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But First, Build Your Budget

January 23, 2020

Does this sound familiar as a grant writer? You know you’re eligible for a particular grant, but you’re wondering if it’s a good fit for your organization. One great way to check is to build a draft budget.

Creating your budget early in the grant application process is a fast way to map out key pieces of information about your organization and the opportunity, and understand if they’re a good match.

There is one big piece of data you’ll need to nail down before you begin. Are you applying for general operating funds or programmatic funds?

General operating funds are unrestricted – you can use them for almost anything in your organization! These are the most flexible funds you can apply for, but also the hardest to find. There just aren’t as many grants for general operating funds.

More often, grants are made for programmatic funds – money used for a specific program within your organization. Programmatic funds are restricted to that purpose.

Make sure you know which kind of funds your organization is focused on finding, and which kind of funds the potential grant is offering, before you begin building your budget.

When you start building your budget, you’ll quickly gather information on the details of the grant opportunity. Use each of these pieces of information as a prompt to better understand fit:

  • The start date of the grant: Is your organization prepared to begin activities as quickly as is required?
  • The grant’s duration: Is the timeframe of the grant compatible with your own? Are you planning on conducting the program or activity for the length of the grant period?
  • Total award amount: Is this enough to do what you’re hoping to accomplish? Too much?
  • Whether the grant has yearly award amount limits: If it does, can you conduct your work with that amount, or will you need to find additional sources of income? If it doesn’t, does it make sense to weight the funds toward one end of the award period or the other to better accomplish your goals?
  • What costs are allowable: Are the staff positions, supplies, or operating funds you’re hoping to be awarded acceptable uses of the grant funds? Does the grantor have any restrictions on how their funds should be allocated across grant activities?
  • Whether indirect costs are allowable: If indirect costs are important to being able to accomplish your work, this is when you double-check to make sure it’s an acceptable component of the budget and what the maximum allowable rate is.
  • Whether a match is required: Does the opportunity require matching funds? If so, what percentage is required? Do they have any restrictions on whether the match must be in the form of other grant funds, or can you contribute internal resources like salaries and in-kind support?

Once you have a sense of the budget requirements, start brainstorming the components of your idea and plugging them into the budget. Depending on your goals, you may quickly find that the grant is either too big or too small. Adjust accordingly. Now is the time to right-size!

If it looks like there will be extra funds, scale up components or add new ones if you feel you can support them internally and they’re integral to the program. Or, cut down the scope of your project if funds are going fast and a smaller project still accomplishes your goals.

If your ideas and the amount of funds offered by the grant don’t match, or the grant contains budget restrictions that your organization can’t reasonably meet, now is the time to find out, and bail out, if necessary.

Even if you end up deciding the grant isn’t the right fit for your project or organization, drafting your budget and timeline provides valuable insight around what the right fit will look like. And, if all budget indicators point toward go, congrats! Depending on the complexity of the budget form, drafting the budget can be one of the more time-consuming steps in the grant application process. If you build your budget first, you’ve got a head start.

Contact: Maren Stockhoff, Resource Development Officer

Fear of Missing Out: Setting a Grant Strategy to Prioritize Funding Leads

January 3, 2020

The grants world is fraught with deadlines, and given that attracting new and recurring funding is often a high-stakes proposition, there is naturally a “Fear of Missing Out.” As defined by Wikipedia, Fear of Missing Out, or “FOMO,” is “a pervasive apprehension that others might be having rewarding experiences from which one is absent.” And none of us want our nonprofit to be unaware, or “absent from,” what is sure to be the perfect grant for our work. Which, of course, is large, multi-year, unrestricted, general operating support, right? Many nonprofit development professionals carry the weight of this expectation on their shoulders as they are tasked with securing the necessary resources for their nonprofits to do the good work that they do in the community.

So, how do you know if you’re missing out? When are you confident that your grant-seeking approach is on the right track? As we enter 2020, below are some ideas to consider to set your grant strategy for the coming year.

