Let me be honest with you: writing a grant does not guarantee funding in the short term, grants are not a one-off solution to the ongoing pressures of funding, and winning a grant probably won’t be the way your good idea gets off the ground.

Too often, organizations assume the opposite. They assume that because they took the time to apply, they will probably win a grant. They assume they’ll win a grant the first time they apply to a new funder. They fail to realize the lag time between researching, applying, and being awarded the grant money, if indeed the application is successful. And they assume that someone will fund their startup because their concept is such a great idea, without necessarily making sure they are organizationally ready.

In reality, a successful grants program takes time — time for research, time for writing, and time for the funder to make decisions. Given that some foundations may only meet once or twice a year, there may be many months before your organization knows whether or not it has secured that source of funding. And many grants are not successful the first time you apply. Some funders take a bit of courting. You may need to submit two or three applications, updating the funder on your successes and opportunities, before enough trust and credibility has been built for them to award you with a grant.

If your organization wants to win grants, it should commit to having a grants program. That includes creating a calendar, a list of prospects, continually researching for grants, and applying frequently. Much like searching for a job — where success usually depends on continually sending out resumes, networking, and not giving up after rejection — successful organizations will need to commit time and effort to research, writing, networking, and staying organized.

What does this look like? It could be one person’s file folder and dedicated time, or a team of people in the development department. It could also involve getting help from an outside grants consultant like me.

What’s the upside to all of this effort and long-term planning? Funding! The organizations that are able to dedicate time and energy to a robust grants program have far better chances of being the organizations rewarded with grant funding.

Read more Grant Writing Tips.