secure grant funding consistently throughout 2021 and beyond, including:

■ the 3 Cs to thriving in a pandemic economy;

■ the 5 percent rule and why it matters to you; 

■ preparing essential documents for grant applications; and 

■ things you can do now to get the grant in 2021.

ROCHESTER BEACON: What are some common mistakes nonprofits make when pursuing grants?

POIRIER: The most common mistake I see is that nonprofits put off grant writing until they desperately need the funding, and by then it may too late. It can take several months to really build up a strong grants program because even if you write the perfect grant application today to the perfect funder, it may still take three to six months to hear back from them. That is why I recommend getting started now and planning for which programs you want to have funded. 

ROCHESTER BEACON: How do you expect this year to shape up for this sector?

POIRIER: Despite the dire predictions that many nonprofits will close as a direct result of the pandemic, I think many more will become stronger, and some will merge with other nonprofits. Since the pandemic began, I’ve already seen two of our own clients merge with larger nonprofits to save cost and broaden their reach to more people. If done right, these mergers can really be a win for both organizations, and especially for the people they serve in the community.

But I also see nonprofits putting more of a focus on building relationships with funders before they ever seek funding, which is an extremely important part of the grant seeking process. Having worked for a foundation, I appreciate the value of getting to know the nonprofits in the community and becoming familiar with the important work they do—helping women affected by domestic violence, addressing homelessness, boosting arts and culture and the list goes on.

When you consider all that nonprofits do in our community, we simply cannot afford to lose large numbers of nonprofits. The reason I continue to teach webinars and training sessions is because I see the powerful impact that these grants can have—not just on the organizations that receive them, but on the people they serve. The bottom line is that when nonprofits get the money they need to do their work, they change lives for the better.

Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor.

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