1. Plan

Determine funding priorities: While your nonprofit likely has several areas that could use funding, ask yourself what your most urgent and important needs are. In terms of your grant strategy, determine which areas are most attractive to grant makers. While nonprofits often need funding for items like building maintenance (new carpet, a working toilet, etc.), these items might best be left funded by individual donations or earned revenue. You will likely have better luck asking funders to support your mission-driven work.[1]

Do your research: This is probably the most important step to eliminate FOMO! Sitting down for a concentrated period of time to determine which funders and grant opportunities align with your organization’s mission, programs, and priorities might be time consuming, but it is time well spent. We have found that it takes at least 20 hours of research to develop a strong initial prospect list; for a more comprehensive list, this estimate heads into the 80–100 hour range. But putting in this time will enable you to pursue opportunities that have a higher likelihood of resulting in funding, ultimately saving you time later and increasing your organization’s return on investment. As you research what is available, consider funders’ affinity (for example, mission alignment, whether the funder has made grants to similar organizations and in your geographic area, any mutual contacts that can be leveraged), their giving capacity (how much funding is available, how many grants are made, the size of an average grant award), and the time it will take to prepare a strong application. Good resources for finding this information include:

And don’t discount the power of Google! You might come across new RFPs or other information that is not available in a database.

Create a calendar: Once you identify the best prospects, it is time to set your calendar for the next 12–18 months. First, determine which funders have hard deadlines that must be met; then, starting with the most promising funders, create internal deadlines for submitting letters of interest or proposals (as appropriate to each funder’s guidelines). Take the time to go through application requirements, so you know how much time to block off. Consider your own capacity when doing so and plan around things like annual events, holidays, and vacations. If you’re unsure of deadlines, many federal agencies issue funding forecasts or are able to respond to questions outside of open funding cycles, so be sure to inquire. Private foundations vary widely in how open they are to inquiries; for those that are not, use last year’s information if 2020 data is not yet available. Many grants come out on identical or similar cycles annually.

Manage expectations: This research will help you understand what types of grants are out there for your organization. Be sure to communicate this to your executive director, board, and other stakeholders. It is important to remember that while there are six-figure grants available, they are not available to all nonprofits. Some considerations that may affect whether your organization would be competitive for larger grants include the amount of time you have been incorporated, the type of work you do and its reach (for example, is it impactful at a local, state, regional, or national level?), whether you are prepared to manage a more complicated grant (federal grants in particular have stringent requirements), and the past performance of your organization and any limitations that might affect your ability to attract funding (for example, audit findings, poor performance on a prior grant, negative media coverage). You might also need to help educate stakeholders on funder priorities. While the Gates Foundation has a lot of money (an understatement), that does not necessarily mean that your work is aligned with their giving, which is largely research-based education in the United States and focused on developing countries internationally—but someone will surely ask you if you have applied to the Gates Foundation yet! Helping everyone involved understand the realities of grant seeking helps mitigate unrealistic expectations—and that fear of missing out.

2. Engage

As you prepare to start submitting proposals, involve as many allies as possible to help ensure you are reaching the right funders, making the right connections, highlighting your organization’s strengths, and increasing awareness about the work your organization does. Ideas that can take your grant strategy to the next level include:

  • Leverage staff/board member connections with corporations, foundations, and program officers for introductions and advice
  • Connect with companies and foundations by attending local events and networking opportunities
  • Explore nominations for your nonprofit’s work or that of the executive director or board to get your organization’s name out in the community, increase awareness, and attract funding
  • Stay tuned to social media and shamelessly plug your organization’s work and that of your partners, share best practices, and stay up to date with funders’ work, focus areas, and deadlines. Since FOMO is actually a term that comes from our era’s involvement in social media, use it to your advantage![2]
  • Attend and present at conferences and convenings to highlight your work
  • Partner with local and national leaders in your focus area; build off one another’s’ strengths and consider collaborative funding opportunities
  • Prepare applications with enough time for robust feedback from internal and external stakeholders; often having someone unfamiliar with your organization read your proposal will help identify information gaps or leaps in reasoning that you can fill prior to sending it in to a potential funder

3. Focus

So, you have completed extensive research to determine who to apply to this year, you’ve set a grant calendar, and you are churning out funding proposals. Amidst all this work, you learn about a new grant opportunity that was just released with a 30-day turn around time. What do you do?

