Beyond a few standard items, the criteria for how grants are awarded varies widely.

A quick search of Google asking what foundations are most looking for when deciding on future grant recipients does not produce a definitive list.

Perhaps that is why the profession of grant writing is considered more of an art than a science. Grant writing requires special skills in presenting key details of the nonprofit seeking the grant from any foundation. Those skills involve the creation of an image of promise of furthering the mission of an already successful organization.

What Defines Organizational Success?

More often then not, organizational success in the nonprofit world can be expressed in a single word:


Further investment for expanding mission work simply does not make sense if the organization cannot sustain itself.

We see this in so many facets of our life.

Why does a team with a winning record always draw a larger crowd? The fans consider such a team a much better bet to win a championship!

When hiring, why do we always search for candidates with already successful careers? Every employer knows success leads to future success more times than not.

One could easily highlight example after example of where we as humans want to follow, help and place future bets on those who are already considered winners.

Sustainability Equates to Being a Winner in the Nonprofit World

Proving a charity’s sustainability is not an easy matter. Financial statements only tell a portion of the story. The IRS required 990 tax forms are only displaying final results, not portraying the journey, and more importantly if the organization can replicate a successful journey in future years.

Seeing the “building blocks” of that journey is literally what can easily define sustainability for any grant giving foundation evaluating the charities submitting grant requests.

Ironically, the building blocks are quite similar for most nonprofit organizations considered successful. However, the reporting tools to proudly display those building blocks to sustainability in an easy to understand manner barely exist.

That is why submitting grant request proposals is often compared to creating a Masters Thesis. The research and digging for such building block details can often take months and a large number of hours to even partially achieve.

Here is just a sampling below of what is required in most cases to be in place in order to best portray proof of past, present and future sustainability.

  • A Current Strategic Plan
  • A Current Fundraising Plan
  • A Viable Leadership Succession Plan
  • An Annually Updated Marketing & Communication Plan
  • A Sustainable Pyramid of Giving Levels for both Individuals and Companies
  • Tracking of Donor Meetings
  • A Legacy Giving Program
  • An Active Volunteer Program
  • An Improving Donor Retention Rate
  • A Committed Board of Directors and Committee Structure

Would it not be nice to have these items and current results all being collected in a single reporting tool?

Bloomerang Sustainability Scorecard

I am truly proud of the product development team at Bloomerang for the innovation they bring to the charity world every month with the enhancements they introduce. One of those remarkable enhancements just happened to be the product described above.

It is appropriately named the Sustainability Scorecard.

If your organization is seeking grants in the coming year please keep the concept of sustainability in the forefront of your messaging to the foundations and corporations you are applying to. Perhaps it will just make the difference in achieving a game changing and mission enhancing major grant or two for your organization!

Nonprofit Sustainability

Jay Love

Jay Love

Co-Founder & Chief Relationship Officer at Bloomerang
A 30+ veteran of the nonprofit software industry, Jay Love co-founded Bloomerang in 2012. Prior to Bloomerang, he was the CEO and Co-Founder of eTapestry for 11 years, which at the time was the leading SaaS technology company serving the charity sector. Jay and his team grew the company to more than 10,000 nonprofit clients, charting a decade of record growth. Prior to starting eTapestry, Jay served 14 years as President and CEO of Master Software Corporation. MSC provided a widely used family of database products for the non-profit sector called Fund-Master. He currently serves on the board of the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and is the past AFP Ethics Committee Chairman. Jay is also the author of Stay Together: How to Encourage a Lifetime of Donor Loyalty.