This might be one of the key issues at the heart of FOMO when it comes to grants! The funder might even be encouraging you to apply. But to be most successful, make sure you take the time to determine where this fits into your funding strategy and available resources. Consider:

  • Does it fit with your previously identified high priorities for the year?
  • Is it aligned with your strategic plan or goals?
  • What is the opportunity cost? In other words, what do you need to put aside to pursue this new opportunity?
  • How much is the grant worth? Will it require additional staffing or other resources? Are you prepared to execute on it if awarded? Would it detract from your other work?
  • Do you have the resources to pull together the proposal in time? Is there required information that you are currently lacking?

To make the most of your time in deciding whether to apply to a new RFP, review the article “Why Reading Grant Guidelines Is Not Like Eating an Elephant”—as stated here, your goal is to determine, quickly, whether you even should read the RFP. Determining eligibility and potential hurdles up front will help you make better-informed decisions about whether to pursue opportunities as they come up and adjust your grant strategy if needed.

4. Follow Up

As you go through the year, keep track of your successes and opportunities for improvement. Be sure to analyze your success rate. Where have you been most successful in securing grant funding? Is there a pattern in terms of the type of funder attracted to your work, or is there greater affinity for a particular program for which you are seeking funding? You can use these to your advantage as you continue to seek grant funding. And let other funders know of the partnerships you now hold—often funders do not want to be the only one to the party, so your success in securing funds from others will often be a positive review factor.

Review what proposals are pending. Has it been a while since you submitted a proposal but you don’t yet know the outcome? If so, it might be worth a call to the program officer to discuss it. Or were you declined? If so, can you find out why and continue to build that relationship to be successful in the future? Is it a no for now, or a no forever? Remember to take the time to thank a foundation for their time spent in reviewing your proposal, even if you were declined, as this will help you build a good relationship. Keep those relationships at the forefront, as it is a way to not only partner on the work you are doing with funders, but also an inroads to those funders that have invitation-only application processes.

We recommend you review your calendar monthly and make note of successes and challenges. As you do so, continue to update your research—researching potential funding leads is not a one-and-done proposition! While you might have a good start, set aside time on a routine basis to continually identify new prospects. This too will help eliminate FOMO! If you have a consistent strategy, it allows you to be proactive rather than reactive so you can pursue strong leads instead of long shots.


Follow the ideas outlined here, and your grant seeking will be off to a strong start for 2020! And you won’t be missing out on grants that your organization “should” be getting. If The Grant Plant can help you with your grant-seeking needs this year, be sure to be in touch!

Contact: Erin Hielkema, Vice President, at

[1] While in an ideal world, funders would invest in the infrastructure of nonprofits, this is unfortunately not the case for most funders. Continue to educate funders about the importance of underwriting operating costs—whether they are “sexy” or not—but also be strategic in your asks.

[2] The origin of FOMO is the availability of information on social media, as we see everyone’s lives, often at their best and most fulfilling, which can lead to anxiety about one’s own friendships and experiences.

Happy Holidays!

December 17, 2019
Photo of TGP Staff

L-R: Tara, Aly, Maren, Jo-Ann, Deanna, Marie, Cecily, Paula, Wendy, Erin, Melissa, Mary Kate


All of us at TGP wish you Happy Holidays and the merriest of New Years! It has been a privilege to work with our clients in New Mexico and beyond this year. With your support, TGP has helped nonprofits and tax-exempt agencies secure $145 million in funding that supports their missions. We are grateful to be part of the transformational efforts that help people, improve communities, and make life more enjoyable. Our greatest wish is for your continued success in the new decade.

Wishing you rest, joy, and peace during this beautiful season.

Tara Gohr & Erin Hielkema

and all of TGP…

Aly Sanchez, Paula Azua-Stofleth, Wendy McCoy, Cecily Peterson, Melissa Leonard, Marie Landau, Mary Kate Hildebrandt, Deanna Aquiar, Maren Stockhoff, and Jo-Ann Padilla

Please note: Our offices will be closed December 24 through January 1st, 2020. 

What the CFDA Is Going on Here?

December 10, 2019

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) is a compendium containing all the domestic assistance grant programs available to government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and other entities eligible for federal assistance. Recently, the federal government completely remodeled, renamed, and moved the CFDA system from to—a move that makes sense, as the System for Award Management (SAM) is the financial distribution system for domestic assistance programs. The name change from the well-used CFDA acronym to the title of “Assistance Listings” may take a little while to take hold with users, but the online search system at is doing its part to make it easier for anyone to locate information on available grant programs.

As the description for Assistance Listings states, “The federal government . . . supports a broad range of programs—such as education, health care, research, infrastructure, economic development and other programs—through grants, loans, scholarships, insurance, and other types of financial assistance.” But searching through the numerous agencies of the federal government to find funds for education, health care, research, infrastructure, and economic development has historically been a daunting task. However, the search feature found at is easy, user friendly, and intuitive. By selecting “Assistance Listings” as the domain in the search dropdown menu at the top of the homepage and entering in a keyword, you’ll find a government-wide catalog of assistance and support programs at your fingertips. You can narrow or target your search by using a series of filters such as status (open or closed), applicant type,  beneficiaries, and assistance types (formula grants, project grants, guaranteed loans, etc.), from the left side of the page for easy navigation.

The search feature is especially useful because it does not limit you to only one entry for each filter, and several options are available to describe the beneficiaries, applicants, and types of assistance you are looking for. Once you execute a search, each Assistance Listing is presented with valuable information to the right of the title, such as whether it has been previously funded, when it was last updated, the type(s) of assistance it qualifies as, and the five-digit CFDA number. Clicking on the title of the listing will take you to a summary page that provides an overview, authorizations, financial information, criteria for applying, details on applying, compliance requirements, and contact info. The financial information is especially robust, featuring the range and average values of assistance and the date range for approvals. The summary page also includes a historical timeline that shows when the Assistance Listing was first published and all the major milestones that the listing has experienced.

The value of the new Assistance Listings search feature is that detailed information is now in a single place, making it much easier and faster for those of us who need this information to find it quickly. No longer will grant seekers need to crunch the numbers to define the potential range or average value of awards (a key indicator to understand the level of effort an organization can expect to put forth and the realistic award value they will likely receive). Moreover, most entries already have examples of funded projects so grant seekers will no longer spend hours hunting through for project examples. In addition to valuable information on the opportunity, hyperlinks to apply for the assistance programs and other application information is made readily available.

Hats off to for the improvements this government make-over has made to the CFDA system. Grant seekers in the nonprofit community and government agencies across all areas of work and program support, will surely benefit from exploring the improved search feature and new line up of information found at in Assistance Listings.

Contact: Deanna Aquiar, Resource Development Officer

Featured Funding Opportunity! Bernalillo County $6M Behavioral Health Continuum

November 4, 2019

Please note:

There is a mandatory pre-proposal meeting on November 6, 2019 at 10:00 am (local time) at the following address:
One Civic Plaza NW
10th Floor Conference Room B

Bernalillo County: Behavioral Health Continuum

Deadline: November 22, 2019

Bernalillo County will provide capital or startup funding to expand the behavioral health continuum in Bernalillo County. Services should build capacity, enhance existing services, or address underserved populations or gaps in services. All services should encompass the needs of the individual and family, be trauma informed, and must have cultural, linguist, and disability accessibility. Proposals must draw on evidence-based practices or promising practices in specific areas of behavioral health. In true alignment with problem-based procurement, Offerors are asked to identify the need and gap in services in Bernalillo County and describe the proposed service to address it and desired outcomes.

The programming and providers that are eligible to apply can span the array of available, evidence based, behavioral health services in Bernalillo County. This proposal provides an opportunity for any Bernalillo County community provider to apply for funding to expand currently existing services or develop new behavioral health services. While the intent of the proposal is to remain flexible and non-prescriptive, below is a key component that could be addressed.

  • Providers should aim to develop capacity and collaboration within the community and expand existing programs to meet gaps in the service continuum

There are multiple interventions that could be proposed and as such are not limited to the list below. Providers in Bernalillo County and Offerors can propose other evidence-based and/or promising practice.

  • Capital requests for facilities to deliver new or enhanced services
  • Start-up requests for new programs that address marginalized or underserved populations
  • New sustainable collaborative partnerships between agencies to address an unmet community need

Interventions should draw on both evidence based practices as well as promising practices. In true alignment with problem based procurement, Offerors are asked to provide a solution in Bernalillo County. To provide adequate coverage, at the County’s sole discretion, multiple awards may be made.

Amount: Several program formats may be funded at a total cost not to exceed $6,000,000 over three years (which includes New Mexico Gross Receipt Tax). The County is interested in using this opportunity to fund one or more interventions for 1-3 year contracts with the expectation that programs will be scaled-down and funded at a reduced rate as programs build momentum and sustainability for up to a maximum of three years.

Eligibility: An Offeror is defined as any person, corporation, or partnership who chooses to submit a proposal.


Note: There is a mandatory pre-proposal meeting on November 6, 2019 at 10:00 am (local time) at the following address:
One Civic Plaza NW
10th Floor Conference Room B

Join Us for the 2019 New Mexico Association of Grantmakers Conference on November 13

October 30, 2019

Investing in a Strong and Equitable New Mexico Social Sector

Wednesday & Thursday November 13 & 14, 2019
Sandia Resort and Conference Center
30 Rainbow Rd, Albuquerque, NM 87113

Join us for our Annual Conference and Membership Meeting, “Investing in a Strong and Equitable New Mexico Social Sector“, on Wednesday, November 13 and a half-day post-conference session, “Health and Social Equity” co-sponsored with Con Alma Health Foundation on Thursday, November 14, 2019.

The conference will bring funders, investors, nonprofit and government leaders, and nonprofit capacity providers together to amplify and leverage the impact and investments in New Mexico’s nonprofits and the broader social sector.

Keynote and Guest Presenters

Wednesday, November 13: Keynote Speaker on Nonprofit Impact Matters: Practical insights on key national and state-level findings
Opening Plenary by Tim Delaney, President and CEO, National Council of Nonprofits

Image of Tim Delaney





Post-Conference Session on Thursday, November 14:
Health and Social Equity Discussion with Brian D. Smedley, Co-Founder and Executive Director of National Collaborative for Health Equity





We all share the goal of a thriving social sector that has impact and addresses the needs of our communities. Funders, investors, government, business and nonprofits all have important and unique roles critical to meeting those needs. Given New Mexico’s social sector size and growth, improving performance has enormous potential with respect to better social outcomes and impact. How can we work better together to amplify and leverage the impact and investments in our social sector? The 2019 NMAG conference will help promote a shared understanding of how we help mission-driven organizations achieve success.

Audience: Funders, nonprofit organizations and capacity providers, governmental funders, Investment organizations, financial institutions, nonprofit consultants and businesses.

Objectives: Participants will understand: 1) the social and economic contributions of New Mexico’s nonprofit sector, 2) how cross-sector collaboration and networks can leverage impact and improve outcomes, and 3) how financial and non-financial investments can help build capacity and achieve the goal of a stronger and more equitable social sector in New Mexico.


Agenda details are available on the event homepage.

Share our event with your networks! 2019 NMAG Conference Flyer

Interested in Sponsorship?
Please contact Cathy Frey, Executive Director at

TGP Saw a Record Year, and Keeps Growing!

September 17, 2019

The Grant Plant, Inc. shattered its year-over-year growth in terms of grants applied for and received. In 2018, grant awards written by TGP amounted to more than $29 million. Funding from outside of New Mexico represented 91% of these dollars, bringing much-needed resources to our Philanthropic Divide state. The average grant size for these awards in 2018 was $370,590. TGP’s clients saw a rate of return of $65.40 for every dollar they spent on grant seeking with TGP. Grants applied for in 2018 resulted in a 63% success rate.

This brings TGP’s cumulative funding awarded to $132,468,310 since 2003 and its 16-year success rate stays solid at 56%.

To keep pace with business demand as nonprofits increasingly look for grant writing expertise, TGP is now hiring for a Resource Development Officer (experienced grant professional).

On behalf of TGP, we appreciate our clients who entrust us with their work, our team who works diligently on their behalves, and the creativity and resourcefulness of the tax-exempt sector in New Mexico.


With gratitude,

Tara Gohr, President & CEO

Erin Hielkema, Vice President

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